Engineering News Blog

Engineering News

Latest news of interest to engineers. Sourced from GlobalSpec's Engineering News

Previous in Blog: For the First Time, DNA Sequencing Technology Saves A Child's Life   Next in Blog: Four Loko, Other Drinks Turned into Ethanol
Close
Close
Close
16 comments

Biofuel Grasslands Better for Birds than Ethanol Staple Corn, Researchers Find

Posted January 07, 2011 10:09 AM

From EurekAlert! - Breaking News:

Developing biofuel from native perennials instead of corn in the Midwest's rolling grasslands would better protect threatened bird populations, Michigan State University research suggests. Federal mandates and market forces both are expected to promote rising biofuel production, MSU biologist Bruce Robertson says, but the environmental consequences of turning more acreage over to row crops for fuel are a serious concern.

Read the whole article

Reply

Interested in this topic? By joining CR4 you can "subscribe" to
this discussion and receive notification when new comments are added.

Comments rated to be Good Answers:

These comments received enough positive ratings to make them "good answers".
Power-User

Join Date: May 2010
Posts: 109
Good Answers: 4
#1

Re: Biofuel Grasslands Better for Birds than Ethanol Staple Corn, Researchers Find

01/07/2011 2:41 PM

But are we ready to make another dustbowl?

__________________
~A~
Reply
Guru

Join Date: Nov 2010
Location: Virginia, Georgia, Idaho
Posts: 1079
Good Answers: 30
#9
In reply to #1

Re: Biofuel Grasslands Better for Birds than Ethanol Staple Corn, Researchers Find

01/08/2011 10:25 AM

stunned it made it first to post, but I knew it would come. Let me get this straight, you think that growing row cropped corn is less traumatic to the terrain than field cover grasslands?

__________________
PFR Pressure busts pipes. Maybe you need better pipes.
Reply
Participant

Join Date: Jan 2011
Posts: 3
#12
In reply to #9

Re: Biofuel Grasslands Better for Birds than Ethanol Staple Corn, Researchers Find

01/08/2011 5:07 PM

Most of the grasslands are located where thier is only about 1/3 of the rainfall that corn production areas recieve.or the soil is unfit for corn production even if it is irrigated ie.akalia soils Where corn is produced farmers are enrolled in conservation programs that reduce erosion and protect prairies and wetlands.most all ground that could be planted to corn already is.Even switchgrass needs to be torn up and planted to something else every so many years to be productive.For a farmer to not stick with his plan would make him ineligible for any govt programs.I don't think we will lose prairie habitat any time soon.In the meantime farmers are loving corn prices and i like my ribeye's marbled. ethanol will never be more than a small part of our cure for oil independence.Iwish i knew on the electric /hydrogen race which was going to come out on top i'd be buying stock.

Reply
Guru

Join Date: May 2010
Location: in optimism
Posts: 4050
Good Answers: 129
#2

Re: Biofuel Grasslands Better for Birds than Ethanol Staple Corn, Researchers Find

01/07/2011 11:53 PM

I'm curious as to where the idea of ethanol from corn came from. It's way down the list of 'fuel crops'. Shouldn't the research focus be about things higher up the list, or above it?

__________________
There is no sin except stupidity. (Oscar Wilde, Irish dramatist, novelist, & poet (1854 - 1900))
Reply
2
Guru
Hobbies - Model Rocketry - New Member

Join Date: Jun 2007
Location: East of Seattle, Washington state Republic of the 50 states of America
Posts: 2046
Good Answers: 36
#3
In reply to #2

Re: Biofuel Grasslands Better for Birds than Ethanol Staple Corn, Researchers Find

01/08/2011 2:12 AM

Corn grower's Lobbyist

__________________
(Larrabee's Law) Half of everything you hear in a classroom is crap. Education is figuring out which half is which.
Reply Good Answer (Score 2)
Power-User

Join Date: May 2010
Posts: 109
Good Answers: 4
#4
In reply to #3

Re: Biofuel Grasslands Better for Birds than Ethanol Staple Corn, Researchers Find

01/08/2011 3:32 AM

The laws that force us to import sugarcane instead of growing it ourselves.

__________________
~A~
Reply
Guru

Join Date: May 2010
Location: in optimism
Posts: 4050
Good Answers: 129
#5
In reply to #4

Re: Biofuel Grasslands Better for Birds than Ethanol Staple Corn, Researchers Find

01/08/2011 4:05 AM

Really - there's a Law?

But you got the cane toads already, so why not the cane?

Or does this go back to the Castro regime, or something else of political ilk?

