Schadenfreude and a they told you so moment – AP Investigation: Corn-Based Ethanol Causes Environment Damage

From the department of “told you so” comes this about-face on what was supposed to be an environmental solution. It seems the cure is worse than the disease:

corn as food not fuel“CORYDON, Iowa — The hills of southern Iowa bear the scars of America’s push for green energy: The brown gashes where rain has washed away the soil. The polluted streams that dump fertilizer into the water supply.”

“Even the cemetery that disappeared like an apparition into a cornfield.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way.

With the Iowa political caucuses on the horizon in 2007, presidential candidate Barack Obama made homegrown corn a centerpiece of his plan to slow global warming. And when President George W. Bush signed a law that year requiring oil companies to add billions of gallons of ethanol to their gasoline each year, Bush predicted it would make the country “stronger, cleaner and more secure.”

But the ethanol era has proven far more damaging to the environment than politicians promised and much worse than the government admits today.

As farmers rushed to find new places to plant corn, they wiped out millions of acres of conservation land, destroyed habitat and polluted water supplies, an Associated Press investigation found.”

Dina Cappiello and Matt Apuzzo report for the Associated Press November 12, 2013.

h/t to reader Michael J. Bentley

============================================================

Here’s the surprising headline and money quote:

dirty_ethanol

The consequences are so severe that environmentalists and many scientists have now rejected corn-based ethanol as bad environmental policy. But the Obama administration stands by it, highlighting its benefits to the farming industry rather than any negative impact.

Farmers planted 15 million more acres of corn last year than before the ethanol boom, and the effects are visible in places like south central Iowa.

The hilly, once-grassy landscape is made up of fragile soil that, unlike the earth in the rest of the state, is poorly suited for corn. Nevertheless, it has yielded to America’s demand for it.

“They’re raping the land,” said Bill Alley, a member of the board of supervisors in Wayne County, which now bears little resemblance to the rolling cow pastures shown in postcards sold at a Corydon pharmacy.

UPDATE: here is the video report from AP (h/t _Jim)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tX2f4JnfS74

In related news:

EPA orders cut in ethanol in gasoline next year, citing risk of engine damage

November 15

By Sean Cockerham

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration Friday proposed the first-ever reduction in the amount of ethanol in the gasoline supply, signaling retreat from the Renewable Fuel Standard passed by Congress in 2007.

The Environmental Protection Agency wants 15.21 billion gallons of renewable fuels blended into gasoline and diesel next year, down from 16.55 billion gallons this year. Most of it is corn-based ethanol.

Read more here: http://www.kansascity.com/2013/11/15/4624584/epa-orders-cut-in-ethanol-in-gasoline.html#storylink=cpy

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190 thoughts on “Schadenfreude and a they told you so moment – AP Investigation: Corn-Based Ethanol Causes Environment Damage

  1. Ethanol increases emissions, fuel costs, engine damage, & food prices

    http://hockeyschtick.blogspot.com/2013/07/ethanol-increases-emissions-fuel-costs.html

    Ethanol mandate is raising food prices and hurting the poor

    http://hockeyschtick.blogspot.com/2012/08/ethanol-mandate-is-raising-food-prices.html

    Why the US burns 40% of its corn, despite a global food shortage

    http://hockeyschtick.blogspot.com/2012/10/why-us-burns-40-of-its-corn-despite.html

    Why do we burn our food?

    http://hockeyschtick.blogspot.com/2012/09/why-do-we-burn-our-food.html

    New paper finds misguided biofuel policies provide no benefit to the climate

    http://hockeyschtick.blogspot.com/2013/09/new-paper-finds-misguided-biofuel.html

  2. Always new corn was a heavy feeder. But I hadn’t considered that the green push could or would head us back to the dustbowl.

  3. Another bill that Congress must have passed before they read it. The Law of Unintended Consequences strikes again!

  4. Ethanol is a poorer choice than ten years ago, but that is because we are now producing our own energy. Further, more ethanol is now sugar cane based than ever before – import is allowed.

    This is a big oil piece…

  5. The USA put so much into ethanol production because of the Ag lobby, the farm vote and especially because of the damn Iowa presidential caucuses which are given inordinate power in selecting presidential nominees.

  6. more soylent green! says November 16, 2013 at 9:05 am

    The USA put so much into ethanol production because of the Ag lobby, the farm vote ..

    It would be cheaper in the long run to just buy off (make cash payments directly to!) those ppl … I think I’ll just abandon my old motorized ‘clunker’ autos, boat motors, lawnmowers, generators and weedeaters along the highways in Iowa, JUST before the next caucasus …

    .

  7. The folks from Google with the time slider on Google Earth have provided a visual history of this issue. Go to these coordinates:

    40.733462, -93.269654

    Corydon is 3 miles to the NW. Click on the clock icon on the bar above the image and open the “Show historical imagery” application. The slider can take you back a few years. Another field is here:

    40.659686, -93.217520

    These places appear to have been in a conservation easement program when looked at on images just a few years ago.

  8. Interesting comment in http://www.utsandiego.com/news/2013/Nov/12/tp-report-slams-ethanol-policy/5/?#article-copy . After talking about how a huge amount of conservation land was turned into corn field:

    Scientists predicted that a major ethanol push would raise prices and, in turn, encourage farmers like Leroy Perkins to plow into conservation land. But the government insisted otherwise.

    In 2008, the journal Science published a study with a dire conclusion: Plowing over conservation land releases so much greenhouse gas that it takes 48 years before new plants can break even and start reducing carbon dioxide.

    The Department of Energy was more certain. Most conservation land, the government said in its response to the study, “is unsuitable for use for annual row crop production.”

    America could meet its ethanol demand without losing a single acre of conservation land, Energy officials said.

    They would soon be proven wrong.

    Losing conservation land was bad. But something even worse was happening.

    Farmers broke ground on virgin land, the untouched terrain that represents, from an environmental standpoint, the country’s most important asset.

    Ah, it’s on a single web page at http://bigstory.ap.org/article/secret-dirty-cost-obamas-green-power-push-1 See also http://bigstory.ap.org/topic/ethanol

  9. IIRC, it was expected in that 2007 law that ‘switchgrass’ etc. would be used for producing “Cellulosic ethanol” … but that has never materialized.

    1) Biofuel makers seek to ease mandates to avert congress
    Posted on July 25, 2013 at 8:08 am by Bloomberg in Biofuels

    Fair use excerpt:

    Makers of some renewable fuels are asking the federal government to ease quotas for use of their products in a bid to head off a congressional overhaul of a program that refiners say is driving up costs at the pump.

    With production of fuels made from sources such as wood waste, algae or used cooking oils at a fraction of what was envisioned in a 2007 law, the Environmental Protection Agency needs to adjust requirements for use of biofuels in coming years, according to the Advanced Biofuels Association. The statute allows the EPA to adjust the requirements, and prompt EPA action would quell refiners’ fears that there won’t be enough renewable fuel to meet the mandate, they say.

    “It’s highly likely they will be lower than what’s in the statute,” Michael McAdams, the president of the group representing 46 companies, said of the quotas. While changes aren’t needed this year, EPA should set out the likely quotas for 2014 and 2015 “in one move, so everybody sees what the glide path is.”

    2) Cellulosic ethanol, once the way of the future, is off to a delayed, boisterous start

    Fair use excerpt:

    The heart of the dispute is the Energy Independence and Security Act passed by Congress in 2007 with rare bipartisan support. The law provided a road map for increasing the use of renewable agricultural byproducts in the U.S. motor fuel supply. The Poet plant is just what Congress envisioned, a Middle America biofuel displacing Middle East crude — with some possible climate benefits to boot.

    Corn-based ethanol, which makes up nearly 10 percent of U.S. motor fuel, has been in large-scale production for years. But Congress was worried about driving up the price of corn used as feed for livestock and poultry. So lawmakers capped the total production of corn-based ethanol and set a schedule for ramping up the use of “advanced” biofuels made from corn husks, switch grass, wood chips and other stuff known as “cellulosic” material to 16 billion gallons by 2022.

    There’s one problem, though: So far, no company has produced cellulosic ethanol at commercial volumes.

    .

  10. Anybody that knows anything about agriculture and growing corn knows that article was a very biased one-sided hit piece about ethanol. I am a professional farm manager in Iowa and can assure you that the fast majority of farmers in Iowa are using conservation tillage and other practices to protect the soil on their farms. Farmers aren’t stupid. They don’t want to destroy their factories (land). In any industry you can always find a few examples of abuses and how to do things the wrong way. The people of Corydon are very upset that they were misled and taken out of context by the reporter who wrote this story. Using this article as a way to support negative theories about ethanol is just as inappropriate as the other side using biased temperature data and poor modeling to support their theory of man-made global warming.

  11. Don’t blame just farmers….

    At least 43% of ADM’s profits come from products subsidized by the taxpayers. Most of ADM’s fortunes come from ethanol, produced through the distillation of corn into grain alcohol.

    Most expensive is Washington’s 54 cent-per-gallon tax break for gasohol. This special-interest loophole accounts for the bulk of the more than $10 billion in subsidies to ADM since 1980. All told, analyst James Bovard estimates that every dollar in profits earned by ADM costs taxpayers $30.

    http://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/ethanol-keeps-adm-drunk-tax-dollars

  12. I have searched, studied and evaluated one green scam after another and I haven’t found a single one that provides any benefits to the planet, the biosphere, wild life or people in general.

    We have to stop the madness ASAP.

  13. When tens of millions of acres of the most fertile ground in the world goes to growing corn for ethanol rather than food(40% of the total corn crop) it means less acres for all the other crops.
    In order to attract the needed acres to generate ample supplies, prices of other crops must go higher. Farmer will plant the crop that makes them the most profit.

    Stating that burning ethanol results in less CO2 pollution, has always been the lie about the lie.
    1. CO2 is a beneficial gas. Increasing it, increases crop yields/world food production
    2. Corn is the biggest polluting crop and uses the most natural resources…….by far

    I could add many more points and elaborate but I’ll let Captain Ike Keifer do that, as he destroys every conceivable false notion about bio fuels propagandized/forced on us the last decade.

    http://www.au.af.mil/au/ssq/digital/pdf/spring_13/Kiefer_Long_Version.pdf

  14. Does anyone know of any scheme devised to prevent global warming, that has not had unintended consequences that were worse than the problem it was trying to prevent? So far I’ve come up with zilch.

  15. I was surprised to see this in the local papers, and pointed it out in Tips & Notes on the 12th.
    Steve Keohane says:November 12, 2013 at 5:40 am

    Wow! AP article today, ” The Secret, Dirty Cost of the Green-Power Push”. On how ethanol has destroyed a lot of land.

    http://www.postbulletin.com/business/the-secret-dirty-cost-of-the-green-power-push/article_02530f8c-4b98-11e3-b72d-0019bb30f31a.html

    “Five million acres of land set aside for conservation — more than Yellowstone, Everglades and Yosemite National Parks combined — have vanished on Obama’s watch.“

  16. The whole corn/ethanol fiasco was never about the environment.

    The green claims were only ever cover for a giant pay-off to the corporate farming industry. It was just a scam put together between powerful and corrupt lobbyists and powerful and corrupt politicians. The taxpayers were screwed and the environment was screwed as a few good old boys shoveled money into their pockets at rates most of us could never imagine.

    Maybe the gig is up and maybe it isn’t. Either way the perps will get to keep that mountain of dosh. It’s gone for ever.

  17. “CORYDON, Iowa — The hills of southern Iowa bear the scars of America’s push for green energy: The brown gashes where rain has washed away the soil. The polluted streams that dump fertilizer into the water supply.” “Even the cemetery that disappeared like an apparition into a cornfield.

    So the suggestion here is that corn fields in Iowa are an environmental disaster? That farmers in Iowa do not know how to plow and manage fields? And please, families have been burying people in the middle of forty and eighty acre plots in this country for hundreds of years. This is garbage. The reason it was a bad idea is not because farming is environmentally harmful. The reason it is a bad idea is because this takes food, available land, and water and puts it into the gas tank. The world wide effects on the grain prices have caused people to go from poverty to extreme poverty.

    Farming is not environmentally harmful. There is nothing wrong with nitrous oxide from crops, carbon dioxide from energy generation and transportation, nothing wrong with the dust from building a fire in winter, and nothing wrong with methane from cows. These unscrupulous scientists will stoop to any low level to frighten people.

  18. Quote:

    “Five million acres of land set aside for conservation — more than Yellowstone, Everglades and Yosemite National Parks combined — have vanished on Obama’s watch.“

    Problem:

    The CRP or Conservation Reserve Program was essentially a program where the governments pays farmers not to grow crops on their land. A bit disingenuous for this free market group to support that generally, or scream when farmers can make more actually growing crops and they do so. The CRP was never intended to keep this land out of production in perpetuity.

    http://www.fsa.usda.gov/FSA/webapp?area=home&subject=copr&topic=crp

  19. Arghhh I give up. I’m going to burn wood to stay warm.

    Why burn coal or gas or oil to stay warm when we can go back in time to that ideal world where people that live in places other than tropical settings simply killed naturally oily sea beasts or cut down forests as fuel to fight off certain death from exposure to the cold?

    And seeing as I live on the prairies, there aren’t any whales around to unaaq, so I guess I’m left with trees.

  20. The article quoting the 54 cent per gallon tax break for gasohol was written in 2007. As of January 1, 2012 that tax break no longer exists.

    REPLY: No the article was not written in 2007, the law was – Anthony

  21. Bloke down the pub says:
    Does anyone know of any scheme devised to prevent global warming, that has not had unintended consequences that were worse than the problem it was trying to prevent?

    Good question? Maybe some of the energy conservation programs (although I wouldn’t include CFL’s in that category). But things like insulation and more efficient furnaces and air conditioners have probably been net positive. Increasing use of LED lighting will I think end well too.

  22. Whenever you have a mix of:

    1. Any type of -ism, in this case climate alarmism,
    2. The possibility of becoming wealthy or powerful by exploiting the -ism.
    3. Career politicians who want to be seen to be supporting trendy policies, especially if it is an -ism.
    4. The ardent support of dodgy activist groups, then:

    As said earlier, the Law of Unintended Consequences can be relied on to apply. In this case, engine rust, erosion, higher basic food prices, fertiliser pollution and loss of bio-diversity.

    Perhaps, most important of all, the fracking boom in the USA has made the use of ethanol as a fuel totally, completely and utterly unnecessary.

  23. Yep. Josh Fox, what say you? Hmmmm? Hello? Fracking? Pollution? What? Nothing? Cat got your tongue? Say it ain’t so! What? Facts? Irrelevant? Awww, c’mon! Give us a documentary! “Cornland”!

  24. Zeke says November 16, 2013 at 9:56 am

    So the suggestion here is that corn fields in Iowa are an environmental disaster? That farmers in Iowa do not know how to plow and manage fields? …

    Maybe Zeke missed the part about ‘rolling hills’ and all (FORMERLY grass/pasture lands); Zeke, view the AP video above and note the erosion as viewed from an overhead (taken from an aircraft) perspective.

    .

  25. Mike Smith says:
    November 16, 2013 at 10:01 am

    Bloke down the pub says:
    Does anyone know of any scheme devised to prevent global warming, that has not had unintended consequences that were worse than the problem it was trying to prevent?

    Good question? Maybe some of the energy conservation programs (although I wouldn’t include CFL’s in that category). But things like insulation and more efficient furnaces and air conditioners have probably been net positive. Increasing use of LED lighting will I think end well too.
    =====================================================================
    Maybe the question by Bloke was semi rhetorical as we should revisit the idea that we can be in any significant way, able to prevent global warming/climate change etc.

  26. It doesn’t matter how many times heavy-handed centrally-planned “solutions” fail, it will always be the go-to solution because it was never about the environment, it was always about power and control.

    To you, this failed. To a bureaucrat, it represents status, power, and money for their department – both the failure and the “fix” which will also fail. To the politician it represents attention and votes – maybe different politicians at different stages, but that just means more in the long run.

    I don’t really have the answer, but boy is the problem lit up like day!

  27. A friend of mine who took advantage of the program knew it cost more energy to produce the ethanol from his corn than was gotten out as ethanol, but did it anyway. He fed the cake left over to his cattle, so made a tidy sum off the tax-payers, especially with higher price of corn sold for food or feed thrown in. He died of MRSA infection a few years ago, but his kids have carried on.

  28. Whatever happened to the switchgrass idea? As I recall it was a native to the prairie, grew deep roots and came back year after year, and stopped erosion. It could be made into pellets for pellet stoves, giving off 90% as much heat as wood. Best of all, it would grow on waste land that was unsuitable for growing food.

    Maybe switchgrass is not financially feasible in terms of brewing up wood-alcohol, but it seemed to make sense in terms of home heating. Pellet stoves are fairly popular in New England.

  29. I don’t want to shock them or anything, but no “green” policy is actually good for the environment. It’s only good for lining the pockets of those in the “green” industry, at everyone else’s expense, including taxpayers.

  30. Matthew W says:
    Maybe the question by Bloke was semi rhetorical as we should revisit the idea that we can be in any significant way, able to prevent global warming/climate change etc.

    Sure we can. Not only that, we’ve actually accomplished it. No warming for 20 years :-)

  31. The ethanol program has been invented and promoted by GLOBE international, the international organisation that has representatives in all bloc parties of the West (trilateral commission territory, US + EU + Japan). Its purposes are, a) dampen oil price shocks b) keep the farmer voting bloc happy c) find a use for the calories we can produce.

    Up to the 70ies, the caloric production of agriculture in the EU rose to 6000 kcal/capita/day. Then the growth stopped – because we had no use for more calories. The ethanol program changes that; now we can produce to the max and have a use for it.

