Gore admits the obvious: US corn ethanol was not a good policy

Do not expect to read much about this in the NY Times — and definitely don’t expect any follow up questions about his motivation for climate policy ($$$).  Former Vice President Al Gore has admitted that his “support for corn-based ethanol in the United States was “not a good policy”, weeks before tax credits are up for renewal.”

Gore was the tie-breaking vote in the Senate mandating the use of ethanol in 1994.

From Reuters:

“It is not a good policy to have these massive subsidies for (U.S.) first generation ethanol,” said Gore, speaking at a green energy business conference in Athens sponsored by Marfin Popular Bank.

“First generation ethanol I think was a mistake. The energy conversion ratios are at best very small.

“It’s hard once such a programme is put in place to deal with the lobbies that keep it going.”

He continues (admitting more of the obvious):

“One of the reasons I made that mistake is that I paid particular attention to the farmers in my home state of Tennessee, and I had a certain fondness for the farmers in the state of Iowa because I was about to run for president.”

However, don’t make the mistake that he has had an epiphany on climate change:

Gore supported so-called second generation technologies which do not compete with food, for example cellulosic technologies which use chemicals or enzymes to extract sugar from fibre for example in wood, waste or grass.

“I do think second and third generation that don’t compete with food prices will play an increasing role, certainly with aviation fuels.”

Gore added did that he did not expect a U.S. clean energy or climate bill for “at least two years” following the mid-term elections which saw Republicans increase their support.

Again, the Democrats had 60 seats in the Senate, which is a filibuster proof majority and Pelosi controlled the House of Representatives with members to spare for most of 2009.  They could have passed whatever they wanted.  At least two years is translated:  maybe in 2012 if Obama is re-elected, the Dems take back the House, and they don’t lose the Senate.  In other words, the bill is dead.

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Leon Brozyna

Oh great, now he figures it out, after sticking it to the poorest of the poor across the entire planet, who can barely (and sometimes not) afford just to eat enough to survive. Lord save us from the humanitarians.

Henry chance

The EPA is already pushing 15% ethanol. Of course ethanol damages outboard motors and other engines. So what. It takes a lot of petrol to create ethanol. With grain prices going up, it is becoming a losing situation.

anopheles

Here’s a clue. The first alternative fuel that is worth doing will be the one that companies fall over themselves to do, WITHOUT SUBSIDY.

MattN

No s#!t Sherlock! Tell us something we hadn’t figured out long ago….

Gail Combs

Al Gore has NO fondness for farmers he has always had plans to get rid of US farmers.
I walked into the USDA Extension Service office when he was VP one day to hear one of the agents in an absolute rage. He had been to Al Gore’s presentation of Future Farmer Awards and had actually heard Al Gore’s comment to a youngster to get out of farming, there would be no more farming in the USA. That was the day I woke up to the fact that the USA was not the land of the free anymore.
Here is the quote from the Ag Journal, Billings, Montana:
“At a recent ceremony at the White House, Vice President and presidential candidate Al Gore let slip what many have long believed was his real intention as regards to U.S. agriculture.
“While presenting a national award to a Colorado FFA member, Gore asked the student what his/her life plans were. Upon hearing that the FFA member wanted to continue on in production agriculture, Gore reportedly replied that the young person should develop other plans because our production agriculture is being shifted out of the U.S. to the Third World.” http://showcase.netins.net/web/sarahb/farm/
And here is one of the bills that is going to fullfill Al Gore’s prophesy – there will be no more freedom to farm in the USA.
“Senate bill 510, the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2010, may be the most dangerous bill in the history of the US. It is to our food what the bailout was to our economy, only we can live without money.
“If accepted [S 510] would preclude the public’s right to grow, own, trade, transport, share, feed and eat each and every food that nature makes. It will become the most offensive authority against the cultivation, trade and consumption of food and agricultural products of one’s choice. It will be unconstitutional and contrary to natural law or, if you like, the will of God.” ~Dr. Shiv Chopra, Canada Health whistleblower…”

http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/bloggers/2502647/posts
Another view of the bill: http://prof77.wordpress.com/2010/11/22/senate-bill-510-the-food-safety-modernization-act-restricting-small-farmers-to-protect-profits-of-giant-food-companies/
Here is WHY there will be no more farming. The ultimate goal is to make the USA into a huge nature preserve. MAP
Of course you have to get rid of a lot of people to do so but Stalin came up with an easy way

