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Global Moderation?

Posted Friday, April 25, 2008, at 4:37 PM


Global Warming?

Well, whatever it is I'm all for it! After all it's getting cold outside again and except for our whole week of spring weather, it's been a very cold and wet winter. And last winter was too.

In fact, this winter and last winter remind me a lot of the kind of winters we had when I was growing up.

Now, don't get me wrong, I don't want to get into a big debate as to whether or not Global Warming is a true phenomenon. I'm not a scientist and I haven't viewed the movie "Inconvenient Truth".

But I have to think of my 78-year-old father's comment the other night. "How can they predict what's going to happen in 30 years, when they can't even predict correctly what the weather is going to do tommorrow?"

He has a point.

Now, I certainly think we can all do better in our own lives with pollution, and trying to be "environmentally responsible." And if the fear of Global Warming gets people to do that, then I think that is great.

But ever since I started hearing about Global Warming, I couldn't help but think about what we were taught in school, just 30 years ago.

You see, back then, our teachers told us we were about to go into the "Next Ice Age."

In fact, according to a 1974 article in Time Magazine titled "Another Ice Age," they wrote "When meteorologists take an average of temperatures around the globe they find that the atmosphere has been growing gradually cooler for the past three decades. The trend shows no indication of reversing."

The story goes on to talk about the recent rash of bad weather, tornadoes, floods, etc. all over the world. Sound familiar?

Also in the 1970's there was an energy crisis as well. I think then gas prices topped $1 and people went through the roof. Doesn't $1 gas sound good now?

At that time, the government passed all kinds of initiatives calling for new energy sources. They even said we'd have hydrogen-powered cars by 1990. Obviously that hasn't happened.

That is when foreign manufacturers started taking over from the "Big 3" automakers. Those companies offered small, fuel efficient cars and U.S. manufacturers didn't. At that time people, just like now, started talking about fuel economy. Carmakers promised - and delivered (for awhile) - smaller cars. That's when we first started hearing about ethanol. The speed limits were lowered to 55 mph to save gasoline and lives.

Water shortages were a problem then too. I had a t-shirt that said, "Save Water, Bathe with a Friend." It looked great with my bell-bottoms!

And remember, solar houses. They were going to be the house of the future. Now how many are built?

It amazes me that when I tell my kids and other young people about the energy crisis of the 1970's, they think it's a joke. They can't believe we've been through it before. They also can't believe we didn't solve the problem then.

Our attention span as a nation is very short. In the late 1970's, gas and energy prices stabilized and we went on to other problems like disco, Prince and Michael Jackson.

Yes, we forgot.

Then out came mini-vans, that wonderful invention we all had to have. When they became "too bland" we switched to SUV's and their 13 miles per gallon. Trucks and SUV's rule the road now and cars are an after-thought. And very few people have 4-cylinder cars anymore. Hydrogen cars? Well now we're talking about those again. Ethanol is back (or maybe it never left), bigger than ever, and even though old statistics are still sometimes quoted; it is energy positive at a ratio of 1.67 to 1. It is helping, even lowering local prices five cents a gallon when Missouri's 10% ethanol mandate went into place. Of course, we are 30 percent more dependent on energy than we were then. We talk about cellulosic ethanol, but like hydrogen that too is still just a concept.

Hopefully, this time we'll wise up.

Whether it is global warming or global cooling, we could all do better in saving energy, water and other natural resources.

On the farm, I think we have done better. Some by choice, some by necessity. Biotechnology and other advances have made it possible to raise more crops with less tillage, which means fewer trips across the field saving fuel. This also saves soil. Gone are the days, where farmers plow up every inch of ground. Conservation programs have meant that most farmland is terraced, and soil erosion is down considerably. So much so that the Corps of Engineers dumped 5.4 million tons of soil into the Missouri River last year. They said the Missouri wasn't muddy enough for the endangered pallid sturgeon!

On our farm we use biodiesel and 10 percent ethanol, which decrease carbon dioxide emissions and greenhouse gases. Hey, I even bought those "curly" light bulbs! Of course we could do better. We all could.

Anyway, as far as Global Warming goes, I hope it isn't true. I also hope Global Cooling isn't true. In fact, I'm for Global Moderation!