    The produced fuel – ethanol and biodiesel – is surely not enough to run Europe in case of an oil embargo; but enough to run an army. Shouldn’t say that now, or should I. Doesn’t matter, the NSA makes sure you know anyway.

    Oh, I didn’t mention CO2. That’s because that’s got nothing at all to do with the bioethanol program.

    http://www.globeinternational.org/index.php/news/item/globe-natural-capital-legislation-study-launched-at-summit-in-the-german-bundestag

  32. At the end of the video an email from a USDA official is shown saying “. . . We just want to have a consistent message on the topic. . . .”, thus censoring an AP source. So, facts do not matter, only giving a “consistent message”.

  33. DirkH says:
    November 16, 2013 at 11:05 am

    I don’t know how the energy in-out equation works with respect to coal v. corn, but ethanol from coal would be a good option for Germany, if alcohol for military use be the goal. Methanol is better than ethanol, BTW, & was used by Germany in WWII up to 20% concentration with no need to adapt gasoline engines.

  34. DirkH says November 16, 2013 at 11:05 am

    The ethanol program has been invented and promoted by GLOBE international, …

    In your country, perhaps?

    1) From: http://www.epa.gov/mtbe/gas.htm

    MTBE in Fuels
    2013 status update

    In 2005, Congress passed the Energy Policy Act that removed the oxygenate requirement for reformulated gasoline (RFG). At the same time, Congress also instituted a renewable fuel standard. In response, refiners made a wholesale switch removing MTBE and blending fuel with ethanol.

    2) From: http://www.ogj.com

    MTBE vs. ethanol: sorting through the oxygenate issues

    MTBE and ethanol are by far the most widely used oxygenates. Together, they currently make up just under 5% of the gasoline barrel, with MTBE volumes nearly three times those of ethanol.

    3) From: http://www.eia.gov/forecasts/steo/special/pdf/mtbe.pdf

    MTBE, Oxygenates, and Motor Gasoline

    What are oxygenates?
    Oxygenates are hydrocarbons that contain one or more oxygen atoms. The primary oxygenates
    are alcohols and ethers, including: fuel ethanol, methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE), ethyl tertiary
    butyl ether (ETBE), and tertiary amyl methyl ether (TAME).

    .

  35. It’s about time the media woke up about this scam. None of these criticisms of the ethanol mandate are new and there is a long list of other bad things about ethanol as a fuel. It’s bad for the environment in many ways. It’s bad to use food for fuel. It drives up the prices and has a particularly negative impact on poor countries which rely in corn. It’s also generally a poor fuel. It has a lower energy content than gasoline and burns at a lower air-fuel ratio so more of it is needed. Ethanol is corrosive and can damage many components in engines and fuel systems of vehicles that were not specifically designed for it. Ironically, the only thing ethanol can be good for is as a racing fuel, due to its relatively high octane. However even that has to take into consideration the fact that “e85″ can be anywhere from e50 to e85 and so there is no way to know the true octane rating. The exhaust from ethanol fuel has toxic compounds. The ethanol scam was fully taken advantage of by vehicle manufacturers. Any vehicle offered that can use e85 allows the manufacturer to only claim the 15% amount of gasoline in the CAFE ratings that they submit to the government. Finally, it makes no economic sense to mandate ethanol. It costs more to produce than it’s worth and it takes more energy to produce than it contains. Getting rid of the ethanol mandate is a good thing, but it will be interesting to see what replaces it. None of the previous gasoline oxygenators were good for anything except to make money for the producers who successfully lobbied for their adoption. You can be sure that the lobbyists are already salivating for the next opportunity. No doubt, whatever replaces ethanol will be a cash cow for someone irrespective of whether it works as a fuel additive.

  36. One of the first acts of this administration was the Omnibus Public Lands Act, which increased federal holdings of state land by millions of acres. Coincidentally, many of these lands held rich resources and tourist destinations. So I am not crying over any land seized by the Feds being cultivated for grains.

    Furthermore, the list of Obama’s political supporters who subsequently “took up farming” and became eligible for subsidies, etc. includes Larry Flint, Sam Donaldson, Ted Turner, and Ben Bradlee. Former basketball star Scottie Pippen was paid $130,000 over five years not to grow crops.

    Now the farmers in Iowa, who have been perfectly capable of caring for their own land and using pesticides and water responsibly are suddenly causing an environmental disaster? I am not signing for that. Remember who these anti-agricultural activists are: they are UN activists, who are demanding an end to agronomy as now practiced. Not only that, the US EPA has outrageously labeled nitrous oxide from crops a harmful ghg.

    ref: http://epa.gov/climatechange/ghgemissions/gases/n2o.html

  37. But what about all of the global warming this has prevented? I bet it’s about 0.00000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000022C!

  38. Zeke says November 16, 2013 at 11:21 am

    Now the farmers in Iowa, who have been perfectly capable of caring for their own land and …

    Zeke dodges the question concerning turning rolling grasslands/prairie into cultivated row crops?

    So noted.

    Say, Zeke, what happens under the conditions of a heavy rain falling on row crops (with bare soil) planted on a hillside versus that same heavy rain on a ‘grassland’ or prairie? Any idea?

    .

  39. I have been involved in a (successful) campaign to allow boaters on Scottish canals to use bio-free diesel.
    According to the report above, I am now due a payment from “big oil” but it hasn’t arrived yet.

  40. “For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.” ~ H. L. Mencken

    I guess this Mencken quote fits, although the alarmist liars have not always been “clear” with their solution; after all, they always need more grant money to study the matter. What amazes one is how damn often the alarmists are totally wrong in their predictions. One can almost read the future by just taking the opposite side of anything the team says.

  41. markstoval: “One can almost read the future by just taking the opposite side of anything the team says.”

    True of about anyone that claims to be an expert of a chaotic system. Works great in investments, too.

  42. Is there anything done on Capital Hill, including White House that you can’t append “Stupid” too?

  43. _Jim says:
    November 16, 2013 at 11:16 am
    “” DirkH says November 16, 2013 at 11:05 am

    The ethanol program has been invented and promoted by GLOBE international, …

    In your country, perhaps?”

    GLOBE international operates all across trilateral commission territory at least since 1988. It’s structure parallels the structure of the Fabians and they are headquartered in the same building in London.
    “Senators Gore, Kerry and Heinz were all founding members of GLOBE International.

    In recent years GLOBE has held a major Legislators Forum for G8 and major emerging economy legislators in the historic Senate Caucus Room, during which Senators Kerry, McCain, Lieberman, Snowe and Biden participated. The resulting GLOBE Washington Forum declaration of the participating legislators generated headlines around the world as one of the first political agreements on the core principles for a Post 2012 Climate Change Agreement.

    Members of the US Congress have been active in all GLOBE policy dialogues and during the GLOBE Tokyo Legislators Forum both Presidential candidates, Senaors Obama and McCain, delivered addresses to the GLOBE Forum. In 2009, then Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Global Warming, Rep Ed Markey, hosted the launch and first meeting of GLOBE’s International Commission on Climate & Energy Security.

    GLOBE is currently partnering with the second largest bi-partisan caucus on the hill, the US Conservation Caucus, for the World Summit of Legislators in Rio.”

    http://www.globeinternational.org/index.php/countries/americas/united-states-of-america

  44. Maybe someone needs to defend Zeke a bit here.

    As a former Iowa resident, farmers there, typically, take very good care of their land. Practices are constantly changing in attempts to reduce erosion and run-off, decrease chemical use, reduce the amount of energy put into planting and harvesting crops. It was, and still largely is, a good place to live and raise a family.

    However, the economics of the last few years have thrown many practices out the window. Farmers are people, too. Dangle a way to double or triple returns in a single year in front of someone and they’ll often change their ways, maybe without really thinking what these changes will do in the long run.

    This is just really typical of the things that happen when you alter economic calculations. The government made corn a pretty straight-forward way to make a ton of money. Land prices in Iowa have inflated past any reason. And now people are finally figuring out that maybe this isn’t an all-around good thing.

    As has been mentioned previously, apply the same logic to any other green endeavor. None of it makes a lick of sense, put it’s an amazing ride for those at the front of the pack. Soon, though, the rest of us will be picking up pieces and wondering who let the loonies loose.

  45. Are you saying the farmers haven’t figured that out over the last two centuries _Jim?

    You can find all the anti-agricultural activist rants you want on Youtube. I know some of those swampy cyberghettos and the comments they make. They say they will dismantle industrial agriculture and “then Americans will find out what their hands are for.”

    But don’t expect that I am going to blame farmers for growing corn in Iowa and creating an environmmental disaster.

    Has anyone here ever driven across Iowa? “There are about 90 million acres of land planted to corn in the U.S. The top corn producing states, Iowa and Illinois, account for over one-third of the U.S. crop.” It is just one long cornfield. It is not an “environmental disaster.” My own family settled those lands in the 1830′s. America relies on the corn for feed stock and dozens of other products.

  46. I’m skeptical of the soil degradation claims in the story (my family’s ancestral Iowa farm is more productive than ever after a hundred years of growing crops), but there’s no doubt the ethanol fuel program is a disaster of benefit only to an unholy alliance of big government and big business. If it were actually a good idea, no laws would be needed to make it happen.

    Come to think of it, the ethanol fuel program is a lot like Obamacare…

  47. milodonharlani says:
    November 16, 2013 at 11:12 am

    I don’t know how the energy in-out equation works with respect to coal v. corn, but ethanol from coal would be a good option for Germany, if alcohol for military use be the goal. Methanol is better than ethanol, BTW, & was used by Germany in WWII up to 20% concentration with no need to adapt gasoline engines.

    Quite right. Burn methanol and save ethanol for drinking.

  48. Zeke says November 16, 2013 at 12:03 pm

    Are you saying the farmers haven’t figured that out over the last two centuries _Jim?

    Your ‘farmers’ in Iowa OBVIOUSLY haven’t figured it out, Zeke. It’s as plain as the nose on your face. Go look in a mirror then go look at the ruts due to erosion in this video:

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2013/11/16/schadenfreude-and-a-they-told-you-so-moment-ap-investigation-corn-based-ethanol-causes-environment-damage/#comment-1477009

    We also had a dust bowl ‘event’/situation due to large part to farming-practice ‘problems’ in the last century, Zeke. I hope this is not news to you, but, I fear it is …

    .

  49. America relies on the corn for feed stock and dozens of other products.
    ====
    the simplest solution is to regulate all corn as either feed or food…ethanol corn is not
    …then drop the subsides for ethanol corn, and sell it at a lower price

    bang, no more incentive

  50. milodonharlani says (November 16, 2013 at 11:12 am): “Methanol is better than ethanol, BTW, & was used by Germany in WWII up to 20% concentration with no need to adapt gasoline engines.”

    I’m very interested in Nazi Germany’s synthetic fuel program. Do you have a reference for the methanol figure?

  51. Michael Putnam says November 16, 2013 at 12:02 pm

    As a former Iowa resident, farmers there, typically, take very good care of their land. Practices are constantly changing

    … and the dollar rules.

    Next.

    .

  52. Gary Hladik says November 16, 2013 at 12:04 pm

    I’m skeptical of the soil degradation claims in the stor

    Did you review the video or the pictures accompanying the article at the AP.org website?

    I make the assumption here in correspondence that the other party a) possesses all their sensory organs (in particular sight), b) is rational and c) not purposely dissembling. Sometimes only two out of three are operative, sometimes only one of three, and in the case of Zeke, perhaps none.

    .

  53. I live in rural Iowa. May I suggest you come tour Iowa and see for yourself? Talk to a few farmers. Learn the truths of the farm economy. The frustrations farmers have with government interference that has twisted the marketplace for farmers. Maybe take a multiple county tour with our Senator Grassley who comes from a farm family – he visits all the counties on a regular basis. There’s a lot of misinformation out there. Those articles are sadly biased. Farmers don’t destroy their own ground, that’s the equivalent of shooting yourself in both feet. Those articles are hugely insulting and misleading as all get out. Do some research of your own. Read some farm publications for a while to see where the farmers are coming from. I’d address all the issues but it would take a pretty fat book about history, environmentalism, economics, politics, and farming practices to put it all in perspective. Believe me, farmers just want to farm, make a living, a pass their farm on in good shape to their heirs and you can’t do that if you destroy your land, you just cannot.

  54. Bio-fuel is evil and should be permanently BANNED NOW for two reasons. First of all, ‘someday’, who knows 50 years from now or 200 years from now, fossil fuel will actually start to become more scarce, driving up its price and thus making bio-fuels more and more economically attractive . But bio-fuel allows rich countries to buy food right out of the mouths of starving third world children, (already what the EU is doing to Africa), and feed it to their machines. I consider it genocide.

    The other thing is the eco-lunacy factor of cutting down rainforests and planting otherwise unsuitable land – not banning bio-fuel will simply put evermore pressure to destroy such regions. This scenario will simply never get ‘better’, there is only so much land – that’s it!

    Next to the E10 placard on gas pumps we should be sticking pictures of a dead orangutans and starving children. http://www.nbcnews.com/id/20478277/#.UofZaazpq40 http://www.oxfam.org/en/grow/pressroom/pressrelease/2012-09-17/europes-thirst-biofuels-spells-hunger-millions-food-prices-shoot-up

    If only we had an actual independent thinking leader in the White House with critical reasoning skills who would tell it like it is and lead the world to stop this madness.

  55. S. King was on to something when he wrote Children of the Corn.

    But the ethanol era has proven far more damaging to the environment than politicians promised and much worse than the government admits today.

    It’s also damaging to many gasoline driven engines but, hey, that’s what it’s all about.

  56. Gary Hladik says:
    November 16, 2013 at 12:12 pm

    I read it a long time ago, so no. There is a lot on the Net about German use of methanol in rocket fuel & in supercharging aircraft, but I didn’t immediately find details of its application in ground vehicle gasoline engines. However, there’s this about Sweden in the ’80s. Note what stopped this progress:

    http://www.varmlandsmetanol.se/Technical%20Methanol%20memo%20.pdf

    “In the 1980s the Swedish Nynäs Petroleum corporation was successfully
    marketing M15, a blend of 15 per cent methanol and 85 per cent petrol. The
    methanol was produced from natural gas, but Nynäs planned to build a big
    methanol plant using coal. After some years, however, the projects were halted
    by the already ongoing debate about greenhouse gas emissions.”

  57. _Jim says:
    November 16, 2013 at 12:12 pm
    “re: DirkH says November 16, 2013 at 11:58 am
    Looks like con-spiracy talk, Dirk.”

    I point you to the official GLOBE website and cite them and you call it conspiracy talk stuff.
    The youtube video is of a PolSci PhD, Jacob Nordangard, explaining his thesis.

    Next you’ll tell me I made up the trilateral commission, or invented the person of Zbigny Brzezinski whose daughter is on MSNBC. Well I couldn’t even invent that name! Or write it correctly.

    I mean what do you expect? That your politicians explain to you that they plan to buy farmer’s votes with a new lavish subsidy program? That’s not how you sell your party’s position to the taxpayers who are gonna pay for it.

  58. Mborch says:
    November 16, 2013 at 9:32 am
    Anybody that knows anything about agriculture and growing corn knows that article was a very biased one-sided hit piece about ethanol. I am a professional farm manager in Iowa and can assure you that the fast majority of farmers in Iowa are using conservation tillage and other practices to protect the soil on their farms. Farmers aren’t stupid. They don’t want to destroy their factories (land). In any industry you can always find a few examples of abuses and how to do things the wrong way. The people of Corydon are very upset that they were misled and taken out of context by the reporter who wrote this story. Using this article as a way to support negative theories about ethanol is just as inappropriate as the other side using biased temperature data and poor modeling to support their theory of man-made global warming.

    MBorch … no point wasting your breath trying to provide real facts about ethanol here. The willingness to accept garbage like presented in this AP hatchet piece without any semblance of critical review is simply astounding. These people will attack AP when they write similarly inaccurate and highly biased climate stories, but accept as fact a similarly biased attack on ethanol.

    The saddest part is it doesn’t take that much effort to do a little research and disprove just about every claim in the story. Funnier yet are the comments in this thread – all from ethanol haters – that disprove much of the the story on their own.

    Sorry Anthony – you know I’m a strong supporter of WUWT – but this posting, and seemingly strong support of, a highly biased attack piece – by the AP no less – without any effort at critical review of the largely easily disproven claims is, in my opinion, wrong. This story and the repeated attacks on ethanol here, show us doing exactly here, what the warmists do with regards to climate science.

  59. This hit piece on farming is a piece of garbage. Farming in Iowa is not harmful to the environment. What is the real harm caused by the subsidies and mandates for ethanol?

    I have read and understood the article. As a commenter, I have provided further items effecting and informing the answer to determine the real harm of ethanol.
    1. Lands seized by the Federal Government in 2009 under the Omnibus Act are the lands very likely or at least potentially in play here.
    2. Political supporters of the Admin are taking farm subsidies, including Larry Flint and Ted Turner, who holds enormous solar interests in New Mexico as well.
    3. Subsidies for the ethanol have ended, but the mandates have not. This means the fines are still in place for not meeting federally mandated ethanol use (+-9 million gallons?).
    4. The disaster is indeed environmental in other countries, as farmland is diverted to selling ethanol in the US.
    5. Rising food prices are approaching levels reached in 2008. This is in part because of ethanol subsidies according to most analysts.
    6. The UN has issued a call for a “paradigm shift” in science to end modern agricultural practices. Look up Dr. Mae Wan Ho. 5 year plans have been signed with the EU and China to bring so-called sustainable farming practices to the US.

