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US Ethanol Production in 2006 Will Consume More Than 20% of Total Corn Production

5 June 2006

Corn1_1
Corn use for ethanol. Click to enlarge.

Slightly more than 20% of the forecast 10.55 billion bushels of corn to be produced in the US this year—about 2.15 billion bushels—will go toward the production of fuel ethanol, according to the US Department of Agriculture’s most recent World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE). That use of corn for ethanol represents a 34% increase from the year prior.

That amount matches for the first time projected exports of corn from the US, also forecast to be approximately 2.15 billion bushels in 2006—a 6% increase from last year.

The USDA corn crop forecast of 10.55 billion bushels is 5% lower than last year’s production. Total corn supply, at 12.8 billion bushels, is down 3% as the smaller corn crop is only partially offset by higher beginning stocks.

Projected 2006/07 corn use expands 6% to a record 11.6 billion bushels. The increase in exports is due, according to the USDA, to reduced foreign competition and lower global feed-quality wheat supplies.

The 2006/07 global coarse grains outlook includes slightly lower production, increased consumption, and lower ending stocks. Smaller coarse grain crops in the United States more than offset higher foreign production. Production increases are significant for Argentina and EU-25. Global coarse grain trade is up slightly while consumption is up 2.7 percent. China’s corn stocks continue to fall; global corn ending stocks drop 29 percent to 92 million tons, the lowest in more than 20 years.

June 5, 2006 in Ethanol | Permalink | Comments (43) | TrackBack (0)

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Mo' money fo' nibblets now?

Ain't that great? 2.15 billion bushels is enough to produce about 5.8 billion gallons [per year] of ethanol. Sounds great, doesn't it?

EXCEPT we use about 20 million bbl/d of oil. Factoring in ethanol's lower energy content, we will be replacing about 1.3% of our total crude oil consumption with corn ethanol.

So, even if we used 100% of our corn harvest for ethanol production, we can only replace less than 6.5% of our oil consumption. In the process, we'd cause a huge food shortages and untold hardship on American families.

But don't expect any farm state politician to mention any of these realities. "Just take the picture from my good angle over there..."

Maybe.. but if we started using switchgrass instead of corn, and use cullulose production rather than current ethanol production techniques... AND here is the big part... stopped paying farmers to NOT grow anything...

We'd be nearer 30% of our demand... combine that wth hybrid technology and auto-stop; and we'd be close to the 50% reduction we need to see transportation energy independance.

Yes, Waste -> Ethanol is way better than Food -> Ethanol. Switchgrass? I don't think so. Algae produce way more biomass per unit area than any other plant.

Also: Why ethanol? Ethanol cause all sorts of corrossion problems. Evaporative loss, VOC emissions, etc. Use your biomass to produce synthetic oil (with no sulfur and no aromatics it's much cleaner than fossil oil). Synthetic oil can also be blended with fossil oil at any convenients ratio, making its use very convenient and scaling up very easy to do. No need to spend a ton of money changing all the vehicles out there and rebuilding the fuel supply chain.

This baby should be smothered in its crib, corn crib that is.


My question is how much of this figure is appropriated for the MTBE changeover. Considering that ethanol is now the replacement for the chemical, it's expected that these figures should be coming in much higher, yeah?

Ash,

Auto-Stop?? Is that when the engine is turned off when idled?

Anyone got a clue why all the focus on corn rather than sugar beets or potatoes? Beets and potatoes have a much higher ethanol yield per acre than corn. Beets do not require enzymatic breakdown. Corn just got better lobbyists?

I remember a news foto from a few years ago of Idaho farmers plowing under their potatoes because the price would not support taking them to market.

"So, even if we used 100% of our corn harvest for ethanol production, we can only replace less than 6.5% of our oil consumption. In the process, we'd cause a huge food shortages and untold hardship on American families."

Really? Most of that corn is used as cattle feed. Much of the rest is used to produce corn syrup for sweetening various processed foods. Only a small fraction is destined for direct human consumption. I'm not saying corn is a great feedstock for fuel ethanol production but somehow I doubt that US families would suffer a famine if suddenly there were no more corn products in their diet. Maybe they'd even lose a few pounds and fit into a smaller vehicle.

---

Cellulosic ethanol promises greater yields by using the whole plant and, crops like switchgrass that can be grown on soils too poor for food crops. Unfortunately, it is not yet ready for prime time. The hard part is converting cellulose into sugars. From there, you can produce several compounds, notably ethanol and butanol.

