Filed under: Ag education, Ag promotion, Biofuels, ethanol, Farm, Farm Bureau, science | Tags: Agriculture education, car, cars, compressed natural gas, diesel, diesel fuel, ethanol, ethanol producers, farm, Farm Bureau, gas, gasoline, liquefied petroleum gas, machines, transportation
One of the sessions I attended at the AFBF meeting in Nashville was a General Motors seminar on the future of motor vehicles. Since they were talking to a farm audience they mostly talked about light trucks, but automotive and heavy truck technology was also touched on. One of the items that they made plain was that the gasoline technology was not going away just yet, but they were gearing up for the future.
The biggest driver in the future of motoring was the higher mpg demands of both the public and government in this era if higher fuel prices. The problem with most of the new technologies is getting the fueling stations out for use. Although Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) and Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) are available for larger fleets where they can come to a base station every night, long distance motoring is still going to require a liquid motor fuel. The same is true of hydrogen and electric vehicles, we know how to make them, we just cannot keep them on the road once they get away from fast refueling connections. To bridge the gap until we get refueling stations set up for these fuels we are still going to have to rely on liquid fuels like diesel, gasoline and ethanol.
Despite where you stand on ethanol, the automotive industry is planning on using greater amounts of it in fuels for the foreseeable future. If they are to meet the government mpg guidelines they have no choice. Understandably the growers of ethanol feedstocks are all in favor of this increase.
While today we in agriculture are fighting a battle to keep E-15 approval, automotive manufacturers are gearing up for E-30. They are telling the ethanol producers that it will happen. Automobile manufacturers need the higher octane that ethanol gives to produce the higher performance engines of the future.
I don’t expect Big Oil to give up this battle without a fight. They want to keep us dependent on gasoline and diesel for as long as possible. They are already breaking down the gunkier oils that they used to throw away to meet demand. This costs more money, money they are getting from government subsidies and from us in higher prices. In the mean time, automotive manufacturers are planning for a future that uses less gasoline. They can already see a future of less oil usage, and it is something that I have waited for for a long time.
Filed under: Biofuels, cars, ethanol, Farm, food, travel | Tags: biofuels, car, cars, diesel, diesel fuel. transportation, farm, Food, machines
To most people the current decline in fuel prices is a relief, but to those who use diesel fuel to move, the news has not been so good. Why should you care?
I admit, I have been relieved to see gasoline prices drop, but I have been perplexed that for quite a few months now the price of diesel fuel has not gone down, indeed it has gone up. When I recently filled my gas tank near Chaska for $3.13 I was quite pleased, since that was down a lot from the $3.27 that I had seen on the pumps when I left home. What did not please me was to realize that diesel prices had again gone up and were now at $4.17. Only a year ago the two fuels were at nearly the same price. That increase in diesel fuel prices verses gasoline prices affects everyone.
There is very little in our life here in the U.S. that is not dependent on the price of diesel fuel. The trucks that bring all of the things we need and want are powered by diesel. Buses and trains, ships and tractors all are dependent on diesel fuel. More than any other fuel source, diesel is the power that moves us. The food you eat, the clothing you wear, the car you drive, the fuel that moves our machinery, all arrive at the store on the power of diesel fuel.
Our nation’s farmers depend on diesel fuel as a powerful, economical, source of power for their machinery. Without diesel fuel there would be no ground preparation, no planting, no fertilizing, no weeding, no harvesting. Food moves from the farm to the store on diesel powered wheels. It is a large part of the price we pay for everything we eat.
For most of my life I have seen diesel fuel as the lower priced, higher powered, source of energy for transportation. It has become the fuel of choice for many in the rest of the world. But unlike gasoline, the demand for diesel fuel is inelastic. The demand for diesel is always there.
Consumers look at the price of gas as too high and they stop traveling, trips are cancelled or consolidated, more efficient cars are purchased and the big, gas guzzling vehicles are mothballed. Diesel fuel use does not change so easily, the trucks that move everything we need must keep going. The buses and trains we use when gas prices are high are filled to the brim, and new routes are put into use.
Then there is the new competition for gasoline, ethanol. Whenever gas prices get too high, gas wholesalers add more ethanol to the mix. The current price of ethanol to gasoline is such that adding a little more ethanol to the mix can increase profits for gasoline sales, diesel fuel has no such lower priced alternative.
Usually when fuel prices go down the price of many of the goods we buy goes down also, but this time I wouldn’t look for decreasing prices at the grocery store. Because of the rising prices at the pump for diesel fuel, I expect the price of many of our goods to continue to go up. That will take an ever increasing amount of money out of the pockets of all of us. Not at all a comforting thought.
Filed under: Farm, fertilizer, science, tillage | Tags: diesel, farm, no-till, strip till, tillage
For many years now I have been cutting back on tillage. My reasons go back to the things I learned way back in the 1970′s when I was in college. In the years of cheap fuel, the reduce tillage mantra was largely ignored. Fuel was cheep and previous practice was easy to continue. Now as fuel prices, especially for diesel fuel, increase, all farmers need to step back and consider if all of that tillage is needed. Below is an article gleaned from Purdue University.
Consider the Costs before Tilling
By Lisa Schluttenhofer, Purdue University
“Full tillage and subsequent soil loss can quickly lead to negative implications for your land’s long-term productivity,” Vyn said.
In the comments on this article was a comment that seemed to equate less tillage with more use of chemicals. I have found the opposite to be true. We are now using fewer chemicals to control weeds than we did before we reduced tillage. Back when fuel and chemicals were cheep we would spray a field just to keep down the weeds. Now with rising fuel prices, and the cost of chemicals that are derived from or use a lot of energy to produce, we are taking a closer look at if we really do need that extra pass. If you want to make a profit when margins are thin, you have to keep all of your costs down.
Filed under: cars, Politics, science, travel | Tags: biofuels, car, cars, diesel, ethanol, gas, hydrogen, machines, propane
There is an old adage in the commodities markets, that “the best cure for high prices is high prices.” When prices of a commodity get high enough the market either finds a cheaper product to substitute for it, or consumers just do without, thus rationing demand.
That is what’s happening with gas prices.
There are always a few consumers who will have to use fuel to make deliveries no matter what the price. When gas, diesel and oil prices get high enough they will pass on the price increases to consumers of whatever is being hauled. You can expect higher prices for everything because of rising fuel prices.
There are others that had trouble paying for fuel at the old lower prices. They must immediately find an alternative. It could be changing to public transport, or riding a bicycle, they will do without.
Those in the middle will either make fewer trips or buy more efficient vehicles so that they don’t have to use as much fuel. The market will push consumers until they stop using so much fuel before it stops going up.
We in America have become addicted to cheap transportation fuels. Public policy has favored cars over public transport. Much of the rest of the world has for many years placed a higher tax on transportation fuels than here in the U.S. so that those who use cars, use more efficient, usually smaller or diesel powered, vehicles. We in America still drive huge vehicles compared to the rest of the world.
Our world is telling us to change. Since transportation fuels have been inexpensive here, we have used great quantities to move large vehicles, many times with only one rider. We are going to have to join the rest of the world and drive smaller, more efficient vehicles. Those in cities are going to have to use more public transportation, more car pools. People living in the suburbs are going to be moving closer to work.
Higher fuel prices will hasten the day when alternative fuels are cost efficient. The market will look for alternatives. Biofuels and other alternatives will now look doable. Propane, hydrogen and fuel cells now look better economically.
Until we change, fuel prices will remain high. High priced transportation fuels will reduce our usage. Our way of life will change. We have no choice.