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Ethanol is feasible, through cellulose

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In answer to a letter by Robert Entwistle ("Ethanol won't help, and will raise costs," Feb. 26):

For the umpteenth time, don't use corn to make ethanol -- use cellulose! We can and do produce enough cellulose to make all the motor fuel we need.

When we studied ethanol production at the former Savannah River Plant in 1980, Dr. Bud Webb, then head of agricultural engineering at Clemson, pointed out that we could turn corn stalks and wheat straw into all the motor fuel we need, and that the underused lands of the Southeast can and do produce massive amounts of cellulose (pulp wood).

Sure, ethanol production requires significant quantities of energy -- thus the proposal that we cluster ethanol plants around new power reactors at Savannah River Site.

Let's happily use the oil we have, including shale oil if that is economically feasible, and then ease into ethanol from cellulose using new SRS power reactors to make SRS neighbors all as rich as Arab oil kings!

Fred Christensen, Aiken, S.C.

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Duderotomy
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Duderotomy 02/28/08 - 06:36 am
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I'm glad someone has some

I'm glad someone has some idea about how to make ethanol. Celluose byproducts and switchgrass can serve our needs without impacting our food production or causing massive increases in food prices. The nimrod in the previous letter either has oil stocks or has bought the "big oil" story hook, line and sinker!

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 02/28/08 - 08:46 am
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Thanks for pointing out that

Thanks for pointing out that it takes massive amounts of energy to produce a little energy in the form of ethanol. At the present time, those massive amounts of energy are in the form of petroleum - - for tractors & combines to plant, weed and harvest the crop, for fertilizer for the crop, for transportation to get the crop to the fermenters, for boiler fuel to distill the crop. Now Fred Cristensen is proposing building multi-billion dollar nuclear power plants and locating new electric distilleries near them to produce ethanol from cellulose. The thermodynamics for the silliness remain the same, but nuclear energy at least saves oil.

read this
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read this 02/28/08 - 09:11 am
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For the umpteenth

For the umpteenth time.....what is the NET EFFECT? Except for the farm industrial complex, who benefits? Ethanol, compressed hydrogen, butanol, or whatever do not exist in nature. And the amount of energy expended is more than the amount of energy made EVERYTIME. Again for the umpteenth time....it is all about lifestyle changes. Lower the speed limit, discount gas taxes for carpooling, and add a premium to the gas tax if you want to drive around by yourself. Simple, easy to implement, easy to comply, reduces the demand by (approaching) 50%, does not waste money in research grants, subsidies, or higher taxes, and it does not require new nuclear plants.

fredinaiken
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fredinaiken 02/28/08 - 09:11 am
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Little Lamb. Very little

Little Lamb. Very little energy is required to plant, weed, fertilize and harvest cellulose crops. Most of the energy needed to produce ethanol from cellolose is used to process cellulose into motor fuel at the central processing plant; essentially all of this energy can be produced cleanly, safely and most economically in adjacent power reactors, which at the same time produce all the electric energy we need for the Southeast essentially for ever. New misions for SRS perhaps as meaningful for this country, and perhaps for all of mankind, as was the original mission.

Bizarro
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Bizarro 02/28/08 - 09:14 am
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Actually using cellulose is

Actually using cellulose is the only efficient way to produce ethanol. Lignocellulosic feedstocks such as switchgrass, woody plants, and mixtures of prairie grasses and forbs have been proposed to offer energy and environmental and economic advantages over current biofuel sources, because these feedstocks from perennial plants require fewer agricultural inputs than annual crops and can be grown on agriculturally marginal lands. Also corn has a net zero in production of fuel and use of fuel, but switchgrass has greater than 700% more output than input. The byproducts of this process can be used as fuel to offset the use of petroleum-the problem with corn based ethanol.

fredinaiken
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fredinaiken 02/28/08 - 09:17 am
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Read this. We are a smart,

Read this. We are a smart, inventive, productive people. We CAN make all the motor fuel we want economically, safely and cleanly. Let's do it and enjoy! Why skimp, save and do without when we don't have to?

read this
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read this 02/28/08 - 09:19 am
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If turning cellulose products

If turning cellulose products into ethanol instead of corn is so great, then why talk about it and just do it? Because it is only a theory and doesn't exist?

read this
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read this 02/28/08 - 09:22 am
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Fred- we are a wasteful

Fred- we are a wasteful people of a limited resource and would rather bank on our faith rather than reason.