Butanol would reportedly be preferable to ethanol from a fuel quality perspective: it can be blended with gasoline in any proportion without modifications to the fuel system, transported in pipelines without risk of corrosion and, has an energy density similar to that of gasoline.

When you obtain butanol from sugar via the new EEI fermentation process, the end product will also contain some residual butyric acid, a compound that gives human sweat a rather pungent odor. It is not clear if this is significant enough to cause customer acceptance problems. The EEI pricess is in also in the pilot plant stage.

Note that compound produced appears to be n-butanol rather than iso-butanol. This may affect the fuel's octane number. A big plus is the co-production of valuable hydrogen gas.

http://www.butanol.com/

Really? Most of that corn is used as cattle feed. Much of the rest is used to produce corn syrup for sweetening various processed foods. Only a small fraction is destined for direct human consumption. I'm not saying corn is a great feedstock for fuel ethanol production but somehow I doubt that US families would suffer a famine if suddenly there were no more corn products in their diet. Maybe they'd even lose a few pounds and fit into a smaller vehicle.
Hehe, haha. Let me see, a shortage of corn is not going to affect the price of beef? High fructose corn syrup is used in just about everything from soft drinks to peanut butter. Taking that off the market will have a ripple effect, the upshot of which will be expensive food.

Cellulosic ethanol promises greater yields by using the whole plant and, crops like switchgrass that can be grown on soils too poor for food crops. Unfortunately, it is not yet ready for prime time. The hard part is converting cellulose into sugars. From there, you can produce several compounds, notably ethanol and butanol.
OK, so we agree that 1) Cellulosic ethanol would be better than corn ethanol, 2) Cellulosic ethanol is not ready for prime time and 3) Converting cellulose to sugar is a pain in the butt.

I ask again: Why ethanol? If you go the gasification/Fischer-Tropsch route (to produce renewable synthetic oil out of biomass), you have the following advantages over cellulosic ethanol:
1. Use 100% of the available organic plant matter, not just the fraction of the cellose fraction that can be coverted to sugar.
2. No need for energy-intensive distillation to separate fuel from water.
3. No need to sell FFV or make any other adjustment to existing vehicles.
4. No need to retool the entire fuel distribution network.
5. No increase in emissions or evaporative loss.
6. A robust chemical process and not a sensitive biological process.
7. Ready for prime time.

Butanol would reportedly be preferable to ethanol from a fuel quality perspective: it can be blended with gasoline in any proportion without modifications to the fuel system, transported in pipelines without risk of corrosion and, has an energy density similar to that of gasoline.
Put it this way: Why butanol?

When you obtain butanol from sugar via the new EEI fermentation process, the end product will also contain some residual butyric acid, a compound that gives human sweat a rather pungent odor. It is not clear if this is significant enough to cause customer acceptance problems. The EEI pricess is in also in the pilot plant stage.
You mean on top of everthing else it also STINKS?

Note that compound produced appears to be n-butanol rather than iso-butanol. This may affect the fuel's octane number. A big plus is the co-production of valuable hydrogen gas.
Hydrogen, don't make me laugh. Hydrogen will be "at least twenty years away" for the next 50 years as for the last 50 years...

Increase in demand for corn will make the cattle food expensive too, which make our hamburger more costly. Which is no good. Perhaps it is a even better idea to make use of those corn stalk to make fuel, and eat those corn.

Energy rate of return for alcohol is very low, not sure how much? Is it even reach 1?

Of all the high technology you americans(at least for the one in charge up there) like to talk about, but what high tech? FT process from WW2 or celulosic ethanol? Why all the corn ethanol and hydrogen white elephants?

Why H2 = White Elephant
1. Cost
"One of the biggest advantages of biodiesel [or renewable synthetic oil] compared to many other alternative transportation fuels is that it can be used in existing diesel engines without modification, and can be blended in at any ratio with petroleum diesel. This completely eliminates the "chicken-and-egg" dilemma that other alternatives have, such as hydrogen powered fuel cells. For hydrogen vehicles, even when (and if) vehicle manufacturers eventually have production stage vehicles ready (which currently cost around $1 million each to make), nobody would buy them unless there was already a wide scale hydrogen fuel production and distribution system in place. But, no companies would be interested in building that wide scale hydrogen fuel production and distribution system until a significant number of fuel cell vehicles are on the road, so that consumers are ready to start using it. With a single hydrogen fuel pump costing roughly $1 million, installing just one at each of the 176,000 fuel stations across the US would cost $176 billion - a cost that can be completely avoided with liquid biofuels that can use our current infrastructure." - http://www.unh.edu/p2/biodiesel/article_alge.html

