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Truth versus Guns

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Energy Abundance
The Ethanol Fraud

Rolf A. F. Witzsche - July 1, 2006

The great push to 'enhance' gasoline in the USA
 and in other countries
 with biological energy distilled into ethanol
 is a fraud. 


It is a fraud for the reason that the process of producing the ethanol - for example growing corn, harvesting it, distilling it into ethanol, and disposing the waste - requires a greater fossil-fuel-energy input than the ethanol gives back by burning it. The factor for the energy loss in the process for producing ethanol energy ranges between from a staggering 29% for ethanol derived from corn, 45% for it being derived from switchgrass, all the way up 57% when it is produced from wood biomasss. (See article: Ethanol Takes More Energy Than It Gives, by Marjorie Mazel Hecht)

But the energy loss is only a part of the fraud by which nothing is gained (except some hefty profits for a few, mostly the big cartels). The ethanol fraud is an immense crime that is wrecking the food supply system of the planet. 

In a hungry world, the 'rich' in insanity, the imperial rulers of the western world, are driving society to convert its food products into an expensive and useless motor fuel that takes more energy to produce than it gives back, and uses up vast water resources and land resources. That's an efficient way indeed, to wreck the world food supply. Unfortunately, that is what is happening! The poor are dying under this yoke while the real energy resources of America and the world remain unused and in some cases unknown. 

The social consequences are staggering. Since Ethanol fuels are inherently uneconomical. It costs (everything considered) $7.24 a gallon to produce and sells for roughly equal in price with gasoline as the $2.75 mark. The difference is made up by federal subsidies and the direct and indirect costs that farmers have to bear.  The pressure for bringing the cost for inputs down is put on the shoulders of the poorest of the poor who are 'forced' into slave-labour type conditions for biomass production under which they are literally worked to death. See: Ethanol Slavery

The end result is a fuel that costs more far more than gasoline, since far more energy is required to produce it than it gives back. But it also gives the user far less energy per gallon than gasoline does. The power that drives your car is produced by heat energy. In the combustion process air is rapidly heated that thereby expands and drives the mechanisms of your automobile engine. The produced power is the direct result of the heat energy generated by the fuel. A common measurement for heat energy is the "calorie" or in on the lager scale the kilocalorie. A kilocalorie is the amount of heat that is required to raise the temperature of one kilogram of water (2.2 pounds) by one degree centigrade. By this measurement the burning of one kilogram of gasoline produces about 10,500 kilocalories. However, the burning of one kilogram of ethanol produces only  7,140 kilocalories, or about 68% the energy of gasoline, while it costs several times more to produce. In comparison, hydrogen fuel produces 34,200 kilocalories per kilogram. That's more than 3 times the energy content by weight of gasoline, and nearly 5 times that of ethanol and could be produced for a fraction of the cost of gasoline, utilizing nuclear power. Nuclear power produces 2 million times the heat energy of gasoline, per kilogram, or 3 million times that of coal or ethanol. As a fuel per ton, burning ethanol is roughly equal to burning a ton of coal. That takes us back to the beginning of the coal age.  See: Ethanol: Not a Kernel of Science in It

In a very real way the Ethanol-biofuel madness is taking us to a lower state of energy-production efficiency. It takes us to a lower level than that achieved by the early civilizations that produced heat energy by burning straw. At least the ancient's realized a net energy output by burning straw. With Ethanol we have reached a lower point in that it costs us more energy to produce the energy that we get from it. That's negative 'economics.' That's utter insanity, isn't? It's a seven point madness:

  1. We get 20% less mileage.

  2. We pay a good deal more for the fuel as a society, with the price inflating much faster than the price of gasoline. 

  3. We spend tens of billions of dollars in tax revenues, subsidizing the ethanol producers that include some of the biggest global cartels. 

  4. We use up more petrochemical energy making ethanol than we get from it. 

  5. We use up large volumes of water making the ethanol, and much on that in water-scarce regions.

  6. We reduce or stop corn exports to nations that need corn for food. We even curtail our own consumption of corn to be able to burn it in our cars instead.