Robert of Ottawa

So hes now going to apologise to people who had to pay more for food because of his selfish stupidity.

juanita

As usual, my comment will sound childish, but I’ll tell you what – the price of ear corn went from 6 ears for a dollar to 50-75 cents an ear, in about 5 years. That’s when I knew this was a bad policy.
Same with stupid biodiesel. Or hydrogen from water. Just plain silly. These people have done more harm than good. They have allowed people the Pollyanna belief that they can drive cars with no consequences. And, they are jacking up the prices of simple foods, silly, silly, silly.
Thanks Anthony, been enjoying your blog alot lately!

James Sexton

Nice, hundreds of thousands of people,(maybe millions) including myself, screaming about how bad of an idea this was only to be ignored. Now he’s acting as if this policy wasn’t intentionally harmful and was unforeseeable? No, but what it is was…..unforgivable. F’n dirtbag.

You mean, because I needed votes from farmers in an election, the cost of basic food in third world countries doubled?
Darn!
That’s life, let them eat cake!

jack morrow

Nothing liberals have ever come up with is, or ever will be successful.

While he’s admitting it was all about Al then, he’s omitting that it’s all about Al now. His latest epiphany is once again driven by self interest, apparently – check the update to this post for details of how the Goracle is positioned to cash in on his latest advice.

DD More

And since the first Tennessee DuPont Tate & Lyle plant formed in 2004 and the second started in 2008, it sure was a fast acting process.

Pascvaks

Fat Albert is sure a wizzzzzzzzz! First he figured it was the greatest thing since Betsy Grab-le the Massuese; now that she’s saying all kinds of off-color things about him, he’s changed his script and plans to sell ethanol short and reap a bundle. What a guy! What a World-class guy! Don’t ya’ wish we had a village of them? What a guy!

Sully

Most likely this is Gore’s way of announcing he’s divested himself of his ethanol production investments.

Curiousgeorge

Al needs to bone up on cellulosic, algae, etc. None of them are any damn good for a variety of technical, environmental, and economic reasons.

NICK LUKE

“It’s hard once such a programme is put in place to deal with the lobbies that keep it going.”
Just about sums up the entire Climate Change Industry

Gore should have spent more time reading the peer-reviewed literature,
Ethanol Fuels: Energy Balance, Economics, and Environmental Impacts Are Negative
(Natural Resources Research, Volume 12, Number 2, pp. 127-134, June 2003)
– David Pimentel

“In the U.S. ethanol system, considerably more energy, including high-grade fossil fuel, is required to produce ethanol than is available in the energy-ethanol output. Specifically about 29% more energy is used to produce a gallon of ethanol than the energy in a gallon of ethanol. Fossil energy powers corn production and the fermentation/distillation processes. Increasing subsidized ethanol production will take more feed from livestock production, and is estimated to currently cost consumers an additional 1 billion per year. Ethanol production increases environmental degradation. Corn production causes more total soil erosion than any other crop. Also, corn production uses more insecticides, herbicides, and nitrogen fertilizers than any other crop. All these factors degrade the agricultural and natural environment and contribute to water pollution and air pollution. Increasing the cost of food and diverting human food resources to the costly inefficient production of ethanol fuel raise major ethical questions. These occur at a time when more than half of the world’s population is malnourished. The ethical priority for corn and other food crops should be for food and feed. Subsidized ethanol produced from U.S. corn is not a renewable energy source.”
Food Versus Biofuels: Environmental and Economic Costs
(Human Ecology, Volume 37, Number 1, pp. 1-12, February 2009)
– David Pimentel et al.

“Growing crops for fuel squanders land, water and energy resources vital for the production of food for human consumption. Using corn for ethanol increases the price of US beef, chicken, pork, eggs, breads, cereals, and milk more than 10% to 30%. In addition, Jacques Diouf, Director General of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, reports that using food grains to produce biofuels is already causing food shortages for the poor of the world.”
Use of U.S. Croplands for Biofuels Increases Greenhouse Gases Through Emissions from Land-Use Change
(Science, Volume 319, Number 5867, pp. 1238-1240, February 2008)
– Timothy Searchinger et al.

