EPA pushes forward with biofuels

Guest essay by Eric Worrall

Biofeul life cycle Image: LLBL.gob
Biofeul life cycle Image: LLBL.gov

US investment in biofuels are to be expanded under proposals advanced by the US EPA.

Under the proposed rule announced Friday, the amount of ethanol in the gasoline supply would increase in coming years, just not as much as set out under federal law. That approach drew criticism from ethanol and farm groups that have pushed to keep high volumes of ethanol in gasoline.

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton has called for a robust renewable fuels standard while campaigning in Iowa, host of the leadoff presidential caucuses next year.

In a bid to ethanol producers, the administration also announced Friday that the Agriculture Department will invest up to $100 million to help improve infrastructure for delivering ethanol to cars, such as fuel pumps capable of supplying higher blends of renewable fuel.

Read more: http://news.yahoo.com/epa-proposes-lowering-amount-ethanol-gas-143928039–finance.html

When will this madness to stop? Even green journalists like George Monbiot, and former members of the UN like Jean Ziegler, people who believe wholeheartedly in the alleged dangers of anthropogenic climate change, think biofuels are a crime against humanity.

Burning hundreds of millions of tonnes of staple foods to produce biofuels is a crime against humanity. Since 2007, the EU and US governments have given lavish support to agribusinesses to fill car fuel tanks with food – compulsory targets, and tax breaks and subsidies(pdf) worth billions annually. The result? Increased hunger, land grabbing, environmental damage and, ultimately, hundreds of thousands of lives lost.

EU policies promoting biofuels have, since 2008, diverted crops out of food markets at the bidding of powerful agribusinesses, in their pursuit of private profit. This use of large quantities of food and commodity crops for relatively small amounts of transport fuel has had three disastrous consequences.

First is an increase in world hunger. Almost all biofuels used in Europe are made from crops, such as wheat, soy, palm oil, rapeseed and maize, that are essential food sources for a rapidly expanding global population. Europe now burns enough food calories in fuel tanks every year to feed 100 million people.

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/poverty-matters/2013/nov/26/burning-food-crops-biofuels-crime-humanity

If there is ever a reckoning, a demand by victims of green policies for redress for the injustice and brutality they have suffered, at the hands of well meaning fools, the biofuel lunacy will surely top the list of wrongs to be righted.

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May 31, 2015 7:07 am

How do the EPA or other proponents of biofuels respond to these charges and justify their continued support for this seemingly absurd program? My understanding was they were going to try to switch to non-food sources of biomass for the fuels.

Reply to  TBraunlich
May 31, 2015 7:24 am

Undesirable unintended consequences caused by EPA regulations are not EPA’s domain.

Reply to  PiperPaul
May 31, 2015 8:54 am

they should be.

Reply to  PiperPaul
May 31, 2015 2:41 pm

The EPA is stuck with a congressional mandate. As many problems with the EPA and environmentally damaging regs – this one is not the epa’s fault.

Leonard Lane
Reply to  PiperPaul
May 31, 2015 5:09 pm

Nor their concern or worry.

Reply to  TBraunlich
May 31, 2015 7:26 am

Biomass doesn’t have the needed density to support the shipping costs unless the distance to the converter is very short. Same equation as with corn, just a lower threshold.

Gary Pearse
Reply to  spetzer86
May 31, 2015 8:31 am

And it probably uses up land that could grow food.

Reply to  Gary Pearse
May 31, 2015 9:39 am

Often that’s true. However, sometimes it’s land that was used for growing food (eg corn stalks). Either way, density is an issue

Reply to  TBraunlich
May 31, 2015 9:55 am

After losing the space race to Russia, the “little o” is destined to achieve the same result with the “Euro Energy” War. After all the US citizens will follow (or at least their taxes will) anywhere the CiC “leads”.

Reply to  TBraunlich
May 31, 2015 10:35 am

Greed and stupidity

average joe
Reply to  TBraunlich
May 31, 2015 10:51 am

Consider this: There is a surplus of food crop capacity in the US, i.e. more food can be grown than $ available to pay for that food. Ethanol provides an additional revenue source for crops. If the ethanol program ended, what would become of the capacity currently used for it? There is currently no global food shortage for those who have currency to trade for it. There is only a shortage of capacity to pay. Third world hungry people have nothing of value to trade for our crops. If they did they wouldn’t be hungry. There is no market to replace ethanol consumption. Without it farmers would be bankrupted from the surplus, resulting in less production. Do we give the surplus away for free, along with paying huge shipping costs, to send it to hungry countries overseas? That doesn’t work unless someone foots the bill. Don’t ask me to. Just as with welfare recipients, they need to help themselves first or it won’t work. First thing they need to do is not have children without means to support them. If they ignore this and their children die, that’s not my fault. Nature is a heartless mother and that’s just how it is. The ethanol program does have some usefulness. It provides a market for crops which otherwise would not be produced. It does help us import less oil, although it is arguable how much if any. But perhaps the real benefit is that it keeps our food production capacity above our demand for food. That is a buffer, call it a national insurance policy, that will be of great benefit in the event of temporary famine conditions, at which point ethanol would be temporarily suspended until the famine subsides. I like knowing that there is a large buffer that can be diverted to food should the need arise.

Reply to  average joe
May 31, 2015 11:49 am

Yeah, the number of people who have died from lack of a tortilla directly due to this industry is probably about the same as the number of climate refugees – both round numbers.

