Thursday, March 30, 2006

Science? Leave it to the Brazilians

MyDD has a nice thing up about the CAFE standards finally being nudged up in the US (no one is more surprised than I) but the leavens it with the news that Brazil, the entire frikkin' nation, is about to go all-ethanol.

Ahh, the US marches bravely into the mid-1970's as Brazil gets its jetpacks on.

19 comments:

Hadyn said...

This was on the National News last night (in New Zealand) buried deep in the second section.

The fifth largest country in the world will no longer be reliant on imported oil, replacing it with a cleaner, cheaper, environmentally friendly, locally grown product BY THE END OF THE YEAR!!!.

Nah, this isn't that interesting, let's run with the three legged dog story.

If this new ethanol technology takes off will this mean a crazy swing in economic power to South/Central America, the Caribbean and small South Pacific islands (like Fiji)?

Alex Epstein said...

Ethanol isn't a panacea. To grow the corn to make the ethanol, you need to burn oil. By some calculations, ethanol provides no net energy -- the oil burned to make it equals its energy output.

Rogers said...

Ah, but suger-cane ethanol and corn ethanol have different energy release values, which is why Brazil is able to make the move. also, the challenge finding ways to get orn energy-positive is not a huge one compared to, oh say, doing absolutely nothing.

Rasselas said...

An immaterial aside: a city full of cars burning ethanol smells like margarine. The cheap kind.

Kirk said...

Some relevant points - I got curious and looked into it.

First, this does not elminate Brazil's need for petroleum. It's only replacing fuel for motor vehicles. There are other products made from petroleum. If it were the US it'd cut the demand in half.

Second, the Brazilians have been working on this since the 1970s. The cost for production of ethanol is break-even against petroleum when oil's about US$45 a barrel. Allegedly the production process doesn't use petroleum for fuel. Which is possible - nothing says you can't use part of your product to generate more product. Else fuel oil couldn't be used to convert petroleum to fuel oil.

Third and as noted elsewhere, corn and sugar cane have different release values. Equally significant, corn's more 'expensive' to turn into ethanol than sugar cane - that break-even point is higher. That said, it clearly shows why I don't worry about 'peak oil'. Yes, there'll be a window where I have to pay more for a diminishing supply. At some point the price is sufficient to justify another source, and my climbing prices cap (and probably, if I live long enough, decline as the new source becomes common). The only question is whether I'm lucky or foresighted enough to be where the shortage is not only anticipated but the alternatives are developed before the surge. Brazilians are lucky. We USians are... probably not.

che tibby said...

from what i saw of the new zealand story, the brazilians have not just been wokring with sugar cane, they've specifically engineered cane that produces higher yeilds.

and i'm sure they'd be happy to sell their technology for a 'reasonable' sum.

Bill Cunningham said...

Those brazilians are smart. Didn't they invent the thong?

Muggles said...

What's truly beneficent about this is that those ethanol powered backpacks? They're all cruciform. O yes. So when they strap those puppies on, scream the local dialect's equivalent of "OPEN SKIES, STEAM UP AND BLAST OFF, CAP'N!!!" and ride their shrieking, howling turbines straight up into the azure heavens... they are all exalting Jebus.

It's Christliness of the finest kind.

Aluvius said...

Biofuels/ethanol production is certainly needed and will fill gaps in oil supplies in the coming years. However, what most people don't seem to realize is that we won't be able to just switch to ethanol and keep motoring along.

While it is good to see countries begin to address our problems with fossil fuels, there is really nothing on the horizon that can begin to replace oil on anything approaching a 1 for 1 basis. Peak Oil remains a huge problem for every segment of the world's economies, even alternate fuel production.

One of the longer range problems associated with replacing fossil fuels with ethanol/biofuels is that we will still be pumping carbon into our atmosphere at the same or even greater rate (as some scientists calculate with ethanol production).

None of this means we or Brazil shouldn't be investing in ethanol fuel production, just that it has its own set of problems and that Peak Oil still means we're screwed.

Rogers said...

dont get me wrong. I'm still investing in solar panels and canned soup.

Gifen said...

I think they were talking food additive...

Chip said...

Donald Rumsfeld comes stalking into the oval office late one afternoon, ready to deliver his latest report on the situation in Iraq.

Bush listens intently as Rumsfeld gives his briefing. "Finally," Rumsfeld concludes, "on a sadder note, last night four Brazillian troops were killed by an IED during a routine convoy escort mission."

The president's face goes ashen white. "Oh my God, Rummy," he says to the confused Secretary of Defense. "How could this have happened?"

Bush buries his face in his hands, and for long moments in the silent oval office, the breath shudders in and out of him in ragged, wet gasps. Finally, he composes himself enough to look up and make eye contact with his advisor.

"Lord," says the President tearfully, "how many millions are there in a brazillian, again?"

ISLAND MONKEY said...

Even Taiwan is going green..

matt olsen said...

I think it's fair to assume that a country with low car ownership rates is going to have an easier time converting to new fuel. I would also guess that car ownership in Brazil is concentrated in a handful of large cities, so the infrastructure (gas distribution, etc) is much easier to convert as well.

Me? I'm looking to install a 200 foot windmill on the top of my Taurus.

Anonymous said...

Ethanol-powered jetpacks? Excellent! Finally, something to do with that bottle of Glenfiddich that's been gathering dust on the sideboard.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a mid-air rescue mission to perform; it develops that there are motherfucking snakes on the motherfucking plane.

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