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Urging Congress to Cancel the Ethanol Tariff 569

reporter writes "The Wall Street Journal is urging Washington to discard the 54-cent-per-gallon tariff on imported ethanol. This tariff is effectively a subsidy for corn-based ethanol produced in the USA. Yet, producing ethanol from corn is highly inefficient and consumes 1 unit of energy for each 1.3 units of energy that burning ethanol provides. By contrast, ethanol derived from sugarcane (which is the sole source of ethanol in Brazil) yields 8.3 units of energy. Sugercane is about 7 times more efficient than corn. Some studies even show that corn yields only 0.8 unit of energy, resulting in a net loss of energy."
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Urging Congress to Cancel the Ethanol Tariff

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  • Ending the tariff is a good start, but it's pretty hard for corn farmer's to compete with sugar as an ethanol base material.

    The obvious solution is to allow farmers to grow hemp - it's one of the easiest crops on the planet to grow (no spraying for pests, low irrigation, etc). Oil from the seeds can be used to run (unmodified) diesel vehicles, and the leftover material can be made into ethanol has four times the energy density of corn (about 2/3 that of sugar).

    Oh - but this is in the land of the free - and we can't let the corn farmers compete, lest they plant a few thc bearing hemp plants in the middle of their crop. After all, a few stoners will mean the end of society as we know it.
  • by TobascoKid ( 82629 ) on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @06:38AM (#15291781) Homepage
    I'm paying $3.70 out here in Los Angeles

    So that's approximatly $1 a litre - which is still almost half of what I (in London) have to pay.
  • by Yooden_Vranx ( 758878 ) on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @06:42AM (#15291798)
    Very good point on the transportability. Beyond that, the "energy deficit" argument is flawed in that we could generate more energy for free that could offset or completely account for the energy cost of producing ethanol. Corn and wind are two things the midwest has in abundance. But beyond that, here's what the Iowa Farm Bureau says: http://www.iowafarmbureau.com/programs/commodity/i nformation/pdf/Trade%20Matters%20column%20050714%2 0Brazilian%20ethanol.pdf [iowafarmbureau.com] (for those not familiar with the geography of the USA, Iowa is famous as a huge corn-producing state, and, according to the link here, produces one quarter of the ethanol produced in the US). They don't specifically advocate repealing the tariff, but they also acknowledge that competition is good and that we use more ethanol than we produce, so we must turn to outside sources.
  • same in the uk (Score:4, Insightful)

    by celardore ( 844933 ) on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @06:46AM (#15291810)
    In the UK there are heavy taxes on ethanol too. It's a shame, because those duties are pretty much restricting alternative fuel uses.

    For example: It's pretty much cheaper to use a diesel engine than to use biodiesel that you make yourself. (if you're a 'good' citizen and pay all taxes due)

    Reeks of inhibiting progress to me.
  • by nagora ( 177841 ) on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @06:54AM (#15291835)
    I'm paying $3.70 out here in Los Angeles for premium 91 octane (we don't get the good 93 oct out here due to smog

    Yes, quite. You don't think that ridiculously low prices like that might be part of the reason you have a smog problem?


  • by I(rispee_I(reme ( 310391 ) on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @07:02AM (#15291851) Journal
    Don't know if this is a troll or not, but commercial hemp has no THC and has been that way since at least 1999. The politicians kill attempts to introduce it with fearmongering over the possibility of people growing marijuana in the fields alongside the commercial hemp, as the two plants appear identical.

    I think the real solution is to throw the current, holier-than-thou administration out on its ass and follow Mexico's lead regarding controlled substances.
  • Re: Who cares? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Black Parrot ( 19622 ) on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @07:02AM (#15291852)
    > Seriously; is anybody thinking that the US will consider any other aspect but "protectionism"?

    Depends on whether the alcohol importers' lobbyists have more money than the domestic alcohol producers' lobbists.
  • It seems to me that if that is the case, then removing the THC (if possible) would be a good solution.

