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Thread: Alcohol, saver of oil?

  1. #1 Alcohol, saver of oil? 
    Forum Senior chero's Avatar
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    Could Alcohol be used inplace of oil or gas (for anything such as cars, etc.)?


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    Brassica oleracea Strange's Avatar
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    It could (and is). It is easier to manage than hydrogen but more likely to be drunk than gasoline!

    And there is an issue how you source the alcohol. That is what determines whether it is a sustainable solution or not.


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  4. #3  
    Life-Size Nanoputian Flick Montana's Avatar
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    There remain many problems.

    Is this corn-based alcohol? Do we have the space needed to grow it and are we going to compromise food sources to do so?

    How does energy efficiency compare to gasoline?

    Is the alcohol source (grain) susceptible to environmental factors? Would a major drought spike prices unreasonably or cause widespread fuel shortages?

    I am very much in favor of moving away from fossil fuels, but no one solution is perfect right now.
    "Sometimes I think the surest sign that intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us." -Calvin
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    At the moment it's virtually a zero sum game. The quantity of fossils used to produce fertiliser for growing crops for conversion to alcohol is pretty sizeable, some people say it's as much as would be required for the same power output of the finished product. And the agricultural land produces greenhouse gases in pretty large quantities - and that's not counting the fuels used to transport all the materials from place to place, and the factories producing the alcohol need power from some source or other.

    You really need an expert energy/agriculture economist to calculate all this and pay attention to all of the various factors, not just the ones that first occur to people as they did when first coming up with the crops-alcohol-fuel schemes.
    "Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen." Winston Churchill
    "nature is like a game of Jenga; you never know which brick you pull out will cause the whole stack to collapse" Lucy Cooke
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  6. #5  
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    May I suggest reading up on the alcohol fueled automobiles in/of Brazil.
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    I was thinking of Brazil myself. I know I've seen a couple of comments about their scheme during discussions about the US one, but I don't recall any details about the fertiliser-transport-processing issues there.
    "Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen." Winston Churchill
    "nature is like a game of Jenga; you never know which brick you pull out will cause the whole stack to collapse" Lucy Cooke
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  8. #7  
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    Ethanol. This is a huge boondoggle forced on the American consumer by agricultural lobbyists and misguided government hacks. It uses up as much fuel to run the agricultural implements as it saves in auto fuel. The ethanol will eat away the fuel line and rubber parts of your lawn mowers, chain saws and similar small engines. I now have a chain saw that I can't use because the fuel cap swelled up and won't fit any more.
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  9. #8  
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    Harold: Be not too quick to judge.
    Indeed, much of the industry was poorly planned, and could not have existed without government subsidies.

    Some of the ethanol plants are models of sustainability. One Iowa plant was coupled with a hog containment. The ethanol was extracted from the corn, the remaining mash was fed to the pigs(via conveyor belt from the ethanol plant), and their shit was composted in a methane generator----what was left from that was returned to the fields.

    My small engines specify "do not use ethanol" right in the manuals---------------so I don't.
    Handy thing: Literacy.

    ................
    Brazil started using ethanol because they were too poor to import oil products. If memory serves, they used gasoline to start their engines, then switched to running them on ethanol. The engines had to be specifically designed to run on dual fuel.
    ....................
    Brazil can make and ship ethanol to the USA for less $ than local suppliers. So the jackasses in Washington imposed a tariff.
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    Quote Originally Posted by sculptor View Post
    Harold: Be not too quick to judge.
    Indeed, much of the industry was poorly planned, and could not have existed without government subsidies.

    Some of the ethanol plants are models of sustainability. One Iowa plant was coupled with a hog containment. The ethanol was extracted from the corn, the remaining mash was fed to the pigs(via conveyor belt from the ethanol plant), and their shit was composted in a methane generator----what was left from that was returned to the fields.

    My small engines specify "do not use ethanol" right in the manuals---------------so I don't.
    Handy thing: Literacy.
    Where do you get your ethanol free fuel? I can't buy it at the gas station. I've heard you can get it down at the boat docks, because the marine engines don't use it. It's definitely not easy to come by where I live.
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  11. #10  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Harold14370 View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by sculptor View Post
    Harold: Be not too quick to judge.
    Indeed, much of the industry was poorly planned, and could not have existed without government subsidies.

