eco.iD wrote:I was watching a show on the History channel last night about Sugar. In Brazil they refine sugar into ethanol, which they supply at "every" major gas station. The price difference between petrol ($2.30) and the ethanol ($1.00) is amazing per volume unit. They then went on to say most of the cars down there can run on either source of fuel.
There's an excellent article in this month's Scientific American magazine (January 2007) that explains some of the challenges facing American ethanol production. I'll quote you the part that is most relevant to the differences between Brazil's ethanol production and America's.
. . . But the consensus among the analysts is that even if the net energy value of ethanol is positive, the margin is small. That same year, a large study by the American Institute of Biological Sciences concluded that ethanol from corn yielded only about 10 percent more energy than was required to produce it. That finding compared with 370 percent energy yield from sugar cane as harvested in Brazil.
Michael Wang, an environmental scientist at Argonne National Laboratory's Center for Transportation Research, has calculated that making a million BTU of ethanol requires 740,000 BTW of fossil fuels, when considering all the steps in the chain--fertilizing the fields, harvesting the corn, distilling its starch into alcohol, and so on. Ethanol is promoted as a farm product, but it is largely a product of fossil fuels.
I highly recommend reading this article. The article basically explains current challenges, and how to overcome them. Basically, the holy grail of ethanol production is cellulosic ethanol, produced from even the plant scraps and corn stalks. If and when cellulosic ethanol is perfected, it ethanol will become truly viable as a home grown energy source, being cheap and plentiful without putting any major strains on our food and agricultural water supply; right now, ethanol barely breaks even.
Here's a link to the SciAm page. The article isn't on the page; it links to something you can subscribe to, but in case you're wondering, here it is:http://www.sciam.com/linktous.cfm?artic ... anID=sa006