Alan Robertson
Reply to  average joe
May 31, 2015 11:55 am

You don’t want to foot the bill to feed hungry nations, then why are you willing to foot the bill (subsidize) the ethanol fuel program?
There is also such a thing as exhausting the available nutrients in soil… let’s wear out our farmland making fuel, for little apparent gain in reduced fuel imports, while engaging in yet another transfer of wealth from the masses, to a handful of beneficiaries.

Reply to  average joe
May 31, 2015 12:03 pm

Alan, corn ethanol subsidies ended at the end of 2011:
In a previous article of this type, there were some very instructional comments from an actual farmer (in Iowa I think), on the land use aspects of this and their long term views.
The “handful” of beneficiaries, eh ? We’re talking entire US States, and several of them !

John M
Reply to  average joe
May 31, 2015 12:10 pm

A mandate forcing the use of something is not a subsidy?

Reply to  average joe
May 31, 2015 12:26 pm

As I know leftover after distilling ethanol are very nutritient and used as animal food. Ethanol alone is CH3CH2OOH chemical formula so absolutely no nutritients are taken from ground this is pure result of photosynthesis CO2 + H2O + energy. Leftovers after using as food can be easily distributed back to soil.

average joe
Reply to  average joe
May 31, 2015 12:30 pm

“You don’t want to foot the bill to feed hungry nations, then why are you willing to foot the bill (subsidize) the ethanol fuel program?”
The ethanol program provides some value for me, as pointed out above. I would prefer to not subsidize it, I think it can stand on it’s own with oil above $60/gal. I would prefer subsidies be used only to support a minimal market price that is normally supported by the market to smooth out temporary fluctuations, and in return collect windfall taxes in the good years. As for feeding hungry nations, just as for welfare recipients, they need to first help themselves before I’m willing to help them one iota. If they can’t feed themselves they have no business creating offspring that they can’t feed either. I support letting nature take it’s course on weak gene pools just as it has done for a billion years.
The nutrients that get “exhausted” are replenished with fertilizer, primarily nitrogen. With proper management farmland doesn’t “wear out”.

Reply to  average joe
May 31, 2015 1:51 pm

Peter, minor correction. You have one too many oxygens in there. Yes though, all the nitrogen, sulfur etc atoms and nutrients stay with the dry distillers grain, they are transported to be used as cattle feed etc. – a huge part of the bioethanol economy (both atoms and dollars). I put some links further down, but my comment was stuck in moderation for a while.
I’m hoping the corn farmer who posted quite extensively on this topic a while ago will come by and post on the way the fields are handled responsibly. I think, from memory, her comments started with something like “No, we don’t shoot ourselves in the foot.

Old England
Reply to  average joe
May 31, 2015 2:18 pm

@ averagejoe
Nonsensical ‘argument’ – the subsidies to produce ethanol would more than cover the cost of providing and shipping free of cost.
But that is not the real answer – the third world must be Allowed to Develop.
If US, EU, UN and world bank policies were not denying the third world the energy resources (hydrocarbon fuels) they need to develop their economies they would be able to afford to buy food as well as to produce their own effectively and efficiently.

Leonard Lane
Reply to  average joe
May 31, 2015 5:17 pm

There are famine conditions somewhere in the world all the time. Food crops for biofuels is a stupid, selfish, and cruel thing to do to when people are hungry and suffering so much. It is also a waste of our precious topsoil and a source of groundwater pollution when marginal lands are brought into production.

Reply to  average joe
May 31, 2015 6:17 pm

That ” It does help us import less oil, although it is arguable how much if any. ” is an interesting point. In Florida, there were frequent gas stations selling “Ethanol Free” gasoline for about $1 / gallon more as specialty boat fuel (seems having water condense into the fuel causing separation of the alcohol layer on long standing in a marine environment is a Very Bad Idea when the discovery that ‘the motor will not start’ happens just as the Gator is climbing aboard for lunch…).
I took the opportunity to try A / B testing with my car. The mile / gallon improvement was almost the same as the ethanol percent removed. I.e. the ethanol did “nearly nothing” of value. I settled on a 50% blend with regular gasoline as the “ideal”, as that gave almost the same MPG as ethanol free, but was significantly cheap.
Had there not been a huge premium for “boat fuel”, I’d have swapped to 100% gasoline and never looked back.
Functionally, it is entirely a waste.
Ethanol CAN be a very good motor fuel (the first Fords were made to run on it, and many had a dual fuel carb). But it only really pays off if you have a very high compression engine that benefits from it. 11 : 1 or more. In modern 8 :1 or so engines, it’s just wasted. BTW, I was using a Mercedes that relatively high compression and wanted Super. It had less issues with the 100% gasoline than it did with the ethanol from the pump… Ideal performance was at about 2/3 “boat” gas and 1/3 with ethanol, that ought to be about a 3% to 4% ethanol blend. Likely at that point it is an effective octane improvement and doesn’t have other problems yet. Oddly, or maybe not so oddly, this worked best with “mid-grade” gasoline than with “super”; probably because the “super” had more ethanol in it, IMHO.
So while I’d be happy to drive a 100% alcohol car with a 12:1 or even 15:1 engine, putting retrofit blends into cars never designed for it is just stupid and wasteful.
BTW, we can make alcohols much more cheaply using coal. In the ’70s VW did a study of using process heat from nuclear reactors to make gasoline from coal and got a price that would be about the same as gasoline today. IIRC it was about 50 ¢/gallon-of-gasoline-equivalent. Then uplift that by about x5 for our money having been buggered and you get $2.50 / gallon.
Would work best with gas cooled reactors (queue the Thorium folks… though a U reactor is just as good…)
So it isn’t alcohol that is the problem. It is how we make it, and what kind of cars we put it into. Cars made for gasoline want gasoline, and food ought to be on a plate.