    I have provided these contributing factors to the discussion of the abuses and mistakes regarding ethanol use. It is by no means exhaustive. I feel that drawing the wrong conclusions about the genuine harm done to the world by ethanol subsidies and mandates should be avoided. Farming in Iowa is safe and reliable and provides the grain for pigs, cows, and chickens, besides many other products. The carpet baggers on federal reserves may be worthy of investigation. But I do not accept the premise that farming in Iowa is an environmental disaster.

  60. The way I heard it, a field of corn sucks up co2 like Hannibal Lecter on a plate of fava beans.

    So that’s one instance of the AP article exaggerating.

    If you have a plume of algae growing in the gulf because of fertilyzer runoff, then it’s not a dead zone. The algae is growing. Something eats the algae. You can harvest the algae just like any crop. Rince off the salt. Dry it up. Then ship it up to Iowa to sell as fertilyzer.

    It’s the circle of life. Oom.

  61. The great Law of Unintended Consequences at work again. This the the problem with Greens. They can’t see beyond their sandals.

  62. Also see Indonesia and the rush for palm oil and biofuel. The result was a massive loss of wildlife habitat, a massive release of ozone from the oil palms, a loss of biodiversity due to monoculture etc. Sometimes I wonder whether Greens aren’t in fact fossil fuel funded agents.

  63. Bangkok Post Obituary:

    17 Nov: Bangkok Post Editorial: Climate picture out of Warsaw looking bleak
    It’s hard to imagine a worse scenario for action on climate change than what is shaping up in Warsaw, Poland, at the Conference of the Parties (COP19), which runs until Friday. The negotiations have been labelled the “Coal COP” …
    Japan announced in Warsaw on Friday that it is rescinding its pledge to reduce greenhouse gases by 25% of 1990 levels by 2020, citing the Fukushima nuclear plant crisis as the reason…
    Even more damaging to efforts to mitigate the effects of global warning is China’s decision to embark on the construction of at least nine large-scale coal-fuelled synthetic natural gas (SNG) plants in northwestern China and Inner Mongolia. According to the journal Nature Climate Change, these plants would emit seven times the greenhouse gases of conventional natural gas plants…
    Meanwhile Canada and the US are betting on bitumen from the tar sands of Alberta, a thick, heavy oil that is among the most greenhouse gas-intensive forms of petroleum to produce. Estimates are that tar sands oil contributes from 15% to 100% more greenhouse gases per barrel than conventional oils because of the resources needed to process it. Aren’t we supposed to be going the other way? …
    However, the chances for pro-active measures and a unified policy to head off global warming coming out of Warsaw or any other climate change venue don’t look promising when the two biggest producers of…

    http://www.bangkokpost.com/opinion/opinion/380223/climate-picture-out-of-warsaw-looking-bleak

    “or any other climate change venue “? reality bites.

  64. papertiger says:
    November 16, 2013 at 2:54 pm
    “If you have a plume of algae growing in the gulf because of fertilyzer runoff, then it’s not a dead zone”

    Yeah, I was always amazed by the Media’s and the Green NGO’s definition of “dead” as well.

  65. Jimbo says:
    November 16, 2013 at 3:06 pm
    “Also see Indonesia and the rush for palm oil and biofuel. The result was a massive loss of wildlife habitat, a massive release of ozone from the oil palms, a loss of biodiversity due to monoculture etc. Sometimes I wonder whether Greens aren’t in fact fossil fuel funded agents.”

    Indonesia is the other Green; Islam. And they will turn it into a desert. And our Greens will blame us for it.

  66. One of the most horrible political moves of all time. Both Left and Right have allowed it to
    continue for far too long. Sheer greed and political fortune.

  67. “Anybody that knows anything about agriculture and growing corn knows that article was a very biased one-sided hit piece about ethanol. ”

    Exactly, that is what journalist do. I work in the nuclear end of the energy industry so I am used to AP hit pieces. The productivity of journalists is now a function cut and paste rather than studying the facts.

    If your job involves producing something, you job involves protecting the environment. Before the 2005 Energy Bill, American farmers were saying that they could replace MTBE with corn ethanol. And they did. No environmental disasters are apparent.

  68. Schadenfreude: ……defined.

    : a feeling of enjoyment that comes from seeing or hearing about the troubles of other people
    ============
    I think there must be a better word ??

  69. having used the $100bn/year pledge to get “poor nations” onside, this should wake those nations up to the reality. time for those nations to call out CAGW for the scam it always was:

    17 Nov: NYT: Steven Lee Myers/Nicholas Kulish: Growing Clamor About Inequities of Climate Crisis
    (Steven Lee Myers reported from Warsaw, and Nicholas Kulish from Nairobi, Kenya. Justin Gillis contributed reporting from New York, David Jolly from Paris, and Mohammed Ibrahim from Mogadishu, Somalia)
    From the time a scientific consensus emerged that human activity was changing the climate, it has been understood that the nations that contributed least to the problem would be hurt the most. Now, even as the possible consequences of climate change have surged — from the typhoons that have raked the Philippines and India this year to the droughts in Africa, to rising sea levels that threaten to submerge entire island nations — no consensus has emerged over how to rectify what many call “climate injustice.”…
    The sheer magnitude and complexity of the issue make such compensation unlikely. The notion of seeking justice for a global catastrophe that affects almost every country — with enormous implications for economic development — is not only immensely complicated but also politically daunting.
    It assumes the culpability of the world’s most developed nations, including the United States and those in Europe, and implies a moral responsibility to bear the costs, even as those same nations seek to draft a new treaty over the next two years that would for the first time compel reductions by rapidly emerging nations like China and India. As a group, developing countries will within a decade have accounted for more than half of all historical emissions, making them responsible for a large share of the continuing impact humanity will make, if not the impact already made.
    Assigning liability for specific events — like Typhoon Haiyan, which struck the Philippines with winds of at least 140 miles an hour, making it one of the strongest storms on record — is nearly impossible…
    How to compensate those nations hardest hit by climate changes remains divisive, even among advocates for such action. Some have argued that wealthy countries need to create a huge pool of money to help poorer countries recover from seemingly inevitable losses of the tangible and intangible, like destroyed traditions…
    ***The United States and other rich countries have made their opposition to large-scale compensation clear. Todd D. Stern, the State Department’s envoy on climate issues, bluntly told a gathering at Chatham House in London last month that large-scale resources from the world’s richest nations would not be forthcoming.
    “The fiscal reality of the United States and other developed countries is not going to allow it,” he said. “This is not just a matter of the recent financial crisis. It is structural, based on the huge obligations we face from aging populations and other pressing needs for infrastructure, education, health care and the like. We must and will strive to keep increasing our climate finance, but it is important that all of us see the world as it is.”
    Appeals to rectify the injustice of climate change, he added, will backfire. “Lectures about compensation, reparations and the like will produce nothing but antipathy among developed country policy makers and their publics,” he said…

    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/17/world/growing-clamor-about-inequities-of-climate-crisis.html?_r=0

  70. I love Zeke.

    This one is horrible. I would say to people to go visit an ethanol plant and see if they would want to eat any of the corn that gets delivered there.

    I don’t see any problem whatsoever with getting energy from “bottom of the pile”, worthless grain that livestock won’t even eat because of the bugs and dirt and other contaminates that have gotten into it.

    Should we just throw this excess into a landfill? I would prefer it be made into whiskey to bring the price down on that. But, there’s people that don’t think it should be made into whiskey either.

    The only time I use ethanol myself is during the winter when excess humidity in my fuel tank condenses and freezes up in the lines. (I Hate that) But, I do like whiskey.

    Can we get these ethanol plants to start producing whiskey now?

    Land usage and farming practices, I do not believe is the real issue here. What happens to the crops after they are harvested are.

  71. Ethanol and other biofuel mandates have the economic effect of tying the price of food crops (through substitution) to the world price of energy. This is a very bad idea.

  72. @Caleb

    >Whatever happened to the switchgrass idea?

    Switchgrass pellets are a subject of on-going government experiments in Ontario. There are at least 6 large commercial greenhouses (well, 6 locations, more houses) that are using it for fuel.

    There is one large scale farmer in the Goderich area who has 1000 Ha in the crop. I have experimented with 5, 7 and 8mm diameter pellets. It produces about 13 tons per Ha per year which is a heck of a lot more than many if not all other biomass crops that could be grown on Canadian farmland.

    The tireless promoter of switchgrass as a viable biofuel is Roger Samson of REAP Canada in Montreal how has devoted more than 20 yeas to the topic. It has a high rate of return, it is easy to grow, process and burn. It does not need any subsidy. Key to using it is to allow the Cl and P to wash off over winter – a discovery that came about through the input of the farmer (no big surprise). There is a lot of crappy land in north America that could be stabilized using this native, hardy plant.

  73. http://m.iowafarmertoday.com/news/crop/cellulosic-ethanol-comes-of-age-in/article_66e71ebe-4712-11e3-9316-001a4bcf887a.html?mobile_touch=true

    For those interested in the state of cellulose based ethanol, see the link above.

    As an Iowa native, I’d also like to make a couple points.

    First, I am not now and never have been a fan of ethanol. I come from north central/west part of the state. There are IIRC 11 ethanol plants within a 2 hour drive and 3 bio diesel plants. The horrid waste of taxpayer money is all around that industry. A group of farmer investors built a new bio diesel plant in the county seat, Algona. During construction bean prices skyrocketed, meaning bean oil, the feed stock for bio diesel, did as well. They finished the plant, spun it up for 2 days or so, thereby qualifying for a large chunk of Federal money, then shut it down. They made their investment plus profit for a simple run up.

    As for the conservation acres, you the taxpayer were paying the farmers not to plant those acres. A running joke within the state for years, dating back to when there was a glut of corn and soybeans and the .gov decided that it wasnt a good idea to subsidize it all, so they offered what at the time were called set aside acres. Corn prices were, at the time, around $1.50/ bushel, farmers were in dire straits, so they signed up in droves…free money with no input cost. So now corn is up, and farmers are like any business person, they want to maximize profit while they can, because if anyone knows every year is a crapshoot it’s a farmer. They view ethanol as a savior of their way of life, right or wrong.

    As concerns Corydon, this is some of the worst farmland in the state…..hilly, sandy. Pull out an atlas that shows county lines, look at the two rows of counties from the Missouri border north…those have historically been the poorest counties in the state because of the poor performing farmground. The fact that farmers who have historically struggled to eke out a living decided to try and increase acreage, while not a good decision, is, if you know the area, not surprising. Terracing served them well for decades in that area, but some felt they could slope the ground and increase acreage. Again, bad idea. Name a business that hasn’t had one.

    If you want to blast ethanol from a scientific/economic standpoint, blast away. However, buying into the idea that Iowa is some third world craphole because farmers are destroying the land in a manic rush to grow more corn can have never been there. These people actually do live where they work, and not one farmer I know would deliberately endanger his family or his ground. Like a lady said earlier, harming the ground is like shooting yourself in both feet. Some practices may be found to not be as good as others, but innovation in agriculture is feeding the world, even with ethanol eating up some of the supply.

    If you want to see Iowa up close and personal, come and ride your bicycle on RAGBRAI, where bicycle enthusisasts spend a week riding from the Missouri to the Mississippi. It draws riders from all 50 states and a number of foreign countries, one of the biggest bike rides in the world. You go through the most rural areas of the state, and it is a great way to see Iowa up close and personal.

  74. The EPA mandate cut will be up for public comment soon. When that proposal shows up on regulations.gov we need to drown out Big Ethanol with thousands of comments about how the mandate should definitely be lowered and even eliminated.

  75. justsomeguy wrote how ethanol from sugarcane can now be imported. Yes but— I believe there is a cost prohibitive tariff of over fifty cents a gallon on it. The whole problem is we don’t have a free market in energy. Government mandates force us to use so much alcohol. Bio-fuels don’t have to be banned, they just have to compete honestly with all other sources of energy. The US would have a very modest ethanol business. We will never learn that the government mandating economic policy is nothing but distorting, inefficient, ineptitude.

  76. Caleb says:
    November 16, 2013 at 10:39 am
    Whatever happened to the switchgrass idea? As I recall it was a native to the prairie, grew deep roots and came back year after year, and stopped erosion. It could be made into pellets for pellet stoves, giving off 90% as much heat as wood. Best of all, it would grow on waste land that was unsuitable for growing food.

    Caleb, thanks for asking! The concept of “cellulosic crops to ethanol,” focused upon switchgrass, was based upon the premise that, with enough government incentives, breakthroughs would be made in the processing and production that would achieve economies-of-scale.

    Alas, the concept runs into the face of physics, biochemistry and fermentation science. Cellulose is a polymer of glucose units, covalently bound. IF you can break those covalent bonds, in theory, you’ll have scads and scads of free sugars available for fermentation!! Alas, it ain’t that easy, and the required enzymes are very expensive to produce. So, supply-chain and technical problems are killing that concept entirely.

    Switchgrass has many virtues as a source of ethanol, the primary renewable substitute for gasoline. It already grows wild throughout the country, it thrives in nearly any soil, and it appears to be happy in regions both wet and dry. Unlike traditional biofuel crops such as corn, switchgrass does not require constant care and attention, and it does not take up land and resources that would otherwise go toward producing food. Yet the hardiness that allows switchgrass to thrive in inhospitable environments makes it stubbornly resistant to breakdown and fermentation. “Nature has evolved a very sophisticated mechanism to protect plants against enzymatic attack,” explained team member Loukas Petridis, a computational physicist at ORNL, “so it is not easy to make the fuels. What we’re trying to do is understand the physical basis of biomass recalcitrance—resistance of the plants against enzymatic degradation.”

    http://www.olcf.ornl.gov/2011/09/12/the-problem-with-cellulosic-ethanol/

  77. An ethanol question from a layman.
    Where I work we use roughly 5 tons of liquid CO2 a day. Our supplier gets it from ethanol production.
    In light of ethanol in gas supposing to reduce CO2 emissions and thus CAGW, does anyone know just how much CO2 is produced by ethanol production?

  78. _Jim says (November 16, 2013 at 12:19 pm): “Did you review the video or the pictures accompanying the article at the AP.org website?”

    Yes I did. Did you?

    Did you notice the overblown rhetoric? “Conservation” land has been “wiped out”, or “vanished”. What AP actually means is “put (back?) into production”, but apparently the goal is to alarm, not inform. AP’s evidence for widespread soil erosion is a couple of scary sound bites, quick aerial shots of two unidentified fields, and some closeups of small muddy channels, apparently in a corn field. As I recall, at least two of their photos illustrating soil erosion were taken in soybean fields! WUWT?

    Conspicuously lacking in the article are references to published soil erosion studies and any attempt to get the other side of the story. Nevertheless, the “other side” has rebutted parts of the AP story (including soil conservation points) here:

    http://www.fuelsamerica.org/blog/entry/what-the-ap-got-wrong-on-ethanol

    IMHO a news organization with integrity would link to and/or address the rebuttal.

    Bottom line, in a world where “news” organizations are known to distort and/or fake the “news”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dateline_NBC#General_Motors_vs._NBC

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Killian_documents_controversy

    (remember “fake but accurate”?) one should view obviously alarmist “news” stories with a healthy skepticism. Now AP’s concern about soil erosion may be justified, but (1) they haven’t made their case, and (2) their story doesn’t square with my personal experience of my family’s farm and its neighbors. So yes, I’m skeptical of the AP’s soil erosion claims.

    AP also hasn’t made a detailed case against the economics of the ethanol mandate, but their story does agree with what I’ve learned from other sources, plus there’s the obvious point that the government had to force people to do what they wouldn’t do voluntarily. So I’m much less skeptical of that part of AP’s article. :-)

  79. My SUV, according to the sticker, gets 450 miles from a tank of pure gas and 320 miles from a tank of ethanol. Fortunately, I can get pure gas for only about 45 cents more per gallon.

  80. King Corn film clip…mentioned the subsidies paid to plant maize..not corn. INedible GMO muck, not fit for man or beast.
    then the gmo lads products=increased pest n weed resistance using more chemicals on plants n soil and nasty effects on soil biota.
    this isnt using Food for fuel, its not growing safe edible food at all.
    remove the subsidies and its going to cost more than it returns.
    NO TILL farming….what a joke. hardpans more run off no oxygen to soils more chemicals etc.
    I grew up with morons like Holdren and ehrlich screaming no oil gas etc or food water.well 40 years on and we have seen bugger all of their dire predictions come to pass, we have more food and fuel now, than back then.
    being mindful and not wasting either isnt a bad thing,.
    putting animals back OUT in the fields to eat and poop and getting rid of patented crops etc would do a lot to make soils and animals and us healthier.

  81. Gunga Din says:
    November 16, 2013 at 9:03 pm
    An ethanol question from a layman.
    Where I work we use roughly 5 tons of liquid CO2 a day. Our supplier gets it from ethanol production.
    In light of ethanol in gas supposing to reduce CO2 emissions and thus CAGW, does anyone know just how much CO2 is produced by ethanol production?
    ———————————————————————

    One glucose (6 carbons) produces two ethanol molecules (2X2 = 4 carbons) and 2 CO2s are blown off or captured (using yeast, that is).

    There are some microbes (e.g. acetogens) that convert all the glucose carbons to ethanol, via acetate.

  82. Gunga Din says:
    November 16, 2013 at 9:03 pm
    An ethanol question from a layman.
    Where I work we use roughly 5 tons of liquid CO2 a day. Our supplier gets it from ethanol production. In light of ethanol in gas supposing to reduce CO2 emissions and thus CAGW, does anyone know just how much CO2 is produced by ethanol production?

