Cultural Clash


While the current effort to find an alternative answer to our run away pump pulmonary and addiction to foreign oil is deserving of praise, is it a clear track to salvation . . . or a disaster in the making. Reports are starting to appear in the press and in scientific proclamations that, perhaps the ethanol and biodiesel craze might not be the answer.

News of inadequate performance of the finished product, unforunately attacks on the engines themselves, and worse yet, the devastating ripple effect on the food economy, gives many, engineers, and politicos alike, pause in this headlong rush.

We at Energy Visions are striving not to be painted with that same brush.


Ethanol Fueling More Controversy Than Cars

This is another one of those situations where you ask, "Whose side are they on?"

Increased ethanol production will eat into the world's food supply and require more farmland to be used for growing corn to produce the alternative fuel, warns a new study by a Washington DC-based think tank.

The study "Biofuels, Food, or Wildlife? The Massive Land Costs of U.S. Ethanol" was released in September by the Competitive Enterprise Institute, which describes its mission as "advancing the principles of free enterprise and limited government."

The Institute made news in May when it released a pair of TV ads attacking Al Gore's film "An Inconvenient Truth," his epic on global warming.

The Institute, which argues that there are environmental, health and economic benefits in the rising amounts of carbon dioxide, ended its ads with the line, "They call it pollution, we call it life." According to, the Institute receives funding from Exxon Mobil Foundation and some conservation foundations.

The latest salvo in the ongoing battle between ethanol supporters and critics, the new study puts forward "green" arguments against developing crop-based alternative fuels.

Asserting that there are "significant trade-offs" in expanding the production of corn and other crops for fuel, the study states that the main trade-off would be a shift of major amounts of the world food supply to fuel use when significant elements of the human population remain ill-fed.

To produce "economically significant amounts" of ethanol, the U.S. might have to clear an additional 50 million acres of forest, the study states. In addition to using up cropland now enrolled in the Conservation Reserve and resulting in a rise in soil erosion, "ethanol mandates may force the local loss of many wildlife species, and perhaps trigger some special extinction," the study asserts.

The full study is available at

Jack Bess


Ethanol Companies: Alternative Energy Sources

The present heavy use of ethanol is a mixed blessing although I am always just a little suspicious when I see huge government subsidies and mandatory regulations necessary for a fuel to compete with ordinary gasoline. The farm states love ethanol.

Another major problem with the ethanol producers in the immediate future is the price of corn from which most ethanol is produced. The price has just gone over $4 per bushel, double its previous worth, and is rising. Breakeven point for most ethanol producers is a corn price of $4.50 to $5.00, so a further rise in corn prices is going to greatly affect the ethanol market, and the overall economy as well.


Biodiesel production facilities operate at below capacity most times due to enormous quantities of water called for. Regrettably, it becomes contaminated during production. Copious flows of water are required to wash the biodiesel. Caustic catalyst was found to contaminate the runoff, necessitating a three times wash of the each batch of biodiesel before all traces of the catalyst and methanol have been removed. Methanol is nasty stuff to incorporate in any operation because of its inherient health risks.

For this reason local water utility companies are reluctant to provide plants with the commodity they need as the end product comes out loaded with the resultant spoils. Huge evaporation ponds receive and ferment the water; at this point unsuitable even for irrigation.

The other downside is the glycerol, an increasing "unforeseen consequence" biodiesel firms are coming to face. This by-product, is possibly a major market for the CC as we can dispose of it with a 20% yield; but then again maybe not, as the glycerol is also tainted with toxins. Sanitizing the glycerol requires excessive costs - so it too becomes waste even we cannot use.

Bio-fuels could be a misnomer in terms of finding/formulating a "genuine," bio,eco and/or environment-friendly fuel—it is a misnomer indeed to come-up with an alternative energy that the same would contain inorganic petrol-base (methanol and ethanol) and acidic/toxic Sodium/Potassium Hydroxide Catalytic Reactants, that could lead to corrosion and damage on engine parts.

Bio-diesel is just for mixture at 5%-20% to petrol-diesel. If it goes beyond 10-percent or 20-percent use, it will not be good for the vehicle.

"We cannot use 100 percent (B-100) of coco fuel in the engine," according to Under Secretary Eduardo Maalac, former Under Secretary of the Department of Energy, regarding Baguio testing use of fuel Ecology.

