Fuel from Farms: A Guide to Small Scale Ethanol Production

We have republished this outstanding book to help fill the information void that exists with regards to fermentation ethanol. Fuel from Farms tackles the subject of fermentation ethanol in a balanced and reasoned way, with an emphasis on small scale production using farm crops as the source of raw materials. This book will provide you with an array of facts so that you can make informed judgments.Community Review  

  • What a disappointing book; I could barely finish it. As others have noted, Rhodes starts out with a fascinating and comprehensive history of steam but quickly loses the same as he wades through the origins of subsequent energy sources. This book feels like it was started with enthusiasm by the author but was laid aside for a long period of time, then suddenly rushed to conclusion. By the time he gets to nuclear energy, Rhodes’s writing is nothing more than political screed, as he blames the environmental movement for its many failures, virtually excusing the vast and enduring fallout from the industry’s waste and accidents. Moreover, he entirely ignores the imminent crisis to earth’s biological systems due to humanity’s relentless march toward overpopulation and its ever increasing consumption of energy and natural resources, placing his confidence solely in future human technology. In Mr. Rhodes’s blinkered view, the reduction of human population as a worthwhile goal is “anti-humanist,” and “there is room for us all.” Ugh, what kind of world will that be? Grow up, Mr. Rhodes. Give us books worthy of the monumental issues humanity faces today.
  • This is kind of a wonky look at the advance of the means of producing energy since the use of wood. It delightfully includes personal looks at the geniuses and characters who pushed the technology/science forward. It also explores the science behind the discoveries a little to in depth for this reader. But heh, I got through it and maybe a little smarter for it.
    The main premise of the book, is that each new step in the evolution of energy was slow to catch on in the market, but eventually would become the dominate source of energy. Rhode then makes the case that nuclear power, although hindered in development by scaredy pants environmentalist will eventually become the clean energy engine that will save the world. Although we have had three nuclear accidents, two of which left large swaths of the planet uninhabitable for hundreds (thousands?) of years, the were perfectly preventable. Rhodes proclaims the accidents were caused by a design flaw, (Fukushima) that was known but never corrected or human error (Chernobyl, Harrisburg). Of course human error is a thing of the past and no one would overlook a design flaw just to save money.
    Good history in the front end, advertisment for nuclear power on the back end.
  • This book starts out well with interesting details about the industrial revolution and the rise of the use of stored energy in coal to bring about enormous changes. It is quite thorough on the origins of the steam engine, and the start of the industrial revolution in England. Less detailed, but still good in-depth coverage of the transformations that changed lighting, with interesting items on whaling, oil discovery in PA, and good stuff about the developments of the early grid. As he moves to the modern era the segments were much shorter, with quick overviews of wind, solar and nuclear. He advocates nuclear quite effectively, especially on the world wide scale but plays down the problems of waste and accidents. He is also rather dismissive of the political aspects, merely citing the necessity of time for society to grasp new realities. As the book progresses the author seems to run out of gas, with the modern grid revolution given short shrift. The author seems much more comfortable with physics than with chemistry, and my kindle version had superscripts instead of subscripts for chemical formulae, a pretty inexcusable editing error. Thus his overall take on the modern energy dilemmas were not really analytical or thorough, and at the end I was kind of let-down.
  • In the world of science, “energy” is a term that is quantitatively well defined. In this book, energy’s quantitative nature is not explored; it is the subtitle that is more revealing of the book’s contents. The author covers various aspects of humanity’s pursuit of sources of energy over the past four centuries. Starting with wood, through coal, oil, natural gas and eventually nuclear and most recently, renewables, various inventions to optimize the use of these energy sources are explored. Problems with each one are also identified. Key individuals throughout this history are also discussed. I found the book very informative and well-written in a style that is clear, accessible and engaging.
    As pointed out above, history is the main focus here. Consequently, although technological details are occasionally well explained (e.g., the chapter on nuclear), quite often they are a bit lacking in some regard (e.g., how a single steam engine can pump water up from a mine by considerably more than the 33 feet allowed by physics due to atmospheric pressure; see lower halves of pages 32 and 41). This can be annoying for technically-minded individuals like me. There are also a few errors. For example, on page 196: “step the current up to 3000 volts”. Current is measured in amperes, not volts. Also, on pages 274 and 275, the concentration of U-235 in natural uranium is 0.7 percent and not 0.07 percent, as stated on each of those two pages.
    But despite these relatively minor shortcomings and accepting the fact that this in a book primarily on history, I enjoyed it very much and gave it full marks.

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