__________________
There is no sin except stupidity. (Oscar Wilde, Irish dramatist, novelist, & poet (1854 - 1900))
Reply
Power-User

Join Date: May 2010
Posts: 109
Good Answers: 4
#6
In reply to #5

Re: Biofuel Grasslands Better for Birds than Ethanol Staple Corn, Researchers Find

01/08/2011 4:37 AM

Actually I am speaking off the cuff in an area I must admit I know little about...should have clarified in my last post <sorry>.

I do seem to recall being told that there are restrictions on how much of certain crops we can grow because of laws that require us to import a certain percentage of that crop. I thought sugar cane (or any sugar crop) was one of those, I am fairly certain peanut is another. Something to do with international trad agreements or some such.

__________________
~A~
Reply
Guru

Join Date: May 2010
Location: in optimism
Posts: 4050
Good Answers: 129
#7
In reply to #6

Re: Biofuel Grasslands Better for Birds than Ethanol Staple Corn, Researchers Find

01/08/2011 5:34 AM

Interesting though.

According to this http://www.ers.usda.gov/Briefing/Sugar/Data.htm

(table 15) US does grow cane;

But not enough going by tables 20 - 24

So though it appears Americans consume ~150 lbs/head/annum, and a seisable chunk is imported, I doubt Americans could get about on the fuel 150 lbs of ethanol could yield.

Therefore I guess, the search is for a 'bottom of the pyramid' crop - vast tonnage - be it less efficient at conversion. I'd be having a harder look at the list - before - as you said - inviting another dust bowl, out of this sort of 'ping pong' science reaction.

__________________
There is no sin except stupidity. (Oscar Wilde, Irish dramatist, novelist, & poet (1854 - 1900))
Reply
Power-User

Join Date: May 2010
Posts: 109
Good Answers: 4
#10
In reply to #7

Re: Biofuel Grasslands Better for Birds than Ethanol Staple Corn, Researchers Find

01/08/2011 1:35 PM

I have not researched the subject, but I saw a documentary on ethanol that claimed one of the South American countries produced almost all it's fuel from sugarcane ethanol. They might have the climate that grows it better, and a smaller demand for fuel, but they did say that plants high in sugar produce more ethanol with our current methods.

If they get the cellulose method working would it still produce more than sugarcane? or sugar beet?

Here is something I found in wikipedia:

A system of sugar tariffs and sugar quotas imposed in 1977 in the United States significantly increased the cost of imported sugar and U.S. producers sought cheaper sources. High-fructose corn syrup, derived from corn, is more economical because the domestic U.S. and Canadian prices of sugar are twice the global price [23] and the price of corn is kept low through government subsidies paid to growers.[24][25] HFCS became an attractive substitute, and is preferred over cane sugar among the vast majority of American food and beverage manufacturers. Soft drink makers such as Coca-Cola and Pepsi use sugar in other nations, but switched to HFCS in the U.S. in 1984.

I think this is those tarrifs I was talking about. I can't find them right now though.

__________________
~A~
Reply
Guru

Join Date: May 2010
Location: in optimism
Posts: 4050
Good Answers: 129
#13
In reply to #10

Re: Biofuel Grasslands Better for Birds than Ethanol Staple Corn, Researchers Find

01/08/2011 5:41 PM

Brazil was/is the leader in ethanol fuel production. Interestingly they diverted acreage formally used to supply export markets, possibly reduced as a result of the tariffs you mention. This was also before more oil reserves were discovered or were accessible to them.

Their first step was 10% ethanol mix, which eased up to 20, then 80. For about 10 years, new vehicles have a 'tri fuel' system, covering full ethanol to full petrol and LPG operation.

Interestingly in the same period, US and Australia were rife with arguments on ethanol destroying engines, both counties auto makers were quietly supplying engines and tri-fuel management systems to Brazil.

Other makers naturally followed

Note; "2004" and "until now been the preserve of GM in Brazil"

One wonders about 'holes in feet' across the board, for decades.

__________________
There is no sin except stupidity. (Oscar Wilde, Irish dramatist, novelist, & poet (1854 - 1900))
Reply
Power-User

Join Date: May 2010
Posts: 109
Good Answers: 4
#14
In reply to #13

Re: Biofuel Grasslands Better for Birds than Ethanol Staple Corn, Researchers Find

01/08/2011 9:28 PM

I would like to see a well researched documentary on all of that. Was it the car companies or the oil companies that were the moving force that kept/keep us from working up to a higher ethanol blend. I wouldn't enjoy being forced to rebuild my bike and replace my truck to run pure or high percentage ethanol, but I would do it if it meant a more domestic fuel source.