But just in case, let's have a little bit longer attention span this time. It certainly can't hurt.


Comments
Showing comments in chronological order
[Show most recent comments first]

Marcia, can't help thinking of that old song, "Everything old is new again." Or as the French say, "The more things change, the more they stay the same." I don't doubt for a moment we humans have been environmentally irresponsible - there's plenty of proof of that - but your point that 30 or so years ago, we were talking about global cooling does give perspective to today's discussion of global warming.

-- Posted by Kathy Fairchild on Fri, Apr 25, 2008, at 6:22 PM

Scientist tell us that we went through the "Little Ice Age" in the 15th through 17th centuries. We are also in the cycle that we should naturally enter another ice age in about 10,000 years. Mother earth is pretty resilient but there are limits to what anyone or anything can stand.

Greenhouse gas emitted by world industries are not the only problem. Scientist say that the total emissions from the volcano that erupted in 1991 put enough particulates into the atmosphere that it resulted in the warmest winter we have experienced in over 100 years.

-- Posted by John Q. on Fri, Apr 25, 2008, at 10:59 PM

Dear NanaDot,

You and I agree on these issues much more than we disagree. However I do have to note one thing you stated.

"Ethanol lowered the price of gas for a whole week because it is so heavily subsidized by tax dollars, and because we are paying the oil companies to use it."

It lasted much more than a week and has saved (and is saving) Missourians lots of money.

According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), Missouri drivers used over 2.9 billion gallons of gasoline in 2007. With nearly a dime a gallon difference, using ethanol-blended fuels translates to statewide savings of more than $285 million dollars in 2008. The study, "Impact of Ethanol on Retail Gasoline Prices in Missouri," was performed by John Urbanchuk with the economic consulting service LECG and supported by the Missouri Corn Merchandising Council (MCMC).

According to Merrill Lynch commodity strategist Francisco Blanch, U.S. gas prices would be 15 percent higher without the increased supply of biofuels. Without ethanol, the price at the pump would be $3.70 a gallon instead of the recent average price of $3.25 a gallon, according to Blanch.

You are right, however, they have had to pay the oil industry to use ethanol.

In fall 2007, ethanol was selling from Mid-Missouri Energy in Malta Bend for less than a $1 a gallon. Ryland Utlaut, director of MME's board, stated at the time they couldn't get the product into the market - even at low prices. Now, the ethanol prices have rebounded some, because as he said, they finally realized what a bargain ethanol was. Note: the "subsidy" of ethanol that you talk about is 51 cents a gallon and goes straight to the blender, who put the 10 percent ethanol in the gasoline. Without it, ethanol producers wouldn't be able to get in the market at all, instead MTBE (a known pollutant) and other oil-based additives would be used.

In contrast, the oil industry is heavily subsidized. According to Citizen Action: "U.S. taxpayers are providing at least $5 billion per year in tax breaks in the form of foreign tax credits to provide U.S. multinational oil companies with an incentive to invest billions of dollars to find and produce oil overseas so that it can then be exported to the United States."

Here are some other links about subsidies to big oil companies.

http://www.albionmonitor.com/10-9-95/oil...

http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v97.n252....

http://www.iht.com/articles/2007/01/19/b...

http://www.ncga.com/Ethanol/publicPolicy...

You stated that Exxon bought up the electric car patent. I knew the car "disappeared," but it wouldn't surprise me to find out a big oil company bought the patent. So, what would they do to keep ethanol out of the market? Tainted research? Feeding false stories to the media? I wonder? After all, most of the current ethanol plants are farmer owned and that would cut them out of a lot of profits. Maybe if I made billions of dollars I wouldn't want to lose even 10 percent of it.

And please don't forget, the ethanol money stays in the United States and mostly in rural America. Where does the rest of our gasoline money end up?

As I've said before, corn ethanol is just one small step towards being energy independent, and besides wind energy, it seems to be the only one available now. Cellulosic ethanol is getting closer and now negative stories about it are creeping into the media.

This time, unlike the 70's I do hope we have a much longer attention span and find lots of alternatives to foreign oil.

