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Welcome to my Conservative Blog, Solomon's Conservative Wisdom. The name comes from my middle name and the historical & biblical figure King Solomon, now I make no claim to have Solomon's Wisdom, but I do have Common Sense. I welcome anyone to join in and comment about anything I may have written, posted or one of my Articles / Columns. This blog is dedicated to conservatism and freedom. I invite all conservatives to join in, I don’t mind non-conservatives joining in (after all the only way to change liberals and fence-sitters is to debate them and change their minds, some are just too hard headed to admit they are wrong) . All I expect is a respectful debate.

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Welcome to my blog, Solomon's Conservative Wisdom. The name of this blog comes from my middle name and the historical & biblical figure King Solomon. This group is dedicated to conservatism, and I invite all conservatives to join, I really don’t mind non-conservatives joining. All I expect is a respectful debate. So tell everyone you know.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Ethanol - The Gas Substitute that Can’t. And Other Options.

So why am I doing this now, you are probably asking, well the other day I found my old notes on Ethanol when I was calling into the Radio Factor when O’Reilly believed, I think he still believes it, that Ethanol could solve the problem of high gas prices, which it can’t. His "winning" argument for Ethanol was "well Brazil is doing it."

First as Joe Friday would say here’s the facts, first the population of the US and Brazil, the US population is over 300 million and Brazil’s population is over 200 million, as you can see there is a 100 million difference between the US and Brazilian population. Now it’s the next group of numbers that are important the, number of automobiles on the roads, in the US there are over 250 million cars, trucks, suvs, and other automobiles on the roads of the United States, in some kind of use, now this doesn’t include other types of vehicles that use gas or diesel such as farm equipment, lawn mowers, atvs, or similar vehicles, these could easily push the number over 300 million. Now for Brazil’s automobiles on their roads are only about 50 million, not much as you can see. As you can see the big problem for the we can do Ethanol because Brazil is doing it is the numbers, Brazil is similar in size to the US in territory and population, but it’s population lives mostly in poverty and lacks the economic advantages that the poor in the US has, in the US you can buy a used car with few problems for about $5,000 or less, in Brazil the poor is incapable of finding such opportunities.
Now I want to destroy Ethanol on its own merits, first in Brazil they use sugar cane to make Ethanol while in the US we use corn, next if you look at the MPG the standard average in the US for Gasoline, cars only, is about 33mpg while in a similar type of car Ethanol’s mpg is only 17, now the reason for this is not the technology of the engines, it’s the energy in the fuel, gasoline has more energy stored in it then ethanol so you need about a half-gallon more fuel to go the same distance. As to the price of Gasoline compared to Ethanol, in Brazil they tax gas to support ethanol and this makes it cheaper then gas in Brazil, but as anyone who knows about the cigarette taxes in the US this has diminishing returns, as the number of people who smoke decreases the income from the cigarette taxes also decreases, this has happened in Brazil as the number of people who switch from gas to ethanol increase the tax income to support ethanol decreases which causes the price of ethanol to increase or the tax on gas to increase either way eventually ethanol has to stand on its own, that is when we will see if Brazil can really do it. Now there is another side effect of the increased demand for ethanol in Brazil, they are cutting down large swathes of rainforest to grow sugar cane for ethanol, not exactly what I would call green.
Now I want to compare the different fuels that have been suggested for the US starting with gasoline, for these numbers and facts I will be using information from Popular Mechanics issue #5 may 2006, these numbers are for a trip across the country from New York to California. Gasoline, 4.5 barrels of crude oil to make the 90.9 gallons for the trip and 33MPG, Ethanol, 53 bushels of corn and a half-barrel of crude oil to make 176 gallons for the trip and a 17 MPG, Methanol, 18,190 cu. ft. of natural gas and a half-barrel of crude oil to make 214 gallons for the trip and 14MPG, Biodiesel, sixteen 5 gallon jugs of used vegetable oil to make the 68.2 gallons of biodiesel for the trip at 44MPG, Compressed Natural Gas, 10,650 Cu. ft. of natural gas to make the gallon of gasoline equivalent (GGE) of 88 for the trip with a 34MPGGE, Electricity, approximately one ton of coal to make the 16.4GGE for the trip with a 202MPGGE, and lastly the Hydrogen Fuel Cell, 16,000 Cu. ft. of hydrogen to make the 73GGE for the trip with a 41MPGGE.
The two big losers of this list are Ethanol and Methanol with low MPGs of 17 & 14 and are more costly to produce, this makes them poor choices to replace gas or even to compete with it. Now the rest have good potential, but they have their own problems when it comes to mass usage, Biodiesel has the same problem as Ethanol has it is hard to produce enough to replace the current gasoline usage, otherwise it has good potential.
Compressed Natural Gas has a lot of potential, you can use the same Natural Gas used to heat your home or to cook with, but to use it in a vehicle you would have to compress it to approximately 3,600PSI for effective storage and usage. Of corse one advantage is all one would need is a compressor/refueller at one’s own home, also unlike gasoline and diesel Natural Gas already has pipelines in place which would allow most gas station owners to make small changes to their stations for the sale and storage of Compressed Natural Gas all they would need is a larger compressor/refueller unit without the need to have the fuel hauled to their places of business. Of course Natural Gas isn’t considered a green fuel for the environmentalists but I don’t care about their thoughts. I have to admit of all the alternative fuels I really like this one.
Electricity is one which has been looked to since the automobile was first mass produced, but with the advent of cheap oil it didn’t happen, with the some of the largest deposits of coal and the possibility of nuclear power, (see my article on nuclear power), this one is a good possibility, the main problems are first how long it takes to charge a battery, next is the storage of power, and last is converting the stored energy to horsepower. The last one is the newest technology and the most expensive at the moment the Hydrogen Fuel Cell, this one is the fuel future, short of fusion power, at the moment it costs $804 to make the 73GGEs to crosse the country for a cost of $11 a GGE, in the short run the Hydrogen Fuel Cell isn’t economic it will be the long run that will tell the future of it.
The real solution to high gas prices isn’t an alterative to gas, its competition, of the four real alternatives to gasoline, alone they can’t replace it but if you were to allow true competition and innovation and allow the oil companies of the US to drill they would create a five way split of the fuel market with most newer automobiles capable of being converted to one of these alternatives and the possible market of automobiles of the Electricity and Hydrogen Fuel Cell world wide if we perfect those technologies the possibilities are limitless. If competition was allowed you would the market place equivalent of the big burger chains people would make a choice on what they drive based on what fuel they preferred the best part is many of the possible automobiles could be flex-fueled in other words, a CNG automobile could be built to also run on gasoline, diesel automobile are already capable of running on diesel and biodiesel, and other possible combinations would depend on the innovators. As with most markets the liberals, progressives, and populists can’t allow a free market because if they did people would learn how to get along with out them and then they would have no power.
Solomon.

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