  7. And worst of all, we prevent the revival of nuclear power for industry and economic expansion.

If this isn't a great leap backwards, back to the primitive ages when mankind burned straw for fuel, what would qualify? It's hard to imagine a greater insanity. Ironically there is a long line-up of Congressmen and Senators standing for election who proudly stand before the public promoting this insanity. See: 'ETHANOL MADNESS' - End the Great 2006 Bio-Fuels Swindle

The American statesman and economist, Lyndon LaRouche, is committed to reversing this insanity and swindle. About LaRouche. It is a swindle indeed. Apart from the horrendous human cost and enormous energy consumption in producing ethanol, ethanol measures up to nothing in comparison with the flood of oil that is consumed (presently close to 100 million barrels a day). Brazil, the world leader in ethanol production has 500,000 workers employed to cut sugar cane in order to produce 70,000 barrels of alcohol-fuel per day, or 0.07 million barrels. What a waste in manpower resources!  

The co-called pollution factor is another element fraud. Ethanol is not pollution-free. A University of California report supposedly documents how the use of ethanol would result in higher concentrations of toxic air contaminants. In addition, the required increase in agricultural production would result in a staggering amount of land-use that would have to be taken way from other uses. Of course the irrigation requirements would take away water resources that are already insufficient to meet the current needs. We would also have an increased need for fertilizers and pesticides that would add to the burden. Increased use of pesticides will likely be needed when gigantically large mono-culture operations are run that would otherwise provide a perfect breeding ground for pest proliferation without that heavy pest control.

The economic impact of all of these factors, from land-use and manpower use, to energy-loss, makes the ethanol fuel a process of insanity of large proportions.

There is also still another factor involved, a real economic factor: There simply is no need for ethanol. The world is not facing an energy-deficiency crisis and never will. First of all there are enormous coal deposits presently available in the USA that could be readily concerted to motor fuel. During World War II Germany ran its entire war machine on synthetic fuel produced from coal.

In addition to that, the Canadian tar sands contain vast petroleum reserves (over 100 billion barrels) that makes Canada's deposits rival the Middle East. But vastly more than that is located in the shale oil deposits in the continental USA, primarily in Colorado. The shale oil deposits contain at least twice the world-total of all presently known conventional oil reserves. The USA all by itself, could supply the world's energy needs for hundreds of years. See:

Survey of energy resources - shale oil

More than 2 TRILLION barrels of oil

Of course there is no need for any of that. Nor will there ever be a need to utilize these deposits for motor fuels, because the world is rich in nuclear energy resources. Nuclear power is a non-polluting renewable power resource with the right fuel cycle.

Nuclear power has been produced from nuclear fission for the past fifty years with now 440 power plants in operation. Despite of the two accidents, one at Chernobyl in Russia, of a primitive graphite reactor, and the other at the Three Mile Island plant in the USA that some chalk up to sabotage, nuclear power is the cleanest and safest large-scale commercial power available on the planet, with the possible exception of hydroelectric power. But most of all, nuclear power is infinite in scale, and with an enormous energy density. 

In comparison, hydroelectric power is near the end of its expansion cycle. There is a limit to the number of dams that can be built, and that limit has been reached. Oil is also limited and will eventually run out, maybe in a hundred years, or it might even last to the start of the next Ice Age 100-150 years from now.  Of course, it become scarce long before it runs out. One way or the other, the oil age is largely over. The nuclear age has begun. The fuel resources for nuclear fission power are sufficiently available to last mankind for tens of thousands of years at the present rate of consumption. In fact the nuclear power potential has just barely begun to be developed, and that development has been artificially held back for several decades. Nevertheless we come a long way in terms of nuclear power development. The first generation reactor, like Chernobyl has been superseded three times. Nuclear power development is now in its 4th generation with many milestones crossed in advanced efficiency and safety. The leading edge nuclear reactors are now failsafe in principle and are essentially ready for full-scale production.

Over the next 50 years the need for energy use is expected to grow three-fold. Where would the supply come from. We are not talking about the Ice Age here, meaning the next 100,000-year deep freeze. We are talking about only the next 50 years. What do we need to get through the next 50 years? Let's assume (optimistically) that current oil production can be maintained and slightly increased to supply 1/3 of the energy need 50 years from now, and that the current hydroelectric potential can also be slightly increased to provide another third. This means that the remaining third of the expected increase has to come from nuclear sources. Right now nuclear provides 6% of the world's energy need. This amount would have to be increased 18-fold to make up for a third of the energy needs 50 years from now (app. 6000 new large-scale nuclear power plants in 1000 megawatt range - see: How To Build 6,000 Nuclear Plants by 2050). 

