August 16, 2007

Ethanol - Facts & Common Sense


Brazil pioneered the use of Ethanol as a blend to gasoline for fuel use in commercial & public transport sector. Since then the science community is trying to identify alternative fuel which is easier to use, more efficient, cost effective & bla..bla..bla.......

I have read 3 major ones -
  • Ethanol,

  • Butanol (most Recent) &

  • Dimethyl Ether (DME)

You will find many pros & cons of each of them...However my first focus is are they really going to contribute energy saving, cost saving, renewability (reducing environment emmission in totality) OR NOT...............

Energy Saving

The discussion on Energy saving in the production of these biofuels is not relevant to me. Becasue if we talk about this we are going to violate fundamnetal law of energy conservation. Total energy of the universe is conserved it can neither be created or destroyed only it can change from one form to another. So why to talk about it. It is already mentioned & proved that the projections from United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Economic Research Service Report number 814 titled "Estimating The Net Energy Balance Of Corn Ethanol: An Update" published in July of 2002 are completely misleading and there is no benefit in diverting food material for fuel production.

Its a gimmick played by US & EU to divert the attention of developing countries so that artificial food shortage can be created there & then they can improve their agriculture business by exporting food to them.

Anyway, this is not my area (May be I can discuss in comments section if somebody is interested), so we should consider the total energy in production & consumption both which are going to remain same combinedly for any fuel cycle. So if we do the comparison considering all factors including energy required for production of grains, It should not result in either deficit or surplus of the energy balance. However, no production process can have >100% efficiency. This is against thermodynamics.

It can be proven thermodynamically also by any expert. Following references are useful here

If Ethanol production is so much energy efficient (Lowest prjection of 35%) than that means every 100 Units of input energy can generate 135 Units & so on. Considering this growth, world can generate excess energy in just under 20 years based on current global consumption of ~3000 billion gallons / year of Eqv Oil and @1% growth rate in the consumption.

Ethanol production rate is kept same at same Biomass (in this maths calculation, which should have been done by so called experts with so much funding available from govt, agencies & whosoever is interested in improving his related business) be it corn, sugar cane or anything with the latest figures of efficient farming, production & conversion efficiencies which is considered only at 20 Billion gallons/year in the begining which is only 1/10 or 10% of current fossil fuel consumption.


That means thereafter, we wont have any problem of energy shortage in the world.

Is it really so????????????????

The answer may be derived from the results of Brazil and is clearly NO.

I will post other issues related to this later as I see that

1. It is not a renewable & sustainable fuel.

2. It is going to pollute the environment in the same way as we do with fossil fuels.

3. Net energy content may be inefficient than fossil fuels.

4. Diverting attention of governments for policies related to social welfare due to subsidies.

5. No large scale sustainable future for Ethanol or any other food crops derived fuels.

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Jim's Words Music and Science said...

Great article. I have written about similar issues and problems with corn ethanol and ethanol as fuel on my blog.

Best wishes, Jim

p.s. new resource on sustainability (real sustainability!).

profmaster said...

Thanks Jim
I will surely go thru your article & other posts after coming back from my tour on 21 April.

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