Sincerely,

Marcia

-- Posted by Marcia Gorrell on Sat, Apr 26, 2008, at 11:48 AM

One reason electric cars had some difficulty catching on might have been the price: $35,000. GM didn't sell the cars, it leased them, then refused to allow the people who leased them to purchase it. They did indeed crush the cars when they were eventually returned. The cars couldn't go more than about 120 miles without a recharge - paying that much money for what could only be a second car for a lot of people wasn't very practical. I grant you that there are plenty of people today who have two cars that cost that much or more, but the EV1 came out more than ten years ago.

-- Posted by Kathy Fairchild on Sat, Apr 26, 2008, at 9:10 PM

Smokin' Cheetah,

I think that has actually happened in some cases and I like the idea.

Thank you for posting.

Marcia

-- Posted by Marcia Gorrell on Mon, Apr 28, 2008, at 6:30 PM

Dear NanaDot,

Thank you for your comments.

You talked about waste management in industrial animal operations. I don't want to get into that "can of worms" either, but there are some great things happening with dairy cow manure and turning the waste into energy, solving two problems. I know at least a few towns are being heated by the methane, and at least one ethanol plant. I have been told by one hog farmer that this technology is also on the way to use hog manure. I hope so.

Here are some interesting sites about the use of dairy manure.

http://www.seco.cpa.state.tx.us/re_bioma...

http://www.planetizen.com/node/21643

http://postcarboncities.net/node/444

Like I said, at least maybe the current "crisis" is getting some people's attention and we can solve some problems.

I am especially excited to see how Greensburg, Ks.' new "green city" turns out. It sounds like the once devastated town is going to turn the F5 tornado into an opportunity to show the world it can be done.

Thanks for posting.

-- Posted by Marcia Gorrell on Tue, Apr 29, 2008, at 7:46 AM

Marcia, The last car that I bought has F85. When I drive to Columbia I get on average 34-35 miles per gallon of regular fuel. I used to fill my tank at the BreakTime in Columbia with F85 on the return trip. F85 is priced about $.60 a gallon less than regular fuel. On the return trips I get and average of 24-25 miles to the gallon. At $2.45 I save 25% on the purchase but lose almost 30% on the gas mileage. I don't use F85 very often because of the economics involved.

Do you have any breakdown (raw) costs figures involved in producing ethanol from planting the corn to the final product? I'd like to know what it cost the oil companies for ethanol for blending verses refining crude oil into gasoline. I know that the federal and state government taxes ethanol fuel the same as it taxes other highway fuels so there is no additional incentives in using ethanol. I'm trying to figure a way that would make buying ethanol fuel cost effective for use.

-- Posted by John Q. on Fri, May 2, 2008, at 10:11 AM

NanaDot, I watched a program about the African ecological disasters that have been going on over the last fifty years (droughts, famines, desertification). On the program they showed termite mounds that were ten-fifteen feet tall. The narrator said something about the methane emissions from termite produces more methane than anything else on the planet. This was not only shocking but hard to believe on its surface.

-- Posted by John Q. on Fri, May 2, 2008, at 10:27 AM

Dear John Q.,

I will try to find those figures for you. I do know that it is true E-85 does account for fuel mileage loss. I have heard that it in some cases the lower price does make up the difference. Obviously, that is not what you found. It would be very hard to justify the difference in today's economy.

-- Posted by Marcia Gorrell on Fri, May 2, 2008, at 12:39 PM

I have been disappointed with the F85 fuel mileage. These fuel trails using my car have been tried on numerous trip. Also when the gas tank starts getting low and I refill with regular gas it effects the fuel mileage until all of the F85 in out of the fuel system. That's why I was inquiring about the raw costs of production ethanol.

In F85 the name says it all. 85% ethanol plus 15% gas. It seems to me that if ethanol is to overcome it's mileage deficiencies distribution and therefore pricing needs to be controlled by the producers of ethanol and not the oil companies. After all, it's just a blending operation to produce F85 fuel.

-- Posted by John Q. on Fri, May 2, 2008, at 11:39 PM

Dear John Q.

I'm still looking for figures. To be honest, I haven't found any that aren't biased one way or the other. I'm not sure anyone knows the "true cost." I do know that the latest stats show that ethanol is a positive energy source. 1 to 1.67, meaning one energy unit in makes 1.67 units of energy. This did not used to be the case.