    How about allowing farmers to sell THC rich varieties as well. That way, you can get money from taxes, lower your dependance on foreign weed, reduce funding to criminals and still get the crop benefits listed above.
  • by pfdietz ( 33112 ) on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @07:17AM (#15291889)
    The 1.3x number comes from Pimentel and coworkers. They make unnecessarily pessimistic assumptions. Properly done, most studies have shown the fossil energy input is less than the energy in the ethanol. (The energy input including the sunlight is of course greater than the energy in the ethanol, but that is irrelevant.)

    Even Pimental et al.'s numbers are only for corn-derived ethanol. Ethanol from cellulose, sugar cane, or gasified biomass (via a modified Fischer-Tropsch process) produce many times the energy content of the fossil fuels used to grow, harvest, and process the biomass. For sugarcane, the energy returned is eight times the energy spent.
  • by tomhudson ( 43916 ) <barbara.hudson@b ... u d s o n . c om> on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @07:26AM (#15291908) Journal

    Real fuel economy hasn't gone down in 2 decades, once you factor in the shift from cars to SUVs in the US.

    There's no excuse to produce non-commercial vehicles that get 9mpg in the city in "real life", or even 14mpg "rated".

    If you REALLY wanted energy independence, step 1 is to get rid of the mini-vans, Jeeps, the "cross-over" vehicles, and the "look I've got SO MUCH horsepower" crap. If it can't do at least 20mpg city/30mpg highway, just melt it down for scrap.

  • While this is cheap compared to the rest of the world, I'm sure that we pay for the low gas prices by other means...

    of course, if your city was designed by the same entity/deity that is selling you new pollution-machines every year, i can't imagine this will be easy or feasible advice for you, but another solution might be to cure your own dependence on oil first.

    i gave up owning a pollution-machine years ago .. its money i don't have to make and spend, and i feel a lot healthier for not having to live in a wheely box for a major portion of my life.

    i conveniently moved closer to work (its a 3-minute walk in this well-designed 700 year old city) and i rarely ever get involved in any situation that requires me to drive anywhere i can't get with a bicycle. its simple. its not so easy for a lot of the consumers out there, but the point is: stop being such a consumer, and watch how much easier life gets.

    okay .. i'm not fully cured: i still take the train to places i want to go, a taxi if i really need to (though i dislike doing so), and i use the local bus system (which is excellent) when necessary, and .. yes .. i'm sure there is a lot of oil-abusing infrastructure behind the machines i do maintain (synthesizers) but i sure as hell don't maintain a personal portable pollution-machine just for the apparent advantage it seems to give me.

    the majority of the world walks to work: as do i. got no problems with it.

    (PS - i also spent 15 years in LA without a car before i moved to europe, and i know for a fact it can be done there too .. its just a matter of social discipline..)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @07:46AM (#15291997)
    • if your city was designed by the same entity/deity that is selling you new pollution-machines every year,
    • another solution might be to cure your own dependence on oil first
    • i feel a lot healthier for not having to live in a wheely box for a major portion of my life

    Yeah, you might have reduced your SMOG contributions, but how about your SMUG contribution?

    Use of fossil fuels is a complicated issue. It is not just about drivers in SUVs. Vehicles are common in the US because is has a very diffuse population. The US has less than 1/2 the population density of Europe, and less than 1/6 the population density of western Europe. People do not live clustered together (except in some cities). What may be a 5 mile walk in Europe might be a 20 mile walk in the US. Not a brilliant setup, I agree, but not something that can be fixed in the short term.

