Wednesday, February 01, 2006

State of the Union Clarifications

Wow, what a complete load of crap... But as I don't have all day to dissect it, I'll offer two points of clarification--on energy. What Bush said was that we would reduce by 75% the amount oil that we get from the Middle East by 2025... Let's look at what this really means...

If he had said "we will reduce our oil imports by 75% by the year 2025" that would be something to talk about... But he did NOT say that we would reduce our oil imports by 75%. Nor did he say that we would aim to reduce consumption by even 1%.

Out of 14 million barrels per day of imported oil in 2005, approximately 3 million came from the Persian Gulf. EIA Source. That's about 20% of our total oil imports. So, by 2025, we are supposedly going to reduce that number by 75%. So in 20 years, we will only be importing 750 thousand barrels per day from the Middle East. However, domestic production will likely be in the realm of 6-7 million barrels per day or less by then and we will have to increase imports from elsewhere. Canada, Venezuela, Nigeria, etc... This move does nothing to break our oil addiction. It only says that we will buy less from the dealers that we don't buy that much from as it is...

Bush also said that he wants to replace much of our gasoline with Ethanol... Let's look at some Ethanol facts... You get approximately 35% more energy from Ethanol than it takes to produce the Ethanol in the first place. Or, if you want to use the numbers from, you get 77% more energy than you put in. For the sake of argument, let's average out the two numbers, and say you get 50% more energy than you put in. Sounds pretty good. So lets say that we wanted to run a 90/10 gasoline/ethanol mix in the US. We use 146 billion gallons of gasoline each year (source). In order to replace 10% of that gasoline with ethanol, we would need 14.6 billion gallons of ethanol. This would require about 4.5 billion bushels of corn (one bushel of corn = about 3.25 gallons of ethanol (source). The US currently produces about 10 billion bushels per year. So we're talking about 45% of our domestic corn production (most of which feeds our cattle) now going towards energy... Other feedstocks will be used (sugarcane, switchgrass, wood, etc), but corn will be doing most of the work. So in this way we would displace 14.6 billion gallons of gasoline with ethanol (roughly speaking - a gallon of ethanol contains less energy than a gallon of gasoline).

Remember though--just because the net energy gain is positive doesn't mean it doesn't take fossil fuel energy to make the ethanol. So you can't just take that 14.6 billion gallons and write it off as energy profit... Assuming a 50% net energy gain on Ethanol, the net savings is about 5 billion gallons of gasoline if all of the gasoline we sold were sold as an E-10 blend. So this would correspond to about a 3.5% savings in total gasoline usage. To reduce 35% of our gasoline usage with ethanol, we'd have to increase corn, switchgrass, and sugarcane production by about 500%, and find something else entirely to feed our cattle with. We'd need what, about 2 or 3 times the amount of arable land that we currently have in all of the USA devoted to feedstock to replace just 1/3rd of our domestic gasoline usage with ethanol? Doesn't seem like a very good solution to me... A small step in the right direction at this point in the game is FAR too little and much too late.


Anonymous Disco_Destroyer said...

What he really means is that by 2025 the Middle East will be part of the USA :D

5:34 PM  

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