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Re: E-M:/ Get ready for coal-fired ethanol plants



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Enviro-Mich message from "Alexander J. Sagady" <ajs@sagady.com>
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At 10:46 AM 03/02/2006, you wrote:
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>Enviro-Mich message from "Mark Richardson" <Mark.Richardson@macombcountymi.gov>
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>I'm asking myself these questions:
>
>1) Is there likely to be any net energy savings from using ethanol for a percentage of transportation fuel, given the energy expended in mining and transporting coal, and growing and transporting corn and other feedstocks?

There are conflicting studies out there, although USDA & DOE appear to give 
their blessings on the validity of net energy production.

>2) Is there likely to be any net environmental improvement from using ethanol, given the tradeoffs between reductions in pollution from vehicles and increased pollution from ethanol plants and further up the fuel manufacturing chain?

That is a complex question because ethanol changes the mix of hazardous air pollutants
emitted by vehicles....if memory serves me correctly it is more aldehydes with ethanol and less 1,3-butadiene & benzene....
....kind of exchanging one set of carcinogens for a weaker set of carcinogens, but the weaker carcinogens
are also know pulmonary irritants/toxicants (formaldehyde and acetaldehyde).

In the distant past I saw something about how ethanol increases summertime evaporative
volatile organic compound emissions from vehicles....and that is bad news.   Ethanol does 
decrease wintertime carbon monoxide emissions, but most problematic carbon monoxide 
nonattainment areas in the US have disappeared.

The ethanol plants themselves emit a variety of common and hazardous pollutants, including 
volatile organic compounds, nitrogen oxides and particulate matter.

Ethanol as a gasoline additive is less toxic than methyl tertiary butyl ether, the oxygenate 
gasoline additive it replaced.  MTBE has become a nationwide groundwater problem....that
is a real tribute to the fact that we don't have a good system of technology assessment
prior to widespread adoption in this country.

Corn production is a significant consumer of energy and is high impact for water pollution, 
including nutrients and sediment.

The entire agriculture system is messed up.   We give taxpayer subsidies to farmers to 
grow corn that cannot be used without giving taxpayer susidies to build ethanol plants.  We
do use corn to produce corn sweeteners, but this is a product that undeniably 
contributes to the United States epidemic of diabetes.

However....even considering all of the above....I'm personally considering installing a 
corn-burning/biomass/pellet burning furnace in my house if I can ever scrape some 
spare cash together.


>3)  Is there likely to be any net economic benefit from using ethanol, given the cost of manufacturing ethanol and the increase in cost of coal resulting from increased demand due to a host of factors?
>I'm suspecting the only real benefit of using ethanol is decreasing our dependance on foreign oil, but maybe even that is open to question.

The agriculture sector benefits by increasing the demand for corn.   There will be many 
losers, however.   The ethanol industry probably wouldn't exist without taxpayer subsidies
and these plants and such subsidies are being vigorously promoted by a high powered lobby.

Ethanol plants may decrease "dependance on foreign oil" at the expense of increasing 
dependance on foreign natural gas and putting upward price pressures from demand for
natural gas on home heating owners.   By the way, I don't know what folks were thinking 
with all of the emphasis on natural gas-fired power plants and ethanol plants.   Could anything 
other than highly escalating natural gas prices be the result?   Your garden variety ethanol 
plant that is gas-fired might have a total of 100-130 million BTU/hr natural gas fired boilers and thermal 
oxidizers.    Your typical American citizen is probably not aware that there are many 
liquified natural gas terminals presently being constructed in coastal areas of the United States
for the purpose of bringing in liquified natural gas in tanker ships.....with a large chunk from the 
middle east.

The way to deal with biomass liquid fuels for oil replacement is to consider 
biomass diesel replacement and production of methanol from biological digestion of waste
wood.  The latter requires more research and technical development of enzymes
before it will be commercially viable.   Waste wood can also be gasified via high pressure/temperature
gasifiers to make both synthetic gas and methanol.   There isn't any shortage of waste wood
and this is clearly a renewable resource.






>>>> "Alex J. Sagady & Associates" <ajs@sagady.com> 03/01/06 6:02 PM >>>
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>Enviro-Mich message from "Alex J. Sagady & Associates" <ajs@sagady.com>
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>
>OK Michigan....courtesy of the BUSH EPA....get ready for 
>a spate of coal-fired ethanol plants.  EPA is proposing to 
>relax Clean Air Act new source review rules for fuel-ethanol 
>plants by declaring the major stationary source level for 
>such plants to be 250 tons per year rather than the current 
>100 tons per year.   
>
>This will encourage large, but poorly controlled coal-fired ethanol plants
>in the midwest, including Michigan.   Under the proposed EPA
>rules, ethanol plants emitting less than 250 tons of any criteria 
>pollutant will no longer have to ensure that facilities are controlled 
>with best available control technology and to evaluate air quality 
>impacts around the plants.
>
>This is another example of big time agriculture trying to extend influence
>to allow high impact facilities that are also subsidized with taxpayer dollars.
>
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>Alex J. Sagady & Associates        http://www.sagady.com 
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>Environmental Enforcement, Permit/Technical Review, Public Policy, 
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>657 Spartan Ave,  East Lansing, MI  48823  
>(517) 332-6971; (517) 332-8987 (fax); ajs@sagady.com 
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==========================================
Alex J. Sagady & Associates        http://www.sagady.com

Environmental Enforcement, Permit/Technical Review, Public Policy, 
Evidence Review and Litigation Investigation on Air, Water and 
Waste/Community Environmental and Resource Protection
Prospectus at:  http://www.sagady.com/sagady.pdf 

657 Spartan Ave,  East Lansing, MI  48823  
(517) 332-6971; (517) 332-8987 (fax); ajs@sagady.com
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