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Economists from Oregon State University released a study Monday called "Biofuel Potential in Oregon: Background and Evaluation Options." It also could have been called, "Not so fast." The Albany Democrat-Herald sifted through the report and offers these conclusions:
  • Per unit of energy, corn ethanol is estimated to cost 750 percent more than gasoline
  • Canola biodiesel is estimated to cost 125 percent more than petroleum diesel
  • Cellulosic wood-based ethanol is nearly 200 percent higher than gasoline
  • Other avenues aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions are more cost effective than a shift to biofuels
  • If Oregon produced 50 million gallons each of corn and wood ethanol and 2 million gallons of canola biodiesel, net energy would be just over 1 percent of the annual consumption of oil energy.
  • That same production would only reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by just one-eighth of 1 percent.
The report had other cautious notes concerning farm acreage needed. Finally, the economists offered a sobering point: raising the average motor vehicle fuel economy just 1mpg would have the same effect has three or four corn ethanol plants or 13 biodiesel plants. Remember, that's just for Oregon. Think of what a similar move would do for the entire country.

You can find the entire report here.

[Source: Albany Democrat Herald]


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  • 4 Comments
      • 4 Months Ago
      Great on point discussion I must say. There really are so many energy options available to us with our latest explosion in various technology advancements. We do have to option of combining multiple energy sources to compensate for lost efficiency while weening off of fossil fuels. Last year I read an article about biofuels being produced in Brazil using Sugar cane. They described 100% efficiency in their process. I don't know if any region of America would support such a crop but if we could team production of cane fuel and run the plant with green energy what an impact we could have. Yet in the long run cutting back our fuel usage is the Key component. Here is what I believe to be a winning recipe for reducing carbon foot print
      1)Reduce consumption of fuels
      2)Increase efficiency of energy production
      3)Saturate energy grids with green energy
      • 4 Months Ago
      I suspect the "750" is a typo. 150% is probably closer, although ethanol is still a lousy fuel, and corn is definitely not the optimal feedstock. Ethanol does make a good octane booster for the vastly superior fuel, gasoline.

      Maybe they were talking about hydrogen, if they really said 750%. That would be at least in the ballpark for hydrogen, although I suspect it's actually worse than that.

      Too bad they didn't look at algae biodiesel. Or, for that matter, several other veggie oil feedstocks. Or even SVO. I believe that non-food veggie oil, either as SVO or biodiesel feedstock will prove to be substantially more economical than dinofuel in the long run.
      • 4 Months Ago
      Dr Savage- Since transport dramatically adds to inefficiency, it stands to reason that biomass energy sources need to be distributed as close to their consumption point as possible and varied to match the local growing conditions.

      This is why I like GMs E-Flex idea. Range Extender choices can be dictated by the availability of locally produced biofuels and the electricity can come from local sources even as close as home PV solar and wind. Vehicle to Grid (V2G). Vehicle to Home (V2H), Rooftop to Vehicle (R2V).
      • 4 Months Ago
      I think this assessment misses the point. Oregon is probably not going to be the right place to grow dedicated energy crops. It is a better place for the mix of high value crops it grows today. The place to grow something like Miscanthus is in the South East US where very high tonnages could be achieved on land that isn't that great for crops like corn or soy. Yes of course we should also work on conservation. Its not like one or the other

      Steve Savage, PhD