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Dumb question #27: Why don't we just make gasoline out of corn oil now?

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begin_within Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-18-06 11:22 PM
Original message
Dumb question #27: Why don't we just make gasoline out of corn oil now?
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magellan Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-18-06 11:24 PM
Response to Original message
1. Because big oil isn't finished ripping us off yet. (nt)
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evlbstrd Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-18-06 11:26 PM
Response to Original message
2. Because there are more effective crops available.
It costs a lot more to grow corn than it does to grow hemp, for example. And the oil companies haven't put much money into alternatives like that.
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politicat Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri May-19-06 12:46 AM
Response to Reply #2
12. And flax, soy, peanuts, mustard and sunflowers are better than hemp.
They're all non-controversial, and in the cases of peanuts and mustard, can be plugged directly into a crop rotation including corn. All of them have a better oil yield per acre than does hemp, and excepting soy, all of them need less water. (Also, oats can be grown in regions where soy won't since oats have a complete protein and high oil content.)

Flax only needs more water when it is harvested primarily for linen; when harvested for linseed, it needs less water than hemp to reach maturity, and linen is both stronger and has a better hand than does an equivalent hemp fabric. (Seed flax fibers can be used for cordage, but not for fabric.) A crop rotation of flax, sunflowers, peanuts and mustard would provide the soil with a complete nutrient cycle (peanuts are legumes which are nitrogen fixers; mustard is an excellent fallow year cover crop since it will grow without much attention; flax is excellent for wet springs and drier summers, while sunflowers are better for years with a dry spring) while providing more oil per acre than hemp (39 gal/acre), corn (18) cotton (35gal/acre) or soy (48gal/acre). The gallon per acre yield for flax is 51 gal/acre, mustard is 61 gal/acre, sunflowers are 102 gal/acre and peanuts are 113 gal/acre.

Flax does everything that hemp does except make the feds panic, while sunflower stalks and shells can be turned into paper and building materials (though not thread, cord or rope) and peanut shells can be ground and compressed for a carbon-balanced wood pellet equivalent. The meal left over from pressing mustard oil is an excellent organic pesticide.

Right now, they're all more expensive to grow than soy or corn because there's not a glut of automated machinery for sunflowers, flax and peanuts. It's much easier to get a cheap #2 corn harvester to attach to the Deere than it is to get a sunflower harvester. But that could change if sunflowers, flax or peanuts would have the same sort of price supports that soy and corn have. We don't need 80% of the corn we produce; it gets fed to animals, fractioned and converted into all of the products it does because we have excess corn and we have to do SOMETHING with it. If we'd put the cows back to grazing, the pigs back to foraging and eating scraps and the chickens to insect control, we could put something like 60% of the land that is currently corn and soybeans into oil crop production. That's approximately 82 million acres of corn and 74 million of soy (2005 levels.) If 60% of each were diverted to oil crops, while the remaining 20% of excess land was turned over to managed pasture, we could produce on average 7.6 billion gallons of oil. Cows, sheep and goats can digest a lot of the waste from oil crops (though not mustard), returning it via their manure to the fields from which it came.

Conversion of oil to biodiesel is on a .8 ratio (i.e. 1 gallon of oil equals .8 gallons of usable biodiesel). That means with an averaged yield (so assuming that 25% of corn and soy farmers go to one of each of the four crops mentioned and then rotate through the cycle) of 81 gallons of oil per acre, and 93 million acres converted to oil crops, we can cover our annual oil needs. (We need about 715 million gallons of oil each year at current usage rates.) We can also fractionate gasoline out of a vegetable oil, though we will have to retool our refineries to do so. The better option would be to set a cut-off year and switch to the production of diesel engines completely. Using a vegetable derived oil is actually easier on diesel engines (the sulfur is added to lubricate them, but is unnecessary with biodiesel) and is net carbon neutral. If those 93 million acres were converted to hemp, though, we wouldn't produce enough oil, and monocultures of that nature are environmentally dangerous. If everything is planted in the same crop and something develops or discovers that it likes the taste of that crop, whatever it is will breed and eat. Diversifying the crops we use for oil and food will actually lessen our dependence on fertilizer and pesticides because a more diverse farm has fewer pest issues and recovers quicker!

Here are the problems: Managed pasture is more labor intensive and requires a greater degree of quick wits and psychological flexibility than does current monoculture industrial farming, so we would have to a) make the culture truly support farmers and make farming a life where people make a white collar salary and b) recognize that while meat may be an important part of our diets, it is not the focus of our diets. But we need to do that anyway. We will also have a severe labor shortage for a few years while people get with the program and learn to be farmers again, and we will have to restore our agronomy education system. Food costs will rise for a while, we'll have to support the farmers for the first few years, ADM, Monsanto and Con-Agra will have to shift to oil processing or die, and we will have to send people and knowledge to other countries instead of direct food aid. 60% of the processed food we eat will go away and we'll have to relearn to cook. Fast food will become very expensive or have to switch to soy. There are not a lot of flax, sunflower, peanut and mustard specific fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides out there. All four are hard to patent and hybridize into obedience (corn and soy do hybridize obediently) so the seed companies will not have an interest in switching from corn and soy development to flax, mustard, sunflowers and peanuts. Mustard is an allergen.