Reply to  average joe
June 1, 2015 4:33 am

Without it farmers would be bankrupted from the surplus, resulting in less production.

OK but that is not my problem. If the farmers can’t run their business without going bankrupt then they go bankrupt.
So you like knowing there is a large buffer that can be diverted to food should the need arise. Fine, but

That doesn’t work unless someone foots the bill. Don’t ask me to.

Danley Wolfe
Reply to  TBraunlich
June 1, 2015 7:46 am

Congress must pass new legislation. The program has no merit for energy savings (we have plenty of supply these days vs. when the program was passed in the mid ’70s); no merit for emissions reduction; no merit for energy efficiency; no merit for food prices; only has merit for the grain ethanol producers especially farmers in Iowa, Nebraska etc. and the big corporate lobbyers / producers Arthur Daniels Midland (ADM), POET, Valero, … EPA has not updated / developed new RFS standards for years 2014+ for six years because the program has shown it is unworkable aside from not providing any benefits.
the Obama administration want to update it now because it is pushing every possible lever in EPA regulation in the presidents fourth quarter clock running out swan song. It is purely political. If the president can push his political agenda he will try to do it even if the item is worthless / meritless.

May 31, 2015 7:10 am

Of course, ALL of these people were 100% FOR biofuels, before they were against them. ‘WE’RE SAVING THE WORLD!’ and all that.

Reply to  Otter (ClimateOtter on Twitter)
May 31, 2015 10:20 am

I for one was never a believer in this malarkey.

Reply to  Otter (ClimateOtter on Twitter)
June 1, 2015 10:42 am

Otter< I think that is the point the whole bio fuels deal is one that only the most wild eyed environmentalists thought a "great" idea back in the sixties. Can it be done? Of course, but does it have any economic viability compared to other ways of powering engines? Not at all. Is it a stepping stone technology helping us develop infrastructure for a successor technology? Not at all. The Genius of the brand of Greenies we have in this country is to usurp the political support of died in the wool conservatives who hate the EPA as much as anyone and convert them to supporting a dead end technology so they can benefit from the business activity. Sort of like the leases for windmills in wheat country.

JJM Gommers
May 31, 2015 7:10 am

In the diagram there is missing the agriculture cycle, land preparation, fertiliser, CO2, seed cycle, allocated costs, herbicides, fungicides, etc.

Greg Woods
Reply to  JJM Gommers
May 31, 2015 9:12 am

and repair to damaged engines…

Reply to  JJM Gommers
May 31, 2015 11:32 am

And the fact that all of this biodegradable material is not going back into the ground.
The fact that a good farm field is dark brown to black is because of the large amounts of carbon in the soil. If the scrap wood, low grade/inedible corn, corn/wheat stalks are converted to ethanol and burnt it is not carbon neutral, it is now in the air. If it had been turned under or even eaten by live stock (our hogs/chickens never had a problem eating moldy corn, the runts or the corn/grain turned away from the co-op), it would be in the ground and left there for hundreds if not thousands of years. The same for all of the trees they now call “renewable” and burn. It is far better to make mulch and spread it on your garden, lawn, or forest trails. Further, the presence of this mulch helps water evaporation and saves water. Where are thes whacko environmentalists getting their advice from?

May 31, 2015 7:11 am

Algenol has solved the ethanol vs food problem and is commercializing their technology. They take CO2 from power plants, bubble it through GMO cyanobacteria grow chambers and they directly produce ethanol.
Lots of people have been trying the algae ethanol thing for about 20 years, so pessimism is appropriate. But Algenol appears to be making it actually work.

Tom in Florida
Reply to  Vboring
May 31, 2015 7:46 am

That still doesn’t address how ethanol ruins engine parts. Perhaps big auto is secretly involved.

Reply to  Tom in Florida
May 31, 2015 12:36 pm

What auto part? I have flexfuel engine and it is happily running gasoline or E85 without problems. it is just matter of compatible materials.

Reply to  Tom in Florida
May 31, 2015 1:11 pm

The biggy with ethanol is the production of formic acid. Flex fuel engines are specifically coated to prevent corrosion. Everything else is not. That effects everything in the fuel system and the engine interior — oil pan and everything.
And this whole exercise produces roughly the same equivalent carbon output per mile for a 20-30% reduction in gas mileage. But hey, that’s pretty swell for excise tax revenue per gallon at the pump.

Reply to  Vboring
May 31, 2015 10:04 am

Do you think they can do it without subsidies and mandates? If there is an alternate available, I doubt anyone would pay for this.

Reply to  Slywolfe
May 31, 2015 12:54 pm

They claim $1.70/gallon today, $1.30 once the tech is optimized.
That’s with free CO2 from gas and coal plants. If they have to pay for the CO2, it’ll cost a little more.

Reply to  Vboring
June 1, 2015 10:07 am

Who pays for CO2 separation, collection, compression, storage and transport?

Reply to  Vboring
May 31, 2015 10:17 am

Keep dreaming…..
They will be still commercializing this hopeless technology 20 years from now…

Reply to  janus
May 31, 2015 10:46 am

And water pollution due to run off

Reply to  janus
May 31, 2015 1:03 pm

Maybe. But they have a working plant today, 200 employees, and contracts in place for commercial scale plants that will be several thousand acres.

Danley Wolfe
Reply to  Vboring
June 1, 2015 7:48 am

Algeniol is not scalable, it will remain a curiosity looking for subsidy handouts.

Sweet Old Bob
May 31, 2015 7:12 am

More trouble for 2-stroke engine users . Is that part of the plan ?
Or just “an unexpected benefit ” ???

