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Article:Methanol -- Ethanol's Sister Product

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Methanol -- Ethanol's Sister Product

'Ethanol can be an even more effective energy alternative to petroleum if the unused portion of the crop are used to create methanol.'

by Bob (Excalibur R. FreedomReb)ExcaliburReb@excite.com, Feb. 26, 2006

for PESWiki

With [• editorial comments] inserted by PES Network editor, Mary-Sue Haliburton

Image:Ethanol Methanol molecules labeled hj85.jpg

The world is facing an energy crisis. The race is on to find alternative sources of fuel that can produce enough energy to maintain our standard of living in this present economy.

One suggested alternative fuel source, ethanol, has in some cases has proven to be a viable alternative to petroleum, though the overall efficiencies are still extensively debated. Ethanol is essentially a biological plant-based solar-collection system. In order to burn it at 100% efficiency, some re-engineering of engines would be required.. There is a way that more energy can be harvested from the biological sources: to extract methanol from the portions of the plant that are not used to create ethanol.

One of the sources of ethanol is corn. But consider this: the corn ears have to be harvested kernels before they are fully mature as a food. [• This whole sentence is questionable. Are you sure about this? It may depend on the variety some immature corn would not have developed its full sugar content in order to brew the alcohol from it.]

: Have you ever had the privilege of digging out silage out of a barn silo? I have ....you can walk away pretty drunk. Ethanol is what is being breathed in and the smell and taste is not much different than moonshine. The corn that is planted for ethanol is mostly field corn. The corn they harvest for silage the at the same stage (including the sugar content) as that which is harvested for the production of ethanol (Excalibur R. FreedomReb)

None the less, the farmer gets only one return cash for his crop.

However, if the farmer, can also collect the corn stalks and then sell them to the producers of methanol, he has a second cash influx from the same crop, making for a better return on the inputs invested.

The industry which produces farm implements would have to develop new machinery to harvest the stalks separately. That can be seen as an added industry for our struggling economy. [• References? There are harvesting machines for many types of crops – there might already be a suitable machine that can chew up and pack these into big plastic rounds or blocks.]

: There are at least two maybe three types of farm implements that would be used to harvest the dry stalks. If the farmer was to bail up the corn stalks there will have to be further development of the bailer to be able to handle corn stalks instead of just hay or straw. Also the rake that is normally used to rake the hay might have to go thru some evolution to be able to rake the cornstalks in proper fashion for the bailer to pick it up. Another way (and I think this one would prove less time consuming) is to develop an implement to be towed behind the combine to catch the cornstalk. And I would challenge the editor to contact the John Deere Company or the McCormick - International Harvester Company if she really believes these implements already exist.(Excalibur R. FreedomReb)

[•This article is suggesting that methanol should also be used in combination with ethanol, and that mixed with gasoline would extend the fuel supply. Why not harness the energy potential of methanol too?]

Not only is biomass for brewing methanol more readily available and greater in quantity than kernels from which ethanol is brewed, it is also self-renewable. [• I question the latter part. The harvested stalks cannot be “self -renewable"-- in logical terms, once used they are gone, not even returned to the land as compost…,] In fact, a supply of methanol is being produced naturally every day. [•Can you explain this more fully? Does this mean, “Methanol is being produced by natural fermentation in compost anyway, but not being collected or used"? • I feel that some further information is required here. What is the difference between methanol and methane? Often it’s methane that is being given off by decay of dead vegetation.]

Sources of methanol are almost endless: Grass clippings, raked leaves in the fall, wood chips, and everyday kitchen waste. [• You have to specify “wet waste" here, which entails garbage separation by the “producers" i.e. the households and businesses that prepare food. I’ve actually seen sloppy reporting on TV saying that methane can be extracted from waste, and showing footage of household appliances and other metal components! You can’t brew fuel from those!] Look at cities like New York. They produce more trash than they know what to do with. Think about it instead of burning leaves in the fall you harvest them, collect them, and sell them to producers of methanol. The earth naturally produces methanol, regularly. Volcanoes or any hydrothermal region is a source of methanol.