“Most prior studies have found that substituting biofuels for gasoline will reduce greenhouse gases because biofuels sequester carbon through the growth of the feedstock. These analyses have failed to count the carbon emissions that occur as farmers worldwide respond to higher prices and convert forest and grassland to new cropland to replace the grain (or cropland) diverted to biofuels. By using a worldwide agricultural model to estimate emissions from land-use change, we found that corn-based ethanol, instead of producing a 20% savings, nearly doubles greenhouse emissions over 30 years and increases greenhouse gases for 167 years. Biofuels from switchgrass, if grown on U.S. corn lands, increase emissions by 50%. This result raises concerns about large biofuel mandates and highlights the value of using waste products.”

You knew it buddy. It’s OK for drinking, as whiskey, not for burning it. You FOOL!
What a waste!….it’s because you just drink Kool-Aid!

So now you wanna make it from cellulose (cotton, etc.) ….DO YOU KNOW that cellulose is made out of CO2?!!!!. You screwed all the way!. Please DO NOT TRY TO THINK, YOU JUST CAN’T.

Gail Combs

Per Strandberg says:
November 22, 2010 at 9:47 am
You mean, because I needed votes from farmers in an election, the cost of basic food in third world countries doubled?
Darn!
That’s life, let them eat cake!
______________________________________________________
They (Clinton and Gore) $crewed over the US farmer too. To make sure there was plenty of grain to be used as an economic weapon against third world farmers, Dan Amstutz, VP of the grain trader Cargill, wrote the “Freedom to Farm Act” of 1996. It was later dubbed the “freedom to FAIL act” Then came the Grain to bio-fuel fiasco. Is any one surprised that both Monsanto AND Cargill posted record earning in 2008 while the rest of the economy was in a recession?
Freedom to Fail: http://multinationalmonitor.org/mm2000/00july-aug/lilliston.html
“…according to Sheila Ehrich, a farmer from Elmore, Minnesota, it is the large grain buyers who have reaped the benefits of Freedom to Farm, not farmers themselves. “Cargill is buying corn damn cheap –”
Freedom to Farm’s lower commodity prices have not translated into consumer benefits. Since 1984, the real price of a USDA market basket of food has increased 2.8 percent while the farm value of that food has fallen by 35.7 percent, according to C. Robert Taylor, professor of agriculture and public policy at Auburn University. Taylor says there is a “widening gap” between retail price and farm value for numerous components of the market basket, including meat products, poultry, eggs, dairy products, cereal and bakery products, fresh fruit and vegetables, and processed fruit and vegetables…

The story of the selfless Al Gore.

OK S.

What Poptech said. And for all biofuels.
Study from 2005: David Pimentel and Tad W. Patzek, Natural Resources Research (Vol. 14:1, 65-76) “Ethanol Production Using Corn, Switchgrass, and Wood; Biodiesel Production Using Soybean and Sunflower

Abstract
Energy outputs from ethanol produced using corn, switchgrass, and wood biomass were each less than the respective fossil energy inputs. The same was true for producing biodiesel using soybeans and sunflower, however, the energy cost for producing soybean biodiesel was only slightly negative compared with ethanol production. Findings in terms of energy outputs compared with the energy inputs were: • Ethanol production using corn grain required 29% more fossil energy than the ethanol fuel produced. • Ethanol production using switchgrass required 50% more fossil energy than the ethanol fuel produced. • Ethanol production using wood biomass required 57% more fossil energy than the ethanol fuel produced. • Biodiesel production using soybean required 27% more fossil energy than the biodiesel fuel produced (Note, the energy yield from soy oil per hectare is far lower than the ethanol yield from corn). • Biodiesel production using sunflower required 118% more fossil energy than the biodiesel fuel produced

Gareth

“It’s hard once such a programme is put in place to deal with the lobbies that keep it going.”
Why is it that modern politicians are absolute suckers for a vested interest… except that of the taxpayer?

Stan

If people want to use corn as a biofuel, then they should burn it for heat in a corn stove. They can get about 7,000 btu’s per pound of corn kernels at an efficiency of 70-85 percent. I’m not saying this is a good way to go. It is just a much better use of corn than ethanol. And no subsidies are required.

