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sdholloway56
Senior Advisor

The big problem for ethanol

that I’ve alluded to in the past.

Biden platform calls for a 15 year transition from fossil fuels.

Without very major policy changes, ethanol withers,which is a way bigger deal than just the nicks and cuts from the fossil fuel lobbyists in this administration.

I think it can be handled with deft policy and some adjustments to some second generation fuels like biobutanol as a larger part of the smaller fuel mix.

But you’ll have to go up against the 800 pound gorilla- the fossil fuel complex.

Might manage to keep the buggywhip industry in business for another 4 years but the politics of it are shifting rapidly.

I’d suggest ditching the piggyback on the FF’s and going alone. You already saw how they’ll screw you every chance they get.

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4 Replies
rickgthf
Senior Advisor

Re: What people fail to understand is, just how poor a fuel gasoline really is.

What people fail to understand is, just how poor fuel gasoline really is.  The inherent characteristics of gasoline,  limit gasoline engines to compression ratios of less than 12-15 to 1.  Even the very best gasoline engines are limited to 25% thermal efficiency, there's just no getting around it.  Literally, 3/4 of the energy of gasoline is wasted.

  In contrast, the high compression ratio of diesel allows thermal efficiencies up to 45%.   Likewise,  straight ethanol-fuel engines can take advantage of  ethanol's naturally high octane rating and achieve efficiencies of 42-45%.  The Germans retrofitted a Volkswagon TDI diesel and demonstrated those efficiencies using aqueous 95% ethanol.

  The beautiful thing about that is by using straight ethanol you can essentially double the mileage of you IC vehicle and get it into the range of current electric vehicles.

  Not only that but by stopping the distillation of ethanol at 95% you avoid the energy cost of removing the last 5% water and save 1/3 of the energy cost.

  If you couple that with carbon dioxide sequestration which is a natural consequence of fermentation, you can make a powerful argument for corn ethanol as a transportation fuel.

 

sdholloway56
Senior Advisor

Re: What people fail to understand is, just how poor a fuel gasoline really is.

Enjoyed "Ford vs. Ferarri" but couldn't help thinking that the IC engine is fundamentally crappy machine, even with a century of exquisite tinkering. Just is- 3/4ths of the energy goes out the radiator as excess heat, or the tailpipe.

But I do think that ethanol can capture its fair share of the declining liquid fuel mix, it just requires some strategic thinking and smart politics.

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rickgthf
Senior Advisor

Re: What would change the whole scenario would be...

What would change the whole scenario would be ethanol-direct-to-electricity batteries.   20 billion gallons of ethanol would suddenly look like 80 billion gallons of the 130 billion gallons of finished gasoline we use per year.  Couple that with the 60 million metric tons of carbon sequestration and we would make gasoline obsolete as a fuel.

  Direct ethanol to electric batteries have been demonstrated, we just need a better membrane between the anode and cathode half cells.

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sdholloway56
Senior Advisor

Re: What would change the whole scenario would be...

I guess you can use ethanol in fuel cells, although I have no idea of the relative attractiveness.

Getting to 0 fossil fuel in 15 years is aspirational, but isn't happening. Realistically you could probably get to 1/3rd of present for gasoline, more than that for diesel.

In 15 years the entire car fleet ought to fine with a 30% blend, and maybe it is just that simple. But you have to get the legislation to make it happen and if oil is losing more than half its market anyway they're going to fight like cornered rats.

You'd also have to do a workaround as far as the VOCs issue with that high of a blend- I really can't speak to the scientific basis on that. It was sort of half science, half politics anyway since the oil lobby wrote the original regulations to favor NOX over VOCs so that MTBE would come out on top.

Although if you're only burning a third as much I assume things would be a whole lot better either way. If you need a different blend in the LA Basin or Denver, no biggie.

 

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