In real terms it probably unlikely that a world production of 100 million barrels of oil can be maintained for 50 years. We may be lucky if we get half that. In this case 9000 new nuclear plants will be needed. Of course, if the goal is to get away from dependence on oil altogether, some 12,000 new nuclear plants would be required. If we flinch in making the needed commitment today to put nuclear power on the table the world will drift back into an energy-lean mode in the near future that mankind may not survive, certainly not with the return of the Ice Age on the not so distant horizon.

Nuclear power is mankind's future. We will either take hold of it or have no future. There are certainly enough resources available to power that future.

 At the moment all nuclear power in the world is derived from 'burning' uranium U235, a rare fissionable isotope of uranium. The U235 is so rare that it takes 200 tons of natural uranium to produce one ton of U235 (the rest is non-fissionable U238). This means that only 0.5% of the natural uranium actually gets burned up at the present time in a nuclear fission reactor for producing power. This minuscule bit of the uranium that is being mined is nevertheless sufficient to meet 6% of the world's energy needs.  However, uranium is not the only fissionable element that can be used for producing nuclear power. Another one is thorium. However, thorium comes with two significant differences: 

One difference is that there are large deposits available worldwide. The major known deposits are shown below (in tons). 

300,000 Australia
290,000 India
170,000 Norway
160,000 United States
100,000 Canada
35,000 South Africa
16,000 Brazil 

The second major difference is that unlike natural uranium deposits, the entire thorium deposit that is available can be burned up. In other words, in a ton for ton comparison thorium provides theoretically 200 times as much energy as natural uranium, because the entire available supply of thorium can be burned up, instead of only 0.5% of the mined uranium for the current uranium powered nuclear reactors. In practice the factor for the thorium utilization may be lower. It might only be 40-50 times larger than uranium.

Natural thorium, with an atomic weight of 232, is a non-fissional stable element, but it can be easily activated by transmuting it into uranium-233, which actually fissions more efficiently than uranium-235 and with less unburned by-products in the spent fuel.

In a similar manner in which thorium can be 'activated' to become fissionable by infusing a neutron into its atomic structure, uranium U238 can be also be made fissionable artificially. This is done in a fast flux breeder reactor that transmutes uranium U238 into plutonium U239, a highly fissionable material that can likewise be burned as fuel. In short, all of today's atomic waste products are potentially a high-value fuel source should we care to utilize it. (see: Thorium: The Nuclear Fuel of the Future)

Most likely we will never go to the full utilization of the uranium route since the thorium fuel is so rich and much easier to utilize and produces significantly less waste.

Of course, in the near future we will develop beyond being dependent on nuclear fission power and may abandon it for still greener pastures as a much larger energy resource lies before us in the form of nuclear fusion

Instead of splitting atoms apart to extract energy, we bring them together in such a way that excess energy is shed in very large amounts. The current processes on the road to fusion power aim to fuse a mixture of tritium and deuterium (isotopes of hydrogen). The fusion of these unique hydrogen atoms can be achieved in extremely high temperature environments. Work is being done in several countries and also as a large international effort (ITER) to make the hydrogen fusion process a reality for power production. Since hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe, we do have an infinite supply at hand.

It is also possible to create a fusion reaction that is fuelled by light helium, helium-3, which promises to lend itself more easily to sustained fusion, perhaps as a first step. See: Heluin-3, the ideal fuel. Unfortunately, helium-3 is not found naturally on the earth. However it is known to exist in large quantities on the moon. The lunar deposits are said to be large enough to meet the needs of the whole of mankind for 10,000 years. And there are already plans being drawn up to establish permanent bases on the moon as a first step of extracting the helium-3 as an initial fusion fuel.

Nor does the energy development potential end here. The greatest energy resource that is presently envisioned is found in matter/antimatter reactions. There may be plenty of antimatter in space, possibly in the form of comets (not yet proven), which might be harvested in the far future once the problem of antimatter containment is solved. The available energy that can be drawn from this process is staggering. 

