That only makes sense if the “alternative fuel” isn’t a sham that actually uses more energy than it saves.
I don’t see the U.S. actually exporting fuel of any type. However, I do do see the U.S. exporting energy technology to the developing world (read china/india), before they start using oil at a much greater rate than the U.S. ever will. This is not simply a national issue, “imported oil” isn’t the problem.
Actually, depending where you are, ethanol from corn takes about 85% of its energy to make it, so you have a 15% gain, plus happy farmers. The energy input is in the form of diesel fuel for machinery, fertizer made from mostly natural gas (of which the US is a net importer), electric power generated by coal(high in greenhouse gasses) in the corn belt. The cost in greenhouse gasses generated in ethanol from corn is 85-90%, so not much improvement there either.
Biodiesel is considerably better, since the raw material needs less processing and the heat content per gallon is much better. Fuel mileage on biodiesel is much better than ethanol. In addition, all fast food restaurants could save their cooking oil and add it to the biodiesel pool.
Ethanol from Brazilian sugarcane, which requires little fertilizer, and ferments quickly, has a conversion efficiency of about 80%, so only 20% net energy is used in making it. The waste stalks are used as fuel in the process. We could plant most of the wet Southern US with sugarcane, and produce a very large amount of cane ethanol this way. The cost is so competitive that the US has put import restrictions on Brazilian ethanol, since Brazilians don’t vote in US elections.
I agree that soy bio-diesel is probably better than ethanol, and that commercial bio-diesel from waste oil has possibilities. It is difficult to ensure that each batch of fuel from waste oil will meet the ASTM standards for the fuel. It is also difficult to make these fuel cost effective with cheap petro fuel. If petro based fuel get up to a reasonable cost, these “alternatives” will become more competitive.
Is this a viable alternative?
Well, there are two things in Iowa. Lots of corn, and the first presidential caucuses. Guess why EVERY presidential candidate swears allegiance to corn-based ethanol production? If it were bio-waste-based ethanol, you wouldn’t hear a peep about it.
Discovery channel has a program on alternative fuels 8pm Eastern standard
The exploding Asian market will use gasoline or diesel because it is readily available. What energy technology could the USA export that couldn’t be exploited here?
I’m not just talking about transportation; currently china’s electrical generation is about 70% coal and much of the country does not have electrical power. What do you thing their impact on the global energy market (and CO2 emissions) will be in 20 or 30 years if they stay on that path? India is in a similar position, so we are talking about 2.5 billion people. They already have very significant environmental issues. Picture the american industrial revolution times about 10. Do you really think it’s a good idea for them to develop their infrastructure based on a 50 year old western model? Do you want to see every city in china laid out like LA? If they do not leapfrog over many of our mistakes, we will all be in deep sneakers. That worries me a lot more than a bunch of american idiots driving hummers. As I said, this is not an “american problem.”
If the west (and the U.S. in particular) has any influence left in the world, maybe they should try to sell these folks the most efficient technologies available (and maybe a little urban planning too) instead of worrying about who makes all the crap for sale at walmart. Americans are very good at fighting the last war. Maybe they need to show some leadership before they become completely irrelevant in the world.
E85 is a complete total sham, its only purpose is to make the special interest people with their fingers deep in the politician’s tons of money, you wouldn’t believe the millions upon millions of dollars in subsidies that have gone into e85. It is however… a start. We need to do something and e85 has started that journey, but corn just isn’t going to do it. The first problem is that it takes more energy to make a gallon of ethanol than you can get out if it. Where does that energy come from? The power grid. I live about 30 miles from an ethanol plant and you should see the power lines running to it and that power in my area comes from burning coal so IMHO there goes the better for the environment sales pitch for me. Not to mention it takes four gallons of water to make just one gallon of ethanol and then add to that all the fuel burned and emissions purged from all the farming equipment that it took to plow, plant, fertilize, sometimes irrigate, harvest and transport all the corn. Then take that fertilizer; and the polluted water that results from it, the Mississippi river runs straight through the heart of farm country, drains most of the water from the Midwest into the Gulf of Mexico. In the last fifty years the Gulf of Mexico has developed a dead zone along the shoreline originating from the mouth of the Mississippi river. ??? And then add to that the fact that if we took all the corn produced in the entire country last year and made it into ethanol, we would only reduce our dependency on foreign oil by ten percent! Oh and also most of our oil comes from Canada and Venezuela, not the Middle East as politicians and special interest people lead you to believe. The American people want to go green, but beware, people are out to make money off it any way possible. Ethanol is a great example of that fact. Ok, I beat up on corn enough, now onto what I feel might be the next step after this failure. Sugar cane - Brazil has proven it works, they run completely on it. If I remember correctly you actually get more energy out of sugar cane than from oil, if not a lot more. Its emissions are way lower and it has been reflected by air quality in Brazil, Its proven! But, lots of sugar cane would be very difficult for us to grow. The most promising thing I have heard is using native prairie grasses. They can be easily converted to fuel, they are very resistant plants, they need no fertilizer, due to their diversity they grow well in all conditions including drought, they are perennial so all the farming they require is to be planted once and harvested once or twice a year, no fertilizer, no plowing, no irrigation; almost a set it and forget it, not to mention how cool it would be to have vast fields of wild flowers instead of rows of corn and they also convert a lot more carbon than corn does. The only problem is there are no big pocketed people in prairie grass to line the pockets of the politicians. Its hard to say what the answer will be; even electric cars, unless charged by solar, wind, hydro, or geo power still pollute its just indirectly from the power plant… So if anything e85 “was” a start, and i do emphasize was because its already in a huge tail spin on its way to certain demise, hopefully we can realize that and not blow tons of money trying to keep it afloat and just leave it as a learning experience and move onto the next step.
I am a midwestener and E85 is sold locally. It is 50 to 75 cents cheaper than regular unleaded. It burns colder than gas
but it has a lot more pep than gas. Even if the mpg is lower the reduced price and pep are more than compensated.
The E85 owners are more than satified with it. Also discounts on E85 vihicles are given by dealers and The Farm Burear menbers. It is a plus plus on the money hungry mid east oil people.
I think we should use Ethanol in lawn mowers and other small engines that don’t have any pollution devices. That way, the demand is not overwelming and pollution is reduced. It only takes a couple of o-ring or gasket material changes to allow Ethanol use in these engines. AND the exhaust smells a lot better whily you’re walking behind the mower!
This is so true for ethanol and for propane and CNG. If the engines were really built for the fuel they would perform very, very well.
Agreed, you can specifically design engines for many fuels, the problem is that there is 100 years worth of existing infrastructure based on gasoline/diesel. Changing the vehicle design is probably the easiest part.