Reply to  Sweet Old Bob
May 31, 2015 7:32 am

Why do you think it’s trouble for 2-stroke engine users?

Reply to  Phil.
May 31, 2015 7:43 am

My faithful old tiller has parts in the corroborator that the ethanol dissolved. I’m searching for ethanol resistant parts to no avail so far.

Reply to  Phil.
May 31, 2015 8:13 am

same reason too much ethanol is bad for people. neither was designed to burn ethanol in large quantities.

Sweet Old Bob
Reply to  Phil.
May 31, 2015 8:24 am

Because lubrication ( think OIL ) is difficult when using alcohol (think HYDROscopic ) containing fuel .
Oil and water don’t readily mix . Ethanol absorbs water . Then it tends to stratify . Then the engine suffers lubrication failure .
Go to the nearest small engine service shop and ask their opinion of ethanol .
It frequently causes early failure of 2-stroke engines .
Broken window economic theory in action ?

Reply to  Phil.
May 31, 2015 8:38 am

It’s also troublesome in small engines that are stored for long periods as it attracts moisture. Intake valves especially tend to stick.
You can buy fuel in cans that has no ethanol, though.

Reply to  Phil.
May 31, 2015 8:52 am

Why do you think it’s trouble for 2-stroke engine users?

Ethanol has some rather problematic characteristics.

Reply to  Phil.
May 31, 2015 9:35 am

Big two stroke “oil burners” were banned years ago. Think deltic.

May 31, 2015 7:15 am

Its a pity someone hasn’t worked out how to power stuff on political bullshit by now, there being an abundant supply worldwide!

May 31, 2015 8:04 am

Political bullshit has as much substance as, well…. political bullshit. That’s the problem.

Ralph Knapp
May 31, 2015 7:18 am

Total and utter insanity!
If converting food into fuel in the name of stopping the mythical AGW at the risk of creating a likely food shortage and an economic crisis isn’t a perfect definition for insanity, show me a better one.

R. Shearer
Reply to  Ralph Knapp
May 31, 2015 7:30 am

No need to burn people directly in ovens, just starve them by burning their food indirectly in automobiles.

Reply to  Ralph Knapp
May 31, 2015 7:33 am

It’s on a par with subsidising growing trees in the USA, chopping them down, pelletising them, shipping them to the the UK and then burning them in a power station in the name of CO2 reduction.
You really couldn’t make it up, but it’s actually happening!

Reply to  Old'un
May 31, 2015 8:57 am

But most people don’t eat trees.

Silver ralph
Reply to  Old'un
May 31, 2015 9:23 am

Yeah, but the trees are probably growing on land that could provide food. A lot of these ‘trees’ are actually coppicing, and they are planted on good agricultural land.

Mike McMillan
Reply to  Ralph Knapp
May 31, 2015 10:47 am

After our free trade agreement with Mexico, their small corn farmers couldn’t compete with our low grain prices, so they went out of business. Now we’re diverting all that corn into biofuels, which cuts the supply available for food and thus raises prices. Without its own producers, Mexico and its poor are hurting. You can imagine what it’s doing to truly poor countries like Haiti.

Reply to  Mike McMillan
May 31, 2015 11:09 am

So the grain prices rose and now their small farmers can afford to grow corn locally.

average joe
Reply to  Mike McMillan
May 31, 2015 11:39 am

When you look around at all the diversity of life, there is an overriding principle that has stood out since the beginning. Strong genes thrive and weak ones perish (usually they get eaten). That is the natural order of the world. Many humans are now interfering with this natural order by trying to prevent weak genes from perishing. This is contrary to nature and is itself a weakness in the human genome. Nature will prevail, as always. The eco-zealot welfare-for-all gene is yet one more that will soon vanish in this tiny blip of geologic time. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying compassion is weakness, actually quite the contrary. The allies strength was compassion in their war with the nazi’s. But indiscriminate compassion trying to save those who will not save themselves is weakness. The genes that will prevail are those that have compassion where compassion is warranted, and allow nature to take it’s course for the rest.

Mike McMillan
Reply to  Mike McMillan
May 31, 2015 11:46 am

Yes, those who haven’t given up and moved to the city in search of income.
The high prices still burden the poor, and those artificially high prices are due to our government’s policies.

average joe
Reply to  Mike McMillan
May 31, 2015 12:52 pm

Wrong – those artificially LOW prices are due to ag innovation over the last century, without which prices would be much higher. If countries are poor they need to get off their asses and innovate. If they don’t, or can’t, that’s not my fault. In nature only the strong survive – always has been and always will be.

Reply to  Mike McMillan
May 31, 2015 10:37 pm

@ average joe, the innovations are already there, these countries need cheap energy that is being denied to them, as long as they are burning wood and dung just for their meals on a daily basis instead of using those products to build (wood for housing, dung as fertiliser and farming), they are forever having to have their hands out. Give them the opportunity as we as only we can give them to go ahead. They will then innovate These people need cheap energy so they can actually go to work without scratching 24/7 for a meal.

Midwest Rhino
Reply to  asybot
June 1, 2015 8:01 am

The US can be the shining light on the hill, but it can’t give away food or energy for free to help the starving nations, that are starving because they are run by commies and tyrants. Venezuela is a mess even though they have oil. Obama’s friend Chavez drove them to this “socialist” hell they are in now, and confiscated private enterprises.
Muslims are butchering their way across Africa now, and who wants to invest there when there is such corruption? Whites elected Mandela in S Africa but are now living behind barbed wire or fleeing the country, and Russia has become their best friend. Gaddafi was not a nice guy but he got rid of nukes, now we ISIS runs Libya and who knows where thousands of SAMs went (thanks Hillary).
We are seeing what happens when the US is not the world’s policeman. But it’s not our responsibility to cheaply feed and fuel the world that wants to kill US. There are too many utopian beliefs overruling on the ground evil realities. Most of the world governments want to control and milk their citizenry, not help them all live wonderful lives. And our government has largely become the same. But we do need producers to supply food and energy, so the producer of real stuff (farmers, frackers, industry) is not our enemy. They are supplying us with cheap fuel, and the world’s best food supply.

