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Russ Brown

The net energy produced by 7E9 gallons of ethanol is ~0.2% of current consumption.

One must subtract all fossil hydrocarbon input energy to justify the word "replace".


The real question is: what will a significant shift to ethanol do to food (grain, meat, poultry) prices? Sounds like it may soon be a good time to be a corn farmer, but it may not be a good time to be a corn consumer. ..bruce..



You have a decimal error. 7 billion gallons of ethanol repalces 4.5 billion gallons of gasoline.

Since total US annual consumption is 150 billion gallons, ethanol replaces 3% of that.


Hence the importance of this termite digestion enzyme. This will permit ethanol to be made not from corn, but from grasses, leaves, lawn clippings, etc. that would otherwise not be used for anything else.


Also, the input of fossil fuel to make ethanol is tricky if that which is currently used to grow the corn is already included in the sum of "energy consumed". You don't want to subtract it twice. And from what I have heard, a lot of the corn being produced is used in making corn starch and corn syrup that is being used to make foods like chicken nuggets more fattening.

But cellulose is really where the future lies, and the calculations on total energy consumptions likely do not assume the emerging plug-in hybrid technology, or insulating paint with micro air bubbles to reduce heat costs or zillions of other energy saving technologies being developed.


I have a GUT feeling about it.

Tushar D

About time those damned termites work for us rather than destroy our homes.

This article in OpinionJournal is worth a read.

It talks about Plugin Hybrids not much different than Prius. These could power the vehicle for first 20 miles on electric power alone. The vehicles can be charged at night, when utilities have surplus power with no buyer. Powerplants cannot lower their output at night, and thus most of nighttime electricity is wasted. One estimate shows that 84% of US passenger car fleet will have to start using plugins before we need to build extra powerplants. This could be big!



Yes. The plug-in concept is gaining traction, and the Tesla Roadster is an extension of that - using batteries so efficient that plugging it in to an outlet can meet all fuel needs, with no gasoline required at all.

Assistant Village Idiot

A few nuclear plants to prop up the electric cars, some termite microbes, oil shale and ANWR and the Gulf of Mexico and we can cut ourselves off from the middle east. Anyone think that is likely to happen?



I'll add CFL/LED lighting, continually dropping solar panels, and wave-mills to the list.

I do think that by 2020, we could reduce our dependence on the ME by a lot. But this happens due to oil prices being higher. If oil prices drop, innovation in alternative slows, and we don't get weaned off.

The best possible scenario is for oil to be $70, and then rise at the gradual rate of $5/year so there are no shocks. Short-term tightening will benefit is many times over in the future.

Note that only 25% of our oil is from the ME. The rest is from Canada, Mexico, Nigeria, Venezuela, Russia, etc. (I don't worry about Venezuela. Hugo may be a nut, but average Venezuelans are harmless).

What am I missing here? Distilling alcohol isn't rocket science, as any mountain boy can tell you. My understanding is that: A. Many organic materials can be fermented, not just corn.
and B. The leftover mash still has value as animal feed. So my question is: If ethanol production is such a good idea, why isn't there a still on every street corner? Why is this something the feds need to subsidize? Why should we need another decade to get this up and running? Why didn't we do this in the 70s when energy first became a problem?


Because of :

1) Cost : It has to be cheaper than gasoline.

2) Scale : We have to produce enough to replace the volume of gasoline used (150 billion gallons a year). All the corn in America would not be enough to approach that quantity.



Not sure if this was a mistype, but you stated

"Note that only 25% of our oil is from the ME."

It's actually about 25% of our imports -closer to 20% as of today... meaning 10% to 13% of our total oil consumption comes from the ME.

US Oil Imports



You are right. Thanks for the catch.


A few nuclear plants to prop up the electric cars, some termite microbes, oil shale and ANWR and the Gulf of Mexico and we can cut ourselves off from the middle east. Anyone think that is likely to happen?


Ethanol will have some higher costs always built in because it can't be pipelined. It has to be trucked.

But Butanol can be. Butanol also has 91% of the energy content of equivalent units of gasoline, too. And any flex-fuel vehicle that can handle any percentage amount of ethanol could very likely handle butanol just dandy, too.

Go butanol!


It's funny, I read a similar post yesterday about using termites for an additional source of fuel and energy. Anyhow, I had a few questions and was wondering what would be the best way to get in contact with you? Thanks!

Dave OConnor

Try building Nuclear Power Plant instead of all the nonsense. . . To identify subterranean termites try this simple one page site http://swarmer.dondodd.com

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