    Thanks, GD! Corn ethanol is produced during the fermentation of corn sugars by yeast, which give off carbon dioxide as a waste product. Modern ethanol biorefineries capture & harvest this CO2, and industrial gas companies such as Linde purify the CO2 as as an industrial chemical….it is commonly used as the carbonation in soft drinks like Coke, Pepsi etc. We also use CO2 as a replacement for mineral acids like sulfuric, it is valuable stuff.

    Supposedly, this CO2 doesn’t contribute to GHG accumulation since corn, as a living plant, took up CO2 in order to grow, so it is theoretically “carbon neutral.” However, the production of corn takes substantial fossil fuel inputs (fertilizer production, tractor fuel, propane drying, transport, milling, and fermentation), so it is a net loser on the energy balance as well as carbon budget. Folks are only now starting to catch on.

    http://chemistry.about.com/od/lecturenoteslab1/f/What-Is-Fermentation.htm

  83. “Why not just leave the gas alone? ”

    Really! You do not remember the real problems of serious problems of leaded gas and serious air pollution? We do things to gasoline to make engines run better which results in cleaner air and cars that lost longer.

    “If you want to see Iowa up close and personal, come and ride your bicycle on ”

    I love the concept of driving your car someplace to help the environment or get exercise.

  84. I understand that there is a lot of money in adulterating out gasoline to be made by farmers, but I can’t see why that means I should support being robbed both at the pump, and at tax time.

  85. CRS, DrPH says:
    November 17, 2013 at 7:38 am
    ==========================================================
    Thanks!

  86. Kit P says:
    November 17, 2013 at 7:44 am

    “Why not just leave the gas alone? ”

    Really! You do not remember the real problems of serious problems of leaded gas and serious air pollution? We do things to gasoline to make engines run better which results in cleaner air and cars that lost longer.

    ==============================================================
    Lead is an additive and much of the reduction in smog was due to building better engines but you do have a valid point.
    How about if I said, “Why not make gas more efficient without trying to make it ‘green’?”
    (Awkward sentence but I think you know what I mean.)

  87. STARVATION
    A groundbreaking study by the National Research Council:
    The study concludes that for some subsidies, notably for bio-fuels like ethanol, the net greenhouse effect has been negative. According to the study, “although it may seem obvious that subsidizing biofuels should reduce CO2 emissions because they rely on renewable resources rather than fossil fuels, many studies we reviewed found the opposite.”

    The Energy Policy Act of 2005 mandated the use of ethanol in gasoline. Almost 40% of current U.S. Corn Production is used for the production of Ethanol to satisfy that mandate. According to the National Corn Growers Association, IN 2012 280,000,000,000 (280 BILLION) POUNDS OF CORN WERE USED IN THE UNITED STATES FOR THE PRODUCTION OF ETHANOL, a tragic waste that has done nothing to reduce global warming and caused a significant increase in the price of corn as well as other staple crops.

    U.S. Corn price per bushel in 2005: $1.90
    U.S. Corn price per bushel in 2013: $7.03
    World Hunger Statistics

    Total number of children that die every year from hunger: 1.5 million
    Percent of world population considered to be starving: 33%
    Time between deaths of people who die from hunger: 3.6 seconds
    Total number of people in the world who suffer from hunger and malnutrition: 800 million
    Total number of people who do not have enough to eat: 936 million people
    Total percentage who do not have enough to eat who live in developing countries: 98%
    Total percentage of world’s hungry that live in 7 countries: 65%
    Number of people who died of hunger today: 20,864
    Total number of people who will die of hunger this year: 7,615,360

    Climate Scientists and Politicians should be required to justify this climate-science driven, politically-mandated misappropriation of a major food source.
    The study by the National Research Council MAKES IT VERY CLEAR: “We are doing this for our grandchildren” is not a justification.

  88. If biofuels from cellulosic material is going to become a commercially viable reality someday, this Madison, Wisconsin-based startup company may have the answer. Their technology uses catalysts instead of fermentation to produce biofuels from ANY source including switchgrass, corn stalks, etc.

    It’s technology is in pilot-plant stage now with major corporate sponsors.

    http://www.virent.com/

    If successful, this technology would preclude the need to use food-based feedstock for biofuels.

  89. Nah, this is just the same old ethanol-bashing propaganda being recycled. Properly designed ethanol production systems don’t harm anything. All those acres would have been used anyway to grow feed for animals without the benefit of a fuel co-product.

  90. Yeah CD and John.

    A big commercial cellulosic plant just came online in Italy:

    http://www.betarenewables.com/

    Also, companies like POET are using cellulosic processes to use ALL of the corn plant (husks stalks etc.) to make the ethanol.

    http://www.poet.com/cellulosic

    What many commenters on here always seem to fail to understand is that there is massive progress being made constantly by real scientists and engineers in this and related fields. I’m not in this field, but my current project demands that I know what’s going on here. There are comments up above that relate to where the field was 5 years ago. Hello, this is not climate scientists mentally masturbating over 100 sq Km of ice or a swimming f-kin polar bear.

  91. John Q. Galt says:
    November 17, 2013 at 9:57 am

    Nah, this is just the same old ethanol-bashing propaganda being recycled. Properly designed ethanol production systems don’t harm anything. All those acres would have been used anyway to grow feed for animals without the benefit of a fuel co-product.

    =========================================================================
    I prefer a “food by-product”. (Well, OK, a little Jack Daniels would also be acceptable.)

    Nah, this is just the same old ethanol-bashing propaganda being recycled

    You mean that WUWT has gone “Green”? 8-)

  92. Phiincalifornia says:

    “Also, companies like POET are using cellulosic processes to use ALL of the corn plant (husks stalks etc.) to make the ethanol.”

    Virent’s technology is not used to make ethanol. It is used to turn cellulosic material directly into gasoline, diesel and aviation fuels and well as chemicals. Check out the company’s website.

  93. CRS, DrPH says:
    November 16, 2013 at 8:38 pm
    “Alas, it ain’t that easy, and the required enzymes are very expensive to produce. So, supply-chain and technical problems are killing that concept entirely. ”

    As that is a capitalist excuse, it should suffice that El Lider decrees the problem to be fixed with an Executive Order.

    Just look at the Plasma TV’s that the Venezuelan people now have. /sarc

  94. philincalifornia says (November 17, 2013 at 10:55 am): “Also, companies like POET are using cellulosic processes to use ALL of the corn plant (husks stalks etc.) to make the ethanol.”

    Thanks for the link to company propaganda. Here’s a different perspective on POET’s Emmetsburg, Iowa plant:

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/christopherhelman/2013/09/04/same-moonshine-different-name-welcome-to-the-age-of-cellulosic-ethanol/?ss=business%3Aenergy

    From the article:

    ‘Poet received $80 million for Liberty from the Department of Energy. Without the grant, Lautt says, “we probably wouldn’t have” built it. Says Welsh: “We would not have made this investment without the Renewable Fuel Standard.”’

    ‘Lautt insists that Liberty will do better. He anticipates production costs of $3 per gallon for cellulosic. Yet that compares unfavorably with Poet’s current $2.20 cost of making corn ethanol, barely below the current $2.50-per-gallon futures price. The mechanics of the RFS mandate enable Poet/DSM to collect a premium for its cellulosic gallons. Back in 2010 that premium was as high as $1.56. But today it’s down to only 42 cents.’

    So get back to us, Phil, when cellulosic ethanol can stand on its own, without government (taxpayer) grants, subsidies, and mandates.

  95. No schadenfreude over this from me. I would love to be able to buy cheap 105 octane ethanol fuel at any old corner gas station across the land. I’d be puttin’ a Whipple blower on my old Buick.

  96. Gary Hladik says:

    “So get back to us, Phil, when cellulosic ethanol can stand on its own, without government (taxpayer) grants, subsidies, and mandates.”

    I agree Gary that ethanol is not a good choice as a motor fuel. As I understand it, ethanol only has about two-thirds the energy content of gasoline…not good. Couple that with the cost of producing it, and ethanol doesn’t cut it.

    That is why I like Virent’s catalyst technology. It takes cellulosic material and converts it directly into the equivalent of fossil fuels including biogasoline, biodiesel, and aviation fuel, as well as chemicals and plastics (Coca-Cola has tested it for making plastic bottles for its soft drinks). If the pilot plant testing of Virent’s technology pans out with its corporate partners and it proves commercially competitive and viable, it could have a promising future.

    Time will tell though if proves as promising as it looks.

  97. Another example of the ignorance shown about ethanol:

    Big Ethanol’s bad week just got worse: EPA announces reduction to 2014 biofuels requirements

    From the Washington Post story:

    The Environmental Protection Agency on Friday proposed smaller requirements for biofuel use in 2014, trimming targets for corn-based ethanol for the first time ever and setting ethanol use at 15.21 billion gallons, just under 10 percent of motor fuel and 16 percent lower than targets established by Congress in 2007.

    The EPA is adjusting the RFS standards because they do not accurately reflect the production and demands in the marketplace. For ONCE the EPA is reacting appropriately to a regulation of theirs that is not working.

    Which they noted they would be doing in their August 2013 report:

    [The EPA] acknowledges that there are constraints in the market’s ability to
    consume renewable fuels at the volumes specified in the Clean Air Act in future
    years, and states that the EPA anticipates proposing adjustments to the 2014 volume
    requirements in the 2014 rule to address these constraints.

    EPA anticipates that in the 2014 proposed rule we will propose adjustments to the
    2014 volume requirements, including the advanced biofuel and total renewable fuel categories.  We expect that in preparing the 2014 proposed rule, EPA will estimate the available supply of cellulosic biofuel and advanced biofuel volumes, assess the ethanol blendwall and current infrastructure and market-based limitations to the consumption of ethanol in gasoline-ethanol blends above E10, and then propose to establish volume requirements that are reasonably attainable in light of these considerations and others as appropriate. 

    Cellulosic requirements for 2013+14 in the 2007 Renewable Fuels Standards are currently too high as production is not available yet. There are a couple reasons for that – first, it is a new, emerging technology… and just as it was getting to the commercial stage the bottom dropped out of the economy, and driving miles dropped dramatically, drying up funding.

    As the economy and financial markets have finally started improving, albeit slowly, cellulosic is getting closer to commercial viability. As others have noted several full scale commercial plants are open, including Ineos in Florida. And a dozen commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol plants, now under construction by the likes of DuPont and Abengoa , are slated to go into production in 2014.

    The EPA rules required use of a certain amount of cellulosic fuels, yet that fuel was not available. The EPA absurdly fined oil companies for failure to use cellulosic that did not exist. It makes no sense to require use where production capacity is not available, and after some impetus from a Court loss, the EPA has finally acknowledged the real world and is adjusting RFS to more accurately reflect real world.

    They have done the same with corn based ethanol requirements.

    In 2013 corn based ethanol consumption is predicted to be appx 13.8 billion gallons. A review of plant locations and production capacity shows the operating capacity of all US ethanol plants is currently appx. 13.68 billion gallons.

    The RFS standards have been revised to simply reflect the reality of current production capacity … a rare display of common sense by the EPA.

  98. CD (@CD153) says (November 17, 2013 at 12:13 pm): “I agree Gary that ethanol is not a good choice as a motor fuel. As I understand it, ethanol only has about two-thirds the energy content of gasoline…not good.”

    To be fair, I vaguely recall claims in earlier WUWT discussions that an engine built/adjusted for ethanol can get better mileage on (pure?) ethanol than on gasoline. Something about higher compression, perhaps? So if all grants/subsidies/mandates for ethanol fuel are ended, maybe a small niche market would remain?

  99. I agree Gary that ethanol is not a good choice as a motor fuel. As I understand it, ethanol only has about two-thirds the energy content of gasoline…not good. Couple that with the cost of producing it, and ethanol doesn’t cut it.

    So many people claim to “understand” ethanol but really don’t.

    This has been explained here in detail MANY times. You can find out the facts yourself with a minimal amount of effort.

    FACTS: Gasoline has appx 124,800 BTU’s per gal. Ethanol has appx 77,000 BTU’s per gal. E10 has appx 120,100 BTU’s per gallon.

    E10 has appx 3.83% less energy than straight gasoline.

    Ethanol does get lower mileage than gas however it also costs less. E85 currently costs me $2.15 vs $3.09 for E10 blend –- 30% less for E85 vs E10.

    My average fuel economy drops appx 15-18% in a 2003 Tahoe flex fuel vehicle running E85 vs E10. ”

    E85 is 30% less than E10 but mileage only drops 15% to 18% – go ahead and do the math yourself, and then come back and tell us how ethanol is “doesn’t cut it.”

    Ethanol blends also REDUCE the cost of the regular gas (E10) you buy at the pumps.

    Ethanol is a BETTER fuel value overall. Ethanol is cleaner than gasoline, by a large amount. Ethanol reduces reliance on foreign oil. And ethanol is RENEWABLE – we can keep growing more.

    Ethanol also produces a large amount of co-products as part of ethanol production … corn oils, corn meal and high quality Distillers Dried Grain Solids (DDGS). Every bushel of corn produces appx 2.8 gals ethanol, plus 17 lbs of DDGS along with corn oil and corn meal.

    By nutritional content almost 50% of the corn used for ethanol is produced and returned as animal feed – which is better feed than the corn initially.

    Using corn for ethanol does NOT increase food prices – we do NOT use “food” corn for ethanol – we use “feed” corn..

    Using corn for ethanol does NOT increase the use of pesticides and fertilizers – which is proven by all the comments that we should be using this corn for food – not fuel. Those people want us to use that corn for food – so it would be grown regardless of use – and thus pesticide and fertilizer use would be near identical.

    Nor does use of corn for ethanol cause Guatemalans, or anyone else to “starve” … the US has been the worlds primary corn supplier for most of recent history. We provide 100% of the corn demand for animal feed, food use, and fuel use in the US. We also meet 100% of the export demand requested of us. And yet still manage to add to the reserves every year.

    Our exports have dropped the last couple years – not because of ethanol use, but because other world corn suppliers like Brazil etc have ramped up production. Yet we still supply MORE corn to the world than ALL of the other supplies combined.

    The corn used for ethanol has indirectly created a huge corn reserve as well. Last year, when our crop yields were down due to drought, the ethanol industry absorbed virtually the entire difference, using less corn and producing less ethanol to compensate.

    And about those poor Guatemalans we are supposedly starving by using “food” for “fuel” … more ignorant garbage – sorry, no other way to put it.

    Neither Guatemalans or Mexicans, or others who use corn for food, use seed corn for food. They eat WHITE corn. Which we are also a major exporter of. We provide 100% of the white corn exports the Guatemalans ask for, and have made clear we can and will provide more if they ask. The Guatemalan government imports US white corn to help LOWER their local pricea – as our white corn exports are significantly cheaper than their locally grown. Guatemalan’s don’t grow white corn – which they eat as a staple food, as much anymore, because it is cheaper to buy from the US – and use their own crop land to produce higher value things like specialized vegetables and fruits.

    Just one more lie about ethanol that can be disproven by simply digging up the facts.

    Ethanol will never replace 100% of our fossil fuel use. It is not intended to. It IS able to provide a significant share of our fuel energy needs. It is truly renewable, is better for the environment than gasoline, and helps LOWER our overall energy costs.

    Unlike solar, wind and other renewables it IS commercially viable, and is “transportable” … and increasingly plants are becoming self contained, using ethanol and/or the corn waste to power the plant (and often generate electricity).

    We may well have all the fossil fuels we need for the immediate future – and I am a supporter of using those resources. But there is nothing wrong with stretching those resources with renewables.

    The virulent and uninformed attacks on ethanol just don’t make sense. It is cheaper and causes gas to be cheaper. It is better for the environment than gas. It is renewable, and transportable. It does not require massive backup generation sources and related costs like solar and wind. And it no longer receives the subsidies as in the past.

    Yet a certain section of people still hate it. Makes zero sense.

  100. @Zeke

    Are you familiar with the AP’s science and environmental reporting, or is this the first AP article you ever read?

    I don’t mean to sound condescending and I don’t have time to edit and be more polite, but this piece is typical or any science or environmental reporting from that organization. My grandfather was a farmer and you’re right, the majority of farmers want to conserve their land and the government has really fouled up ag economics.

    However, the truth of ethanol from corn — as it stands right now — is poor policy for many reasons, not the least of which is we are using farmland to create a substitute for an energy source that is actually quite abundant instead of using farmland to grow food.

  101. @DirkH — What army? The EU has unilaterally disarmed and is still highly dependent upon the American military for defense.

  102. @soylent green,

    Thank you. If you would be more specific, please, I can understand any objection you have. My comments have been the most critical of ethanol and of subsidies and mandates on the thread, except for DirkH’s. The land and irrigation is needlessly diverted to putting fuel in American’s gas tanks, with global consequences. Fuel for cars and trucks can be located and safely retrieved in ANWR and the continental shelves.

  103. A.Scott says (November 17, 2013 at 1:32 pm): “Ethanol is a BETTER fuel value overall. Ethanol is cleaner than gasoline, by a large amount. Ethanol reduces reliance on foreign oil. And ethanol is RENEWABLE – we can keep growing more. ”

    Blah blah blah. If ethanol is so @#$%ing great, why force people to use it??? How do you expect people to believe in the supposed benefits of a program that has to be shoved down our throats? (Must…resist making…Obamacare connection…again)

  104. “How about if I said, “Why not make gas more efficient without trying to make it ‘green’?” ”

    I would say you are more interested in in shallow arguments than understanding a complex issue. Adding ethanol to gasoline does not change the thermodynamics of ICE.

    “E10 has appx 3.83% less energy than straight gasoline. ”

    BTU is a unit of energy, gallon is a unit of volume.

    “go ahead and do the math yourself ”

    Statements like this show a low understanding of the principles. Power is sold in units of kwh, maybe we should start selling fuel in units of BTU. Assuming the thermal efficiencies are the same, pricing by BTU would make the math practical.