Leonard Lane
Reply to  Ralph Knapp
May 31, 2015 5:23 pm

The people that vote for politicians that support food for fuel and their subsidies. Stop the subsidies and the problem is solved. That’s a pretty good insanity too.

Bruce Hall
May 31, 2015 7:42 am

The real problem with ethanol, beyond the obvious use of arable land for growing the necessary corn, is that ethanol has been implicated as a source of air pollution. This was known back in 2007 http://www.nbcnews.com/id/18162493/ns/us_news-environment/t/ethanol-may-cause-more-smog-more-deaths/ and again last year http://www.latimes.com/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-ethanol-ozone-levels-brazil-20140501-story.html#page=1.
The government, of course, focuses on the petroleum savings https://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/ethanol.shtml which has recently become a moot point with the success of fracking and the glut of oil globally. So, in order to slightly reduce petroleum usage, the government mandates the use of a lower energy fuel source that creates more air pollution… thereby saving us from the evil oil companies.

John F. Hultquist
Reply to  Bruce Hall
May 31, 2015 7:56 am

Poorer mileage, use more, and a hidden tax.

Reply to  John F. Hultquist
May 31, 2015 8:47 am

yup mixing something with gallon of gas may make it seem like less gas used however the mileage difference in many cases means over the month more gallons of fuel actually bought.

Reply to  Bruce Hall
May 31, 2015 1:18 pm

Sure, higher temps in the chamber mean more NOx and thus more ozone. It’ll be interesting to see how NOx production will square long term with the EPA and how the reduced mileage will square long term with CAFE requirements.

Bill Illis
May 31, 2015 7:45 am

Why in the world would the US want to increase Ethanol production let alone increase it from non-existing production of cellulose ethanol. The US Renewable Fuel Standard targets below.
I first ran into the cellulose ethanol scam more than 25 years ago ($billions have been invested in this business over the years and it is just government grant harvesting and the technology just does not work).comment image

May 31, 2015 7:51 am

Not to mention palm oil development via rainforest destruction in undeveloped countries due to increased cost of producing in 1st world countries because of bio fuels.

Reply to  wickedwenchfan
May 31, 2015 2:00 pm

And the extinction of the orangutan, what an awful policy.

John F. Hultquist
May 31, 2015 7:53 am

Algae can be grown in your bathtub and kitchen sink, then do a spin-dry in the washer, and extract oil and nutrients in you food processor. There is tremendous up-side to all the products, not to mention the family bonding that happens. Blocks parties on Saturday afternoons could be useful and also add to community well being. Then the EPA could get involved – if they did not shut it all down because everyone was having too much fun.

Reply to  John F. Hultquist
May 31, 2015 8:41 am

Algae can indeed be grown in your kitchen sink, along with mold and various fungi. Back in my younger days, I was informed on more than one occasion, by persons of the female persuasion, that this was no way to run a houeshold. I was further informed that the experimental colonies in the bathroom needed to tended to, before they evolved any further and started demanding voting rights, and such.
To The Good Old Days.

steve in seattle
Reply to  TonyL
May 31, 2015 2:16 pm

That’s good, TonyL !

Reply to  John F. Hultquist
May 31, 2015 9:05 am

Algae can grow in my swimming pool, if I let it. If it does grow in my swimming pool I’ll let you come out harvest it and take it home spin dry it, have block party, whatever you want to do with it, but keep it out of my pool.

Silver ralph
Reply to  Tom Trevor
May 31, 2015 9:26 am

Can I have a pool, for it to keep out of?
In fact, can I have a garden for the pool for it to keep out of?
In fact………..

Reply to  Tom Trevor
May 31, 2015 9:52 am

Apply for a grant Silver, after all it is to save the planet

Reply to  John F. Hultquist
May 31, 2015 1:51 pm

There is tremendous up-side to all the products, not to mention the family bonding that happens. Blocks parties on Saturday afternoons could be useful and also add to community well being.

Such a tremendous macroeconomic use of human capital: spend your weekends creating the fuel you need. Instead of using available oil, and spending the party time to study for real solutions, and other advancements of society. Why didn’t the geniuses we had after WWII that created the middle class come up with that solution?

May 31, 2015 7:56 am

The REDD program has been grabbing land all over the world from indigenous peoples. Strong and Clinton feature prominently in the program. Basically it is a program whereby money is paid to not cut down trees.
This is a great scheme for tree farms. You get paid for 50 years not to cut down the trees, then when they are mature you cut them down and replant, and start getting paid again for not cutting down the new trees.
Needless to say, the typical slash and burn small farmer in the tropics pays the price for this program. Tropical soils are nutrient poor. Burning the jungle provides the nutrients required for this years crop. Next year they will move on to another patch of jungle, while last years burn is reclaimed by the jungle.
Under REDD this sort of farming is no longer possible. Instead the jungle is now “owned” by REDD. The farmers now have no means to grow their crops. They don’t have money to buy land, they don’t have money to buy chemical fertilizers, so they either starve or move, leaving the REDD land to the bankers and politicians.
In this fashion REDD drives indigenous people’s from their land in the name of saving the planet.