I think it's worth it enough that I'm going back to school in 2007 to get a degree in agricultural economics.

My data is from http://journeytoforever.org/biodiesel_yield.html and wikipedia and the USDA.
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derby378 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-18-06 11:27 PM
Response to Original message
3. Because more efficient fuel can be made from cane sugar
And there's lots of fertile land in Louisiana that could now be developed for exactly that - it would help the state recover from Katrina and help keep them from sliding back into poverty.
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OmmmSweetOmmm Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri May-19-06 08:08 AM
Response to Reply #3
17. I was just thinking about ...where in the US could sugar cane be grown
sucessfully. It's supposed to be 8 times more efficient in energy output than corn.

Of course there is no sugar lobby like there is a huge corn lobby...
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derby378 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri May-19-06 09:03 AM
Response to Reply #17
19. Not yet, at least...
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patcox2 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri May-19-06 11:22 AM
Response to Reply #17
22. There is a very powerful sugar lobby.
Sugar can only be grown in a very few places, though, mostly florida.

The lobby is quite succesful in protecting US growers, foreign grown sugar is much cheaper.

Sugar is a horrendous crop, hard on the land.
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mykpart Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-18-06 11:30 PM
Response to Original message
4. An old saying of
Ralph Nader's (OK, I don't like him any more, but this was 30 or so years ago):

"If they would grant oil companies sole title to the sun, and give them a solar depletion allowance, we would have viable solar power now."
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skids Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-18-06 11:30 PM
Response to Original message
5. We do.

Except first we use it to make french fries.

Then we make biodiesel out of it.

But as for producing the quantities needed for an entire vehicle fleet, farming that much corn would ruin our soil. So biodeisel is looking towards algea and ethanol towards cellulosic technology. Both need more time.
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foo_bar Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri May-19-06 02:24 AM
Response to Reply #5
15. cars should chew their cud
Like they did before the horseless carriage. It's hard to imagine a greener technology than rumination, other than the methane emissions.

Laughing at your carriages seems a little petty now, right? Cause to tell you the truth, were feeling pretty stupid about buying that Hummer. And the Suburban. I mean, at a dollar a gallon, fair enough. But who saw this coming? Except maybe you. Yeah, you got us there. That carriage of yours looks pretty cool when you come to think about it. Itll get you to the Am/Pm and back pretty fast, right? An hour? Could you let us drive it? Show us how it handles? Were thinking about getting something like that, maybe. Its sort of sporty. I dont know why we didnt notice that when we were driving past you, we were probably just going too fast.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/toby-barlow/an-open-lette... ("An Open Letter to the Amish People")
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Skink Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-18-06 11:31 PM
Response to Original message
6. We need the corn for corn syrup to help speed up the diabetes pandemic.
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kestrel91316 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-18-06 11:43 PM
Response to Reply #6
9. Yeah! What Skink said!
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Quixote1818 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-18-06 11:36 PM
Response to Original message
7. I know you can get plenty of gas from a Corn HOLE!
But I don't know about Corn Oil? :hurts:
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bananas Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-18-06 11:36 PM
Response to Original message
8. Dumb question for you...
What's that a picture of?

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begin_within Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-18-06 11:45 PM
Response to Reply #8
10. The inner thoughts of Simon Cowell, Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul and Ryan
Seacrest
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cliss Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri May-19-06 12:40 AM
Response to Original message
11. it's a question of volume.
Right now, the US burns through around 20 million barrels of oil per day.

That's BARRELS, not gallons. We burn up around 1/3 of the world's oil.

We can't grow enough corn in order to make that much oil in a day's time. We would have to cover every square inch of this country with corn fields - and it still would not be enough.

Time to cut back.
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Hardrada Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri May-19-06 12:49 AM
Response to Reply #11
13. I think the fuel that would be expended in the process
from planting to the finished fuel product would just barely be replaced and so it would be a futile cycle. Solarmobiles for me.
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Justice Is Comin Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri May-19-06 01:38 AM
Response to Original message
14. I saw a guy on television
that has a company in California who is retrofitting diesels with his invention to do that and he claims he's busier than all get-out.

I can't remember the cost but pretty cheap--I think $750.00. He is also planning on selling the conversion kit on the internet soon.