    People who are serious about solving problems look for the root cause of so they can fix it rather than hyperbole.

    “Percent of world population considered to be starving: 33% ”

    Clearly there are many people in the world that do not get enough food. Generally these people do not have electricity or clean drinking water. As we demonstrate in the the US, providing an adequate standard of living is technically feasible.

    “By nutritional content almost 50% of the corn used for ethanol is produced and returned as animal feed – which is better feed than the corn initially. ”

    Processing out the excess energy from corn does not result in an increase in world starvation but provides protein in a more concentrated form. Thus lowering starvation.

    One of the reason for small standards is to see what the benefits and consequences are.

  105. Ethanol is a lousy automotive fuel. We learned that in the 1970s, but apparently our memories are short. Can we please stop trading food for oil now???

  106. Ethanol is an EXCELLENT motor fuel. OK, so its enthalpy is a bit lower than gasoline. But it still has one of the highest specific energy content level amongst the major players. Gasoline is better, and diesel is better yet, but alky is still orders of magnitude better than, say, electric batteries. It has both an inherently high octane rating, and provides natural charge cooling that cools the combustion chamber when it evaporates. This both allows much higher compression ratios and more aggressive spark curves (both of which significantly enhance thermal efficiency), it also reduces the amount of waste heat that is transferred into the coolant, also by definition enhancing thermal efficiency — more of the heat stays in the expanding gasses during the expansion stroke. Because of this, the increase in volumetric fuel consumption is proportionately much less than the decrease in enthalpy of the fuel. You get more mechanical power out for a given enthalpy flow, and flex-fuel engines indeed make more power on E85 than on gasoline. There are downsides. It doesn’t lubricate your valves, injectors, piston rings, etc. as well as gasoline does, and you need stainless steel or other corrosion resistant materials in your fuel system. And I have heard of the lower general operating temperatures in the engine causing water to not boil out of the lubricating oil as readily as typical, meaning you need to stay on top of your oil changes. But the performance advantages still make its use quite compelling, to me at least.

    I don’t want to force anybody to use ethanol for fuel – burn cow manure in your car for all I care. I just wish it were more readily available for me to use. It would make putting a supercharger on my old muscle car a no-brainer.

  107. Gary Hladik says:
    “To be fair, I vaguely recall claims in earlier WUWT discussions that an engine built/adjusted for ethanol can get better mileage on (pure?) ethanol than on gasoline. Something about higher compression, perhaps? So if all grants/subsidies/mandates for ethanol fuel are ended, maybe a small niche market would remain?”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compression_ratio.

    It is my understanding from the Wikipedia article above that engines with higher compression ratios put out more horsepower for a given amount of fuel rather than providing better fuel economy. I subscribed to Car & Driver and Motor Trend for a number of years. High performance cars that they reviewed would sometimes have high compression engines that put out more horsepower than their lower compression counterparts. Didn’t appear to do anything for fuel economy.

  108. Higher compression engines make more power for a given displacement because of improved thermal efficiency. 4-stroke spark ignited engines operate thermodynamically through the Otto cycle. The PV diagram of the Otto cycle can be approximated by isentropic compression, followed by a constant volume addition of heat, followed by an isentropic expansion, followed by an constant volume rejection of heat. This forms a loop. The approximated thermal efficiency (ratio of mechanical work done to the amount of heat energy supplied) is the area of this loop divided by the area formed if the isentropic compression cycle were purely a line of zero pressure. A higher compression ratio (of actually a higher expansion ration, but in Otto cycle engines, the two are mechanically identical) results in more of the heat energy (enthalpy) going into mechanical work, and less is thrown away aw waste heat in the exhaust or coolant. This is because the hot gas is allowed to expand down further towards ambient pressure and temperature. The biggest limiting factor as to how high you can go with the compression ratio (or how much boost to use with a supercharged engine, for that matter) is the octane of the fuel. Lower octane fuels will “detonate” or “auto ignite” due to the higher temperatures associated with high compression, and hence will produce a destructive “ping” rather than a controlled combustion event, and will tear the engine apart.

    Bottom line: When you raise compression ratio, you have two choices: Burn the same amount of fuel and make more power, or make the same amount of power and burn less fuel. It is a design trade-off decision as to how to balance these two. The choice is usually made to make more power, since the efficiency increase of the use of 93 vs. 87 octane gas is typically proportionally much less than the price increase of 93 vs. 87 octane gas, but motorheads will pay for power. But E85 is 105 octane! “Flex Fuel” engines have to run on either, so they are not able to really take advantage of this high octane — they have to keep the compression ratio low enough to run reliably on 87 octane regular gasoline. What they do that is helpful, is to be able to automatically advance the spark timing to the point of incipient detonation, which behaves to an extent like increasing the compression ratio. In Flex-Fuel engines running on E85, there is also less waste heat, since the evaporating alky cools the combustion chamber, and hence transfers less heat into the coolant. But if an engine could be dedicated to run on E85 only, the compression ratio could be bumped up a lot. You can’t really do this, though, if you can’t rely on being able to buy the fuel as you travel around the country.

  109. Why don’t you great business guys, who have the talking part done, get contracts to divert some of the corn that’s used for ethanol and use it to make food to sell to starving Africans. Sounds like a slam dunk.

    Good luck with the financing.

  110. philincalifornia says (November 17, 2013 at 8:33 pm): “Why don’t you great business guys, who have the talking part done, get contracts to divert some of the corn that’s used for ethanol and use it to make food to sell to starving Africans. Sounds like a slam dunk.

    Good luck with the financing.”

    Clearly phil hasn’t been paying attention. If one really wants to finance an otherwise money-losing venture, the best plan is to

    1) Suck up to Obama
    2) Get taxpayer financing and/or government mandates for one of his pet “green” projects

    You know, like solar panels (Solyndra), or cellulosic ethanol (like the Emmetsburg, Iowa plant). Now if phil really wants to get corn to Africa–and make a profit–I’d suggest his sales pitch includes shipping it in domestically produced solar panels. :-)

  111. ….. except you forgot that this all started during the Bush administration.

    … and the subsidies expired during the Obama administration.

    Whether you like it or not

  112. philincalifornia says (November 17, 2013 at 9:15 pm): “….. except you forgot that this all started during the Bush administration.”

    Obama’s in power now, so that’s where to go for the goodies. Obama’s the guy who plans to decarbonize our economy, with or without Congress. I don’t see him trying to undo the bipartisan ethanol mandate, do you? BTW, on June 21, 2007 Obama voted “Yea” on the Energy Act of 2007, which established the ethanol mandate

    http://votesmart.org/candidate/key-votes/9490/barack-obama-ii/?p=3

    although strangely he didn’t vote at all on the final version in December (probably too busy campaigning).

    But I blame Bush and the idiot Republicans who voted for the Energy Act of 2007 as much as I blame Obama and the Democrats. The real culprit isn’t a particular politician or political party, it’s giving politicians the power to run our lives…because they will.

  113. My 2014 Suburban is a “Flex Fuel” vehicle, yet it says right on the sticker that it gets 30% less MGP on E85 than on Gasoline. My experience, since I can get pure gasoline at certain stations, basically bears that out.

    Pure gas only costs about 15% more, though I am forced to buy premium, so I buy it. I wish I could get pure regular gasoline, I am sure I would save even more.

  114. Your flex fuel vehicle does not require premium fuel – you might as well throw money out the window if indeed you are buying premium, let alone ethanol free premium. It is designed for E10, E15, or E85 and runs just fine on all of them. In the midwest, becasue there are a decent number of stations with E85 the price differential is currently $2.15 E85 and $3.09 E10 – which make E85 30.4% cheaper than E10.

    I have 97,000 miles on a 2003 Tahoe that has NEVER gotten worse than about 18% less MPG using E85 – which means I come out significantly ahead. I strongly doubt your 2014 flex fuel vehicle gets 30% lower mileage on E85 than E10 – maybe if you manage to find and use straght gas with no ethanol blend it might be possible.

    In areas with poor distribution the sellers of E85 tend to have higher costs, and they tend to price gouge – which is a big reason to insuire distribution is available.

  115. Ethanol is a lousy automotive fuel. We learned that in the 1970s, but apparently our memories are short. Can we please stop trading food for oil now???

    It is no longer the 70′s. So you would probably be well served to update your knowledge – educate yourself on the facts today. Simply repeating unsupported and unsupportable claims does not make them so.

    By all means though please share with us your evidence we are trading food for – I suspect you mean “fuel” – not “oil”… or any evidence to support you claim about how lousy ethanol is as a fuel.

  116. “Big Don says:

    November 17, 2013 at 7:03 pm”

    The main reason for high octane in fuel (E85 105 Research Octane Number. We used to get regular leaded “5 star” petrol in the UK, that was 101 RON) in small capacity (2.5L or less), high compression ratio (CR 8.5:1 and above) engines is to prevent detonation. If E85 was at 87 RON, you would not be able to use it effectively, down on power, detonation and other issues. If you had a high capacity engine (3.5L or more) with a low CR (~7.5:1), you’d be OK. Anything petrol engine with a turbo, forget it, the fuel would detonate. If we look at Mazda’s “SkyActiv” engines, petrol AND diesel engines have a CR of 16:1, no turbo. The most impoartant thing with these engines is improved engine ECU mapping as well as significantly improved gas flowing, propperly flowed branched 4 into 1 exhaust manifolds and freer flowing exhaust.

    In a petrol engine, more air = more power, hense turbos, and/or gas flowing, for volumetric efficiency.

    I can tell you now that my 2003 Subaru, with an ECU that will “re-map” itself, within stored parameters, for the fuel being used, runs terribly on E10 94 RON available here in Australia. I stick to 95 (Regular) or 98 (Super V) RON ULP.

  117. “Big Don says:

    November 18, 2013 at 5:26 am”

    I said “IF” E85 was at 87 RON, there would be problems. The reason why you do not get detonation, in usual conditions, is becuase it’s rated at 105 RON. But then you will still need an engine and an ECU fuel map mapped to handle that, and not all ECU’s can “learn” from the fuel they burn.

  118. Anthony,
    Must be said again—very disappointed in this thread. You continue to promote media pieces and allow commentary that are obviously false pertaining to corn production, consumption and conversion.
    I hold a great admiration for you, JC, McIntyre, Lindzen, Spencer, and all others in the scientific community that have been steadfast against the tide of CAGW, and more importantly, have been effective at exposing the political/activist connections that have and continue to pervert the science.

    Unfortunately, threads such as this does nothing for the necessary debate on the direction of energy policy in the U.S. and continued role, if any, renewable sources will play now, and into the future.

    Thank you to A.Scott for bringing facts, experience and perspective to the discussion.

    PS. to Commentators: continued reiteration of long since refuted “studies” by Pimental (a entymologist) and Patzek (a geological engineer) in regards to ethanol’s energy balance does not help your argument. P and P have continued to “move the goalposts” very much like our dear friends on the other side of the CAGW debate, to the point where now they include “sunlight” in their equations for the energy budget of ethanol, but neglect to calculate “compression” for the energy budget of petroleum.

    REPLY:Thanks for the comment and I think most certainly you should feel free to be as disappointed as you like. If I worried that some articles I posted might disappoint someone or anger someone, WUWT would likely have zero content. You can also be disappointed at Dr. Judith Curry’s, who also is commenting on this story, calling corn ethanol “folly”. I tend to agree with that label. She writes:

    JC comments

    The unintended consequences associated with corn ethanol makes this a classic case whereby the ‘cure’ is ineffective and worse than the ‘disease’ at which it is targeted. The rationale for corn ethanol was to ‘prime the system’ for cellulosic ethanol that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Wikipedia sums up the issues:

    According to Michael Wang of Argonne National Laboratory, one of the benefits of cellulosic ethanol is it reduces greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) by 85% over reformulated gasoline. By contrast, starch ethanol (e.g., from corn), which most frequently uses natural gas to provide energy for the process, may not reduce GHG emissions at all depending on how the starch-based feedstock is produced. According to the National Academy of Sciences, there is no commercially viable bio-refinery in existence to convert lignocellulosic biomass to fuel. Absence of production of cellulosic ethanol in the quantities required by the regulation was the basis of a United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia decision announced January 25, 2013 voiding a requirement imposed on car and truck fuel producers in the United States by the Environmental Protection Agency requiring addition of cellulosic biofuels to their products. These issues, along with many other difficult production challenges, lead George Washington University policy researchers to state that “in the short term, [cellulosic] ethanol cannot meet the energy security and environmental goals of a gasoline alternative.”

    - Anthony

  119. Pat – Apologies for misunderstanding. To note, all of the factory-built “Flex Fuel” vehicles that I am aware of, which have been available here in North America for some time now, are equipped with feedback engine control systems that calculate the given ethanol content of the blend that happens to be in the tank at the time, and optimize around it. I know of a mass produced, direct-injected 2.4L 4-cyl flex fuel engine that produces about 9 HP more on E85 than it does on 87 RON gasoline. I’m admittedly not sure its numbers on 93 RON petrol – somewhere in-between, I suspect. With E85 in it, the fuel economy drops, but not nearly by the ethanol / gasoline enthalpy ratio. It clearly exhibits greater thermal efficiency on the ethanol. But It could do better if it could be configured to run only on E85, for both power and fuel economy.

    As for James D. Schielein’s post, I believe my comments are indeed relevant to what our energy policy ought to be. In my view, E85 makes for a very good motor vehicle fuel, and I feel I need to state as such, and why. I hope people keep open minds when hearing of new processes and technologies that may render it both economically and ecologically viable.

  120. “Big Don says:

    November 18, 2013 at 8:48 am”

    The issue is fuel management. We can burn many fuels in engines these days. If we take the British Chieftain tank, it can burn margarine if needed! To use the fuel in a modern petrol engine effectively, you need a properly programable ECU, and then stick to that fuel configuration/map for the fuel used. All stanard ECU fuel maps are “poor”, or “average” IMO fro what I have seen, mfg’s err on the side of caution. The mixture can be “leaned” out for power, but you will burn your top end out rather quickly. That’s why for those that want more power opt for an after market, programmed/programmable ECU, with risks. We have E85 (Not sure RON rating) in V8 motor sport in Australia, BUT, ALL engines are the same, the fuel management in the car is tightly controlled and very configurable, unlike road going cars.

  121. @ Big Don,
    My comment was directed to the AP story and to many of the comments here that continue a false narrative. I apologize for using the “broad brush”.

    @ Anthony,
    Interesting that both you and JC pivot to the overwhelming challenges that face cellulosic ethanol. I have always been uncomfortable with the linking of corn-based ethanol and cellulosic. Although the end-product is indistinguishable from one another, the logistics and processes for agriculture and industry are radically different.

    REPLY: Not a pivot, but a point. Corn ethanol a primer for cellulose, still not there, and corn ethanol apparently no net GHG gains. Wake me when we aren’t burning food pointlessly. – Anthony

  122. Who am I going to believe regarding the loss of mileage if I use E15? Some web commenter who obviously benefits from ethanol mandates, or the lying sticker on my new car?

    I get pure gasoline at 3.85 a gallon, even though it is premium, and I certainly would buy pure regular if I could, and can get e10 at 3.40. I personally don’t care if the numbers work out dead even, but here in New England, the numbers work in my favor. I like having the extended range of the real gasoline too, BTW.

  123. In the US, the “flex fuel” vehicle is another scam. The automakers get extra CAFE credit for producing those vehicles, regardless of whether or not the fuel is available or whether or not the vehicles use less fossil fuels or produce more or less emissions. The flex fuel vehicle rules allow the auto manufacturers to build big gas-hog trucks and SUVs (you know what I’m talking about–vehicles Americans actually want to buy) and not have to pay fines for not meeting CAFE targets.

  124. Anthony: Corn ethanol a primer for cellulose, still not there, and corn ethanol apparently no net GHG gains. Wake me when we aren’t burning food pointlessly. – Anthony

    Anthony: Cellulosic has been delayed in very large part because of the financial market meltdown and the drastic reduction in miles driven and fuel use that occurred therewith. There are now several commercial cellulosic plants in operation and more under construction.

    As to GHG gains – the vast majority of science shows there are significant GHG gains across the spectrum. Ethanol IS cleaner burning and emmissions/GHG’s ARE reduced compared to burning gasoline. The WORST case claim buy the ethanol “deniers” is, as you note, that it is no better than gasoline. The reality is it has not quite met the 20% reduction target, achieving something like 17% – which some use to attack.

    And once again, we are NOT “burning food” for fuel. I and others have repeatedly refuted this claim here – with detailed, supported facts. We use FEED corn for ethanol – corn used for animal feed – NOT food. And every bushel of corn supplies 2.8 gals ethanol, along with corn oil, corn meal,

    AND every bushel of corn used for ethanol also returns 17lbs of Distillers Dried Grain Solids. DDGS are a high quality high value animal feed. By nutritional value almost 50% of the feed corn used is returned in high value DDGS animal feed as a co-product of ethanol production.

    Half of the feed corn used for ethanol production is returned as high quality DDGS animal feed.

    Additionally, many corn ethanol plants are running on ethanol and/or on the waste stream – generating electricity.

    We regularly hear the claim our use of corn for ethanol is “starving Guatemalan’s.” This claim is simply put – ridiculous, and not remotely based in fact. The opposite in fact is true. First, Guatemalans do not eat feed corn – they eat WHITE corn, as do virtually every other corn consuming group. And we already supply 100% of the WHITE Corn export demand, just as we supply the majority of the worlds feed and other corn needs. The US has provided the majority – as much as 66% over the years – going back to the 1930′s.