Bio diesel is a 1 to 3 energy source, actually better, but they too are having problems getting in the oil market (which is why Sen. Stouffer is trying to get a mandate passed.)

I don't know the raw costs of ethanol production. I do know (after my latest interview) that MME is still making a slight profit but a lot of that is because besides ethanol they sell two other products: Dried distillers grain, which is the by-product left after ethanol production (it is becoming a very popular high protein feed for livestock) and CO2 which is purchased by EPCO, a plant next door to MME. Together over 50 jobs have been created in Malta Bend by those two places. From what I understand, they are good jobs.

I don't know who controls the pricing of E-85, obviously if they want people like you to use it they should make it comparable.

As for the costs of blending ethanol or MTBE, many companies were blending 9 percent ethanol before the mandates (that was the legally allowable amount.) The reason was it was cheaper and then they get the 51 cent subsidy, as well.

Thanks for your comments,

Marcia

-- Posted by Marcia Gorrell on Sat, May 3, 2008, at 2:06 PM

The EV1 may have cost more, but why would they not re-lease them or sell them to the people who leased them to begin with. It was not a problem of not being able to sell them, it was a problem of selling out. As for the 120 miles between charges, very few people drive over 120 miles per day. 90% or more of the country could commute everyday with an EV1 (their second car) and have a 'regular car' for long distance trips. The owners of EV1's offer GM a check for the amount of every car to buy them back, yet they were still crushed. A GM spokesman said they were not going crush the cars, and that all useable parts would be salvaged.....they were still crushed at a salvage yard out in the middle of the desert.

-- Posted by ewansing on Wed, May 7, 2008, at 1:09 PM

Scientists believed that we were going into an ice-age in the 70's. Now we are experiencing warming trends over a 30 year period that have never happened this fast before over a period of 450,000 years. This should raise some concern that something is wrong, and in fact something is wrong. Temperature fluctuation for the last 450,000 has mirrored atmospheric CO2 levels. Those CO2 levels are higher than they have been for the past 450,000 years due to the industrial revolution. During the last energy crisis, energy consumption did not increase for 10 years although our economy grew and we building millions of square feet of new building space. The truth is that there is not enough cheap oil or natural gas left in the earth to be a real problem. Coal is the biggest problem. We have to reduce our energy consumption and create what we do use from renewable energy. We could power the entire US with solar power for a $285 billion. That sounds like a lot, but when you take into account how much money we spend on new technology to find more oil (Russia will need to invest $1 trillion to extract the rest of their reserves) we could be powering the entire country with free energy from the sun. We must start thinking smarter. Clean technology may have a high first cost, but once it is in place, it is free. Think of fossil fuel power as an adjustalbe rate interest only mortgage. You never pay it off, and they can raise the rates whenever they want. Once you pay off the renewable energy installation costs, it is free and clean.

-- Posted by ewansing on Wed, May 7, 2008, at 1:24 PM

Ewansing - Great points.

What are your thoughts on wind energy? I've seen the towers in Wyoming and think they sound like a great solution, they are not "ugly" like I thought they might be.

-- Posted by Marcia Gorrell on Wed, May 7, 2008, at 1:32 PM

I saw a program on TV the other night about a dairy farm who used all the manure to produce fuel to use to generate electricity. I don't remember all the particulars, I was switching channels, but they produced all the heat for all their pasturization and enough electricity to run the dairy and provide electricity for their neighbors. This was such an interesting article and I wish I had paid more attention because it could well be a solution to all the animal waste which is produced on large cattle and pig farms.

-- Posted by Tontonnii on Wed, May 7, 2008, at 3:12 PM

Yes, I wonder if it is any of the dairies from the links I provided NanaDot above:

Here are some interesting sites about the use of dairy manure.

http://www.seco.cpa.state.tx.us/re_bioma.......

http://www.planetizen.com/node/21643

http://postcarboncities.net/node/444

I have been told by a hog farmer the technology is on the way to use that manure as well. There is also a plant in Missouri that turns turkey feathers and waste into oil and gas. The only problem is it has a bad smell apparently during the "cooking." Hopefully they can solve that problem, because turning waste into fuel has to be a good thing, doesn't it?

-- Posted by Marcia Gorrell on Wed, May 7, 2008, at 3:32 PM


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