Ethanol


Biomass Fuel, Energy, Power Counterpoint

Biomass is a term being more frequently used for renewable fuel, energy and power made from any organic material from plants or animals. Sources are organic crops, plants, and trees, agricultural food and feed crops, and residues from plants, crops, wood, and animals-in other words what is left over or scraps. The usable by-products are gas additives (ethanol and biodiesel), methane gas (burned as fuel), and organic fibers and wood (for heat and generating electricity).

I became more interested in biomass after previously covering the following topics:

Solar Power/ Energy

Wind Turbine Power

Natural Gas Car Fuel

U.S. Oil Reserves

Price of Oil

Corn Food Fuel

Car Fuel Efficiency

Global Warming and Energy Reserves

Electrical Utilities are facing new rules requiring them to generate 20% of their power from renewable resources by 2020. Solar and wind power has been considered by most utilities and many don’t have the resources, or have run into legislative roadblocks. With all Utilities being required to meet quotas, they are now considering, and building, “Biomass” Power Plants, since they can get significant federal tax credits.

Most studies are based on data such as that from “The Engineering Toolbox”.  The data shows that the biomass energy is free, since the process is considered nearly carbon neutral, because the plants only emit the carbon they absorbed while they were growing. The time and volume of usage is neglected-it is not explained that more is used than grown, and in between there are fewer trees to absorb the carbon dioxide. The real world is more like Fig. 3 Plot “Pounds of CO2 per KWH” of the article “How to measure fuel efficiency, energy costs, and carbon emissions for home heating”.  Both coal and wood have the same high-level carbon footprint.

An interesting article, “Biomass Energy Facts”, is a good comprehensive worthwhile list. It is not mentioned that renewable energy in 2007 was 7% of the US energy supply, and of this 3% is biomass. In 2020 20% of US energy is to be by renewable, with a good part of the increase by biomass, meaning a much-increased usage of wood from trees that takes time to replace and is now a big source of CO2 absorption.

Of major concern is that states (Wisconsin, Massachusetts, Missouri, etc.) are now proceeding with biomass energy projects based on the process being considered nearly carbon neutral because the plants only emit the carbon they absorbed while they were growing. Is this a fact-based conclusion? And will the increased biomass usage have any effect on the natural cycling of CO2 because it takes time for volume replacement?

Other biomass information of interest:

Biomass Emissions-Air Emissions from Modern Wood Energy Systems

Massachusetts Forest and Environment Threatened

Corn Food Fuel Counterpoint

 

After considerable investigation and searching of facts, it has become evident that the laws of physics and supply & demand are starting to show the result of cause and effect. Corn a main source of global food now competes as a source for fuel. The concern is to produce both efficiently without upsetting economies, interest groups, and provide needed food.

 

As energy demands devour crops once meant for sustenance, the economics of agriculture are being rewritten. The cost of $2 corn feed has swelled in a short span to $4 to $5. Corn is caught in a tug-of-war between ethanol plants and food, one of the first signs of a coming agricultural transformation and a global economic shift.

 

Corn used for food or fuel is a complex issue. Adoption of agricultural practices should take into account and evolve efficient methods of utilizing available land and other resources to meet both food and fuel needs. Will the food produced make it to those with the greatest need and cost?

 

Farmers can see good news in farm crops, but others can see problems with food supplies. Food and fuel markets are linked. What will cause efficient and stabilized market?

 

Can the UN or World Heath Organization be of any help as food is rationed? Are they a stabilizing influence?

 

Across the country, ethanol plants are swallowing up more and more of the nation’s corn crop, linking food and fuel prices just as oil is rising to new records.

 

The National Corn Growers Association “NCGA” represents the interests of approximately 33,000 dues-paying corn growers and of more than 300,000 farmers. The “NCGA” gives a convincing case of facts for corn as food and fuel in conjunction with the environment-Killing Myths on Ethanol. However, are all the facts presented?

 

Is corn food fuel “The Moral Equivalent of War”? Will corn prices be 41% higher than today’s price by 2020?

 

Is making ethanol an efficient cost effective method for fuel? At a time when ethanol-gasoline mixtures (gasohol) are touted as the American answer to fossil fuel shortages by corn producers, food processors and some lawmakers, Cornell’s David Pimentel takes a longer-range view.

 

The following graph shows the “Historic and Projected U. S. Corn Usage, 1995-2008”. It is important to note as the percentage of Ethanol increases the percentage of feed corn decreases. Also note that most corn produced is feed corn and not for human consumption.

 

There are increasingly those that would like to curb ethanol production, or have the Environmental Protection Agency to restructure rules that would require greater production of ethanol from corn. Critics of the proposal said that too much attention was being placed on ethanol as a reason for rising food prices, and that not enough attention was being placed on the role that rising crude oil prices. It’s for sure that food and fuel prices are escalating-good or bad?

Of interest are the candidate’s views on technological issues: Energy, Climate change, Space program, skilled worker shortage, and technology.