Colin from Mission B.C.

*sigh*
Isn’t this what the alternative-energy skeptics have been saying for years about corn-based ethanol? Don’t answer…it was a rhetorical question.
Al Gore: dumb as a sack of hammers (with apologies to hammers).
Please forgive my childish name-calling, but these sorts of stories really grind my gears. Gore is acting as if his sudden epiphany should be news to everybody. But, for him to act as if the consequences of his policies were not foreseeable is simply — gobsmacking.

Djozar

Man-Bear-Pig admits one error, but can’t see back to how his entire thesis is founded on quicksand. Why should I listen to a man who can’t tell the difference between cm and mm?

Manfred

Gore wrong again.
1. The energy balance may not be great but it is still postive
2. Energy balance is not everything. There is a shortage of liquid fuels to drive cars, but abundance of other fuels such as coal, uranium etc. Corn ethanol helps to close the price gap, it is much better than coal liquidification and reduces oil imorts from ugly regimes in the middle east and venezuela.
3. Corn ethanol has helped to stabilize corn prices and provide good income for US farmers and affiliated industry workers.
5. Heartland people hate Al Gore. This is just his primitive reaction.

Curiousgeorge
erik sloneker

Pity the investors that dropped billions on the ethanol plants scattered across Illinois. They were suckered in, just as the wind-farm investors are now.
Corn….best used for food, livestock feed, and…..what’s that country song……
Rain makes corn
Corn makes whiskey
Whiskey makes my girlfriend
Feel a little frisky

Rational Debate

This article adds a bit more information directly relevant to this issue. Al Gore, who of course claimed “An Inconventient Truth” was oh so scientifically accurate, only to have actual legal trial in the UK find it had more than 9 material fallicies and can now only be shown in UK schools as a political film, with warnings about it having significant scientific errors… Al Gore who presents himself as supposedly understanding science – yet he either never bothered to research using biofuels for ethanol, or worse, knew better and was solely pandering for votes. Either way, incompetant, or just downright evil – or both. Take your pick.
Many years ago when his first book came out I was at the book store and picked it up off the shelf. Opening it to a random page, I read a bit that came across as sort of pensive-whiney, along the lines of “So, here we were, miles and miles from the shore on the boat, and I saw this dead fish float to the surface of the ocean. And I thought to myself how awful it was that even in the middle of the ocean, man’s pollution was killing all the fish….” I closed the book and put it back in utter disgust right then. Like, gee, there couldn’t be any non-man-made causes for a single fish to die anywhere in the ocean? No diseases? No attacks from predator fishes that wound up injuring the fish so it later died? He went on from there without ever mentioning any of those possibilities if I recall correctly. Just how un-scientific can someone get? That was the acute and utter loss of any respect I had for the man’s logic and scientific credibility. /vent
Here’s the article:
http://hotair.com/archives/2010/11/22/gore-on-second-thought-i-was-just-pandering-to-the-farm-vote-on-ethanol/
which adds a little useful supplemental info to Ryan Maue’s article. I imagine many of the associated calculations are controversial depending on who’s doing them and what is or isn’t considered and added in, and I wish they’d included sugarcane. Also, I’m no farmer, but aren’t most of the secondary sources, such as corn stalks, actually quite beneficial as fertilizer/soil conditioners when plowed under? Or is that now moot with no-till farming methods?
Anyhow for whatever it’s worth, here are the key bits from the article I linked above:
Gore now says he supports second-generation ethanol to avoid using food, instead using wood, waste fiber, and grass. But the same Slate report shows that these technologies actually perform worse than corn for ethanol:
David Pimentel, a professor of ecology at Cornell University who has been studying grain alcohol for 20 years, and Tad Patzek, an engineering professor at the University of California, Berkeley, co-wrote a recent report that estimates that making ethanol from corn requires 29 percent more fossil energy than the ethanol fuel itself actually contains.