    Probably the best solution is to switch to biodiesel and ethanol. Economically, oil imports cost about $300 billion a year (though this year will be higher). For a GDP of $12 trillion, this isn't a deadly value. If we changed to biodiesel or ethanol our costs would probably go up $100 to $200 billion. But this would probably be made up by growths in the economy due to hydrocarbon security.
  • by phlegmofdiscontent ( 459470 ) on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @07:47AM (#15292005)
    But where do you think the Brazilians get the land to produce that sugarcane? The same place they get the land to produce the beef that goes into McDonalds hamburgers. I'm surprised the "save the rainforest" people aren't up in arms yet. I'm against protectionism and tariffs, but Brazilian farmers do need to change the way they do agriculture. I'm not sure increasing demand for sugarcane is going to encourage them to change anything.
  • by ChildeRoland ( 949144 ) on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @07:51AM (#15292019)
    Do you really think that the current administration is the only reason that marijuana is illegal?
  • by BoredWolf ( 965951 ) <jakew.white@gmail.com> on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @08:08AM (#15292088) Journal
    but I'm not sure that ethanol is the solution. It is a short-term fix for a long-term problem. Removing the tariff on ethanol made with sugar is sensible, because it produces more energy per unit during combustion. Gasoline is corrosive, as is ethanol. Therefore, by putting it in a car engine, we are shortening the life-span of the car's engine. It would make a great deal of sense to have a more energy-efficient fuel in that car so that you get more 'bang for your buck'. I think what really needs to be addressed in the government, though, is the future of transportation/fuel sources in america. This isn't a battle over obscene profits for oil companies or getting a tariff removed, it's the realization that our fuel source for the past 100 years or so is not unlimited, and that the countries that hold large reserves of oil can (and will) leverage their position against us. Political grand-standing has focused most americans on ineffective issues, and it will likely be left to the states [bloomberg.com]. Recognize that this problem will not ultimately be solved by saving 53 cents-per-gallon on ethanol, but by finding efficient alternative fuel sources and having the public embrace the change.
  • by genrader ( 563784 ) <genrader@NOSpAM.gmail.com> on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @08:13AM (#15292104) Homepage Journal
    The thing is, this is what consumers should demand. This isn't something the governments of states or the Federal government of the United States has ANY business in.
  • by geoffrobinson ( 109879 ) on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @08:34AM (#15292194) Homepage
    First, anyone who wants to be president (pretty much every senator) doesn't want to mess around with Iowa farmers since they have an early caucus. Reducing tarriffs almost always makes sense, economically. Not politically. For example, steel tarriffs make the steel workers happy. But they increase the price of domestic toasters, cars, etc.

    Someone mentioned tarriffs on sugar. The National Review (a conservative magazine) did a front cover article on this a few months ago. Similar political situation but with La. farmers. It costs America a lot of jobs in food industries which require sugar. That's why they use corn syrup. It's cheaper relative to sugar, but only because of the tarriffs.
  • The thing is, this is what consumers should demand. This isn't something the governments of states or the Federal government of the United States has ANY business in.

    Yeah, unfortunately, it does. I'm pretty libretarian in my views, but the American people as a whole care not for things like the environment. They want their SUVs. So, in order to get better fuel economy, one of two things must happen.

    1. Govn't raises gas prices (tax?) to the level of true pain - $5, maybe $6/gallon where consumers are FORCED to demand better fuel economy or
    2. Govn't raises MPG standards for all vehicles produced moving forward. Closing the SUV hole is a good start.
    Consumers only care for themselves in general, and will hardly ever demand something that will inevitably cost them more money for the sake of another - like the environment, or people in third world contries (or any other household for that matter).

    So unfortunately, in this case, the govn't does need to step up. I shudder to say it, but I do believe it.

  • by diablomonic ( 754193 ) on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @09:08AM (#15292354)
    I assume you say this because of the relatively small (power wise) electric motors and crippled battery supplies used in many mainstream electric/hyrid vehicles. Try putting one of these

    500 hp 420 ft lb torque symetron electric motor [] (weighs only 70kg if another website I read is to be trusted)

    onto the tractor. Overkill I guess but ought to do the trick. only issue is battery power, but since tractors are normally working on a farm, not driving cross country, you could set up easy to swap battery packs and a charging station in a shed/barn(eg lead acid if you wanna go cheap) which you swap out for a charged one whenever the ones on it get low.

    now I have no idea how much that electric motor costs, but id imagine with mass production it should cost less than a new diesel engine, given the size and relative simplicity, and cant see the batteries being a show stopper (especially since we dont need to accelerate much or get to high speeds, so most of the energy goes into mushing up the fields or pulling whatever implement, weight shouldnt be too much of an issue, unlike in a car where the less weight, the better the acceleration or the less power we need to get same accel)

    in other words: Do-able (and yet I doubt Ill see one mass marketed for a while). Interestingly I heard about this 500 HP motor because there was talk of putting it in a motorbike!!, and considering when racing, to get equivalent performance (i.e. lap times, not top speed I guess) from an electric bike to a petrol one, you only need rouhgly 1/3 the power, that would be one FAST bike!!! :) (equiv to a 1000 - 1500 hp motorbike) checkout gizmag.com.au in the vehicle section somewhere, where they talk about different electric bikes (that website is also the ULTIMATE geek toy website: robots, exoskeletons, electric vehcles, flying cars, cool giant boats, planes, gadgets, guns, millitary gear, etc etc. of course half the stuff talked about is millions of dollars or prototype stuff, but still fun to dream)