2. Properties of hydrogen
"Hydrogen is often mentioned as a replacement for petroleum. But, hydrogen is not an energy source, so much as it is an energy carrier, and certain very significant technical challenges must be solved before "The Hydrogen Economy" ever becomes realistic. A workshop conducted by the Department of Energy in 2002 concluded that the transition to a hydrogen economy "could take several decades" for a number of reasons. Hydrogen has a very low energy density, is difficult to transport and store, and hydrogen fuel cells are very expensive. In addition, at present 95% of all hydrogen is produced from fossil fuels, which is why it is listed as "nonrenewable," even though the potential exists for creating it from renewable sources. Due to the substantial challenges, hydrogen can’t be counted on at this time to mitigate the effects of Peak Oil." - http://www.omninerd.com/2006/05/17/articles/52

3. It has a habit of going BOOM

Note that so far, hydrogen is only used for space travel, due to its high energy to mass ratio. Hydrogen cannot even penetrate the highly competitive air travel industry, where there is a significant benefit for light weight fuel. So, why would we use hydrogen for surface travel, where there is very little benefit for a light weight fuel?

A lot of that subsidized corn is being dumped into countries below the cost of production, undercutting local farmers and usually causing their agriculture to collapse. It would be better for all if the US would use the subsidized corn at home rather than meddle with other countries food security, however I can't see the US wanting to play fair anytime soon.

How about consuming 50% less fossil liquid fuel. More efficent lighter vehicles like most Europeans use would do it. Wouldn't that be a more common sense approach?

The remaining 50% could further be reduced by half with a mix of improved hybrids and PHEVs. At that point,(the remaining 25%) the use of ethanol and biofuels would make sense and would not require 100% of USA farm lands.

Upgrading Hybrids to PHEVs could reduce the remaining 25% to 12.5% or less and our good neighbour (USA) would finally stop importing fossil fuel. The Alberta Tar Sands production could be eased to one (1) million barrel/day or less. Canada's and US GHG would be reduced by 25% or more.

Sounds simple, but it would be more effective than multiplying gas guzzlers and consuming more and more.

An Engineer, I agreee and I think that hydrogen will only be viable for fuel cells and similar storage purposes; it's just plain not economically viable as a combustible fuel right now. In the future, I don't know but at least in the near term it is simply not a possibility.

Biofuels like cellulosic ethanol and biodiesel along with electric hybrids, plug-ins, and the like are all viable replacements for gasoline and diesel and will eventually fully replace fossil fuels along with other alternatives yet undiscovered, but hydrogen fuel is not an economical alternative at this point in time for a vehicle fuel and may not be for years, if ever.

We can make small amounts of hydrogen, i.e. enough for fuel cells, from hydrolysis but large scale production would require the use of copious amounts of fossil fuels, effectively forcing us to burn the oil to replace it with hydrogen.

I also want to add that real corn prices today are effectively unchanged since the 1860's until today; the market is so oversupplied that prices are depressed to the point where

Although I don't think corn ethanol is a viable or desirable feedstock for alternative fuels, using a significant portion of the corn crop for it will not seriously affect prices in real terms and might help stimulate agriculture in markets previously depressed by subsidized US corn.

It's a mixed bag, I guess.

Although I don't think corn ethanol is a viable or desirable feedstock for alternative fuels, using a significant portion of the corn crop for it will not seriously affect prices in real terms and might help stimulate agriculture in markets previously depressed by subsidized US corn.
Are you kidding? What economic theory is that? Certainly not Economics 101. In fact, demand for ethanol is already affecting corn prices: see http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/12754620/

Let's look at it from a different perspective:
1. We pay subsidies to corn farmers. The result is a lot of corn, but at least food is cheap. Your tax dollars at least save you some money at the grocer.
2. We pay subsidies to produce ethanol from corn. The result, in theory, is cheaper fuel - E85 currently costs less than gasoline. WARNING: compare prices based on miles travelled, not gallons purchased. Suddenly, our new fuel does not look so cheap anymore. Your tax dollars used to make fuel even more expensive!
3. High corn demand for ethanol results in higher corn prices. Talk about inflationary pressure. Suddenly, all food is more expensive. But what can you do, stop eating? Your tax dollars used to enrich the politically connected, and make your life more miserable...