May 31, 2015 7:58 am

A long time ago I decided that there was no logic in CAGW or the pronouncements of its followers. I am sorry to report that this situation is unchanged.
Alcohol does not even come close to having the same chemical energy as petrol, therefore propelling a vehicle with ethanol and petrol must have less performance than a petrol engine and a higher fuel consumption.
As an aside, why do multi-storey car parks in the UK have charging facilities for electric vehicles on the ground floor and not the top floor?

Reply to  andrewmharding
May 31, 2015 8:23 am

charging facilities for electric vehicles on the ground floor and not the top floor?
ever tried to jump start an electric car? no matter how many floors you roll down to get up to speed, once the battery is flat she isn’t going to start.

Reply to  ferdberple
May 31, 2015 9:29 am

Agree with you about a rolling start for an electric car, same problem with automatics.
Doesn’t seem sensible though to make CO2 “producing” cars drive further than they have to, unless the sight of three passengers pushing an out of power electric car up 10 -12 ramps is not good propaganda for our wonderful carbon free world. Having said that, a charging. burning electric car visible to more people because it is on the ground floor is even less so!

Reply to  ferdberple
May 31, 2015 6:28 pm

A bit of trivia:
Actually you could push start an automatic pre 1964. The manual for my ’57 Olds actually had “push start” instructions in it. Now, if you carried jumpers, not an issue unless the starter died (yup, been there done that), or if you had someone with tools to switch batteries with … But I have push started my ’57 Olds and a ’60 Chevy – well pull started actually – to avoid bumper contact and dents.
Can’t do it anymore:
“The reason you can’t push start an automatic is that you need oil pressure in the transmission to engage the clutches. Before about 1964, manufacturers put rear oil pumps in trannys (driven by the rotating drive shaft). These cars could be push started, because the movement of the car turned the pump and created enough pressure to engage the clutches and start the engine.
After 1964 they stopped putting the rear oil pump in the tranny.”

Reply to  ferdberple
June 1, 2015 4:31 am

“The reason you can’t push start an automatic is that you need oil pressure…”
You’d also need to power up the engine management computer to be able to fire the injectors, and to provide properly placed spark.

Reply to  andrewmharding
May 31, 2015 8:45 am

easier to put fires out on first/ground floor.
also if battery really low you want to start climbing up floors with it? LOL 🙂

May 31, 2015 8:04 am

We paid a few million for a biomass to biofuel project in Tennessee. The chief beneficiary was one of our states most politically connected land developers. Farmers receiving the public pay outs controlled a co–op agra bank that lent him millions on land purchases. Naturally our states enviromental lobby went full throat to defend the program when we started asking questions.

Reply to  troe
May 31, 2015 8:28 am

controlled a co–op agra bank that lent him millions
folks in Minnesota report the same. co–op agra banks making millions from ethanol subsidies, controlled and directed from the top to benefit those at the top. make a noise, you are kicked out of the co-op, your shares divided up.

Coach Springer
May 31, 2015 8:10 am

Sounds pretty carbon (in production and in combustion) and particulate matter intensive. Way, way more than fracking anyway. I thought these carbon and particulate matter things were the biggest threat to the world in the EPA’s bosses’ eyes.. Also, why make all this pre-coal when you’ve got plenty of the real thing?

May 31, 2015 8:11 am

Bio-fuels are a scourge upon humanity. It’s one HUGE Agri-Biz scam designed to generate $billions in subsidies, $millions in political donations and millions of loyal farm voters…
It stinks. In the meantime, many abject poor around the world starve to death from higher food prices, water and soil pollution increases, living standards fall, fuel prices increase, and a cascading Butterfly Effect of negative unintended consequences ensue.
Politicians are very reluctant to end this farce out of fear of political blowback from the beneficiaries of this scam; especially with Iowa being the first presidential primary caucus….
I don’t expect Scam-onol to end anytime soon…

Reply to  SAMURAI
May 31, 2015 6:21 pm

“When will this madness to stop?”
When and only when Iowa is the not the first presidential primary caucus.

May 31, 2015 8:24 am

People are crazy and times have changed. The automobile trumps starving people – insufficient affordable power freezes the elderly and the lives of obscure wildlife species saved at the expense of critical human infrastructure.

Reply to  Tim
May 31, 2015 8:31 am


The automobile trumps starving people – insufficient affordable power freezes the elderly and the lives of obscure wildlife species saved at the expense of critical human infrastructure.

Yes, the claim that the behavior of an artificially-introduced small fresh-water fish into the naturally dry and brackish/salty/low-flowing California estuaries predicts the death of millions of other fish that naturally lived there for millions of drought-ridden years is totally artificial and a lie used by the enviro-lobby to harm innocents and starve millions by artificially high food prices.
The claim that ethyl alcohol in gasoline saves fuel, saves lives, and saves energy is deliberately a lie that kills millions worldwide through artificially high food and grain prices – is also a lie.
Yes, your whole statement is a lie – a lie that, somehow, you enjoy promoting in public. Why?

Reply to  RACookPE1978
May 31, 2015 9:13 am

RA, We are on the same page, bro. I agree that important species need to be saved, but not to the detriment of building dams, or preventing sustainable logging to keep humans surviving. It’s all about the survival of our species. Please re-read my blog.

May 31, 2015 8:24 am

Another policy initiative, they have been a busy little agency lately, haven’t they? Now, who would be driving this initiative, I wonder?
I just spent a few minutes surfing around the Greenpeace site, looking for their current official policy on biofuels. I could not find anything. In fact, it seems like total silence on the issue. Looks to me like they are trying very hard to pretend that the whole biofuels disaster never happened.
I did find on short article taking a (mild) stance against biofuels, but it is dated October 18, [2012].
From the article:

Increasing the price of food as well as reducing its availability should be enough reasons to suspend biofuel mandates. However, expanding biofuel production also has severe negative climate impacts as it often displaces crop production farther into threatened forests, savannahs and peatland or increase the use of oil-based fertilizers and pesticides.