  • by tverbeek ( 457094 ) on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @09:24AM (#15292459) Homepage
    And if the public demands unregulated home fission generators, the government has no business saying otherwise? Sorry, but libertarian/mercantilist dogma doesn't hold up in the face of common sense. The government damn well does have a legitimate interest in helping to get rid of stuff that's just bad for the whole planet and which doesn't have enough real benefit to compensate for that. Gas guzzlers are on that list.
  • by RingDev ( 879105 ) on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @09:26AM (#15292469) Homepage Journal
    I have not been able to find a single peer reviewed source to back up that 7 times as efficient number. I see many references to the widely excepted 1.34 return, but I have found nothing that says 8.1 units returned. I did find one study that claimed SugarCane could hit 3.7 in production in Brazil, but that can't be directly compared to the US.

    1) In Brazil manual labor can be had for $3-5/day. At that cost it can be cheaper to use a fleet of farm labor instead of a tractor. the fuel consumption requred by the work force is not included.
    2) Brazil has a much larger land mass that is appropriate for growing sugar cane.
    3) Ethanol has to be shipped in sealed tanks. Due to its propencity to attract water, piping it with fuel through the exist infrastructure would result in water contaminated fuel at the pump. The extra expences and fuel needed for the new delivery systems really kill the return. This is also the reason why E10 has been a pretty standard fuel in the Mid-West for years, but not on the costs. Brazil uses a much more localized distribution system (many 20k gallon plants as opposed to a centralized 10m gallon plants).
    4) Ethanol has less power per volume then gas. That means those flex fuel vehicles are going to lose mileage AND power on E85. A proper E85+ designed engine could improve the power issue (Ethanol's higher octane rating allows for higher compression, which leads to more power and better efficiency).

    I'm not saying Ethanol is bad, just that it isn't as great as GM wants you to believe.

    Biodiesel is better (IMO) in that it can be added to the US's fuel infrastructure with no modication to the system or vehicles, it's performance is on par with petrol-diesel (ie: better than gas and ethanol).


  • by The Snowman ( 116231 ) * on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @09:30AM (#15292511)

    Real fuel economy hasn't gone down in 2 decades, once you factor in the shift from cars to SUVs in the US.

    There's no excuse to produce non-commercial vehicles that get 9mpg in the city in "real life", or even 14mpg "rated".

    If you REALLY wanted energy independence, step 1 is to get rid of the mini-vans, Jeeps, the "cross-over" vehicles, and the "look I've got SO MUCH horsepower" crap. If it can't do at least 20mpg city/30mpg highway, just melt it down for scrap.

    That's awfully ignorant. So we should all be driving compacts, motorcycles, and bicycles? Minivans tend to get good gas mileage for their size, certainly better than SUVs but not quite as good as cars. My next vehicle will be a minivan so I can fit my whole family in the car *and* my groceries and other junk. I'll still get 20+ mpg. I own a Ranger pickup truck. It's fairly efficient for a truck, in that range between "car" and "gas guzzler." I don't use it for a business, so should I melt it down for scrap? Considering that I use it for its intended purpose on average once a week, hell no. I move furniture and other large items for myself and for friends, so I own a truck. Not a pile of scrap metal.

    What you are getting at is that our automobile industry needs to start producing more efficient vehicles, and their customers need to evaluate their needs and purchase vehicles that they need, not that they want. For example, a single person or small family in a Suburban or Excursion. That's retarded. A car or minivan is more efficient, more safe, and cheaper. If they want to waste extra money on the big SUV both on purchase price and fuel, let them. I'll stick with my Taurus that gets around 25 mpg and is around a gajillion times safer.

