Make Your Own Ethanol For Less Than $1 Per Gallon

With gas prices rising to record highs, individuals are looking for ways to cut that cost and one company are ready to give it to them. A California based company, E-fuel Corporation has just announced their newest product, a do-it-yourself home ethanol refinery. The Efuel100 home ethanol system is about the size of a refrigerator and can produce about 35 gallons of pure ethanol in just under seven days. While the company   boast about how simple, cheap and effective the small refinery is, the simple facts just don’t seem to be adding up.

The process requires massive amounts of sugar, water and about $1 worth of a proprietary yeast developed by the company. Approximately 350 to 490 pounds of raw sugar and about 140 gallons of water are needed to make one 35 gallon batch of ethanol. If you factor in the cost of the $10,000 refinery, the travel cost to pickup 400 pounds of sugar every week and water and electricity, I have a strong feeling that $1 per gallon is a pipe dream.

As we have stated many times before, food based ethanol is a bad idea, even on a small scale like this. Chances are, this type of small scale ethanol production will only drive up the cost of raw sugar making the mini refinery less economical and disrupting food prices world wide.

via Wired

Algae Biofuel No Longer a Pipe Dream

In the past, we have talked a lot about corn ethanol and the fact that it is actually worse for the environment than just using gasoline. Unfortunately, the average person believes that corn ethanol and commercial biodiesel is a good thing, but of course if you really research it, it is not. Because of this common misconception, the most recent energy bill was stripped of significant alternative energy provisions in favor of biofuel subsidies. This has hurt the environment in more ways than one and quite honestly I was a bit upset.

Now in the midst of this large biofuel push, I had heard about algae and how it can be used to produce biodiesel as well as ethanol with little to no harm to the environment. Considering that when I first heard about it, it was still being tested, so in my mind this was still a bit of a pipe dream and I didn’t think we would see this technology commercially for another 5 to 10 years. However, PetroSun’s most recent press release announced the actual commencement of operations of the first algae-to-biofuel plant. This comes as a bit of a surprise, but a very nice one considering the huge environmental benefits of microalgae biofuel over typical corn, soy and sunflower biofuels. Here are just some of the fact about microalgae biofuel for you to think about:

* MicroAlgae produces 30-100 times more oil per acre than corn and soybeans
* MicroAlgae biofuel contains NO sulfur
* MicroAlgae biofuel is non-toxic
* MicroAlgae biofuel is highly biodegradable
* MicroAlgae biofuel can be used in existing engines (without modifications)
* MicroAlgae biofuel can be mixed with conventional petroleum at any ratio. As a result, this biofuel can use existing distribution infrastructure.

I honestly cannot find anything negative about this microalgae biofuel. It’s the cleanest fuel I have ever seen and the only waste product (not really) from it is biomass after the algae has been pressed for its oil. This biomass can either be used as a protein supplement in cow feed or it can be fermented into ethanol. Not only that, but PetroSun is also finding new ways to use the waste heat and CO2 from industrial smoke stacks to help grow this algae, sequestering the excess CO2.

Until I find out otherwise, MicroAlgae gets two thumbs up from me and a big seal of approval!

Corn Ethanol: Not All It’s Cracked Up To Be

While car manufactures, big agribusiness and our good ol’ president are pushing corn ethanol, toting it as the wonder fuel of the future, real scientist and professionals have a different take. According to recent studies, the only ones who will ultimately benefit will be the large agribusinesses like Archer Daniels Midland, as they suck small farmers dry and make a killing from all of the government subsidies.

The simple fact is this: Corn ethanol is 4 times less efficient than gasoline. Yes I said it, gasoline is actually better for the environment than corn ethanol. It takes over 110 gallons of gasoline to work 1 acre of land to produce ethanol. In other words while gasoline has a return of 5 times the energy that is put in to refining it, ethanol only has a return of 1.3 times.

Not only will farmers lose, but the global hunger issue will worsen as more and more farmers switch to corn for ethanol. This will cause the price of other agricultural products as well as corn, to rise and cause a massive increase in the number of chronically hungry people.

For a more graphical example of this study, have a look over at and look at their take on Corn Ethanol.

The Government Attacks Biodiesel And Its Users!

There have been a few different stories in the news recently showing how the government is giving biodiesel and its users a very hard time, from actually banning it all together in one state to giving out $2000 in fines to biodiesel users.