The two scientists calculated all the fuel inputs for ethanol production—from the diesel fuel for the tractor planting the corn, to the fertilizer put in the field, to the energy needed at the processing plant—and found that ethanol is a net energy-loser. According to their calculations, ethanol contains about 76,000 BTUs per gallon, but producing that ethanol from corn takes about 98,000 BTUs. For comparison, a gallon of gasoline contains about 116,000 BTUs per gallon. But making that gallon of gas—from drilling the well, to transportation, through refining—requires around 22,000 BTUs.
In addition to their findings on corn, they determined that making ethanol from switch grass requires 50 percent more fossil energy than the ethanol yields, wood biomass 57 percent more, and sunflowers 118 percent more. The best yield comes from soybeans, but they, too, are a net loser, requiring 27 percent more fossil energy than the biodiesel fuel produced. In other words, more ethanol production will increase America’s total energy consumption, not decrease it.

The article also adds an update to their original – they’ve got links embedded in each of the bits below, but I’ll leave that for the reader here to find in their article rather than trying to recreate each here:
Update: On that note, here’s this from commenter Selias:

Google avaiation biofuels and algae. Then Google Al Gore’s investment into biofuel companies like Abengoa.
Then read this article last week in The Hill, written by none other than Abengoa VP, Christopher G. Standlee:
America needs new investment: In the next generation of biofuels
Then ponder the Federal lands and wetlands bonanza buy-ups in recent years, even pointed out by our very own Michelle Malkin.
Why would the progressive Federal gov’t need so much land? With quotes like this:
The Department of Energy says algae grown on a 15,000-square-mile area, about the size of Maryland, could theoretically meet the nation’s oil needs.
…it’s easy to put this puzzle together.

It’s all about Al Gore Inc.

MartinW

We need congressional hearing on this and the whole ‘global warming’ scam. The GOP should investigate Al Gore in particular, and demand he appear in public sessions (plural). He has made $1 billion out of the so-called ‘global warming’ scam, and justice demads that he is deprived of this wealth, and jailed.
GOP, find a way, and put a final end to this nightmare.

Djozar

1. The energy balance may not be great but it is still postive – sort of like gruel may not be good but it’s still food?
2. Energy balance is not everything. There is a shortage of liquid fuels to drive cars, but abundance of other fuels such as coal, uranium etc. Corn ethanol helps to close the price gap, it is much better than coal liquidification and reduces oil imorts from ugly regimes in the middle east and venezuela.
And it burns less efficiently, increasing the amount of fuel per mile
3. Corn ethanol has helped to stabilize corn prices and provide good income for US farmers and affiliated industry workers.
It raises the prices, making CORPORATE farmers richer
5. Heartland people hate Al Gore. This is just his primitive reaction.
Do you mean “their” reaction? Are you implying the common man isn’t smart enough to see through Gore’s sermons?

Better try read this, with Google translate:
http://expianetadidio.blogspot.com/2010/07/estinzione-magnetica.html

Tamsie

speaking of obvious, it’s becoming glaringly obvious that WUWT (and most other contrarian sites) are avaoiding the Wegman scandal. I wonder why that is?
REPLY: Speaking of obvious, its obvious that you haven’t done your homework. We’ve had posts WAY IN ADVANCE of the current hubub being stirred up by USA Today, who was late to the party by about a month.
On Bradley: Blackmail or Let’s Make a Deal. http://wattsupwiththat.com/2010/10/21/blackmail-or-lets-make-a-deal/
Bradley Copies Fritts http://wattsupwiththat.com/2010/10/18/bradley-copies-fritts/
How to solve attribution conflicts in climate science http://wattsupwiththat.com/2010/10/15/how-to-solve-attribution-conflicts-in-climate-science/
Manic Flail: Epic Fail http://wattsupwiththat.com/2010/10/12/manic-flail-epic-fail/
Dipping Into The Sour Mash, Part 2 http://wattsupwiththat.com/2010/10/10/dipping-into-the-sour-mash-part-2/
Mashey Potatoes, Part 1 http://wattsupwiththat.com/2010/10/09/mashey-potatoes-part-1/
Wordsmithing http://wattsupwiththat.com/2010/10/09/wordsmithing/
On Wegman – Who will guard the guards themselves? http://wattsupwiththat.com/2010/10/08/on-wegman-who-will-guard-the-guards-themselves/
Is that enough or do you still think we are “ignoring” it? Sheesh – Anthony Watts

hedrat

To the people who invariably come into these forums to defend “corn squeezin’s” as a fuel:
Have you ever actually compared your mileage?
My car gets 13 to 15 % fewer miles on a 10 % ethanol blend than on pure gas.
In what kind of Bizarro universe can such a substance be called a fuel? Granted, it might work better in an engine designed to run on it, but since virtually nobody has such an engine, and outfitting every existing car with such an engine would represent a HUGE energy expense, I refer you back to the Bizarro universe question.