    This is a free market. If people want SUVs, Detroit will produce SUVs. Enough of us sane people choose to purchase sedans and light trucks that are cheaper, more fuel efficient, safer, and more reliable that they will continue to make them. I am happy spending half as much to fill my tanks as other people. This gas "crisis" really doesn't affect me much.

  • by Valdrax ( 32670 ) on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @10:36AM (#15293007)
    The last thing we need is to trade the current Mid-east manipulators of US economy for ones in South America!

    I'm going to have to sharply disagree with you there. While energy independence is a goal that we must strive towards, I would rather be dependent (if we had to be) on Brazil than on Saudi Arabia. Brazil hasn't sponsored religious extremism and anti-Americanism worldwide. Brazil is a democracy and respects human rights unlike the Saudis. As a bonus, Brazil is also one of our strongest allies in South America. Plus, money pouring into Brazil might go toward taxes there to preserve the rainforests, and shifting from oil to ethanol would help reduce our impact on global warming. I'm just not seeing much in the way of reasons to say that being dependent on Brazil is the "last thing we need" especially in comparison to our current situation.

    The concentration on ethanol production only from corn is due to powerful lobbying and this attitude should be curtailed rather than canceling tariffs!

    This attitude is the result of lobbying. Without subsidies to corn production, tariffs on sugar imports, and tariffs on ethanol, we wouldn't have the assumption that corn will be used.
  • by dal20402 ( 895630 ) * <[dal20402] [at] [mac.com]> on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @11:27AM (#15293407) Journal
    brother is an electrical worker. He needs his Silverado. Not want, need. It gets bad mileage, but he hauls stuff around and it is not a company vehicle.

    This is true only because we're stuck in the Stone Age of trucks in the U.S., thanks to undemanding consumers and truck makers who'd, logically, rather make fat profits than innovate.

    Everywhere else in the world, there are high-cube vans [mercedes-benz.com] powered by small, extremely torquey turbodiesels that carry considerably more stuff than our vans and pickups.

    With their short gearing, those vans are plenty quick at lower speeds. And they get more than twice the mileage of our trucks. The only two things they are missing that our trucks have are the ability to tow very heavy trailers and the 100mph top speeds.

    Dodge is selling such a Mercedes van in the U.S. as the Sprinter, but it's only one product -- not a full line -- and it needs European-style gas prices to be fully cost-competitive for most markets.

    What about large families that need large vehicles? ... How about someone who owns a boat and needs to tow it to a lake, so he needs a big V-8 or V-10? Should these people "feel the pain" when despite owning gas guzzlers, are driving vehicles they need?

    Yes. Those are lifestyle choices. People should pay the costs of their lifestyle choices, not force the rest of us to pay them through artificially low gas prices that don't reflect the costs of maintaining a road network or fixing the environmental damage created by large, fuel-hogging vehicles.

    Incidentally, you don't need a big V8 or V10 truck to tow most boats that most people own. Something like a V6 Toyota Tacoma will do just fine with all but the huge-ass, over-the-top showoff-craft.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @11:35AM (#15293469)
    [Together, congress spits out their coffee in a fit of laughter.]

    That's just not an option, sonny, because marijuana prohibition is a huge cash cow for the US government. The US now has the highest incarceration rate in the entire world, due primarily to the jailing of non-violent marijuana producers, distributers, and consumers.

    What do you think benefits government more, in terms of both revenue and power over the people: running a huge, out-of-control prohibition racket like we see today, or actually respecting the individual's god-given rights to self-ownership and voluntary association? Consider the simple business model of government: you take money from some people, you distribute it to other people, and you keep a cut for yourself. Of course they attempt to hide the truth -- no politician in his right mind would admit that government makes money on more government. As it stands, the administration costs for prohibition are measured in billions of dollars.

    The fact is that prohibition, especially marijuana prohibition, makes government bigger. It provides government with more revenue, more power over the people, and more precedent for futher expansion of power. Short of war, prohibition is possibly the most effective technique for expanding and securing power, and that is exactly why prohibition will never be abolished. (The only reason why alcohol prohibition was repealed is that the people actually recognized they were being scammed. Today, goverment is so entrenched our lives -- from the day we are born to the day we die -- that most people can't so much as imagine anything but big government.)