It all started back in December of 2006 when the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) decided to place a ban on biodiesel due to the fact that at that time the Nitrogen Oxide (NOx) emissions of biodiesel were 10% higher than that of regular gasoline. The TCEQ enforced a previously established set of regulations, called the “Texas Low Emission Diesel Standards” adopted in 2005. This set of standards put a limit on the amount of NOx that could be released into the atmosphere from burning diesel products.

Although I applaud the fact that this state government agency is doing their best to help enforce a clean air act, I am a bit shocked that the many benefits of biodiesel were not taken into consideration. The multiple benefits of biodiesel far outweigh in my opinion, the one small detriment (the 10% increase in NOx), which has already been solved.

The EPA has already run extensive test on different biodiesel grades all of which show drastic reductions in every other pollutant compared to regular diesel, but a small increase in NOx. However, because of biodiesel's lack of sulfur, this NOx emission increase can be solved by using an additive in biodiesel fuels, which cannot be used in conventional diesel. This makes biodiesel a superior fuel to diesel, just look at the stats published by the EPA:

Emission Type


Total Unburned Hydrocarbons

Carbon Monoxide

Particulate Matter

+2% to -2%



PAH (Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons)

nPAH (nitrated PAH's)

Ozone potential of speciated HC

Because of this controversial ban, industry leaders created the Biodiesel Coalition Of Texas (BCOT) who later convinced the TCEQ to give them a year to fix the NOx issue. The BCOT has shown proof from a study done by the Department of Energy�s National Renewable Energy Lab, that the NOx emissions from biodiesel are negligible. Unfortunately, the TCEQ is not budging and is set to confirm the ban in December.

This ban will force any biodiesel company and/or home brewer to pay for independent testing to show that their NOx emissions are low enough to meet the TxLED standards. Although this loophole will allow large biodiesel companies to sell to consumers, it will severely hurt the average home brewer who cannot afford expensive independent tests.

Another attack on home biodiesel brewers has come in the form of state and federal fines. According to the News Observer in a recent article, Bob Teixeira a fuel-it-yourself home brewer was fined $1000 by the state for not paying fuel taxes. He was also told that he should expect another $1000 fine from the federal government. Teixeira, like most people didn't realize that he was supposed to pay motor fuel tax on Biofuel that he made. Teixeira's only response was that he didn't like being lumped with people who purposely try to avoid fuel taxes. Needless to say, he will pay the fines and continue to use his biodiesel Mercedes Benz.

This just goes to show you that in the end, it is all about money and the government has to get their cut. To the fuel-it-yourselfer home brewers, my recommendation is to NOT sport a “powered by vegetable oil” bumper sticker; otherwise your fate may be similar to that of Bob Teixeira.

Bush Is an Environmentalist - He Supports Ethanol?

People always pick on Bush for being bad for the environment, but just look at what he has done. He has shown his undying support for the global production of ethanol. In the U.S.Bush is pushing hard for a surge of corn based ethanol which would rake in the profits for corn-state politicians and big agribusiness trade organizations!

Oh wait, doesn’t corn based ethanol actually take more net energy to produce?

Yep, just when I though Bush was turning over a new leaf, he goes and screws the environment once again.

The fact is, corn based ethanol production is much worse for the environment than just having our cars burning gasoline. The amount of dirty energy and pollution associated with the planting, fertilizing, harvesting and refining of corn into ethanol does not equal the 36% to 42% reduction in CO2 emissions that the Renewable Fuels Association claims. I should also mention that the Renewable Fuels Association is funded by Arthur Daniels Midland, who happens to be a large agribusiness with everything to gain from increased corn production.

I’m not saying that the “Renewable Fuels Association” is lying, but a few independent studies have shown only an 11% to 14% reduction in CO2 emissions. Either way that emission reduction is made up two fold with the huge amount of energy it takes to produce the ethanol. Not only will corn ethanol increase total CO2 emissions, but it will also hurt the local ecosystem because of increased insecticides and soil erosion.

Over all this Ethanol initiative is a very bad idea and will ultimately hurt the little progress that environmentalist have already made. We obviously can not depend on our government to make sound decisions to decrease CO2 emissions and stop global warming. So, we need to do our part as consumers and make proper buying decisions so we can shape the future market.