    In Guatemala, the givernment buys white corn from the US – becasue it is CHEAPER than their own supplies. They use US corn to lower the local market price – to lower the price of this key food stock for locals. Locals grow LITTLE white corn for themselves, becasue they can use the land to grow much more valuable specialty vegetable and fruit crops. White corn is expensive there becasue of that – NOT becasue of the US using feed corn for ethanol.

    Including Guatemala, Mexico, and the rest of the world, the US provides more corn than all other corn exporters COMBINED.

    And we STILL have enough corn to supply all of OUR needs and to add annually to the US corn reserves.

    The AP story, as is completely typical of them, is hugely short on facts and data. And what data they do use is seriously twisted. For example their claim:

    Farmers planted 15 million more acres of corn last year than before the ethanol boom

    Their insinuation is this increase came from the conversions of virgin prairie and conversion of CRP lands. The facts however do not support this claim. Total acres planted ae virtually unchanged over the last 20 years:

    1994 323.70
    1995 318.29
    1996 333.68
    1997 332.07
    1998 329.97
    1999 329.26
    2000 328.69
    2001 324.58
    2002 327.28
    2003 325.69
    2004 322.32
    2005 317.64
    2006 315.65
    2007 320.37
    2008 325.00
    2009 319.25
    2010 316.70
    2011* 315.14
    2012* 326.32
    2013* 325.60
    Avg: 323.86

    How about the claimed loss of CRP acreage? CRP acreage always has a significant churn of acres in vs acres out. Farmers banked land in CRP when times were tough becasue it was financially smart at the time. Today both farming rpactices and crop prices have made some of these lands commercially viable again. In particular no-till farming has become prevalent, which greatly reduces the erosion concerns.

    The land coming out of CRP and going to crops represents less than 10% of all CRP land. A review of the map of the land coming OUT of CRP compared to a map of corn production areas, shows a major protion of the land removed from CRP is OUTSIDE corn production areas. A very large protion is in northern Montana (I believe wheat production area).

    Attack without critical review of the science and facts is what warmists do.That is NOT what I understand to be what we are supposed to be doing here at WUWT.

    I expect ethanol should get the same level of critical review of the facts here as global warming claims. If the science and data prove the AP claims that is one thing, but in my experience and research they do not – not remotely.

  125. James D. Schielein … the reason for the link between corn based and cellulosic ethanol is that for ANY ethanol product to be viable there needs to be a demand and distribution system for it.

    Corn ethanol provides an interim product. It makes building all those flex fuel vehicles make sense, and is helping create a distribution and supply system.

  126. Kit P says:
    November 17, 2013 at 4:32 pm

    “How about if I said, “Why not make gas more efficient without trying to make it ‘green’?” ”

    I would say you are more interested in in shallow arguments than understanding a complex issue.

    =====================================================================
    The shallowness of my comments aside, when you quote someone it is helpful if you include their name.
    I often use “Ctrl-F” to pull up a search box then enter my name to see if someone responded to a comment I made. (Sometimes I do it to see if I made a comment under that post.)
    Including their name also allows a reader to check and see the context of the quote. Just a tip.

    There’s more than one angle to ethanol.
    If it really is that good for engines, why mandate it? Some engines are designed for it, some aren’t. (When “Cash for Clunkers” came out, I kept my clunker.)
    If acres weren’t planted in feed corn to feed the ethanol mandate, who says a different food crop wouldn’t be planted? A farmer might even be able to let a field go fallow for a year and recover without fertilizer or herbicides. (I’m not a farmer so I don’t know if they would but I think that’s supposed to be good for the soil.)
    If the goal is to reduce GHG and so fight CAGW but the “big picture” shows neither is true, again, why mandate it?
    I remember the gas lines back in the Carter years when OPEC had us over a barrel. A temporary mandate might have made sense then. Not now.

  127. A.Scott says (November 18, 2013 at 1:26 pm): “James D. Schielein … the reason for the link between corn based and cellulosic ethanol is that for ANY ethanol product to be viable there needs to be a demand and distribution system for it.”

    And if government, at great expense to the consumer, has to create that demand by force, then the product is not viable. Did politicians create demand for the iPhone? Should the government have ordered consumers to buy Edsels in 1958?

  128. Sorry GARY – That is just a silly position. Should the government withdraw funding for drug development? How about medical research? You do know fossil fuel gets considerable subsidy as well right?

    Government support is typical for those things the government believes has a public benefit or purpose.

    With ethanol it was first, to replace a highly toxic pollutant, MTBE, with a clean alternative – ethanol. Ethanol burns cleaner, and reduces emissions and greenhouse gases. Most important it is a renewable fuel – and one that reduces reliance on foreign oil and fossil fuel use.

    These are entirely legitimate public benefits and purposes.

    No technology can survive without demand. The government stepped in and guaranteed a base amount of demand for ethanol. This gave auto manufacturers the confidence to invest in building a fleet of flex-fuel vehicles. Other government assistance has helped get distribution and infrastructure built.

    The subsidies, blender credits etc., are gone

    Ethanol also has the benefit to everyone of reducing gas prices at the pump – both directly thru use of E10 blends (and moreso with E15) and indirectly by E85 being a lower cost competitor to gasoline.

  129. Anthony,
    For us in the industry, Corn-based ethanol was never a primer for cellulosic. Our driver was that corn production had far out-stripped demand and we were searching for methods, outside of a disastrous and expensive government -owned reserve and other well intentioned but ill conceived policies, that would bring some demand elasticity to the marketplace. That was it—all of the other talking points, however true, were subservient to the overriding need to ramp up demand to meet the increases in production we knew were coming.
    If you remember the mid-8o’s, most of the news coming from the Midwest was farm foreclosures, suicides, and good ole’ Willie Nelson starting FarmAid. (something that still embarrassingly continues) The government policies affecting agriculture — from USDA Sec. Earl Butz promoting fencerow to fencerow plantings to Jimmy Carter’s grain embargo against the USSR helped create the perfect storm that erupted over corn\soybean country. Those of us that survived knew that we needed less Willie and more demand for our products. It was an all-hands effort over 2 decades that culminated in the original Renewable Fuels Standards of 2005. Cargill, ADM and “Big Agriculture” seem to always get the credit (blame) for its passage but it was thousands and thousands of farmers, myself included, walking the halls of Congress, testifying before committees, working with USDA and the Dept. of Energy (including Dr. Wang at Argonne) that got it done.
    Cellulosic, in my mind at least, was a means to an end. Cellulosic was and still is perceived by some to be “greener” than corn and captured support from those folks that otherwise would have been opposed to the RFS. When I started to lobby in DC during the mid-90′s, cost efficient cellulosic ethanol was thought to be 5-10 years away. Now, 20 years later, cost efficient cellulosic ethanol is still being promoted as being 5-10 years away. Strides have been made–and I am not totally up to speed on where we are today, but even when production hurdles are crossed, the complex logistic issues of getting such huge volumes of bulk material to processors are no where near to being solved. An overall minor point–but one of particular interest to producers–is that there is virtually no consistent price discovery mechanism for switchgrass, corn stover, wheat straw, or whatever bio-mass material will be used in a particular area.
    To your point about GHG emissions, corn-based ethanol, originally, was never intended to be a GHG savior. We knew that corn helped with non-attainment areas such as LA, and when the widespread use of MTBE as an oxygenate was discovered to have negative effects on groundwater and be downright nasty and poisonous, we knew corn could step in and be a much better answer to that market. GHG emissions, in my view, is a nebulous and nefarious standard. I say that having watched my industry’s treatment before California’s CARB and the idiotic methodology of “scoring” the different sources of ethanol and what is a “preferred” renewable fuel. You and JC referred to Dr. Wang, and he is someone I trust, but even his effort is subject to assumptions that are fixed in a point in time and do not reflect what we know today.

    Your final point in your reply illustrates exactly why I initiated my criticism to begin with. You and other corn critics continue to say that we are “burning food pointlessly”. Wake up Anthony! The commercial corn I produce is not “food”. It is a raw material that can be processed into multiple thousands of products some of which do enter our food supply. The picture at the top is a bad joke and perpetuates a myth. That ear of “corn” being pushed into a gas tank is not what I produce, and is not what is processed into ethanol. That is an ear of sweetcorn, a highly protected niche market of a specific variety of corn that does go directly into our food chain and represents a tiny fraction of the overall market of corn-based products. The commercial corn I produce cannot even go into a bag of Doritos (another specific variety) or corn tortillas in Mexico (yet another specific variety) Prior to the RFS, the rule of thumb for commercial corn usage was 2/3 animal feed, 1/5 exports (mostly for animal feed), and the balance for industrial uses including food processors. Since the RFS, we have increased the efficiency of the system by removing some starch (which some animals did not process well anyway) for ethanol and diversified the available feed inputs for animal producers. Far from “burning food”, we created a new product whilst maintaining and improving our obligations to the overall food chain.

    During my time of leadership in 2 state farm organizations, I took great interest in the developing issue of “global warming”. I knew, as did many of my colleagues, that a disproportionate share of government regulation fighting CAGW would fall on agriculture with severely negative impacts. I worried about the impact a cap & trade scheme would have on my farm’s bottom line and I started to educate myself about the issue and try to understand, as best a non-scientist could, where the science stood and where it was leading us. I started with Gavin and RealClimate and immediately recognized the fingerprints of radical environmentalism (same type of language, same tactics, same religious zeal, same trashing of opponents) that I had encountered during my brief visits to Washington lobbying against egregious aspects of the Clean Water and Clean Air Act and lobbying for improvements in our transportation system (WRDA). Luckily, I came across WUWT and have become a dedicated reader and student. I greatly value this blog and your efforts.

  130. So the AP makes a big deal about the alleged $5 million acre loss in CRP since the ethanol boom began. They KNOW this is a carefully crafted lie.

    Drill down to their “interactive” map of the actual “corn belt” areas and you find the loss of CRP land in the corn belt is a fraction of their claims – just 769,000 acres.

    You can hover over individual counties and see how much CRP was lost and how many more or less corn acres were planted. You’ll find there is little or no relation between gain or loss of CRP and additional acres planted for corn.

    This is verified by the overall crop acres planted data I gave above which shows virtually no change in total planted crop acres over either the last 20 years.

    A look at the following maps provides valuable insight as well.

    CRP Acres Lost – Oct 2012
    CRP Acres Gained – Dec 2012
    Corn acres planted

    First off – compare the 769.000 CRP Acres Lost to 26.7 million total CRP enrolled acres and you’ll see the CRP acres lost in the corn belt represented just 2.8% of all CRP acres. Not remotely the massive amounts the AP story insinuates.

    Next compare the CRP Acres Lost to the corn acres planted. You will see the vast majority of CRP acres lost are NOT in corn producing areas.

    Now compare the CRP Acres Lost with the CRP Acres Gained map and you can see that in the areas – like Montana, norther North Dakota etc – the GAIN in CRP in Dec 2012 was typically HIGHER than the losses in those areas. And in the corn belt you’ll see significant increases in CRP – in the central Dakotas, MN, southern IA, northern MO etc.

    Simply put the AP story – just as they do with other alleged science stories, purposely cooks the books – ignoring or obscuring the real data and painting a picture with innuendo and ommisions.

  131. “it is helpful if you include their name. ”

    Helpful to who? I am interested in what people have to say not who said it. Some people like like Gunga Din ask open questions as a debate form. Since the answer is know to a serious student of the subject, I assume that the questioner is not really interested in a reply. There may be other readers who are learning. Some examples of such queations are:

    “If it really is that good for engines, why mandate it? ”

    “And if government, at great expense to the consumer, has to create that demand by force, then the product is not viable. ”

    The government did not create the demand for energy. It is quite large and to be honest, consumers will pay whatever we charge no matter how we do it. As a result, the production of energy is heavily regulated to protect both the consumer, workers, and the environment. While energy is a cheap commodity, the equipment to produce it has a high capital cost.

    After a long public debate it was mandated in the 2005 energy bill that a relatively small amount of transportation fuel should come from domestic renewable energy sources. There was no mandate for corn ethanol, it just that turns out that corn ethanol did a better job of meeting the E10 demand.

    For those who did not read any of the 1000+ pages of the 2005 energy bill, there were many incentives to spur energy development. My favorite is policies that resulted in 4 nuke reactors being built in the US.

    No one bothers to make a list of reasons to be against energy projects that fail.

  132. A.Scott says (November 18, 2013 at 4:32 pm): “Sorry GARY – That is just a silly position.”

    Sorry, A. Scott, but your blatherings are just the same old pious justifications of every con man looking for a taxpayer handout.

    “You do know fossil fuel gets considerable subsidy as well right?”

    You mean how government subsidizes “alternative energy” so we’ll use less fossil fuel?

    “Government support is typical for those things the government believes has a public benefit or purpose.”

    Politicians spend our money for one purpose and one purpose only: staying in power. Do you “deny” that a major goal of the ethanol mandate was appeasing the farm lobby, whatever “public good” argument the politicians used to justify it?

    “With ethanol it was first, to replace a highly toxic pollutant, MTBE, with a clean alternative – ethanol.”

    Um, the actual “toxicity” of MTBE is questionable. In any case its introduction was in response to a government requirement to “oxygenate” gasoline.

    http://www.forbes.com/forbes/2004/1115/173.html

    “Most important it is a renewable fuel – and one that reduces reliance on foreign oil and fossil fuel use.”

    Great! Take away the mandates, grants, and subsidies, and let this “renewable” fuel compete with horrendously expensive and dwindling fossil fuel. Should be a slam dunk, right? :-)

    “No technology can survive without demand. The government stepped in and…”

    bought votes with the money of the citizens it’s supposed to protect but instead exploits. There, fixed that for you.

    “The subsidies, blender credits etc., are gone”

    So is the money we spent on them. Wait, do we get our money back now? That’s gr– No? Bummer.

    I also notice that, no doubt due to an honest oversight, you forgot to mention that the ethanol mandate is still in place (and growing), ethanol plants still get government grants, and they still get a premium price for their product:

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/christopherhelman/2013/09/04/same-moonshine-different-name-welcome-to-the-age-of-cellulosic-ethanol/

    “Ethanol also has the benefit to everyone of reducing gas prices at the pump…”

    So why in @#$% does it need government help??? People should be trampling each other to buy this miracle fuel, right? Hey, it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread! :-)

  133. Kit P says (November 18, 2013 at 5:50 pm): “The government did not create the demand for energy.”

    Both true and irrelevant. It did create the “demand” for ethanol fuel.

    “It is quite large and to be honest, consumers will pay whatever we charge no matter how we do it.”

    Yes and no. Quoting from one article, “Demand and supply are far more elastic in the long run than in the short run.”

    http://faculty.winthrop.edu/stonebrakerr/book/oilprices.htm

    “As a result, the production of energy is heavily regulated to protect both the consumer, workers, and the environment.”

    Which explains why US fossil fuel production on Federal land is falling, but rapidly growing on state/private land. Thanks, O wise and powerful Washington. :-(

  134. Sorry, A. Scott, but your blatherings are just the same old pious justifications of every con man looking for a taxpayer handout.

    No point in arguing with someone who refuses to engage in intelligent discourse and debate. Who refuses to provide fact or data to support their positions and claims … and who, all too typically, resort to mindless ad hominem attack.

    You go ahead and refute ANY of my points – with documented, supportable facts, and I’ll be happy to engage … I won’t hold my breath …

  135. A.Scott says (November 18, 2013 at 7:13 pm): “You go ahead and refute ANY of my points…”

    I agree that the AP story is wrong about the environmental damage from corn ethanol and said so earlier in the thread. But I refuted ALL your claims of corn ethanol being a wonder fuel with the irrefutable fact that it had/has to be mandated and subsidized. I also note that you didn’t deny that the primary purpose of the ethanol mandate/giveaway was to “buy” the farm lobby.

    I’ve provided plenty of “intelligent discourse” along with references. All I’ve gotten back is propaganda.

  136. Gary,
    I will object to your assertion that because something is mandated and/or subsidized disqualifies it from being wonderful. The wearing of seatbelts in a car is a wonderful thing, demonstrably saving lives and reducing injuries, but it is mandated by state law. Eating food is one of my favorite pastimes, and is a wonderful thing. As a nation however, we subsidize eating for close to 50 million of our citizens–not a statistic I’m very proud of by the way.
    You are also mistaken that the ethanol mandate/giveaway was to “buy” the farm lobby. I am afraid you have it exactly backwards. The farm lobby convinced Congress to “buy” access to the fuel market through the use of the Ethanol Blender’s Credit (VEETC) that expired at the end of 2011 and was used to compensate the petroleum industry for the imposition of the mandate.

  137. I guess no-one here has seen an ethanol/methanol based fuel fire. Try putting out a “fire” you cannot see…but only feel!

  138. James D. Schielein says (November 18, 2013 at 11:25 pm): “I will object to your assertion that because something is mandated and/or subsidized disqualifies it from being wonderful. The wearing of seatbelts in a car is a wonderful thing, demonstrably saving lives and reducing injuries, but it is mandated by state law.”

    Being mandatory doesn’t automatically “disqualify” something from being “wonderful”. It does raise suspicion and put the burden of proof on the advocates. Corn ethanol, however, is mandatory and subsidized. Note also that a satisfactory substitute (gasoline) was already in place. Furthermore, the health benefits of seat belts are unequivocal, whereas the many competing studies on gasohol are, at best, ambiguous. So please spare us the phony seat belt analogy, OK?

    “Eating food is one of my favorite pastimes, and is a wonderful thing.”

    Are you a Vegan? Politicians who can force us to wear seatbelts, burn gasohol, and buy health insurance we don’t want can conceivably force us to become Vegan “for our own good”. Mayor Bloomberg tried to tell his his constituents what size soda they could buy. We’re way beyond seat belts now, aren’t we?