Dr T G Watkins

Similar economics applies to wind, solar and most renewables. Gore’s ignorance of, or ignoring of, the facts is shared by the Coalition ruling the UK. God help us!
A full post on the science and economics of ‘renewables’, including technical difficulties of base load supply,transmission costs and intergration with existing grid, would be appreciated.
Nice to hear from Gail Combs.

Curiousgeorge

@ Rational Debate says:
November 22, 2010 at 11:05 am
RE: your no-till question.
“No-till” doesn’t mean that NO tilling is done. I simply means that it’s very shallow and leaves most of the stover, etc. on the surface. There are other methods such as vertical tilling, and so on also. What the farmer does depends a great deal on what crops were grown and what cover crops are to be used. No-till doesn’t work well for corn, btw. Major downsides to so-called “no-till” are insect infestations, weeds, and disease that affect the next planting, which means higher application of a variety of insecticides, herbicides, etc. . Weather also plays a significant role in this decision.

JPeden

Tamsie says:
November 22, 2010 at 11:29 am
speaking of obvious, it’s becoming glaringly obvious that WUWT (and most other contrarian sites) are avaoiding the Wegman scandal. I wonder why that is?
Yeah, and what about the fact that Barack Obama had Elvis’ baby?

dbleader61

Tamsie,
Yes, come to WUWT to get the breaking news first – whether it be things you like (Wegman controversy) or don’t like (Jones/Mann controversy – aka “Climategate”)

Simon Barnett

Tamsie says:
November 22, 2010 at 11:29 am
Wow – how stupid do you feel right now??

Alan F

The slow horse finally crosses the line…

Dave Andrews

Surely an important point is whether he made money out of it? Has this aspect been investigated? He might say now it was a mistake but what was he doing when he was supporting it back then?

Jimbo

NICK LUKE says:
November 22, 2010 at 10:11 am

“It’s hard once such a programme is put in place to deal with the lobbies that keep it going.”

Just about sums up the entire Climate Change Industry

I couldn’t have said it better myself. You hit nail on head my friend.

PaulH

As Steve Milloy points out over at the Green Hell blog, Gore still stands to profit from so-called second generation technologies because of Gore’s ties with Kleiner Perkins Caulfield and Byers (KPCB):
http://greenhellblog.com/2010/11/22/al-gore-cries-crocodile-tears-over-ethanol/

Greg2213

“At least two years is translated: maybe in 2012 if Obama is re-elected, the Dems take back the House, and they don’t lose the Senate. In other words, the bill is dead. ”
Please don’t underestimate the ability of the Republican party to fumble it’s way to a Dem victory. Also remember that the state media is Dem controlled. I think the games is closer than you think.

bob

I don’t know, maybe my steaks cost a bit more these days, but mostly I eat chicken, but at least the farmers aren’t piling the corn on the ground anymore, which must be good for something.

Curiousgeorge

@ bob says:
November 22, 2010 at 1:58 pm
I don’t know, maybe my steaks cost a bit more these days, but mostly I eat chicken, but at least the farmers aren’t piling the corn on the ground anymore, which must be good for something.

Different varieties of corn are grown for different markets and they are not interchangeable due to different pricing, etc.. Over 40% of the total corn crop is grown specifically for ethanol. Other varieties go to animal feed, corn syrup, “pop” corn, etc. Very little of the total crop actually ends up on your dinner plate.

RSweeney

People are dead because of this man’s hubris. Mostly children.
Not pretend dead as in a model prediction which never comes true, but dead and buried.

orthodoc

We told you so, you fracking fools. (Apologies to Robert Conquest.)

Al Gore knew the EROEI wasn’t there in the first place!
So, why did he vote for it?