__________________
~A~
Reply
Guru

Join Date: May 2010
Location: in optimism
Posts: 4050
Good Answers: 129
#15
In reply to #14

Re: Biofuel Grasslands Better for Birds than Ethanol Staple Corn, Researchers Find

01/08/2011 10:40 PM

In my experience car companies only react to loosing a market. The Head Office types are only interested in "major numbers" - not "boutique markets".

This why such as heater de-misters, seat belts, radios, tape decks, cd players, all appeared in "satellite" markets, such as serviced by Ford UK and GMH Australia, (in response to Japanese 'invasion') long before the US "woke up" and introduced them.

Therefore it's the 'satellites' who identify and service such as the Brazilian "boutique" needs. When there is enough "cash", the HO types step in, all self glory like (and generally screw the satellite out of it, then screw it up)

I.e. I think the "conspiracy" is a total myth, whereas 'total blundering short sighed fools' are a 'demonstrated reality' in GM HO.

Similarly you will find oil companies (outside the US) heavily investing in ethanol, and PV, and wind, and whole basket of alternate energy and products, for when oil becomes 'un-affordable' to burn willy-nilly.'

However, on ethanol, for you - the HO thinking of US car makers is the thinking model prevalent right though "big business and government". This means there are no skills in dealing with a "boutique start market" and developing it.

Hence the people above running about looking for enough stuff to make "big volume" ethanol, not looking at designing a high yield "boutique" technology that can expand over time, to meet needs.

It's as if they look out the window and think "all those roads were built at once" then "it's just too monumental without an impossible investment" - don't know where to start - bag the whole possibility - causing anyone stupid enough to listen to do nothing.

But you can go buy 'drag racing fuel' or even a lap-sash replacement for the lap only seat belt in your truck and maybe kick off a 'boutique movement' or two.

__________________
There is no sin except stupidity. (Oscar Wilde, Irish dramatist, novelist, & poet (1854 - 1900))
Reply
Guru
Hobbies - Model Rocketry - New Member

Join Date: Jun 2007
Location: East of Seattle, Washington state Republic of the 50 states of America
Posts: 2046
Good Answers: 36
#16
In reply to #15

Re: Biofuel Grasslands Better for Birds than Ethanol Staple Corn, Researchers Find

01/09/2011 12:10 AM

I con cur, Hydrogen and stupidity seem to be the two most common elements.

Who need conspiracies when a little greed added to the other two will suffice.

I have noticed the independent biofuel producers being put out of business around here. They can't seem to catch the market timing right. They all started up when fuel was high and fuel dropped to below a competitive level. Now it is back up they are gone. Tough market when you threaten the big boys who fear change. Conspiracy? nah just business.

__________________
(Larrabee's Law) Half of everything you hear in a classroom is crap. Education is figuring out which half is which.
Reply
Participant

Join Date: Jan 2011
Posts: 3
#11
In reply to #2

Re: Biofuel Grasslands Better for Birds than Ethanol Staple Corn, Researchers Find

01/08/2011 4:09 PM

MOONSHINE!

Reply
Participant

Join Date: Jan 2011
Posts: 3
#8

Re: Biofuel Grasslands Better for Birds than Ethanol Staple Corn, Researchers Find

01/08/2011 9:18 AM

A two-year study to figure out that prairie birds do better in prairie habitat than in corn fields?Lets see.... Lets assume im raising 200 bushel/acre corn at 5-6.00$ a bushel. Now your wanting me to raise switchgrass.How much can the govt afford to subsidize me? I would't have the equipment to plant it or harvest it.They tell me cellulose conversion plants are 8-10 years away.I don't have any livestock to feed it to.No income from it the first year.The first production plant is how far away?Gotta haybale mover anybody? You want bio-mass how about my corn stalks! OOPS! I'd be reducing the organic matter levels in my soils.Bad idea.Harvest switchgrass right when i would go on summer vacation? Sure you get more tonnage if you spend the money to put nitrogen on it.They tell me if you took every single bushel of corn raised in the U.S and coverted it to ethanol it would't cover even 5% of the current fuel demand.

I really don't have an answer for this whole mess.Drive a compact and hope you don't get hit by a suburban? Poor prairie birds. Nobody left me any buffalo to shoot either.

Reply
Reply to Blog Entry 16 comments
Interested in this topic? By joining CR4 you can "subscribe" to
this discussion and receive notification when new comments are added.

Comments rated to be Good Answers:

These comments received enough positive ratings to make them "good answers".
Copy to Clipboard

Users who posted comments:

34point5 (5); PFR (1); seed man (3); U V (2); ~Anon~ (5)

Previous in Blog: For the First Time, DNA Sequencing Technology Saves A Child's Life   Next in Blog: Four Loko, Other Drinks Turned into Ethanol

Advertisement