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Fwd: E-M:/ blog on cellulosic ethanol


After I saw the "Mass Coma" article in Michigan Messenger, I did some calcu's.  Did our Governor look at the math before she spent our tax dollars.

Waste wood wouldn't get you anywhere.  According to the article this one Mascoma plant would  cut 375,000 cords of wood to get 40 million gallons of fuel per year.  A cord is roughly a stack of wood 4' tall and 4'wide by 8'long.  To meet our current consumption we'd need to convert our forest en-mass to "bio-fuel" plantations.

Here are the "fun" facts:

At about 19 cords of wood per acre this plant will need 1 MILLION acres of forest to feed it. (I'm figuring clearcutting an aspen stand at 50 years and using FIA 93 data for NLP, use your own figures if you'd like, it wouldn't help the conclusion much).

That's for one plant and 40 million gallons.

So how much fuel do we use in Michigan?  Go to 

The state government estimated 2008 usage as:
-4,252,200,000 gallons for motor fuel and 
-1,050,900,000 gallons for diesel
=5,303,100,000 total (that a lot zero, 5.3 billon gallons)

How much forest do we need to fuel our fleet?  131 million acres!!  

That's more than 7 times the forest we have in Michigan.  Michigan only has 18.6 million acres of timber land (commercially productive forest as of 1993, likely more today, but not 120 million more, there's only 37 million acres in all of Michigan).

I'm not vouching for any of these figures, just doing the math.

More fun?  What say we only replace 10% of our transport fuel?  That's ONLY 13 million acres.  So the question is, should we could  convert 70 percent of our forests (public and private) to aspen clearcuts on a 50 year rotation, for only 10 % of our fuel?

How about growth, Michigan grows more trees than we cut (thank God), what if you took all that growth and converted it each year to fuel?  Net growth in 1993 was 11,772,152 cords (likely a little more now).  What does that get us?  23.7% of our fuel demands.

That's ALL of our growth, nothing for wildlife, nothing for habitat (unless you are a species that likes short rotation coppice plantations).  As a side note, Aspen forests were originally (circa 1800, see Atlas of Early Michigan, MSU press 2008) less than 1 % our our forest. 

That would leave no growth to be reinvested in soil, or habitat, let alone anything for 2x4's or OSB.  No forest product industry, devastating effects on forest recreation, and massive wave of extinctions as habitat is converted to fuel plantations.

We really will need to be in a "Mass Coma" to do this.

Governor Granholm what are you thinking?  

Tim Flynn

On Mar 13, 2009, at 11:07 AM, Perry R Godwin wrote:

I thought the idea behind cellulosic ethanol was to produce it from waste byproducts such as sawdust, wood chips, corn stalks, or grown crops such as switch grass.  Cutting down trees to make ethanol makes no more sense than growing corn to produce ethanol from the ears.


Perry Godwin,

Head Physics Lab Technician,

Lansing Community College

Email: godwip@lcc.edu

Work: (517) 483-9653

Cell: (517) 927-2155

Pgr: (517) 232-0278

Fax: (517) 483-1003


From: owner-enviro-mich@great-lakes.net [mailto:owner-enviro-mich@great-lakes.net] On Behalf Of Cynthia Price
Sent: Friday, March 13, 2009 10:32 AM
To: enviro-mich
Subject: E-M:/ blog on cellulosic ethanol


Someone who used to be on this list sent me this link, and I found it very interesting, though I can't vouch for its accuracy. It concerns the probability that there will not be enough wood to make much difference with cellulosic ethanol, and focuses on the Michigan plant.



That's the lesson Michigan is learning as forestry experts question whether the state can grow enough timber to support what could be the nation's first cellulosic ethanol plant producing commercially viable biofuel from wood."


Cynthia Price
Greater Grand Rapids Food Systems Council