It looks like they are attempting to walk back their prior involvement.
So it is not Greenpeace, any other support from the environmental movement seems like it would be muted, at best. We know EPA is in bed to an incredible extent with the US environmental movement, so it seems they would have has to overcome considerable misgivings within EPA, internally.
So again, why this and why now?
Ok, let’s try “Follow The Money”
Mandates + Subsidies –> Iowa corn farmers –> Iowa famous “First In The Nation” presidential caucus –> Democratic Presidential Candidate.
EPA takes a break from saving the world long enough to play a little politics.

May 31, 2015 8:43 am

theres also a btu price to be paid and when its 20 below 0 F you really notice the differences in warm up times.

Reply to  dmacleo
May 31, 2015 9:06 am

That is easily solved by global warming.

Reply to  dmacleo
May 31, 2015 10:55 am

I’ve got some horse manure they can burn to make up the difference.

Reply to  dmacleo
May 31, 2015 11:18 am

I’ve never noticed any problem warming my car when it’s 20 below.
E10 has 97 percent of the BTU per gallon that E0 does. That you are noticing a difference in warm up times is due to your overactive imagination.

Reply to  Chris4692
May 31, 2015 6:02 pm

you lie

Reply to  Chris4692
May 31, 2015 6:09 pm

on average there is (depending on mix purity/etc) almost 6K btu difference between E10 and straight gas.
tkaes almost 1.5 gal of ethanol to equal the same btu in one gal of gas.
and many people here notice slower warm up times in cars.
in the tractors I use here (22 to 26 hp twins) to clear snow I have to run hotter plugs to warm it where its needed and get the power needed.
our 4 stroke snowmobiles lost almost 2mpg on average too.
so stop your lies.

Reply to  Chris4692
June 1, 2015 4:38 am

“in the tractors I use…to clear snow…snowmobiles lost almost 2mpg…”
Ha, Just wait! Both problems are solved when the oceans boil and there is no more snow. .

Reply to  Chris4692
June 1, 2015 6:36 am

Alcohol 80,000 BTU/gallon
Unleaded gasoline 120,000 BTU/gallon
So 10 percent ethanol mix with gasoline =0.1×80,000 + 0.9×120,000 = 116,000 BTU/gallon
116/120 = 0.967 = 96.7 %

Reply to  Chris4692
June 1, 2015 8:39 am

ethanol closer to 67K btu

Reply to  Chris4692
June 1, 2015 9:10 am

Use 67,000 for ethanol and it’s 95.6%.

May 31, 2015 8:54 am

Thanks, Eric. This is a very good article. The responses have been very good too.

May 31, 2015 8:57 am

If its all so obvious why do these scams continue and even grow? I suggest that the root cause is our lack of an army. We have lots of money, brilliant generals, and no foot soldiers. To turn the tide we need to escape our insular world and build the army.
What do you think

May 31, 2015 8:57 am

Just about 1/2 of all car emission failures are now a consequence of failures in the OBD diagnostic system (oxygen sensors and evap leaks) The average repair cost is about $400. Mind you, the vast majority of these cars are not actually over emission levels by tailpipe test especially if the car is under 10-12 years old. Any increase in ethanol content will drive up these OBD failures as the sensors aren’t stable in anything higher than E10. Of course the majority of states in the corn belt don’t require emission testing.

Reply to  John
May 31, 2015 9:08 am

Here in Florida we don’t have safety inspections let alone emission testing, one thing I love about Florida.

Reply to  Tom Trevor
May 31, 2015 9:52 am

Except your check engine light will throw a code

Reply to  Tom Trevor
May 31, 2015 12:59 pm

They dont mean a thing. If changing fuel, disconnect the bettery for a few hours, reconnect and the ECU will “re-learn” what it burns after about 500km.

May 31, 2015 9:12 am

It is exceedingly generous to call biofuel supporters “well meaning fools.” Proponents of the biofuels industry KNOW that people will starve, suffer, and die as a result of driving up food prices around the world. Remember that the anti-human environmentalists think that dying from starvation or disease is “natural” and completely acceptable. These people are evil and any supporters of biofuels that have not thought this out and seen the evil results is still complicit and guilty of mass murder, acts against mankind.
Also, we cannot forget that there is indeed a maximum ethanol content that will destroy engines, decreasing their longevity enormously. They know about this as well and do not care as they WANT to make what we do more expensive in every way.

Reply to  higley7
May 31, 2015 10:58 am

For 40 years now, we’ve had the means for people to control the growth of populations so they don’t sprawl beyond what the region will support. Past time they DID it, because these famines can be a thing of the past any time we stop shovelling “foreign aid” to wackjob warlords and do some serious investing in developing countries to bring them into the modern world. Nobody WANTS to have 10 kids and watch 8 of ’em starve to death, and no one should have to.
The correct solution is BOTH population parity AND calling a halt to biofuel production.

Reply to  Goldrider
May 31, 2015 8:09 pm

Every environmental group’s stated goal is to reduce global population to a manageable level, and let like minded groups act as mangers. Why do we believe them when they say their goal is to save lives? They can’t try to save lives to reduce population, that is like fighting for peace or screwing for virginity.

average joe
Reply to  higley7
May 31, 2015 11:53 am

WTF? Last I checked dying from starvation or disease IS natural, and has been for about a billion years. That is nature’s way of weeding out weak gene pools and preserving strong ones. You think nature is evil? Perhaps you’re right. But nature sets the rules, always has, always will. Nature is a mass murderer. Rail against that all you want. Whatever.

