Is there enough to go around?

I just wached a new program on the History Channel.  It was a feature on Corn.  A whole hour about Corn.  I found it to be VERY interesting.  I suppose that will cause scorn and disdain from those folks on both coasts.  To the folks out here Corn is VERY important.  It better be, we grow an awful lot of it around here.

I want to talk about Corn used a motor fuel.  In other words ethanol or more specifically E-85. Here is a source of energy that is renewable.  Most modern day gasoline engines can run on it.  It is just a matter of programming the computer under the hood to accept it.  In older cars conversion kits are available and not too expensive.  It is cleaner than burning gasoline.  I heard on the program that in 2006 the burning of ethanol was the equivalent of taking over 1,000,000 cars off the road.

So, what do we have?  A fuel that can be grown each and every year that can be used in most vehicles that pollutes less than gasoline.  Add to the money goes to a Midwestern farmer who believes in America rather a Mid Eastern Sheik sworn to destroy it.

Of course the naysayers are already at it.  Let’s look at some of their arguments.

1. The price of my cornflakes is going through the roof.  It must be because they are using all the corn for ethanol.

The amount of corn in a typical box of cornflakes is about 5 cents worth.  That means if the price of corn were to double, the box of cornflakes would go up a nickel.  I think the higher price of cornflakes is due to the higher price of oil.  After all oil is used to get it to the store.

2. Ethanol is not a good fuel.  It doesn’t have the punch that gasoline has.

The common blend (E-10 ten percent ethanol to 90% gasoline) is equal in performance as regular unleaded gasoline.  The E-85 can be a little less fuel efficient in some cars, but the stuff costs 75 cents or better a gallon less to buy.

3. I tried ethanol gas and my car ran like crap.  I’ll never use it again.

When ethanol was first introduced into the system there were many gasoline producer who would blend it in with their worst product.  The stuff could not be sold as it was and the ethanol made it workable.  Many of the initial loads were made with this substandard gas.  That is why many people were disappointed.

4. It takes more energy to make ethanol than the ethanol has in it. 

This one is just an outright lie.  Right now the ratio is about 1 – 2.  Right now it takes about 35,000 BTUs (British Thermal Units) of energy to make a gallon of ethanol, and that gallon of ethanol contains at least 77,000 BTUs of energy.  Add to this that most of that energy is heat.  I have heard of an outfit wanting to build an a ethanol plant next to a electrical power generating station. They want to use the spent steam from the turbine to as the heat source for the ethanol plant. That would take that equation to almost 1 -100. The power plant would not have to build and maintain cooling towers and the ethanol plant gets cheap heat.

5.  We will not have enough corn to go around.  If we keep using it for fuel there will be none left for food.

The yield per acre of corn has almost doubled in the last 30 years or so.  There was a time as recently as the seventies that 100 bushels per acre was a farmer’s dream.  Today it is his nightmare.   There are new varieties and hybrids just around the corner that will not only yield 200 bushels per acre but the corn will be bred for maximum ethanol production.

To the naysayers I say ethanol may not be the answer to our energy worries.  BUT it is part of an answer.  It is more friendly to our environment and the producers are more friendly to out way of life.  Now, why did I write all this?  Because I took two pictures Saturday morning that I want to share with you.  It is an elevator (grain shipping point) in a small town called Cavour South Dakota (population132). The big vertical storage bins in the background are for storing corn (wheat, soybeans or other grains). They are full.  The pile on the ground is CORN and yes that is a real full sized train car in the foreground.

 Like I said, I watched this program on the History Channel tonight, it was about corn….   corncavour2jpg.jpeg    corncavourjpg.jpeg

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Published in: on November 19, 2007 at 9:24 pm  Comments (1)  

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  1. As a person with a brain, and a concious will to use it, I can not see any way we can not head for better fuel economy, alternative fuels, plug in hybids that run off batteries for the first 20 to 35 miles then the hybrid system after that. Renewable liquid fuel that we can grow. What is not to like. We will not starve we instead can upgrade our standard of living and see what happens when the middle east no longer gets to sell us oil.


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