08 April 2008
Showin' My Ignorance?
Photo credit: Allen Tannenbaum
One of these days I'd like to tour a steel mill and watch them actually doing that. I can only imagine how noisy and hot it would be, and I'm sure there would be interesting smells involved too... sensory overload!
When we approach "BigTown" from the right direction, we pass near a steel mill. When they are pouring steel at night, the bright orange glow can be seen from tens of miles away. The roof of the mill is open, I suspect to allow heat to escape. An area two city blocks around the structure is bathed in the golden light. There's a lot of energy there.
It always sets me to thinking... that energy is wasted.
Ethanol is the subject of much discussion these days. Now that we've had a chance to study the ethanol production process, it's beginning to sink in that there are some negative consequences to using it as a motor fuel... the resources we use to make ethanol result in less food being produced to put on dinner tables around the world, and the process to produce ethanol requires as much or more energy than it will return at it's end use.
So my question-
What if we located ethanol production facilities near steel mills, and used the heat now being vented to the atmosphere in the ethanol production process? And I wonder if the same could apply at electric production facilities... those cooling towers we see venting steam at nuclear and coal-fired powerplants?
I'm ignorant. I know absolutely nothing about what it takes to produce a gallon of ethanol.
But if one of the big problems truly is the energy used to produce versus energy available in the end product, it sure seems to me there is energy now being wasted that could be used to reduce the "energy to produce" side of the equation.
Anyone out there know enough about ethanonl production to educate us all?