An Engineer, it would increase prices and stimulate production of corn worldwide. That doesn't mean those higher prices will be either desirable or realistic, but they will be higher and they will eat in to the surplus at least until more production comes on line.

The only real way to revive corn is to eliminate the subsidies on it and its products. Otherwise, corn growers will have to deal with permanently and artificially low prices and the American taxpayer will have to subsidize a product neither desired nor economically viable without subsidies.

The money spent on corn and ethanol would be a lot more useful if put in to research or spent on tax credits for energy efficiency or similar purchases by individuals.

I like corn as a food, it is probably my favorite vegetable. That being said, I don't think that the production of Ethanol fuel, or Corn plastic, or both for that matter, would really keep the Corn off my dinner plate.

As a country we produce A LOT of corn, and we can grow more, pretty easily. Bio-Engineered food can't even be given away to starving countries, why not use it for fuel and plastics? Ethanol seems like a viable fuel alternative. An Ethanol/electric based hybrid seems to be the next step in land based transportation. We need to stop thinking of ways to not be so dependant upon fossil fuels and start taking action. The practical benefits of using alternative fuels that are readily available, and easily renewed are here, now, today, and we need to start using them. Ethanol may not be our savour from our dependence on petroleum, but it's a step in the right direction.


This article provides a bit more information about the broader picture on crop prices:

http://www.record-eagle.com/2006/jun/04ethanol.htm

***************

An Engineer:

> 3. High corn demand for ethanol results in higher corn
> prices. Talk about inflationary pressure. Suddenly,
> all food is more expensive. But what can you do, stop
> eating?

Gosh, I wish. If the only impact of ethanol production was to make the average American eat ~200 less calories per day it would be worth 10x what we're spending on it. This would extend more lives than curing cancer.

I read that the government pays farmers to keep 50 million acres in switchgrass to preserve the soil. If you get 500 gallons per acre you have 25 billion gallons, which would be enough for 25/140 or about 17.85% of the fuel we use now. Not bad, seeing as we pay to have it grown anyway.

The price of corn is a minor contributor to the cost of food on your plate. Farmers get very little of our food dollar; the cost is mostly in distribution and processing. As an aside, this is also true of energy consumption in the food sector: the US uses more energy cooking food than it does growing it.

About BTL via gasification: it's my understanding that the minimum economic size of an ethanol plant is smaller than that of a BTL plant. FT works best if the syngas is not diluted with nitrogen (since if it is you can't easily recycle it through the FT reactor, as the nitrogen builds up in the gas stream). You can gasify with oxygen, but oxygen separation plants currently don't scale down well, leading to a minimum size of about 100 MW. Or, you can burn the FT off gass in a turbine instead of recycling it, but that reduces the FT yield.

It would be interesting if a practical means of producing low-nitrogen syngas could be found that didn't involve a large oxygen separation plant. For example, chemical looping gasification, or better techniques for oxygen separation via membranes.

Not all the corn grown is food grade corn anyway...

The leftorvers from production are still used for cattle feed.

Corn is cheap, corn is in production and farmers have the equipment to plant, spray, harvest it etc.
They may not for other crops.

Even if the price goes up so what.

Barrel of oil 42 gallons $70+
1 gallon of gas $3+

1 bushel of corn 56 lbs $2 +/-
bag of corn chips 6 ounces $.75 = $2 per lb
= $112 per bushel

That is a 5600% mark up.

yet how many people compalin about the price of corn?


Regarding an earlier comment about beets and potatoes. It should now be obvious why we use corn vs beetsand potatoes. It's called the corn lobby. If it weren't for that lobby, we wouldn't be talking about corn.

An Engineer:
The hydrogen could be used to produce chemicals, like fertilizer. Sugar beets are nice, but sweet sorghum is way better (less water usage, 1.9 vs 3.4-6.1 energy balance).
____Algae oil could be used to at least sequester the carbon in the atmosphere. At most, they may be used to fuel the world. High efficiency solar cells may also push us across the finish line along with efficiency/ productivity gains.
____Another point was that we had a bumper crop of corn last year (and the year before). Some storage facilities ran out of room, and had to store the corn outside on plastic tarps.

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