    Imagine if tobacco and caffeine were prohibited -- think how much bigger and more powerful government would become as a result. Don't worry, they're already planning for it (in the case of tobacco, they're halfway there).
  • by pclminion ( 145572 ) on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @11:59AM (#15293685)
    I have heard the statistic many times here, that it is not effective to grow bio fuels. Here on Slashdot biofuels = knee-jerk reaction = nice green thought but the math doesn't work. It is often posted that these fuels do not produce more energy than they require to grow.

    The per-acre yield of oil producing crops for the purpose of biodiesel production is, in truth, low. At the biodiesel facility I unofficially work for, we produce thousands of gallons of high-quality fuel from recycled cooking oils. This is oil that would have been produced, harvested and used with or without the biodiesel market.

    The facility is in the country, and we've got a "back 40" which currently is leased to farmers. This year, they're growing clover. I've whined incessantly that we should be growing vegetable oil crops, but when you really work the numbers it's not worth it. Yet.

    Recycled waste oil, for the near term, is really the only thing that makes sense for biodiesel production. Unfortunately, the supply is not nearly enough to maintain a fuel supply if even a significant FRACTION of Americans switched to biodiesel vehicles. This is a real problem. There are dreams of using oil-producing algaes to get massive yields, but this has yet to be perfected.

    Biodiesel is no pipe dream, but there are complex economic and industrial considerations which will be evolving as the years go by. I'm excited to see where we go in the future. At any rate, I feel better knowing that the exhaust from our diesel vehicles at the farm is net 0 as far as carbon emissions.

  • Re:But... but... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by RingDev ( 879105 ) on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @12:04PM (#15293737) Homepage Journal
    I'm saying GM is not in a great financial position. So for them to invest in a marketing campaign for E85 is a win-win.

    They invest a minimum amount in Flex Fuel vehicles (realistically, this is replacing rubber fuel lines and setting up the ECM to switch fuel mappings over a wider range depending on the O2 sensor's readings).

    Since this is the 'low tech' way of making a gas engine run on ethanol (some more impressive FF vehicles use dynamic turbos and increase boost pressure when running more Ethanol, but so far as I know, GM's FF vehicles are only changing fuel mappings). It doesn't do anything for efficiency or power, so the vehicle will run significantly worse (power/mileage). But that doesn't matter since you can't really get E85 at any public pumps. I only know of a single E85 pump in all of south central Wisconsin. GM is aiming E85 primarily at fleet vehicles, for everyone else it's just a marketing gimmick. It allows them to look like a golden company in the face of rising gas prices to the public, they get free marketing off anyone talking about E85, and for a minimal investment in R&D and on the assembly line, they get a huge boost in sales.

    E85 does have a place in the future of US fuel consumption, but that place is not GM's FlexFuel vehicle line. It's place is in vehicles designed to run on higher compression or those that can increase boost pressure. Vehicles that are designed to take advantage of Ethanol's properties as opposed to a patch kit that allows a gas engine to run on it.

    Decreased engine life, shorter duration oil changes, invisible flames (on pure ethanol, not E85), it's amazing what some good marketing and desperate consumers will lead to.

  • by Schraegstrichpunkt ( 931443 ) on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @12:21PM (#15293955) Homepage
    I agree with what dal20402 said, but I'd also like to point out that considering the world's current population and the rate of its growth, people who have large families are especially costly to the environment.
  • by lowrydr310 ( 830514 ) on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @12:25PM (#15294001)
    Unfortunately that V6 Tacoma doesn't get much better fuel economy than a fullsize pickup truck with a V8.

    I own a Tacoma and my uncle owns a Nissan Titan, and I drive both vehicles regularly in similar conditions. The Tacoma is extremely sluggish compared to the Titan, especially on hills, and the fuel economy isn't that much better. I'd rather pay a little more for fuel and have more power (and a bigger truck with a bigger bed). Even at $3 a gallon for gas, I'd still take it, but $5 or $6 would change my opinion.

