Mar 28, 2007

Yike - EP nails logistic problems of cellulosic ethanol.

The future is not now for biomass ethanol industry. The logistics of collecting and storing a million tons of corn stubble each year for an ethanol refinery are mind-numbing.

"It would take 67,000 semitrailer loads to haul the baled stubble out of the field. That's 187 truckloads a day, or one every eight minutes. To complicate matters, the need for trucks, machinery and manpower would come during harvest, already the busiest time of the year on the farm. And that's where a massive federal initiative into cellulosic ethanol may find its biggest bottleneck - on the farm."

According to the article, a million tons would produce 80 million gallons of ethanol. This would be enough on a gross basis to displace 0.04% of our gasoline usage. So, if all the inputs were free, all we would need is 2,500 of these facilities, and we will have met all U.S. gasoline needs (but not diesel, fuel oil, or jet fuel). Ah, but we forgot about energy inputs. How many gallons of fossil fuels did it take to run all of those semi-trailer trucks to take the stubble to the plant? How much natural gas was required to distill off the ethanol? But we are told that these are "small problems." Easily resolved.

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