SCEagle Eye
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SCEagle Eye 02/28/08 - 09:23 am
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And just who would pay for

And just who would pay for those nuclear power reactors to be built at SRS? I didn't quite get the connection to their use in producing ethanol, but through my fiscally conservative lens this sounds like another massive government subsidy which would be better directly invested in conservation and efficiency. If you come up with a 100% private funding proposal let us know about that. Time to wean new SRS projects off government handouts and let them stand on their own in the private world. Ethanol is a good idea for South Carolina but tie it to nuclear power and the idea is dead.

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 02/28/08 - 09:38 am
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Many wise comments here

Many wise comments here today. But most point to an inevitable conclusion: using petroleum to grow corn and distill it into ethanol is an energy dead end (not to mention all the CO2 from burning the petroleum).

mojo
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mojo 02/28/08 - 09:42 am
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read this - you need to look

read this - you need to look at the whole picture - oil & gas have long been the most efficient method of transportation - now two enourmous problems exist today - (1) we're importing over a BILLION dollars of Oil EVERY DAY with much coming from countries that fund terrorists that want us dead and (2) our natural deposits aren't available for further exploration due to politics and backlash. The net effect is we need to consider all sources of energy that we can produce here at home. Ethanol is a very promising path - why should Americans crawl into holes and try to save ourselves out of this problem (a situation that'll never happen) when science can solve this problem?

Bizarro
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Bizarro 02/28/08 - 10:08 am
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read this you need to read.

read this you need to read. It does exist. It is no theory there are a huge number of publications demonstrating the efficiency and developing and planning cellulose based ethanol. The use of corn to make ethanol was never introduced as a viable alternative-just one to jump start the infrastructure for the eventual use of cellulose based ethanol.

johnsmith
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johnsmith 02/28/08 - 10:21 am
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Folks, anyone using economics

Folks, anyone using economics or physics when arguing this topic is missing the point. The real physics, and the real economics, of the issue are masked by the POLITICS of the issue. Even the current petroleum market--which is complicated enough to understand, without adding hypotheticals like switchgrass farms and new reactors at SRS (very good idea, btw)--is completely skewed by politics. We have enormous petroleum reserves avail. to us in ANWR and in the Gulf of Mexico, that we don't tap because of anticapitalist political forces. Sorry, but that's the only explanation, especially for the Gulf. If it were a question of environmental protection, then why is there no great protest over China and Cuba partnering to drill in precisely those locations in which US corporations are forbidden to do so...?

read this
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read this 02/28/08 - 10:31 am
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Biz- it is theory until it is

Biz- it is theory until it is done. Mojo- costs more energy to make than is rendered. So how does that reduce imports?

read this
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read this 02/28/08 - 10:41 am
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What good fortune for

What good fortune for governments that the people do not think. It is always more difficult to fight against faith than against knowledge. Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it.
Who said these things?

egan
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egan 02/28/08 - 10:43 am
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Dumb energy policy, 100 BTU's

Dumb energy policy, 100 BTU's in 90 BTU's out, 10 imported BTU's wasted.

fredinaiken
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fredinaiken 02/28/08 - 11:06 am
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Pluto Boy. In 1980 a

Pluto Boy. In 1980 a consortium of local power companies offered to build new multi-purpose reactors at SRP. THAT'S THE WAY TO GO!!! Nuclear power is by far the least costly. If the %&*# anti-nukes would just get out of the way, electricity would be so cheap that it (almost) need not be metered. In the 1950's we built reactors at SRP in about a year. They were safe; they, all five of them, operated faultlessly for some twenty years. We CAN build safe, clean, contained power reactors today; we can thank crazy anti-nukes for our present high and ever-increasing power bills.

fredinaiken
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fredinaiken 02/28/08 - 11:13 am
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eqan. Yes, more BTU's into

eqan. Yes, more BTU's into ethanol than are delivered to the auto drive shafts. That's life. But we recommend almost-free, nuclear BTU's in essentially limitless amounts to run the ethanol plants, producing essentially limitless amounts of motor fuel at, say, a dollar a gallon.

read this
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read this 02/28/08 - 11:24 am
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Fred- if there is no profit

Fred- if there is no profit in it for refiners and distributors then how will it be delivered? I concur wholeheartedly with your nuclear energy future. However, it is not appropriate to apply this same value to ethanol for today, nor tomorrow. The world has bitten on "green", made it a religion, has turned their faith towards it, and now the power of reason is the "Anti-Verde" itself.