There is considerable speculation both in science and science fiction as to why the observable universe is apparently almost entirely matter, and whether other places are almost entirely antimatter instead, and what might be possible if antimatter could be harnessed. However, at the present time the apparent asymmetry of matter and antimatter in the visible universe is one of the great unsolved problems in physics.  

(Also see:">)

 Of course, we might never need antimatter as a power resource. If the the fusion technology that looks highly promising already comes on line in 50 years, it will likely make all other energy developments obsolete for a long time to come, including oil and nuclear fission, even thorium fission. Who needs a candle when one can have a sun. (Fusion energy was once deemed to power the sun, which is now understood to be an electric process of heating utilizing galactic plasma currents.) Also, who would need more than a sun? The energy potential for mankind's future is infinite for all practical purposes.

Burning food as motor fuel with vast resources on hand even now, that remain un-utilized, is a crime against humanity!

What we definitely do not need, or ever did need, is ethanol, which is an expensive, polluting, energy drain and a lousy motor fuel. The fact is we don't face an energy supply crisis at all for which we would have to resort to such nonsense. We will never have to face such a crisis living in a world of plenty. We can only face a crisis in terms of our intelligent development. 

No form of economic development is possible on the basis of an energy drain to produce energy, as in ethanol. That kind of insanity is of course not rooted in the real world, but is only found in the political realm where reality doesn't seem to count for anything anymore. In real economics the advance of civilization depends on evermore efficient power recourses, and that begins with nuclear fission that we have plenty of resources for (but definitely not with an energy drain). The advance of civilization requires power resources that are evermore energy-dense. This path towards an ever greater energy-dense economy is mapped out by nuclear fission as a starting point, followed by nuclear fusion, and possibly in the far distant future by antimatter/mater reaction.

Ethanol would take us a giant step the wrong way. The minuscule energy that it produces, or could ever produce, created at a great cost and great land areas to produce the input for it would put us far into the negative realm in terms of energy density and cost. The same negative 'quality' is found in windmills and solar cells. One would have to plaster over the entire Sahara dessert with solar cells to provide enough power to power a single city the size of London. Solar cells are useful in spacecraft application where room is not a problem, and cost is not an issue and there is plenty of sunshine. But as an energy resource, it still puts us into negative territory as it takes more energy input to produce a solar cell than it will give back in its lifetime. Solar-cell power, just like ethanol, is simply just another expensive energy drain rather than a net-energy producer. The same must be said for windmills. There simply isn't enough of a wind-resource in any part of the world to power a large city and all of its transportation requirements, not to mention powering industries and airplanes. 

Geothermal energy fairs quite a bit better, as it is is at least a net energy producer. Nevertheless, it is also a low-density energy resource. It might be possible to develop some more efficient processes in the future, but why should we do this if nuclear power is vastly more energy-dense and so much easier to achieve? Why should we struggle to create a glorified candle when we have to potential to light up a sun?

And the sun is what we need. Civilization is the result of mankind stepping beyond the limited world. We've become powered with the resources of our humanity as explorers and discoverers, and developers of technologies that enable us to become creators of new resources and vastly greater resources. Civilization is something that does not exist naturally. It is manmade because the primitive earth is simply too 'small' without the enriching processes of mankind. Without large scale energy production very few people living today would be able to survive, and far fewer than those would make it through the next Ice Age when "living of the land" supports only 1-10 million people worldwide and in a rather precarious manner.

About LaRouche - the American economist and statesman that has become a legend in our time in the fight to advance civilization, protect mankind, and create a new renaissance: 

" We are at a point in world history. 
At the present time, the international monetary financial system
of the world is in the process of disintegration. That does not mean the end of the world. It means that we either make certain changes, or this
planet will go in fact into a prolonged new dark age, comparable
to what happened to Europe during the middle to late part of the
14th century." (LaRouche, June 15, 2006)

About the series:  Truth versus Guns,
 presented by Rolf A. F. Witzsche

About Rolf A. F. Witzsche


Rolf A. F. Witzsche, is an independent researcher, publisher, and author of eleven novels. The novels are focused on exploring the Principle of Universal Love, the principle that is reflected to some degree in every bright period throughout history, with the added challenge for today to give our universal love an active expression with a type of 'Universal Kiss' for all mankind. 

Novels by Rolf Witzsche

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