The thing that occured to me is going to Costco every week and coming out with 25 gallons of corn oil, lol.
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Clark2008 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri May-19-06 11:26 AM
Response to Reply #14
24. 750 is NOT cheap
Not for someone living paycheck to paycheck.

(See my statement below about why we're not all on corn-oil).
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mzteris Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri May-19-06 07:00 AM
Response to Original message
16. You use more energy to MAKE it than you GET FROM it!
"Ethanol And Biodiesel From Crops Not Worth The Energy
ITHACA, N.Y. -- Turning plants such as corn, soybeans and sunflowers into fuel uses much more energy than the resulting ethanol or biodiesel generates, according to a new Cornell University and University of California-Berkeley study. "There is just no energy benefit to using plant biomass for liquid fuel," says David Pimentel, professor of ecology and agriculture at Cornell. "These strategies are not sustainable." . . . In terms of energy output compared with energy input for ethanol production, the study found that:

* corn requires 29 percent more fossil energy than the fuel produced;
* switch grass requires 45 percent more fossil energy than the fuel produced; and
* wood biomass requires 57 percent more fossil energy than the fuel produced.

In terms of energy output compared with the energy input for biodiesel production, the study found that:

* soybean plants requires 27 percent more fossil energy than the fuel produced, and
* sunflower plants requires 118 percent more fossil energy than the fuel produced.

. . .In assessing inputs, the researchers considered such factors as the energy used in producing the crop (including production of pesticides and fertilizer, running farm machinery and irrigating, grinding and transporting the crop) and in fermenting/distilling the ethanol from the water mix. Although additional costs are incurred, such as federal and state subsidies that are passed on to consumers and the costs associated with environmental pollution or degradation, these figures were not included in the analysis.

"The United State desperately needs a liquid fuel replacement for oil in the near future," says Pimentel, "but producing ethanol or biodiesel from plant biomass is going down the wrong road, because you use more energy to produce these fuels than you get out from the combustion of these products."

-MORE- (and links to many more articles about this topic)

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/07/0507052318...

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MadHound Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri May-19-06 08:39 AM
Response to Original message
18. Because there are crops that are much more oil bearing
The top field crops for oil yield are black oil sunflower, soybeans and hemp. The top crop anywhere for oil is oil bearing algae. In fact with a mere 15000 sq miles of algae ponds, we could fill all of our current fuel needs. And making biodiesel is much less energy intensive and polluting than any sort of ethanol.

I would propose that we pass a law that every single vehicle manufactured be diesel powered, and that we switch our manufacture, refining and infrastructure to accomodate biodiesel within ten years. This way we could fulfill all of our fuel needs domestically, cleanly, and at low cost to the consumer.

Sadly though, as long as big oil is in our government, this isn't going to happen.
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cliss Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri May-19-06 11:04 AM
Response to Reply #18
20. I love your post,
and thanks for the insight. Now, if they could make you president.....
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MadHound Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri May-19-06 11:22 AM
Response to Reply #20
21. LOL, given today's climate I'm not sure I'd want to be president
Benevolent dictator, hmmmm :evilgrin:
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stevietheman Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri May-19-06 11:48 AM
Response to Reply #18
26. I'm happy to see people really _thinking_ about this problem...
rather than jumping to a conclusion that corn-based ethanol is an effective solution, which it's not.
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MadHound Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri May-19-06 12:01 PM
Response to Reply #26
27. Yeah, I've been puzzled myself about this huge push for ethanol
Looking at it logically, ethanol simply isn't the solution. We can't grow enough corn or other crops to provide enough fuel to power this country. Yet all the sudden in the past year, it has become the alternative fuel of choice.

Biodiesel makes much more sense. You have minimal retooling to manufacture the engines required, you have minimal changes that you have to make to your fuel infrastructure, it is less polluting, a boon to the farmer(especially if the include hemp in the mix, since hemp grows where no other crop will and is good for the soil), and would provide a huge economic boost to this country.

But nooo, Bushco is pushing ethanol, to the point where they're already talking about importing ethanol from Brazil :crazy: Makes me wonder what the financial stakes are behind the scenes, and who's looking to profit from this move. My guess is that two of the players are the Carlyle Group and Haliburton, but hey, I'm a cynical SOB, who sadly has had my cynicism regularly surpassed by the outrageous actions of this current misadministration.
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Clark2008 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri May-19-06 11:24 AM
Response to Original message
23. Because poor people can't afford to retro-fit their cars
And the middle class can't afford to purchase new automobiles yet.

I agree it needs to be phased in - and phased in more rapidly than is being done - but you can't just get rid of the gasoline-powered combustable engine in this country overnight.
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opihimoimoi Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri May-19-06 11:38 AM
Response to Original message
25. If we make all the oil/gas from corn/etc and not import...we would starve
to death.
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