    “As a nation however, we subsidize eating for close to 50 million of our citizens–not a statistic I’m very proud of by the way.”

    Neither am I. Much of poverty in America is the result of government policies “for our own good” (see minimum wage, AFDC, etc.)

    ‘You are also mistaken that the ethanol mandate/giveaway was to “buy” the farm lobby.’

    Recognize this? “Our driver was that corn production had far out-stripped demand and we were searching for methods, outside of a disastrous and expensive government -owned reserve and other well intentioned but ill conceived policies, that would bring some demand elasticity to the marketplace. That was it—all of the other talking points, however true, were subservient to the overriding need to ramp up demand to meet the increases in production we knew were coming.”

    Your own words, and thanks for being so candid. It really warms my heart to see someone so concerned for the welfare of agribusiness at the expense of the public.

    “…and was used to compensate the petroleum industry for the imposition of the mandate.”

    Did it ever occur to you that the taxpayers wouldn’t have to “compensate the petroleum industry” if the corn ethanol program hadn’t been imposed by the politicians “for our own good?”

  139. Pat – yes I have seen an ethanol/methanol fire close up … been in one – we use methanol, and now ethanol in IndyCars and one of the big reasons is safety. Both can be extinguished by water.

    We add a small amount of gas to it so it has a visible flame. Ethanol used in vehicles – at most – is 15% gasoline and most definitely does burn with a visible flame. .

  140. A.Scott says (November 19, 2013 at 12:46 pm): ‘Corn ethanol is “subsidized” … really? I’m sure you can support that claim correct?’

    I already did, earlier in the thread, but apparently A. Scott missed it. Here it is again, from Forbes, September 13, 2013:

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/christopherhelman/2013/09/04/same-moonshine-different-name-welcome-to-the-age-of-cellulosic-ethanol/

    Excerpts: ‘So why add more capacity to an obviously oversupplied market? Federal mandates and grants. Poet received $80 million for Liberty from the Department of Energy. Without the grant, Lautt says, “we probably wouldn’t have” built it. Says Welsh: “We would not have made this investment without the Renewable Fuel Standard.”’ Grant = subsidy.

    “The mechanics of the RFS mandate enable Poet/DSM to collect a premium for its cellulosic gallons. Back in 2010 that premium was as high as $1.56. But today it’s down to only 42 cents.” For the mathematically impaired, $1.56 and $0.42 are both higher than zero.

    And of course A. Scott would like us to forget that corn starch ethanol got its start with subsidies, too. That money is gone, gone, gone, unless of course A. Scott can persuade his buddies to give it back. No doubt ethanol producers will soon demand an end to the mandate so they can pay back the early subsidies out of their massive profits on this wonder fuel.

    BTW, note that a guaranteed market is also a subsidy in all but name.

  141. Kit P says:
    November 18, 2013 at 5:50 pm

    “it is helpful if you include their name. ”

    Helpful to who? I am interested in what people have to say not who said it. Some people like like Gunga Din ask open questions as a debate form. Since the answer is know to a serious student of the subject, I assume that the questioner is not really interested in a reply. There may be other readers who are learning. Some examples of such queations are:

    “If it really is that good for engines, why mandate it? ”

    “And if government, at great expense to the consumer, has to create that demand by force, then the product is not viable. ”

    The government did not create the demand for energy.

    =====================================================================
    “The government did not create the demand for energy.”
    The old switcharoo. Are we talking about the demand for any and all forms of energy?
    (Sorry. I just asked another question. You don’t seem to like them for some reason.)
    No. We’re talking about ethanol as a “green” energy.
    If it really is such a great “green” way to save green, why does it need to be mandated?
    (Dang! I just asked another question. Guess I still won’t get an answer.)

  142. Gary — that is your answer? Your proof for your claim “corn ethanol is subsidized” is a story about a cellulosic ethanol plant?

    Seems pretty certain you don’t understand what you’re talking about, nor did you read your own article. The plant does not use “corn” – it uses the waste as feedstock – what is left after corn for feed (or food) is harvested.

    And I’m not sure how you prove your silly point I want people to forget about corn subsidies when I’ve repeatedly noted them and discussed them in the past. Contrary to your claim – I think its great the subsidies were ended. Rather than actually discussing pertinent facts, just more unsupported falsehoods from you. Perhaps if you spent less time on pomposity and ad hominem you might actually learn something.

    Last – you note a comment from the article “…why add more capacity to an obviously oversupplied market?” … Again I have to ask really? Oversupplied?

    A simple look at the list of all the ethanol plants in the US – shows total operating capacity is appx.13.68 billion gallons per year. They actually produced 13.3 billion gallons in 2012, down from 13.93 billion gals in 2011.

    In 2010, 2011, and 2012 we consumed between 12.7 and 12.8 billion gallons. 2013 consumption thru July is appx 1.6% ahead of 2012, putting us on target to consume just over 13 billion gallons. We are consuming 95% of the total operating capacity of all ethanol plants in the US. That is effectively ALL of the available production – oil refineries max out at effective utilization rates of 92-95% after considering maintenance, repairs etc.

    So – since we already use effectively all the available operating capacity of the existing ethanol plants in the US – and with consumption up 1.6% to date in 2013 – would you care to explain how there is an “oversupply”?

  143. A.Scott says (November 19, 2013 at 6:54 pm): “Gary — that is your answer? Your proof for your claim “corn ethanol is subsidized” is a story about a cellulosic ethanol plant?”

    “Cellulosic” ethanol made from corn. Dang, are you really this dumb, or are you deliberately being obtuse? The supposed advantage of the Liberty plant is that it uses more of the corn plants already grown for starch-based ethanol. Oh, and BTW, corn “waste” is stilll corn. It makes sense to use corn stalks & leaves as feedstock to the cellulosic process, otherwise Liberty would have to gets its feedstock elsewhere, and the stalks are just lying around. Hope they leave something behind to plow back into the soil…

    “Again I have to ask really? Oversupplied?…They actually produced 13.3 billion gallons in 2012, down from 13.93 billion gals in 2011.”

    Do you even read what you write???

    In addition to your own evidence of oversupply (thanks), the article itself mentions, “As the economics of ethanol have deteriorated, more than a dozen distillers have gone bankrupt.” I guess even a guaranteed market can become saturated.

    Here’s another ethanol production article that includes imports and exports:

    http://farmdocdaily.illinois.edu/2013/11/corn-used-ethanol-production.html

    Excerpts: “Much has been made of the recent surge in domestic ethanol production and the re-opening of some ethanol plants.” See? Overcapacity.

    “Based on weekly estimates from the EIA, ethanol production in the first two months of the 2013-14 corn marketing year of 2.226 billion gallons was about 7.5 percent larger than production during the first two months of the 2012-13 marketing year.” Yay!

    “The increase, however, may not imply any substantial increase in domestic ethanol consumption, but instead may reflect changes in net trade and stock levels.” Boo!

    “Importantly, estimated ethanol production during the first two months of the 2013-14 marketing year was 3.2 percent less than during the first two months of the 2011-12 marketing year.” Oh, bummer. Looks like 2011-2012 may have been “peak” ethanol, at least for awhile. :-)

    A. Scott also writes: “Contrary to your claim – I think its great the subsidies were ended.”

    Except, as I’ve shown, they weren’t. Ethanol from corn “waste” is still subsidized. You really shouldn’t go around accusing people of “falsehoods” when they’re only pointing out the truth.

    As for previous subsidies, so far we’ve been discussing the 2007 law here, but we should remember that subsidies for corn ethanol go all the way back to 1978.

    http://www.gpreinc.com/Ethanol-Timeline

    Dang, 35 years of taxpayer subsidies “for our own good”, and gasohol still can’t make it on its own! “Wonder fuel” indeed!

    BTW, looking earlier in the timeline, I see my speculation upthread is probably correct, i.e. that a niche market for corn ethanol would probably survive the end of government support. That’s good news for “wonder fuel” enthusiasts. :-)

  144. Gary,
    Your words this time……….
    “Your own words, and thanks for being so candid. It really warms my heart to see someone so concerned for the welfare of agribusiness at the expense of the public.”
    hmmmmm……….Friedman talked many times about how one person’s greed is another’s self-interest.
    How else was I to act? I was elected by my peers to work for their interests. And do you think me and my fellows were the only people roaming the halls of Congress promoting laws and government policies that was at the expense of the public? No, I do not believe you’re that naïve.

    There is another aspect to the ethanol story that goes way OT. That aspect gets into the history of the Farm Bill and governmental policies going back to 1938, Ag Economics, World Trade Organization(WTO) and basic crop production realities. I referenced it briefly in my second post. Ethanol and the RFS has very little to do with a national energy policy (because the US really has never had one), and definitely does not have anything to do with the so-called fight against CAGW.
    You seem surprised that I was so candid? There is a reason. AScott, don’t know how old you are, or if you are a farmer or just work in the industry, but I spent the better part of my farming career at least partially dependent on government programs to improve my net income–some years it was the net income. I despised it, hated the dependency of my industry, and especially disliked having to go hat in hand to DC asking for support of a Farm Bill that –most of the time– violated the free market principles I fervently believe in. The RFS changed the game. We both may not approve of a Fed mandate for ethanol–but it is a much lesser of two evils compared to Federal price supports–and is much, much cheaper for the taxpayer. The recent rollback of the RFS mandate couldn’t come at a worse time. It is roiling the ethanol industry and the commodities markets. Corn prices are half of what they were a year ago and already under the cost of production for some. Ag Economists are speaking at meetings across the farmbelt warning of tough times ahead. I am very much afraid that we are potentially repeating a similar situation we had in the ’80s through the ’90s. Corn producers raised an incredible crop this year. Surplus stocks are estimated to run over 2 billion bushels and could/will pressure prices into next year.

  145. James D. Schielein says (November 20, 2013 at 12:59 am): “Friedman talked many times about how one person’s greed is another’s self-interest.”

    Milton & Rose Friedman, Free to Choose, 1980, Chapter 2: ‘We rail against “special interests” except when the “special interest” happens to be our own.’ That’s why we should view with the greatest suspicion anyone requesting special treatment “for the public good”.

    “How else was I to act? I was elected by my peers to work for their interests.”

    Ethically, one must do the job one was hired to do, or resign.

    “And do you think me and my fellows were the only people roaming the halls of Congress promoting laws and government policies that was at the expense of the public?”

    Of course not. You’ll be happy to know that I consider you guys no worse than any other lobbyist.

    “There is another aspect to the ethanol story that goes way OT. That aspect gets into the history of the Farm Bill and governmental policies going back to 1938…”

    I’m no expert, but I have some knowledge of the subject, thanks partly to Dr. Friedman. I know, for instance, that the primary beneficiaries of the measures supposedly helping “the little guy” were/are politicians and big business.

    “I despised it, hated the dependency of my industry, and especially disliked having to go hat in hand to DC asking for support of a Farm Bill that –most of the time– violated the free market principles I fervently believe in.”

    It’s probably just as well that I never had to sell my soul to keep my job, because I very well might have. :-(

    “The RFS changed the game. We both may not approve of a Fed mandate for ethanol–but it is a much lesser of two evils compared to Federal price supports–and is much, much cheaper for the taxpayer.”

    Hard to prove, since we can’t perform a controlled experiment. All we do know is that the best choice–for the country as a whole–was “none of the above”.

    “The recent rollback of the RFS mandate couldn’t come at a worse time.”

    OK, let’s recap. To solve the problem of overproduction, the farm lobby got the government, at great expense to taxpayers and consumers, to subsidize and guarantee a market for this overproduction, thus encouraging even more production dependent on “unsustainable” government largesse, creating a situation 6 years later that may be even worse than the original. Is that about right?

    Somewhere, Milton Friedman must be laughing his head off. I’d be laughing, too, except that I fear this “unsustainable” ethanol problem is a mini-version of US fiscal non-policy–and nobody on Earth can bail out the whole USA.

    “Ethanol and the RFS has very little to do with a national energy policy (because the US really has never had one)…”

    I would say, rather, that the US had/has many energy policies, most of which actually had little to do with energy, but everything to do with politics.

    Thanks for your continuing candor.

  146. “A.Scott says:

    November 19, 2013 at 12:09 pm”

    So you are talking about highly controlled sporting environments (Nascar). Thanks! That’s my point. Everyday use, just does not work as well as you suggest. If that were the case, we’d all be running E85, or even 100% ethanoal, and we’re not! We’re being FORCED to run E85, and E85 (And other blends) needs significant subsidies to bring it to the pump! Lets not forget the machines harvesting and making E85, in most cases, don’t use E85.

  147. Gary,
    You catch on pretty quick :)—but now try to figure it out! When you have your solution, let me know and I’ll get it to [Stockholm] and if it works it’ll be you and not Gore/Obama flying across the water to pick up a prize.

    “All we do know is that the best choice- for the country as a whole-was “none of the above”.

    Nope, can’t go along with that. “none of the above” has never been an option—will never be an option. And is not in the best interest of our society. I have been very critical of Ag Policy for a lot of years, but ours has been a homerun compared to Europe and their CAP policy. Look up food costs as a % of income—and then look at the historical budget of Ag support costs Europe vs US.

    You have to understand Gary, that the boom/bust cycles of agriculture stem partly from the fact that we are in high gear production mode year after year. Normal price signals that in any other industry would signal contraction has no effect for us–in fact- spurs production even more.

    I am very proud of my industry. We feed more people with less land, and at less cost year over year. We have been the Malthusian’s nightmare for the past 2 centuries and I have no doubt we are up to the challenge for the next 200 years—and that is something fun to be around!

  148. James D. Schielein says (November 20, 2013 at 7:23 am): “When you have your solution, let me know and I’ll get it to [Stockholm] and if it works it’ll be you and not Gore/Obama flying across the water to pick up a prize.”

    Too late. Adam Smith and Milton Friedman already figured it out, and one of them got my Nobel Prize (Dang, missed it by that much!). :-)

    If you don’t already know the solution, I’ll give you a hint: politicians aren’t part of it. One advantage of the solution is that “the big guy”, the crony capitalist with access to politicians, no longer has an unfair advantage over “the little guy” who doesn’t.

    BTW, there are few if any aspects of life in the US that wouldn’t also benefit from “the solution”, but in this thread we’ve been concentrating on agriculture.

  149. Gary Hladik says: November 19, 2013 at 9:21 pm … “Cellulosic” ethanol made from corn. Dang, are you really this dumb, or are you deliberately being obtuse?”

    Corn waste is not “corn” … corn waste is cellulosic feed stock, which includes MANY other types as well. Corn is not subsidized thru these grants. Period. Ethanol production using the cellulosic process is. Your claim that “corn” is subsidized, because corn waste (stalks, cobs etc), which could be any of many other cellulosic feed stock sources, is used, is silly and unfounded.

    The claims about bankruptcies are equally ridiculous. You noted: “As the economics of ethanol have deteriorated, more than a dozen distillers have gone bankrupt.”

    Even taken at face value – that “a dozen” plants have gone bankrupt – that would represent just 5.4% of the current number of operating plants. And would represent roughly 731 million gals of the 13,681 million gals total current operating capacity.

    But the facts are there have NOT been a dozen recent bankruptcies. Essentially every recent (last 3-4 years) ethanol plant bankruptcy was set in action in 2008-2010 as the financial markets crashed.

    You claim re-opening some plants indicates “overcapacity” – that we have an oversupply situation – which on its face is silly. No one re-opens plants to create a glut – to create more ethanol than consumption. You re-open plants when you have more demand than capacity.

    And that is exactly what the consumption and production data shows. 2010-2012 show level demand – at around 95% of available operating capacity – indicative consumption has hit the limits of available supply.

    2013 is increasing demand more yet. Which makes it perfectly sensible that some capacity would be added. .

    Unlike you – I provided a link directly to the EIA ethanol production and consumption data – going back to 2000 and earlier. You ignored them.

    I’ll repeat – consumption was essentially identical 2010-2012:

    2010 – 12,858 million gals
    2011 – 12,893 million gals
    2012 – 12,882 million gals

    Projected 2013 production, based on actual YTD thru July, is 13,200 million gals.

    Once again – current AVAILABLE operating ethanol production capacity in the US is appx 13,680 million gals. The projected 13,200 million gals consumption represents 96.5% of the available operating capacity of ALL ethanol plants in the US.

    The utilization rate for US refineries is:

    2010 – 2012 = 87.1%
    2000 -2012 = 89.22%

    The maximum US refinery utilization from 2000 to 2012 is 92.6%

    Using present ethanol plant available operating capacity the utilization rates would be as follows:

    2010 – 94%
    2011 – 94.2%
    2012 – 94.2%
    2013 – 96.5%

    Once again – please explain to us how there is an oversupply when consumption is 94 to 96%+ of available plant capacity? Please explain how there is an oversupply when consumption – today and consistently over the last 4 years – is (1) stable, and (2) when ethanol production is running at several percent higher plant utilization than US refineries over the last dozen years?

    .

  150. Gary also makes the claim regarding the RFS ethanol mandate:

    “Hard to prove, since we can’t perform a controlled experiment. All we do know is that the best choice–for the country as a whole–was “none of the above”

    We have done a controlled experiment. And ethanol now supplies more than 10% of our motor fuel needs. Without subsidies from the government

    We also have the successful use of ethanol in Brazil as a model. We are not exactly the same as they are – they use sugar cane which has different benefits and issues – however, the base actions necessary are essentially identical. Create a demand, create distribution to fulfill demand. .