What are the differences between ethanol and methanol? Methanol is less expensive to produce than ethanol. However, ethanol yields more energy and therefore better mileage results from burning it. Dr. Robert Zubrin, president of the aerospace engineering and research firm Pioneer Astronautics writes:

: "Methanol is cheaper than ethanol. It can also be made from a broader variety of biomass material, as well as from coal and natural gas. And methanol is the safest motor fuel, because it is much less flammable than gasoline (a fact that has led to its adoption by car racing leagues). [• Re Why would we want to get methanol out of coal? How is it different from kerosene, coal oil?] Methanol is methanol. Methanol from coal is has the same properties as methanol from any other source. The only difference is that it cost less to produce methanol from coal than any other source. Methanol is the primitive building block for petroleum (in other words before petroleum could come into existence there first had to be the production of methane (which is methanol). [Methane is different from methanol. Also I don't think synthesis of gasoline from cola foes through methane or methanol steps] Visit the following website for more information: http://www.iags.org/n071204t2.htm (Excalibur R. FreedomReb)

: "On the other hand, ethanol is less chemically toxic than methanol, and it carries more energy per gallon. Ethanol contains about 75 percent of the energy of gasoline per gallon, compared to 67 percent for methanol. Both thus achieve fewer miles per gallon than gasoline, but about as many miles per dollar at current prices, and probably many more miles per dollar at future prices." [• How much CO2 is emitted from burning methanol, and likewise how much is emitted from ethanol? How much CO2 is emitted from burning the same quantity of gasoline? And to obtain the same power, how much CO2 would come from burning the greater amounts of the two alcohols that would be required to get the same energy from a given (lesser) amount of gasoline?]

:: Every green plant (trees, grass, etc.) needs CO2 (carbon dioxide) to produce energy thru photosynthesis, releasing the by produce we all need which is oxygen.(Excalibur R. FreedomReb)

That entire article written by Dr. Robert Zubrin is well worth the read.

If we use ethanol alone, is there enough acreage in North America to keep us supplied? At “380 million gallons of gasoline a day" according to Dr. Zubrin’s estimation, I don’t think so! We should use ethanol in combination with methanol as there is an endless renewable supply.

[• "NO, there is no “endless renewable supply" of anything in nature!!! As I have pointed out previously, no such claim should ever be made. It all depends on the continued health of the soil, which is under threat due to chemical farming practices, soil erosion, climate change, drought, etc..]

:: “NO, there is no “endless renewable supply" of anything in nature!!!" Study the Laws of Thermodynamics. All plants and animals have a cycle of life, then there is death and decay. As long as there is the decay of that which is subject to death then there will always be the production of methane (which is where methanol comes from …infact you can it is correct to say that methane and methanol are one in the same) and endless supply by nature. “NO, ‘endless renewable supply’ of anything in nature!!!" How many landfills do we have in this country? How much garbage do cities like New York have to deal with, not to mention all of the other cities, towns, and country communities? Do people stop mowing their lawns? Do the leaves stop shedding their leaves in the fall? (Excalibur R. FreedomReb)

::Is the editor a chemist or even a farmer? Have you ever had the privilege of digging out silage out of a barn silo? I have ....you can walk away pretty drunk. The corn that is planted for ethanol is mostly field corn. Field corn gives a better yield that sweet corn. I can image they could also use the green stalks of sweet corn after it is harvested. When the field corn is harvested for the production of ethanol it is all harvested green. Field corn is not grown for table consumption like sweet corn is. Normally it is harvested after it is fully ripe and the stalks are fully dry (or like wood for those among you who are not farmers). (Excalibur R. FreedomReb)

Related Sites

Some websites explaining some of the pros and cons of Ethanol v. Methanol

Methanol vs. Ethanol… http://listserv.repp.org/pipermail/stoves/2000-September/005638.html

Ethanol vs. Methanol: http://domesticfuel.com/?p=196

The Methanol Economy - "We were co-inventors of the direct methanol fuel cell. This fuel cell uses methanol and produces CO2 and water. It occurred to us that maybe you could reverse the process. And, indeed, you can take carbon dioxide and water, and if you have electric power, you can chemically reduce it into methanol." (MIT Technology Review March 2, 2006)

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