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Old 07-30-2012, 12:18 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Why is Ethanol such a polarizing topic?

Like the title says, ethanol somehow seems to have become akin to abortion, partisan politics, and religion with a lot of people.

I didn't create this thread to discuss which side of that argument each of us are on, or to discuss the relative merits of ethanol itself... just why people get their panties in such a bunch over a substance. Nobody seems as emotionally invested in mayonnaise or bar soap or shoe polish... just ethanol.


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Old 07-30-2012, 12:48 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Many politicians receive money from big oil lobbyists, which causes them to oppose ethanol, and to create ads attacking ethanol. So, this leads some ordinary people to believe that ethanol is bad. Meanwhile, other politicians receive money from ethanol lobbyists, so they make pro-ethanol ads, and so on and so forth. So really, the divisiveness is primarily because big corporations have turned this into a divisive political issue. At least from my analysis. People tend to get worked up over politics, so since ethanol is a political issue, people will get worked up over it.
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Old 07-30-2012, 12:52 PM   #3 (permalink)
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The subject involves three other topics:
1) Politics
2) Fuel prices
3) Food prices

...and you're wondering why it's polarizing?
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Old 07-30-2012, 01:38 PM   #4 (permalink)
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My beef with Ethanol, is the BTU content per pound, and the related price you pay for that content, especially when compared to gasoline.

Simple as that, no politics involved for me.

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Old 07-30-2012, 02:26 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Corn ethanol is what particularly raises my hackles.

* More energy in than energy out (total waste).
* Use of food as fuel.


If cellulose ethanol (switch grass) were viable today, I might feel differently, but that's not what's going on.

Actually, it looks like I'm a little out of date:
But maybe that's debatable:

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Old 07-30-2012, 05:17 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Soichiro View Post
politicians receive money
This is the problem!
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Old 07-30-2012, 06:41 PM   #7 (permalink)
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I don't like it for three reasons.

*It takes more energy to make it out of corn then you get out of it, but we subsidize corn with tax dollars to make it cheap because corn has a lot of uses, in other words, if you couldn't use diesel fuel, natural gas and oil based chemicals, but instead only used ethanol powered tractors and powered the ethanol factory with ethanol, you could not produce enough to run everything, that is not the case with veggie oil based fuels because they are much less energy intensive to produce.

*Using corn to make fuel tends to drive up food prices when it's a bad year, like this year because of the drought, is easier to store and ship then veggies so it's easy to pay farmers to grow corn as "food" without risking the extra rotting away, but in a bad year the price of corn for food sky rocket but we don't notice that much because we export a lot of corn to poor countries where a jump in food prices is a bigger deal.

*My 3rd point is under a bit of debate, depending on the vehicle, some people find that 10% ethanol drops their mileage by more then 10%, so if you left the ethanol out you would use less gasoline.
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Old 07-30-2012, 06:48 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Hah- should I even bother with this?

It is my understanding that the refining process has become more efficient than the oft-quoted old study that "showed" a net energy loss. The ethanol industry didn't even protest the demise of one of their subsidies, as they are making it anyway. If it was so inefficient could they do that?

It is also my understanding that because of the efficient use of "brewer's grains" (the high-quality, non-liquid "leftovers" from distilling) as feed that really, ethanol has not swiped any food out of anybody's mouth.

But even if that was the case, I'd say it points to an overpopulation problem more than anything else. If we are utilizing every square inch of arable land and even that isn't enough to support our food AND fuel needs, me thinks that points to a tipping point of sorts.

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Old 07-30-2012, 06:55 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Ethanol is not the answer,unless it is made from waste material it is taking over our farmland.
Clearly it is not the "fuel of the future" but more of the Fuel from our food supply.

Which is why people feel strongly about it.
That and it has 10% less energy by volume.
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Old 07-30-2012, 07:55 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Diesel_Dave View Post
The subject involves three other topics:
1) Politics
2) Fuel prices
3) Food prices

...and you're wondering why it's polarizing?
I guess that's pretty much it. Politics is another word for Lies, so thanks to lies about an imagined threat to our food supply we get to make no progress at all.

Well, that stinks. Any way past this deadlock?

As stated at the top of this post, I didn't start this thread to discuss the relative merits of ethanol itself - there are plenty of those threads already and it is pretty clear that citing available data can only lead us a finite way toward homogenizing our opinions. This topic isn't one I care about for personal superiority, to say "I'M RIGHT AND YOU'RE WRONG NYEAH!" - my motivation is to see progress occur in how humans use the world.

Petroleum appears to be a finite resource, and the best time to ready ourselves is before we absolutely must. There are also hundreds of millions of cars already in peoples' driveways that need a liquid fuel and similar amounts of people who cannot be counted-upon to simply discard their vehicle for want of a new fuel source when the era of petroleum necessarily ends itself nor can the systems of commerce and lifestyle established over the past century be expected to simply end without incident when we face petroleum's end.

So if we're going to rely on a new fuel, and ethanol is unacceptable to many - then what fuel is suggested and what means of production is suggested that poses less perceived threat than ethanol production?

If ethanol was made from an inedible plant, would this still be a point of contention? SH2 grade corns aren't even table edible (shriveled appearance when ripe, very chewy, not tasty) and barely useful for starch because they lack many of the enzymes that produce starches from the early sugars in the kernels. For the most part, SH2 are only useful to make DDG/DDS for the derivatives market and the byproduct of DDG manufacture from SH2 stock happens to be a flammable liquid useable in many automotive engines. Is this still robbing food from your table? If so, how do you figure?

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