Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The "Happy Folks" New Lie

2 years ago, ethanol was going to save the world's motorists. 

In 2006, President Bush, when asked if ethanol was the answer to the U.S. energy problem retorted:  "It better be".

Pretty straight shot, for a politician.  And now we know that ethanol is NOT going to save America's car dependent economy.  So here comes the new pitch:

Electric cars!  (Does any thinking person really believe that we can fill all those traffic jams with electric vehicles?)

Folks, there are going to be electric cars, hydrogen cars, fuel cell vehicles, ethanol motor cycles, etc... but here's the deal.

America's car owners now drive an average of 14,000 miles per year or so in 2006.  My back of the envelope calculations tells me that in 2020 American car owner's will be down to 4,000 to 6,000 miles per year and, get this - much less in 2030.  (If you have Retail Shopping Mall or Auto stocks in your retirement portfolio it is time to "think a new".)  Oh, and by the way, the miles you do drive will be INFINITELY less comfortable and cramped, and if it is in an electric car it will be without heat or air conditioning.  I live in South Florida.  The thought of sitting in glass box in 95 degree heat with the sun beating down in a traffic jam (there won't BE traffic jams but work with me for the effect) leaves me less than enthused about car transportation in the future.

Here is another fund fact to know:

If you buy a new car this year, you better lease it.  The vast majority of 2008 model year vehicles will OUT LIVE THEIR FUEL SUPPLY, becoming just another hunk of metal that rusts in the rain sitting in your driveway.

Yours for a better world,

Mentatt (at) yahoo (d0t) com


Anonymous said...

I posted this on Seeking Alpha .. seems relevant to your post today ..

Corn ethanol will never replace any meaningful quantities of gasoline and

The math isn’t hard, but there are lots of zeroes:

In 2007:

92.9 million U.S. acres of corn planted (86 million estimated for 2008)
86 million acres actually harvested (in 2007)
155 bushels per acre (average rate for 2007 -- on a plateau since 1998)
results in 13.3 billion (86 x 155) bushels of American corn

Convert it ALL to ethanol (for laughs)
(Realistically, 7.2 billion gallons of ethanol were produced in 2007 using
20% of the U.S. corn crop)

13.3 billion bushels of corn
2.8 gallons of ethanol per bushel
gives us 37.3 billion gallons (13.3 x 2.8) of American corn ethanol
(becomes the 85% component of E85)
75,700 BTUs per gallon of ethanol
gives us 2,825 trillion (37.3 x 75,700) BTUs of energy available from the
ethanol component


add in 6.9 billion gallons of gasoline (becomes the 15% component of E85)
115,000 BTUs per gallon of gasoline
gives us 794 trillion (6.9 x 115,000) BTUs available from the gasoline

2,825 + 794 = 3,619 trillion (3.619 quadrillion or "quads") BTUs total from
100% of the U.S. corn crop made into E85
(for a total of 44 billion (37.3 + 6.9) gallons of ethanol and gasoline
made into E85 per year)

Forget ethanol for a minute. The U.S. normally consumes:

150 billion gallons of gasoline burned per year
115,000 BTUs per gallon
17,250 trillion (150 x 115,000) gasoline BTUs


60 billion gallons of diesel burned per year
130,500 BTUs per gallon
7,830 trillion (60 x 130,500) diesel BTUs

17,250 + 7,830 = 25,080 trillion (25.1 quads) total BTUs consumed burning
gasoline and diesel per year in the U.S.

So, we find that:

Only 15% (3,619/25,080) of gasoline & diesel BTUs can be replaced by E85
using every kernel of U.S. corn -- all of it

In reality, ethanol (spark ignition) will not substitute for diesel
(compression ignition) anyway without substantial vehicle & fuel changes

Further, ethanol will not easily substitute for heating oil or jet fuel,
nor is it used today for making plastics like oil is.

And, if you add in ALL the energy-related inputs, some have suggested we
may be able to replace, at best, 3-4% of U.S. gasoline using all U.S. corn

Corn ethanol will never displace any meaningful quantities of gasoline or

Anonymous said...

Great analysis! Thanks for that. As someone said about ethanol and I quote "That dog wont hunt" or "Ethanol is for people who don't understand math". Take a pick. Its all good.

Chuck H.