Opposing Views: Ethanol from Coal, Natural Gas, and Coke; not from Corn

We have previously cited the Carbon conversion work of the University of Houston's Professor Michael Economides.

We have also, in several of our previous reports, demonstrated that, if we want and need the liquid fuel, Ethanol, and there are some good ways and reasons to use it, then it would be far better to manufacture Ethanol from Coal, than to devote agricultural land, and what might otherwise be desperately needed food crops, to it's production.

Synthesizing Ethanol from Coal, counter to what might be popular misperceptions, requires less energy and generates, overall, less Carbon Dioxide than does, with all of the process steps involved, the traditional  route of producing Ethanol via farming, fermenting and distilling.

In fact, one advance excerpt confirms a fact we have, from other sources, previously documented.

As in: "it takes 1.6 gallons of gasoline equivalent to produce one gallon of corn-based ethanol", not only does Corn ethanol cost more, in terms of energy equivalents, than current alternatives, such energy expenditure, through the use of fossil fuels for such things as farm tractors and distilleries, also leads to the generation of more Carbon Dioxide than would just using fossil liquid fuels in the applications where the agricultural Ethanol is supposed serve as a replacement.

We have already documented those facts concerning Ethanol in the long course of our reportage; but, herein, the authoritative Dr.Economides sums more of it up.

Comment follows excerpts from the enclosed link to:

"Ethanol from Coal, Natural Gas, and Coke; not from Corn

Opinion by M. Economides

Dr. Economides is the editor-in-chief of the Energy Tribune and a professor at the University of Houston.

Every so often a real solution to a national or international problem emerges to append the popular and politically-correct – but almost certainly wrong – hype of the day.

The November 9th announcement that Dallas-based Celanese Corporation has developed an “innovative process technology … to produce ethanol using basic hydrocarbon feedstocks” surely fits the bill. For this new process, anything from coal to natural gas to petroleum coke can be used; it’s that simple.

Within the industry, corn-based ethanol has been widely regarded as a disastrous failure. The agricultural lobby of course supports it, propagating what my colleague Robert Bryce has routinely called the “ethanol scam.”

With an adverse impact on food prices, this ethanol is also highly-inefficient. For example, it takes 1.6 gallons of gasoline equivalent to produce one gallon of corn-based ethanol using today’s technology. In addition, if we used all of the corn grown in the U.S. to produce ethanol for gasoline use, it would amount to roughly 20 percent of our gasoline demand.

There is nothing wrong with using ethanol as a gasoline additive to make up to 10 percent of our fuel blends. After all, it’s a necessary ingredient to boost the performance of conventional gasoline. This performance enhancement used to be derived from the highly-discredited tetra-ethyl lead back in the 1970s and earlier, followed by MTBE, which also has been recently outlawed.

Advocates of corn-based ethanol, however, have not been satisfied with ethanol comprising even 15 percent of fuel blends (the recently announced E15 standard), and are actually suggesting a larger percentage.

Celanese’s announcement is a game-changer though. With ethanol production now being suggested for industrial use, the entire notion of corn-based ethanol can be thrown on its head. This new technology can produce massive quantities of ethanol using an economically- advantageous process, one that would readily fulfill global needs without resorting to corn-based ethanol.

It is also not surprising that Celanese will begin production in China. The company plans to start with one industrial complex and then potentially expand with the construction of a second facility. Each one will produce approximately 400,000 tons of ethanol per year. Combined, the two facilities could provide more than 25 percent of China’s current ethanol demand of 3 million tons per year. This demand, moreover, is expected to grow 10 percent per year.

The feedstock for the Chinese plants will be coal ... .

The U.S. will also benefit from this new technological innovation in several ways. A 40,000 ton industrial ethanol production unit is set to be built at Celanese’s Clear Lake, Texas facility. In this case, natural gas will be the feedstock. And, as a change of pace, this discovery is a reversal of the too often-repeated trend of China selling a good or service to America.

In essence, this breakthrough is a deployment of the quintessential American strength and technological ingenuity. This new technology is a real energy solution, and one thankfully poised to put a stop to the growing use of environmentally-malignant and economically-harmful corn-based ethanol.

Celanese chairman and chief executive officer, Dave Weidman, stated, “While we [Celanese] are focusing on industrial uses at this time, we are also exploring opportunities to apply this technology to fuel ethanol applications in regions where the commercial environment is supportive.”

This is indeed a solution to our varied energy challenges. Corn-based ethanol creates food price volatility worldwide, damages the environment and costs American taxpayers a hefty amount to subsidize.

Finally, a new innovative process has emerged to put the ethanol scam to rest. U.S. consumers and businesses should be thankful for Celanese’s ingenuity, for it is the embodiment of what America does best: discovering new technologies for the betterment of our future."


In brief, it costs less, in terms of money and Carbon emissions, to make Ethanol, as Economides confirms and as China is, on a practical industrial basis, demonstrating, out of Coal, than it does to make it out of Corn and other agricultural produce.

And, we further remind you of some of our earlier reports, wherein we documented that, if preferred, we can convert Ethanol, just as we can convert Coal- or CO2-based Methanol, into Gasoline.

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