Posted by: carlbrannen | September 14, 2008

A Tasty Ethanol Accident: GladCorn

I dropped by the Big-R ranch supply store in Moses Lake to pick up some #10 wire to fix a Hyster Challenger 150 propane forklift, and while I was standing in line, saw a display for GladCorn, a snack food:

What caught my eye is the story behind the stuff:

It was a quiet night on our farm. Stan was in the kitchen, working on a new ethanol fuel recipe. Gladys was catching up on some reading. Stan stepped into the living room for a moment while a batch heated up on the stove. Suddenly, KABOOM! Stan and Gladys came running. There was exploded corn all over the kitchen! Being the inquisitive type, Stan was more interested in tasting the stuff than cleaning up or explaining to Gladys – though by now she had gotten somewhat used to this sort of thing. While it didn’t look like much, he discovered that it was about the best tasting stuff he’d ever eaten!

Of course I noticed the word “ethanol” so I had to buy a bag of the treat (4oz for $1.69 for 4 oz). It’s made from yellow field, or dent corn, rather than popcorn, plus soybean oil and salt. About halfway between popcorn and “Corn Nuts” both in size and in the degree of fluffiness. And the yellow color distinguishes it from popcorn.
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Posted by: carlbrannen | August 21, 2008

Bombs in Grant County

Grant County has something like 30,000 people. How many bomb incidents do you suppose a rural county that size could generate? We’ve had 5 serious pipe bomb incidents recently, 4 of them in August alone, and 2 fatalities.

To put this into perspective, in Northern Ireland, between 1998 and 2002, 4 people were killed by pipe bombs. Of these, the authorities think that 2 were targets and 2 were manufacturers.

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Posted by: carlbrannen | May 1, 2008

Water, Assault, and Sudoku at Moses Lake

Our ethanol plant is in Moses Lake, Washington. I haven’t moved there yet so I when I need to do things over here I stay in a hotel. Right now, the boss is picking the hotel so I’m staying at the ritzy Shilo Inn; let me see if I can get a picture in at the end of the post.

Yesterday’s front page news from ML, as reported by the Columbia Basin Herald:
Front page, Columbia Basin Herald, April 30, 2008


The “Columbia basin” is the part of Eastern Washington that drains into the Columbia River. The Columbia river provides the irrigation water used in the farming region here, which was reclaimed from the desert and is called the “Columbia Basin Reclamation Project”. The project consists of dams that make electricity and provide irrigation water here.
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Posted by: carlbrannen | April 30, 2008

US Gasoline Consumption Decreases

There’s a certain hope that high gasoline prices will lead to a reduction in gasoline usage and this will bring in a new era of conservation in the United States. Recent fuel prices have the Presidential candidates talking about how they’re going to reduce prices. So fuel prices are high enough to start conservation?

Prices have been high now for several months, and the new data is out. Yes, the public is using less gasoline, but it ain’t much less, from the US Department of Energy
Short‐Term Energy Outlook Supplement: Motor Gasoline Consumption 2008
, US consumption of gasoline will decrease by 0.1% in 2008 over 2007. An increase in ethanol means that the average Btu in a gallon has gone down 0.5%, so the net decrease is 0.6%.

And why is consumption so little changed? It’s because the price of gas isn’t very high. It’s close to unchanged since 1945:
US Gasoline Prices 1946 to 2007

So what does this tell us about the future? I’ll make a guess on the supply demand curve for gasoline:
Price of gasoline as a function of supply, guess by Carl Brannen
Why? See below the fold.
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Posted by: carlbrannen | April 25, 2008

Pimental and Corn Ethanol Fuel

Back in 2001, David Pimental, a professor of entomology at Cornell, published a paper which concluded, among many other wrong things, that it takes 131,000 BTUs of energy to make a gallon of ethanol, which has energy content of only 77,000 BTUs.

You would think that pronouncements by entomology professors on the subject of the manufacture of ethanol would be ignored but due to the surprising conclusion of the paper, it received a great deal of press and it continues to receive press, being quoted by right wing commentators who wish to eliminate government subsidies , and by left wing commentators who wish to see industry reduced and “factory farming” eliminated.

The faulty calculations of Pimental’s silly paper have been repeatedly blasted in the literature, and less often in the press, but the average person doesn’t have the time to learn enough engineering, physics, chemistry, biology and economics to understand these papers. Rather, people tend to believe the tales they are told based on their estimate of the sanity of the person who does the telling. To give the reader a better idea of who Pimental is, I’ve collected a few of his other papers here. He’s a deep ecologist, a modern Malthusian. Enjoy:

Contamination of water, air and soil leads to 40 percent of the planet’s death toll, according to a study conducted by Prof. David Pimentel, ecology and evolutionary Biology.

Food, Land, Population and the U.S. Economy (1994):

Reducing the U.S. population to 200 million, while reducing the consumption of energy and other resources by one-half, is a first difficult step. Then, with the effective development of solar energy technologies, a quality of life similar to that of our European friends would be possible.

Also see Ecology of Increasing Disease

Oddly enough, Pimental is in favor of genetically modified organisms: Genetically Modified Crops and the Agroecosystem: …

Posted by: carlbrannen | October 11, 2007

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