    Some of the ethanol plants are models of sustainability. One Iowa plant was coupled with a hog containment. The ethanol was extracted from the corn, the remaining mash was fed to the pigs(via conveyor belt from the ethanol plant), and their shit was composted in a methane generator----what was left from that was returned to the fields.

    My small engines specify "do not use ethanol" right in the manuals---------------so I don't.
    Handy thing: Literacy.
    Where do you get your ethanol free fuel? I can't buy it at the gas station. I've heard you can get it down at the boat docks, because the marine engines don't use it. It's definitely not easy to come by where I live.
    Here, it's the most expensive fuel at the local gas stations.
    Until last year, we had 3 choices
    low octane no ethanol
    mid octane with ethanol(cheaper than low octane)
    and high octane no ethanol

    Government should stay the hell out of commerce
    they just ain't no good at it.
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  12. #11  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Strange View Post
    It could (and is). It is easier to manage than hydrogen but more likely to be drunk than gasoline!

    And there is an issue how you source the alcohol. That is what determines whether it is a sustainable solution or not.
    There are two forms of alcohol is there not? I do not remember the names or how one may be produced differently than the other, but would it not be sustainable?

    bellow links are just to compare use between gasoline vs beer.
    List of countries by beer consumption per capita - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    How much gasoline does the United States consume? - FAQ - U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA)


    would part of being sustainable include not just amount used but how well machines use alcohol?
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  13. #12  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Flick Montana View Post
    There remain many problems.

    Is this corn-based alcohol? Do we have the space needed to grow it and are we going to compromise food sources to do so?

    How does energy efficiency compare to gasoline?

    Is the alcohol source (grain) susceptible to environmental factors? Would a major drought spike prices unreasonably or cause widespread fuel shortages?

    I am very much in favor of moving away from fossil fuels, but no one solution is perfect right now.
    Nothing will ever be perfect. fossil fuels are not perfect. Perfect means zero waste, but everything has waste. Main goal would be to gain access to more energy from less product and to have that energy do more in a machine, or to create energy.

    As for alcohol being produced from agriculture, yes that may be an issue. There has been recent inquiry into farming in buildings made for agriculture. this may be a potential switch to ensure consistency in agriculture, but nothing is for sure.

    Different kinds of alcohol : Tomah Journal
    How is Methanol Made? - Methanol Institute
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  14. #13  
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    Quote Originally Posted by adelady View Post
    At the moment it's virtually a zero sum game. The quantity of fossils used to produce fertiliser for growing crops for conversion to alcohol is pretty sizeable, some people say it's as much as would be required for the same power output of the finished product. And the agricultural land produces greenhouse gases in pretty large quantities - and that's not counting the fuels used to transport all the materials from place to place, and the factories producing the alcohol need power from some source or other.

    You really need an expert energy/agriculture economist to calculate all this and pay attention to all of the various factors, not just the ones that first occur to people as they did when first coming up with the crops-alcohol-fuel schemes.

    not to say it is a for sure thing, but -
    The Vertical Farm Project - Agriculture for the 21st Century and Beyond | www.verticalfarm.com
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  15. #14  
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    Quote Originally Posted by sculptor View Post
    May I suggest reading up on the alcohol fueled automobiles in/of Brazil.
    Supposedly some vehicles even in usa can have alcohol mixed with gas, which could produce the same result. Only issue now is the ability to put it into the tank. perhaps restricted to gas cans filled for alcohol.
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  16. #15  
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    My wife used a new University vehicle this past weekend that uses 85% ethanol.
    My cousin runs his diesel truck on bio-diesel.

    The technology was developed for Brazil's needs decades ago. It's just a matter of supply/infrastructure/demand.

    Most gas stations have 3 tanks for different gasoline and one for diesel----that part of the infrastructure is already ready and waiting.
    The main problem is ethanol has a higher flash point than gasoline, making it less than ideal for those cold winter starts, ergo dual fuel.

    I'm hoping that an affordable diesel/electric with an independent motor on each wheel will be available before I have to replace my 1995 diesel 3/4 ton 4x4 extended cab truck. (I had planned on 20 years or 200,000 miles) Most of my trips are less than 50 miles round trip, with a few longer ones now and again.
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  17. #16  
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    Quote Originally Posted by sculptor View Post
    My wife used a new University vehicle this past weekend that uses 85% ethanol.
    My cousin runs his diesel truck on bio-diesel.