  151. Patrick said:

    “So you are talking about highly controlled sporting environments (Nascar). Thanks! That’s my point. Everyday use, just does not work as well as you suggest. If that were the case, we’d all be running E85, or even 100% ethanoal, and we’re not! We’re being FORCED to run E85, and E85 (And other blends) needs significant subsidies to bring it to the pump! Lets not forget the machines harvesting and making E85, in most cases, don’t use E85.”

    So many untruths …

    NO ONE IS being “forced” to use E85. Period.

    And neither E85 or any of the other ethanol blends are receiving subsidies today. There are some grants available for commercial scale CELLULOSIC ethanol plants – which do not use corn.

    And as to your last point – many farms in the corn belt ARE using renewables – either ethanol or bio-diesel. Regardless, whether farm machines use ethanol or other fuel is completely immaterial. Ethanol replaces a set portion, over 10% now – of the US motor fuel energy use. It does not matter one bit what vehicles or sector that goes to.

    You are simply wrong on each of your claims.

  152. A.Scott says (November 20, 2013 at 12:45 pm): ‘Corn waste is not “corn”’

    BWAHAHAHA! I knew you were going to come back with that! What’s next? Shall we debate what the meaning of “is” is? :-)

    Thought experiment: A. Scott & G. Hladik are in a field of corn. I point to a whole corn plant (corn roots, corn stalk, corn leaves, corn ear, corn tassels, corn silk, corn kernels, etc.) and say, “Corn!”. A. Scott points to the kernels (only) and says, “Corn!”. He then points to the rest of the plant and says, “Nroc!” I roll my eyes. :-)

    “Your claim that “corn” is subsidized…”

    You really struggle with reading comprehension, don’t you? I wrote that “corn ethanol” is still subsidized, not “corn”. Show us all where I claimed otherwise.

    “…because corn waste (stalks, cobs etc), which could be any of many other cellulosic feed stock…”

    The Liberty “cellulosic ethanol” plant in the Forbes article uses corn as a feedstock. “Cellulosic” ethanol receives a subsidy.Therefore “cellulosic corn ethanol” receives a subsidy. QED. I’m actually amazed that you can’t (or won’t) see that.

    “But the facts are there have NOT been a dozen recent bankruptcies. Essentially every recent (last 3-4 years) ethanol plant bankruptcy was set in action in 2008-2010 as the financial markets crashed.”

    Buffalo Lake plant bankruptcy, August 2013. Plant was closed for 4 years, reopened last year, failed, is mothballed:

    http://www.startribune.com/business/221251611.html

    South Bend Indiana plant filed for bankruptcy November 2012, will probably be scrapped:

    http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424127887324743704578443071340623246

    Incidentally, the WSJ article also says ethanol is in oversupply, mainly due to flat demand (which you verified). Dang, A. Scott, don’t you ever get tired of being wrong?

    ‘You claim re-opening some plants indicates “overcapacity”’.

    No, no, NO! “Re-opening” plants indicates they were previously closed, and that indicates overcapacity. (How do I insert “roll eyes” emoticon?) With new plants supposedly coming on line next year (Forbes article), and old ones re-opening (farmdocdaily article), and flat consumption (A. Scott) the situation will only get worse.

    “Unlike you – I provided a link directly to the EIA ethanol production and consumption data – going back to 2000 and earlier. You ignored them.”

    On the contrary, you did. The numbers in your own reference show 2012 production declining from 2011, and the first 7 months of 2013 behind 2012. That’s a clear indication of overcapacity in the industry. But don’t feel bad that you’re not smarter than Forbes or the Wall Street Journal; they’re experts. :-)

    “I’ll repeat – consumption was essentially identical 2010-2012:”

    Exactly. Thanks again for helping to prove my (OK, Forbes’ & WSJ’s) case.

  153. A.Scott says (November 20, 2013 at 12:53 pm): “We have done a controlled experiment.”

    Really? Please describe this “controlled experiment” in which:

    (1) On one Earth, the US implements the historical RFS policy;
    (2) On an identical Earth, the US goes with the corn price supports and so on that James D. Schielein criticized;
    (3) On a third identical Earth, the US implements free market agricultural and energy policies.

    Where is it published? References, please. :-)

    “And ethanol now supplies more than 10% of our motor fuel needs. Without subsidies from the government”

    With continuing subsidies (even A. Scott admits this), grants (e.g. Liberty plant), and a mandated ethanol market (increasing). There, fixed that for you. You’re welcome. :-)

    “We also have the successful use of ethanol in Brazil as a model.”

    Great! So let’s end our own ethanol grants, subsidies, and forced market, and let people buy as much of this Brazilian “wonder fuel” as they want. Easy-peasy.

  154. Gary,
    Enjoy………

    Just love the guy………….but………..

    To my knowledge, Friedman never detailed an answer on how to move agriculture to a truly free market. We have done very well (and what he wanted) as far as resisting imposing tariffs on Ag imports. In fact, it has been a cornerstone of Farm Bureau policy to promote free trade agreements, whether through piecemeal regional agreements (NAFTA), but preferably through the World Trade Organization.
    The 1996 Freedom to Farm Act was supposed to be the phase out of farm subsidies. (and was the 2nd Farm Bill I worked on) I remember being very excited (youthful exuberance) of the progress we had made in dismantling nearly all of the production controls, farmer-owned reserve, strict subsidy levels and in their place a very modest (we thought at the time) price safety net that would kick in only during extraordinary price fluctuations.
    Here’s what happened:

    http://www.ncpa.org/sub/dpd/index.php?Article_ID=7317

    Disappointment to say the least. Without going into great detail, the farm coalition we had put together fell apart and certain commodity groups and regions got Congress to pass Ad-hoc disaster assistance and once it was done for one year, it was easy to go back, and back, and back.

    I found it interesting in the video above Milton’s reaction to the replacement of subsidies with insurance coverage, I wish that had been further explored. Because…..the last Farm Bill I worked with, the “2008 Food, Conservation and Energy Act” (Don’t you just love the names?), to a large measure did just that. We took dollars that were going towards the ad-hoc disaster assistance and put them towards enhancing crop insurance programs and also scaled back the counter-cyclical programs that were leftovers from ’96.

    The point of all this for good or ill—is that I wished to expand the perspective and history of Ethanol and put into context why it is so vitally important to Ag.

    You did not really answer the question “so what do we do now?” You cited Friedman and Smith which I will interpret as —-End Farm Bill program and subsidies now, return Ag to free market principles and let the chips fall where they may and we’ll all be better off in the end. Right?
    In 2005, I had the opportunity to travel to New Zealand and study what happened to their Ag economy when the New Zealand government did just that. I can talk a bit about that—but it’ll have to be tomorrow—have a school board meeting to get to.

  155. “If it really is such a great “green” way to save green, why does it need to be mandated?
    (Dang! I just asked another question. Guess I still won’t get an answer.) ”

    The fun part of debating with folks who debate by asking questions is that two can play that game.

    What are the odds that Gunga Din has ever bothered to do any serious study to answer that queation?

    Zero! The give away is the word “green”. This is a word for shallow thinkers. I have read many LCA showing that corn ethanol is a better environmental choice.

    Many many, many better environmental choices are mandated. For example, low flow shower nozzles have been mandated by code since since 1986.

  156. James D. Schielein says (November 20, 2013 at 3:33 pm): “Gary, Enjoy………”

    Thanks. I do enjoy watching the guy.

    “The 1996 Freedom to Farm Act was supposed to be the phase out of farm subsidies…and in their place a very modest (we thought at the time) price safety net that would kick in only during extraordinary price fluctuations.”

    As soon as I saw “safety net” and “extraordinary”, I said to myself, “Uh-oh”. :-)

    This reminds me of so-called “Keynesian economics”, in which the national government runs a surplus in “good” times to help pay for deficit spending in “bad” times. In practice, of course, times are never quite “good” enough to run a surplus, especially when there are so many votes to buy. :-)

    “You did not really answer the question “so what do we do now?” You cited Friedman and Smith which I will interpret as —-End Farm Bill program and subsidies now, return Ag to free market principles and let the chips fall where they may and we’ll all be better off in the end. Right?”

    As I suspected, I didn’t really have to spell it out. Rather than “now”, however, it should be done starting now and carry over a number of years, i.e. over several election cycles (oops!).

    “In 2005, I had the opportunity to travel to New Zealand and study what happened to their Ag economy when the New Zealand government did just that.”

    Whoa! I did not know about that! So has New Zealand made Adam Smith an honorary citizen? :-)

    http://www.newfarm.org/features/0303/newzealand_subsidies.shtml

  157. Kit P says (November 20, 2013 at 4:46 pm): “Zero! The give away is the word “green”. This is a word for shallow thinkers.”

    Couldn’t agree more. When I saw the word “Zero”, I immediately thought of this guy:

  158. Don’t you get tired of being proven wrong Gary? Go ahead – make up whatever silly claims you want – it won’t change the facts.

    No matter how you try and twist and torture it – grants for cellulosic ethanol plants have ZERO to do with subsidizing corn ethanol. None. They are grants for ethanol plants using more efficient cellulosic technology, regardless of the feedstock used.

    Your continued assertion that because this particular plant happens to try to be more efficient by using waste from corn ethanol plants it is a “corn subsidy” – is simply ridiculous. The CORN is already gone, consumed – used to make corn ethanol. The waste is just that – waste – it is not corn.

    By all means go ahead and keep trying to claim grants for cellulosic ethanol are somehow “corn ethanol” subsidies – we can use the entertainment.

    You make equally silly claims regarding ethanol plant bankruptcies. I know Buffalo Lake well. I have friends in the co-op that supplied the plant (and lost money on their financing of it.)

    The bankruptcy is directly related to problems with that particular plant from day one – they are the SAME problems that contributed to its closing the first time and have nothing to do with current market conditions. The FACT that someone bought and tried to re-open it – AND that there was a fight over ownership and the sale -shows they believed demand was there to do so. Once again you are clueless –here I have first hand knowledge of the details.

    You are wrong about the Southbend plant as well … that’s what happens when people Google link bomb, posting old stories, without understanding what they are talking about.

    The Southbend Indiana plant, first, was not a corn ethanol plant – it is a waste to energy plant – that generated $280 million in revenue in 2011, its last full year of operation.

    Contrary to your claims, it is not being scrapped, but has been bought by Nobles America’s and is being re-opened as we speak. Now why would they spend big money to buy and re-open this plant if, as you claim, there is flat demand and oversupply in the market? These must be just plain stupid people right?

    Then there is this real gem from Gary:

    “No, no, NO! “Re-opening” plants indicates they were previously closed, and that indicates overcapacity”

    So which is it Gary? Do we have “flat demand” and overcapacity or not? If closed plants indicate there was “overcapacity” then what does RE-OPENING those closed plants mean? Why would anyone open or re-open a closed plant if it just creates additional overcapacity – and there was no demand – as you claim?

    Laughable.

    As is your next silly claim as well:

    “The numbers in your own reference show 2012 production declining from 2011, and the first 7 months of 2013 behind 2012. That’s a clear indication of overcapacity in the industry. But don’t feel bad that you’re not smarter than Forbes or the Wall Street Journal; they’re experts.”

    The ACTUAL production numbers:

    2010 – 13,298 million gals
    2011 – 13,929 million gals
    2012 – 13,218 million gals

    Demand numbers:

    2010 – 12,858 million gals
    2011 – 12,893 million gals
    2012 – 12,882 million gals
    2013 – 13,030 million gals*

    *Projected; 2013 production based on actual YTD thru AUGUST, is 13,030 million gals.

    2012 production was fractionally smaller than 2011 – a direct result of the drought, lower crop production and yields, and of the ethanol industry reducing production to absorb most of the impact of the lower corn stocks.

    You can blather all you want – but you cannot change the facts. Using present ethanol plant available operating capacity, US Ethanol plants are operating at full realistic capacity:

    2010 – 94%
    2011 – 94.2%
    2012 – 94.2%
    2013 – 96.5%

    US refineries only managed 87.2% utilization during this same period.

    Demand has been maxed out based on production capacity since 2010, and demand has been increasing thru 2013.

    Maxed out production. Increasing demand. Yet you continue to maintain demand is stagnant in the face of all the evidence otherwise. The facts – the data – show you are wrong.

    And as usual, it is easy to prove it. Bloomberg agrees:

    Bloomberg – Nov 18, 2013 – Ethanol Futures Advance as Consumption outpaces Supply

    “Ethanol futures climbed for the seventh time in eight days as the highest production rates in 21 months fail to replenish stockpiles. Futures rose as much as 2 percent as supply has been at record seasonal lows most of this year even as output increased. “Even with really high production rates, supply is still tight.” said Will Babler, a broker at Atten Babler Risk Management LLC in Galena, Illinois.”

    Each and every claim you try to make is easily proven wrong. By facts and data.

  159. A.Scott says (November 21, 2013 at 6:12 pm): “…grants for cellulosic ethanol plants have ZERO to do with subsidizing corn ethanol. None.”

    Only if they use no corn. Some do. So you’re wrong. Again.

    “They are grants for ethanol plants using more efficient cellulosic technology, regardless of the feedstock used.”

    Including corn, right? :-)

    “Your continued assertion that because this particular plant happens to try to be more efficient by using waste from corn ethanol plants it is a “corn subsidy” – is simply ridiculous.”

    *sigh* Once again, I’m not claiming a “corn subsidy”. I’m pointing out a “corn ethanol subsidy”. And “corn waste” is corn. It was planted as corn, it grew as corn, and it was harvested as corn, not “nroc” or something else. :-)

    ‘So which is it Gary? Do we have “flat demand” and overcapacity or not? If closed plants indicate there was “overcapacity” then what does RE-OPENING those closed plants mean?’

    Your own numbers indicate flat demand. Production in 2011 exceeded production in 2012. Some plants were closed/mothballed/went bankrupt/operated at lower capacity, yet demand was met. Now apparently some of these unneeded plants are reopening in anticipation of higher demand. Great. But new plants are coming on line as well as old, and even your Bloomberg article indicates production hasn’t yet exceeded 2011 levels. So there’s still overcapacity in the industry.

    “Why would anyone open or re-open a closed plant if it just creates additional overcapacity – and there was no demand – as you claim?”

    Again, no. You claimed flat demand, I just went along. (Note: flat demand, not no demand.) You really don’t read what you write, do you?

    BTW, in having periods of overcapacity (or undercapacity as in the specific subcategory of cellulosic ethanol at the moment) isn’t unique to the ethanol industry. All industries, including agribusiness, develop the same problem. Not sure why you’re getting steamed over it. It’s just business.

    “The ACTUAL production numbers…demand numbers…[snip numbers]”

    I’m curious. Your own numbers show “production” outstripping flat “demand”. What accounts for the discrepancy? Exports? Growing inventory? Something else?

    “…and demand has been increasing thru 2013.”

    Man, I hate to kick a man when he’s down, but your own numbers show flat demand for the last few years with a projected tiny increase in 2013. Read what you write, man!

    “Bloomberg agrees:”

    This is too easy. Bloomberg also disagrees: “The market is anticipating lower demand for the additive next year, if a Nov. 15 proposal by the Environmental Protection Agency to cut consumption targets is finalized, Babler said.” So even if the 2012-early 2013 overcapacity eases this year, it’s expected to return next year. READ your references, A. Scott.

    “Each and every claim you try to make is easily proven wrong. By facts and data.”

    Each of your claims is easily proven wrong by your own numbers and references. Between your abysmal reading comprehension and your continued insistence that “corn waste” somehow isn’t “corn” (I suppose “oral sex” isn’t “sex”?), you have zero credibility. Full marks for humor, though at this point I suspect only the two of us and the long-suffering mods are still reading. :-)

  160. “A.Scott says:

    November 20, 2013 at 1:04 pm”

    NASCAR not highly controlled? LOL…

    And yet we have native peoples being forced off their lands in Africa to support this “corn for fuel” boondoggle! But you go on thinking corn based ethanol is the future fuel. I guess that’s why China is heavily investing in coal-to-liquid (CTL) plants. BTW, I know of no farmer in the UK, for instance, that uses anything other than “red” regular diesel.

  161. Patrick says (November 22, 2013 at 4:09 am): “And yet we have native peoples being forced off their lands in Africa to support this “corn for fuel” boondoggle!”

    I was “skeptical”–to coin a phrase–of that claim, so I did a quick Google search. I found this article (Caution! It’s full of CAGW & cars-are-evil nonsense!) which cites several nations with potentially counterproductive biofuel initiatives. Only one, South Africa, explicitly involves corn ethanol:

    http://delusional-government.blogspot.com/2012/09/ethanol-drought-famine-and-africa.html

    Several projects involve jatropha, used to make biodiesel, which has its own problems:

    http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2012/08/22/159391553/how-a-biofuel-dream-called-jatropha-came-crashing-down

    Ethiopia is using sugarcane to make ethanol (see top story here):

    http://www.biofuelsdigest.com/bdigest/tag/ethiopia/

    In South Africa, the initial government “incentives” in 2007 weren’t enough, so now they’re adding a mandated market:

    http://www.ethanolproducer.com/articles/10329/south-africa-to-mandate-biofuel-blending-starting-in-2015

    So, Patrick, I’d suggest you substitute “biofuel” for the phrase “corn for fuel”, unless you have references, which would be welcome.

  162. Kit P says:
    November 20, 2013 at 4:46 pm

    (Me)“If it really is such a great “green” way to save green, why does it need to be mandated?
    (Dang! I just asked another question. Guess I still won’t get an answer.) ”

    The fun part of debating with folks who debate by asking questions is that two can play that game.

    =========================================================================
    Yet still no answer.
    (Did you notice I didn’t end this comment with a question?)

  163. Gunga Din says (November 22, 2013 at 2:35 pm): “(Did you notice I didn’t end this comment with a question?)”

    :-)

Comments are closed.