    What I really want is a Toyota Hilux Diesel. You can get them just about anywhere else in the world EXCEPT North America. When is Toyota going to wake up and realize that a diesel engine is ideal for a compact pickup truck? Actually I think it's US consumers who need to wake up and make that realization. The price premium for a Diesel is well worth it - it might not be cost-effective initially, but if you're using your truck like a real truck, it will pay off in the long run. I recall the problem (of no compact diesel trucks in the USA) has something to do with diesel standards, however our new low-sulphur requirement should hopefully change that

  • by The Wooden Badger ( 540258 ) on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @12:28PM (#15294038) Homepage Journal
    The large family thing makes me laugh. It's interesting that mini-vans get more mpg than comparable capacity SUV's. Sure there is more "utility" to the SUV, but for the ones that "need" the extra utility they can afford it. The rest can more easily (cost of vehicle and better efficiency) afford a mini van. But there are a whole lot of people that look at their vehicle purchase as a status symbol and try to buy up.
  • by dal20402 ( 895630 ) * <[dal20402] [at] [mac.com]> on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @12:51PM (#15294268) Journal
    most boats -- such as mine -- are over 5,000 lbs with trailer and cannot be towed by a compact SUV or pickup since the length will result in a tail wagging the dog situation.

    Get two things, coward:

    1. a reasonable boat -- if your boat is over 5000 lbs, you have it just to show off how rich you are.
    2. some driving skill -- there are lots of safe vehicles with heavy/long trailers on our roads; they're called semis.

    Anyway, a giant V8 truck that can't be parked anywhere, drives like a drunken elephant and gets 12 mpg is hardly a "decent vehicle." I'll keep my Acura TSX, thank you.

  • by clare-ents ( 153285 ) on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @01:03PM (#15294371) Homepage
    For reference, I'm in the UK, petrol currently costs 97.8p /litre at the pump.

    That's, £3.70 per US gallon, or $6.89 at the current exchange rate.

    I regularly hire cars, having measured the mileage on them they've all done over 10 miles to the litre, that's about 40miles / US gallon.

    The idea that 20-30mpg is a fuel efficient vehicle is (to me) laughable.
  • by jafac ( 1449 ) on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @01:35PM (#15294659) Homepage
    Mr. Hurst owned vast tracts of forrest in the Pacific NW & felt threatened by that.

    I don't know if I buy that.

    Why didn't he just buy some farmland and grow hemp instead?

    It's not like we don't have other uses (demand) for wood.
  • Re:Lower MPG? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Sique ( 173459 ) on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @01:52PM (#15294821) Homepage
    I don't think volume matters that much than weight. You always find some spare room to put a tank in. Space is not that precious in a car. My car can carry 20 gallons of gasoline, but just the trunk has at least 250 gallons, the whole passenger room about 800 gallons. Increasing the volume of the gas tank by 100 percent would just remove 2,5% of space if it were taken from the passenger room. Normally a tank is outside the passenger room for security reasons anyway, and the space between the rear wheels, where the gas tank resides, is not fully occupied by this. This wouldn't even affect overall measurements of the car at all. The sizes of gas tanks are more designed with a 500ml distance to go on a refill than with the maximum capacity in mind.
    But weight is precious, firstly because this is pulling each time you are accelerating or braking. A full refill of my tank increases the car weight by 5%, and if I am using ethanol for refill, I would have to take in 50 percent more to store the same amount of energy, thus increasing the weight of the car by 2.5%, and this directly affects the mileage. And transporting the ethanol with trucks or rail waggons would add at least 30% penalty on the transportation costs (it may not be the full 50% because the transporting system has a minimum weight which is independent of the actual freight).
    The weight of the whole system is also a reason why liquid gas or hydrogene have not caught on with cars yet: The tanks have to withstand much more pressure, and thus are more heavy, even when empty, and leakage is much more dangerous, thus increasing the weight again for the additional security systems. For more heavy vehicles like busses or trucks there are viable liquid gas systems available, because there the weight of the tank is much smaller compared with the overall vehicle weight. There are several towns whose public busses run on liquid gas instead of gasoline. In Italy liquid gas is available at most of the gas stations, thus also many cars can run on both liquid gas or gasoline, but those cars are more heavy and make sense economically only because of the lower liquid gas prices.
  • by dclydew ( 14163 ) <dclydew@gmail.com> on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @02:36PM (#15295277)
    *cough* hemp *cough*

    That will get you oil (seed), biodeisel (at much greater ratios than corn) and it can be grown at lower cost with greater yield...

    but, someone might try to smoke it... so we can't have that.
  • by gone.fishing ( 213219 ) on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @03:14PM (#15295635) Journal
    We need to break our addiction to foreign oil. Reducing or eliminating a tax on imported ethanol is a temporary stop-gap "fix" that will help to reduce the cost of fuel at the pump a little bit which may help us to buy some time while we work on other things that can help address the real problem. For that reason alone, at this time, it is a good idea for the United States.