    The technology was developed for Brazil's needs decades ago. It's just a matter of supply/infrastructure/demand.

    Most gas stations have 3 tanks for different gasoline and one for diesel----that part of the infrastructure is already ready and waiting.
    The main problem is ethanol has a higher flash point than gasoline, making it less than ideal for those cold winter starts, ergo dual fuel.

    I'm hoping that an affordable diesel/electric with an independent motor on each wheel will be available before I have to replace my 1995 diesel 3/4 ton 4x4 extended cab truck. (I had planned on 20 years or 200,000 miles) Most of my trips are less than 50 miles round trip, with a few longer ones now and again.
    Would it be better suited to use methanol?
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  18. #17  
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    flash points different?
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  19. #18  
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    Quote Originally Posted by chero View Post
    Would it be better suited to use methanol?
    No!

    The problems burning methanol in IC engines are far more serious than burning ethanol. One big issue is incomplete combustion leads to production of formic acid, which is pretty corrosive. That is one reason why ethanol is preferred - though doubtless in the USA the special-interest pleas of maize farmers have a lot to do with it as well.
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  20. #19  
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    Quote Originally Posted by chero View Post
    Could Alcohol be used inplace of oil or gas (for anything such as cars, etc.)?
    It could be. However, corn-based alcohol is a very poor solution because you have to "spend" so much in terms of other energy to get it. In other words, instead of turning 10 gallons of oil into 20 gallons of ethanol (and doing a lot of work in the process) it's generally better to just use the 10 gallons of oil.

    Cane-based and cellolusic ethanol have much lower energy requirements and thus make more sense overall.
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  21. #20  
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    Quote Originally Posted by sculptor View Post
    I'm hoping that an affordable diesel/electric with an independent motor on each wheel will be available before I have to replace my 1995 diesel 3/4 ton 4x4 extended cab truck. (I had planned on 20 years or 200,000 miles)
    Hub motors work well, but most people are unlikely to be happy with the poor ride/handling you get as a result.

    Most of my trips are less than 50 miles round trip, with a few longer ones now and again.
    Fortunately there are now several EV's and PHEV's that will give you that sort of range.
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  22. #21  
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    yeh, but, for me, it's gotta be able to haul a ton and a half of sand, gravel, or wood, and 6 people

    .........
    soon?
    .............
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  23. #22  
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    yeh, but, for me, it's gotta be able to haul a ton and a half of sand, gravel, or wood, and 6 people

    .........
    soon?
    Yes - if you use 'soon' in the history of technology sense. Whether you'd be able to afford the first models with those capabilities is another issue.

    Tesla Model S gets Consumer Reports' recommendation - Oct. 28, 2013
    Tesla's next vehicle is supposed to be the Tesla Model X crossover SUV but, after that, the company's plans call for a less expensive car and, possibly, other products
    (Sorry, but I can't find the item I thought I bookmarked on Tesla's intentions to double the mileage- to-recharge range and other developments which they expect to keep driving the price down closer to the more affordable range and increasing the options available. Carrying or pulling a ton or two would be within that ambition I'd expect.)
    "Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen." Winston Churchill
    "nature is like a game of Jenga; you never know which brick you pull out will cause the whole stack to collapse" Lucy Cooke
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  24. #23  
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    Quote Originally Posted by sculptor View Post
    yeh, but, for me, it's gotta be able to haul a ton and a half of sand, gravel, or wood, and 6 people
    Outlander PHEV. 30 mile electric range, 5 passenger, 3300 pound towing capacity.
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  25. #24  
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    There's also the possibility of domestic (ish) sized versions of these things.

    Trans Tech Bus and Motiv Power Systems Partner On New All-Electric... -- FOSTER CITY, Calif., Oct. 22, 2013 /PRNewswire/ --

    available for medium and heavy duty commercial truck applications including box trucks, flat/stake beds, refrigerated trucks, utility/service bodies, shuttle buses, delivery vehicles and refuse trucks.
    A company like this one probably doesn't want to move out of its own special zone. Though some local governments, landscaping contractors and the like might want smaller vehicles of this type for specific purposes. The issue is probably a bit like the washing machine question - cheaper domestic versions for intermittent use versus expensive, robust, constant use commercial versions. So even with suitably sized versions, do you want to pay the same as someone who intends to use it day in day out for the same kind of use that's only occasional or intermittent?
    "Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen." Winston Churchill
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