bad math

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bad math

Post by Ken Greenwald » Wed Jul 11, 2007 5:58 am

I was just reading a June 18 Time Magazine article on ethanol titled “Corn-Powered in Yuma [[Colorado]]. A Colorado farm town fuels its future on ethanol.”

Farmers in Colorado and elsewhere are just thrilled with Bush’s push for ethanol produced from corn. Of all the alternative sources of fuel, however, at least according to all the scientific studies I have read – don’t our leaders read the research? – it would be hard to come up with a worse one than corn. And encouraging and pouring research money and investment down such a rat hole makes about as much sense as our fearless leader’s surge, but at least it isn’t costing lives.

Corn to ethanol is a lousy idea for many reasons, a few of which are: 1) it takes as much energy to produce as you get out of it. 2) it does essentially nothing to reduce greenhouse gases. 3) it will inflate corn prices (and has), an effect which will trickle down in the form of increased prices of animal feed, along with an the associated inflationary spiral in food prices (beef, chicken, pork, eggs, etc. and the products made from these products). The increased price of our exported corn is also affecting the folks who can least afford the increase south of our border for whom corn is a staple of their diets.

Anyway, in reading the article I noted the following misleading use of numbers. The article first states that ethanol “gets 30% fewer miles to the gallon than gas,” which sound about right from other reading I have done. It later goes on to say:
<“in Yuma county, where gas costs around $3.35 a gallon in recent weeks—ethanol E85 fuel was $2.43 per gallon—seldom is heard a discouraging word. Even Brad Rock, who is being hit hard by rising feed prices for the 4,000 head of cattle on his Box Elder Ranch in nearby Wray, admits that the ethanol projects ‘are good for the community from a jobs perspective.’”>
I think that the main reason that Mr. Rock (in the above quote) is not too upset about the increase in feed prices for his cattle due the rising cost of corn caused by the ethanol 'surge,' is that in all likelihood this increase will just be passed on in the form of the higher prices he gets for his beef. But the main thing that bothered me about the above statement is the implication that the E85 fuel (85% ethanol which is now available at my local Colorado gas station) is a better buy than gasoline. If one does the arithmetic (the ‘math’ or ‘maths’ as some people improperly call it – just kidding!), it ain’t so. If gasoline gets ‘X’ miles/gallon and ethanol gets 30% less, as stated above, then ethanol gets .70 X miles/gallon. or (7/10) X miles/ gallon. So to get an equivalent number of miles out of ethanol you are going to have to buy 10/7 times as many gallons of ethanol as you would have of gasoline, which is equivalent to paying (10/7) ($2.43) or $3.47 a gallon, which is 12 cents per gallon more expensive than gas!

So, beware of ethanol peddlers bearing gifts! (>:)
____________________

Ken G – July 10, 2007
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bad math

Post by Erik_Kowal » Wed Jul 11, 2007 7:22 am

Another very significant reason that growing corn/maize for ethanol is a stupendously crappy idea is that growing any agricultural crop consumes vast (and I mean vast) amounts of water, with corn being one of the worst offenders. It just makes no sense whatever, with the western third of the USA and all the southern states currently suffering from extreme drought conditions, to waste precious groundwater and deplete already rapidly-shrinking aquifers and watersheds merely in order to grow corn for people to burn in their cars, especially when those cars are gas-guzzling SUVs and oversized pick-ups. This use of water can also be expected to exacerbate the numerous existing disputes over water rights in the US, and to generate new conflicts of this kind.

As a matter of fact, the already-indefensible agricultural subsidies to growers of corn ought to be slashed in order to discourage such a wasteful use of resources. Especially at a time when market forces are already leading to higher corn prices, it makes no sense whatever to keep enriching and pandering to the powerful farming lobbies at the expense of US taxpayers, who will derive no benefit at all from this profligate waste of their money.

However, what is Congress all about if not battening on pork and corn?
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bad math

Post by Edwin Ashworth » Tue Jul 17, 2007 8:13 pm

Will drivers under 21 have to stick with gasoline? (Sorry, petrol.)
Bioethanol from sugar, and biodiesel from oilseed rape and a wonder-plant which "will grow where no other useful plant will", Jatropha curcas, may be a better proposition, but as usual the altruism in the schemes needs careful scrutiny.
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bad math

Post by gdwdwrkr » Tue Jul 17, 2007 8:18 pm

Oh, good. A plant that will take over the parts of Pennsylvania spurned by purple loosestrife, kudzu, tree of "heaven" and mile-a-minute vine.
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bad math

Post by Edwin Ashworth » Tue Jul 17, 2007 8:31 pm

It'll probably take over the parts NOT spurned by purple loosestrife, kudzu, tree of heaven and mile-a-minute vine too, Jim.
Actually, I've met mile-a-minute vine. It's not threatened.
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bad math

Post by Shelley » Tue Jul 17, 2007 8:32 pm

Is "mile a minute" vine the same thing as "foot a night"?
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Post by Erik_Kowal » Tue Jul 17, 2007 9:25 pm

For many people, six inches a night is quite enough.
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bad math

Post by Tony Farg » Wed Jul 18, 2007 7:08 am

Only SIX?
We call our mile a minute "russian vine" pronounced "rushin' "
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bad math

Post by gdwdwrkr » Wed Jul 18, 2007 8:59 am

If only this vine from HELL would limit its horrible climb to tree of HEAVEN...
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bad math

Post by Erik_Kowal » Wed Jul 18, 2007 9:41 am

Goats have been demonstrated to be effective at controlling kudzu. Their continued browsing eventually weakens the plants to such an extent that they cannot regenerate; it is quite possible that goats would also be useful in controlling some other fast-growing pest plants, especially vines and shrubs.
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bad math

Post by gdwdwrkr » Wed Jul 18, 2007 2:33 pm

Tend my vines, my cloven-hoofers, starting this satyrday.
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Post by Erik_Kowal » Wed Jul 18, 2007 2:42 pm

Seriously?
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bad math

Post by gdwdwrkr » Wed Jul 18, 2007 2:54 pm

No, all at once.
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bad math

Post by Erik_Kowal » Wed Jul 18, 2007 3:33 pm

Then you'll need to put them in parallel parks.
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bad math

Post by gdwdwrkr » Wed Jul 18, 2007 4:39 pm

With no capri corners?
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