Bio-ethanol is just a mixture of 10% ethanol & 90% petro-gasoline. It would not be good also for the engine if the mixture would go beyond 35% because it will eat-up the rubber and plastic parts of the engine, and thus increase the engine temperature


Biodiesel can cause problems.

5Incredibly, this register of problems do not befall the distinct CC parameters.

For example:

Gelling Temperature: mineral Biodiesel gels at a higher temperature (32 degrees) than standard #2 diesel (at -15 degrees). This is not a problem with biodiesel/petro-diesel blends of 20% or less (B20 - B2) but it makes the use of B-100 unworkable in a commercial vehicle. This dents the expectations many in the country who saw the rush into Biodiesel production as the "save-all" solution to America's "oil addiction."

Lower BTU Rating: A study done by the University of North Dakota indicated that, while there are significant fluctuations, No. 2 diesel contains about 140,000 BTUs per gallon while B-100 contains about 130,000 BTUs. (B-20 contains 138,000BTUs.)

CC contains upwards of 140,000.

Higher Nitrogen Oxide Emissions: Since biodiesel contains no nitrogen, the increase in NOx emissions is probably due to the higher cetane rating and the high oxygen content of biodiesel. These two qualities are thought to cause the nitrogen contained in the air to be converted into NOx during combustion.

Higher Solvent Properties: Because biodiesel acts as a solvent it is likely, when used in an engine that ran previously on petro-diesel, that any sediment in the fuel system might be washed into the engine's filters and fuel injectors. Rubber gaskets and hoses will also degrade at a higher rate.

This means that filters will need to be changed within 1000 miles of changing to a biodiesel blend and the hoses and gaskets will eventually need to be changed to something that does not react to biodiesel; like Fluorinated Viton.

Methanol is intoxicating but not directly poisonous. It is toxic by its breakdown (toxication) by the enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase in the liver by forming formic acid and formaldehyde, which cause blindness by destruction of the optic nerve.

Methanol ingestion can also be fatal due to its CNS depressant properties in the same manner as ethanol poisoning. It enters the body by ingestion, inhalation, or absorption through the skin. Fetal tissue will not tolerate methanol.

If methanol has been ingested, a doctor should be contacted immediately. Duh!

Since January 1, 2004, California's gasoline has been blended with ethanol instead of MTBE (methyl-tertiary butyl ether) as an oxygenate to help the gas burn more cleanly. During the summer of 2006, other states are also changing to MTBE-free gasoline because of the problems that additive has caused in water supplies. As the rest of the country makes this transition from MTBE for the first time, competition for valuable gasoline blend stocks could raise the cost of making gasoline in California and the rest of the country.

The debate over the energy balance of biodiesel is ongoing. Transitioning fully to biofuels could require immense tracts of soy-and, especially severe for nations with large economies, since energy consumption scales with economic output. If using only traditional vegetation, most such nations do not have sufficient arable land to produce biofuel for their vehicles.

Nations with smaller economies (hence less energy consumption) and more arable land may be in better situations, although many regions cannot afford to divert land away from food production. For third world countries, biodiesel sources that use marginal land could make more sense, e.g. honge oil nuts grown along roads or jatropha grown along rail lines.

Locations where oil-producing plants grow are of increasing concern to environmentalists, one of the prime worries being that countries will clear cut large areas of tropical forest in order to grow such lucrative crops, in particular, oil palm.

This has already occurred in the Philippines and Indonesia. Both countries plan to increase their biodiesel production levels significantly, which will lead to the deforestation of tens of millions of acres if these plans materialize.

Loss of habitat on such a scale could endanger numerous species of plants and animals. A particular concern which has received considerable attention is the threat to the already-shrinking populations of orangutans on the Indonesian islands of Borneo and Sumatra, which face possible extinction.

Discarded.Speculation runs among the science/academia population that the major oil companies are getting involved with the
alternative fuels rushing in trend until it hits the crash.

Then they can hang their hat on the environmental support image, at the same time silencing for good, the debate on alternative attempts to curb imported crude oil. A tropical forest that has stood for thousands of years now stands in the way of a plantation of palm trees. Our rain forest provide the planet with its oxygen.