Bizarro
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Bizarro 02/28/08 - 11:48 am
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read this you don't know crap

read this you don't know crap about science or theory do you. It reminds me of the idiots who say evolution is only a theory. I know the japanese have already built lignocellulose ethanol plants and I believe there is one in Michigan. It is very economical and efficient as waste wood products are being used, and by products of the process are used as an energy source (so little petro used). A 700% net increase in energy produced compared to net zero for corn based is dramatic. Biodiesel is another way to gain independence but it pollutes.

imdstuf
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imdstuf 02/28/08 - 11:49 am
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We should just demand

We should just demand electric cars. If they were able to make some in the 90s (GM's EV1 which did not sarifice power) then they surely have the technology to make them today. It is just about politics and the oil industry greasing the hands of the car manufacturers. Of course GM would say the EV1 did not sell well, but it was not out very long, and lets be honest, back in those days gas was alot cheaper so people did not care as much. Saving the environment was probably not a big seller to most people, but now with high gas prices such cars can sell well. Hybrids have proven that higher gas prices do get people to try new things. So why has GM not come back out with these type cars?

read this
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read this 02/28/08 - 12:04 pm
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imd- where do you think the

imd- where do you think the power for electric cars comes from? Imagine the power consumption if just the cars in your neighborhood were electric. Now multiply that by the number of neighborhoods in Augusta, then Georgia, add South Carolina, multiply it by 25. Where does the lead for all those batteries come from, are the car bodies plastic parts made out of ethanol????

read this
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read this 02/28/08 - 12:16 pm
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Biz- I happen to think I

Biz- I happen to think I understand quite a bit. You probably think that we would all be flying saucers around if it weren't for the conspiracy of tire makers.

Bizarro
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Bizarro 02/28/08 - 01:15 pm
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read this. Ever heard of a

read this. Ever heard of a non sequitur?? Flying saucers and tire makers-pleazzzz. I remember while working on my M.S. (decades ago) a friend was working on mutating new more efficient strains of fungus (developed and used in the Vietnam War) to break down cellulose. They were using newspapers and paper products to produce ethanol. His mentor built a mini-factory on his farm for bioethanol. This is not theory or anything new. I am aghast that so little has been done since the 70's when this technology first came to light.

imdstuf
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imdstuf 02/28/08 - 01:16 pm
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Most car body parts are made

Most car body parts are made of plastics now anyway, so that would not change. Though more electricity would be consumed by the cars, less would be consumered by oil refineries, gas stations, etc. There is always give and take.

REDRIDER
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REDRIDER 02/28/08 - 01:28 pm
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How about cellulite ride a

How about cellulite ride a bike burn some fat

Bizarro
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Bizarro 02/28/08 - 01:42 pm
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Actually a new no resistance

Actually a new no resistance device has been developed that you can wear on your body that generates and stores energy from the motion of your body. I like that sportsterman!! Just think all that fat from lipo could generate enough biodiesel to power the U.S. for the next 100 years. hee, hee.

read this
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read this 02/28/08 - 01:52 pm
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Biz- Maybe nothing has been

Biz- Maybe nothing has been done since the 1970s because it din't make sense. I am sure it could be done, it seems most anything CAN be done. But, that does not mean it is practical, reasonable, or applicable.
Imd- what about the fact that if the profitability of refining gasoline is gone, how expensive do you think plastic would be? The chemicals that are cracked out of crude oil are subsidized by the fuels that come from crude. Take a few billion dollars out of the profit picture and, wow, plastic goes up.

read this
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read this 02/28/08 - 02:20 pm
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Biz- Non-sequitor.....as in

Biz- Non-sequitor.....as in "you don't know crap about science or theory do you. It reminds me of the idiots who say evolution is only a theory."

mojo
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mojo 02/28/08 - 03:02 pm
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read this - if you'll study

read this - if you'll study business and economics you'll find that the cost to produce products drops as industry ramps up and investment and production finds more efficient ways to produce goods.

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