    Making ethanol fuels more available and less expensive will help to speed the adoption of ethanol blended fuels on the coasts and also help to speed the adoption of E-85 for those newer flex-fuel vehicles. Making this fuel more affordable will help to speed it's adoption and will create the demand that will allow gas stations to justify the expense of installing new pumps and tanks. All of this is good.

    Sugar cane is a crop that can be grown in much of the United States. Over time we can start to produce ethanol from it (and other sources) allowing us to produce more of our energy domestically which is good for our economy and will allow us to be less dependant on foreign energy which will be a great economic stabilizer meaning that over-seas economic pressures can not hurt us as badly. This is a very good thing.

    It is just as vital that we develop other sources of energy as well. Dependance on any single commodity puts us at risk - if we hinged our energy economy on ethanol from sugar cane and there was a crop failure, our economy could suffer badly. Therefore we have to develop other near-term solutions as well. For transportation fuels these solutions should include coal gasification, ethanol from cellulose, thermal depolymerization and bio-diesel. We do not need to completely ignore conventional oil, there are still a number of domestic sources of this energy available. If we look at energy as a North American issue rather than a national issue, the Alberta Oil Sands could provide us with a great deal of conventional oil. With the CO2 produced from coal gasification conventional oil wells can be returned to production. There are also untapped sources of oil on Alaska's environmentally sensitive North Shore. Tapping these resources is economically feasible but is a politically sensitive and highly charged issue. With high fuel prices and our economy suffering from it, the politicians may find North Shore exploitation more acceptable with their constituents.

    We should not count out gaseous fuels such as hydrogen, propane, and natural gas as transportation fuels but I see them as being either niche players or, further out in development. For the foreseeable future, I think most transportation fuels will be liquid because they are easier and safer to handle, transport, and use.

    Energy is not just about transportation, we also use energy to heat and cool our homes, to manufacture things, and to save labor in many different ways. Stationary powerplants can use different kinds of fuels - everything from biomass (Including garbage) to nuclear power!

    Because of issues with safety and waste disposal, nuclear power plants have not been built in the United States in several decades. These dynamics may be changing. Nuclear reactors are very efficient, it is estimated that one pound of enriched uranium produces the same amount of electrical energy as 800,000 tons of coal. Pebble bed nuclear reactors have been proven safe and effective. In the United States, the Yucca Mountain Repository is expected to start accepting radioactive waste for long term storage (disposal) in 2010. For all of these reasons, in the recent past some notable environmentalists have come out in favor of building a new generation of nuclear reactors.

    Energy is an important part of modern life. The way we make it and the way we use it has to evolve and adapt. If it doesn't we will make it too valuable a commodity and we will be unable to afford it. Failure to change and adapt will without a doubt cause of a great deal of pain and suffering. We are reaching a point where we can no longer just talk about it. We need to take action that will help us now and we have to find ways to go forward using different fuels, methods, and processes. If we don't, we will wither away.
  • by JofCoRe ( 315438 ) on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @05:57PM (#15297048) Journal
    *cough* hemp *cough*

    That will get you oil (seed), biodeisel (at much greater ratios than corn) and it can be grown at lower cost with greater yield...

    but, someone might try to smoke it... so we can't have that.

    Exactly. Not to mention that it would threaten a few other "big money" industries... like the oil industry, the paper industry, the textile industry, etc... And the people that get their money from these industries don't want to let go of their cash cows. It's not about doing what's smart, environmental, or anything else so noble... Nope, it's all about greed, money, and power.

    We're not really interested in finding alternative fuel sources. It's just a show put on to keep the peasants happy while the big players continue to rake in the profits. Sad, really. And not too bright of future it paints either...


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