Alan Robertson
Reply to  average joe
May 31, 2015 12:03 pm

Last I checked, initiating policies which have a purposeful, built- in feature of reducing human populations through starvation is reprehensible.

Reply to  average joe
May 31, 2015 12:55 pm


average joe
Reply to  average joe
May 31, 2015 1:00 pm

I get it – you think that humans are not just another animal species, that there is something special or different about them. Empirical evidence says you are wrong. It says we are highly intelligent animals, nothing more.

James Allison
Reply to  average joe
May 31, 2015 1:19 pm

Hey average joe, under your rules you will be feeling pretty damn lucky you are not hungry or suffer from disease eh?

Alan Robertson
Reply to  average joe
May 31, 2015 1:45 pm

Lay aside the fat that mass starvations of human populations have historically had not a damn thing to do with genetic makeup, but are most often the result of political, or natural catastrophe, which can befall anyone at any time.
Empirical evidence says that humans are merely animals and nothing else? Use whatever meaningless blather you wish to support your position, as you seem to fit your own profile. You’ve already told us that a level of comfort added to your existence at the cost of the lives of others is fine with you. That’s certainly anima/law of the jungle. What a world you inhabit!
FYI, the word “human” means half man/half animal and how very few there are who become fully realized man.

average joe
Reply to  average joe
May 31, 2015 2:17 pm

Well James, I wasn’t born into any wealth, sometimes I feel unlucky about that. I have been hungry, I feel lucky to have been born with capacity to remedy that problem without any handouts. I am disciplined enough to avoid things that could make me sick, and to abstain from bringing children into this world prior to my being able to provide for them (I now have 5 grown children). I’m not sure what rules you mean, I only mentioned nature’s rules, none of my own. For organisms born without capacity to flourish on their own, that is not my doing, it is nature’s, and I leave it to nature to run it’s course. Whether we live a comfortable happy life or a sick miserable one, in the end it doesn’t matter, we all end up in the same place. Gone.

average joe
Reply to  average joe
May 31, 2015 2:41 pm

Alan, I am a man of science, one of the few humans who is disciplined enough not to make stuff up in the absence of evidence to complete my predisposed world view. Whether it’s Gaia, Allah, Odin, Buda, Elohim, Jesus, Ozone, Yahwah, or whatever, people who claim to KNOW something is true when there is insufficient evidence to use the word “know”, really get under my skin. My word for them is Putz. I come to this site to get away from beliefs without evidence, i.e. putzes. Can we still be friends?

Alan Robertson
Reply to  average joe
May 31, 2015 3:48 pm

average joe-
What inspired your rant against practitioners of religious belief systems, other than reinforcement of your own belief system (and to slip in some left- handed insults?) That’s ok, ideas or truths which are known by an individual(s), become for others who do not have the same experiential knowledge, a matter of belief, or doubt. That’s the way it works.
Civilization seems to be forever plagued by those who operate more from the law of the jungle than from any sort of higher motivation. We all have it within us to- get it if we can get by with it- and societal rules exist to protect the population at large from excesses of that aspect of human consciousness.
I was once face- to- face with a looter exiting a building with an armload of booty who said; “if they didn’t want me to steal it, they should have guarded it better”, a statement which I called “the thief’s excuse”. That excuse is found in many forms, woven throughout the worst aspects of human interaction. There is no lack of those who justify that line of thinking, while vilifying those who would point out the error of their ways, or that alternative schools of thought exist, which proclaim that truths, or laws of consciousness exist under which we all operate, such as the idea of karma, or “sow and reap”.
We are all free to make our own world, but freedom really means that- we are free to live up to the consequences of our own thoughts and actions.

average joe
Reply to  average joe
May 31, 2015 4:50 pm

What inspired my rant? I’ll tell you. I used to believe people when they said that they “knew”. I grew up in a christian faith where all around me people would say things that they “knew”. I used to believe greenies when they said we were going to fry the planet. Growing older I met many others who “knew” truths, some of which were mutually exclusive of what I thought I knew. I have watched how doggedly both sides of a mutually exclusive belief will maintain that they know the truth and the other side is evil and going to hell. As I grew older and wiser I found that all of these belief systems came down to one thing: internal feelings. Their “evidence” is nothing more than internal feelings which they believe their “god”, whichever one it is, has inspired within them and confirmed to them the truth. OMG. Can they really be that stupid, I asked myself? Sadly the answer is yes, and I am dam pissed at all of the dishonesty. You see, I believe in personal integrity. If these people had integrity, they would say “I don’t know this , because there is no hard evidence for it, but I choose to believe it because inside I feel it is the truth.” All I ask for is honesty. The dam greenies in their belief we are frying the earth, and all of the other religious sects. Where is your personal integrity? Your smugness claiming that that you “know” without having hard evidence is just infuriating beyond belief. That is a trait that I want disappeared from the earth. Don’t ask me why. Why does a dog want to kill a cat? I don’t know. It just is. Over and out.

Alan Robertson
Reply to  average joe
May 31, 2015 5:29 pm

average joe-
I think it’s great that you are unwilling to “believe”, without evidence, or first hand knowledge.
Meanwhile, did anyone claim to “know without evidence”?
To reiterate, any statement of knowledge by one person, for all others who do not have the same experiential knowledge, is a matter of belief, or doubt.
As example: I just prepared and ate a variant of the Korean dish, si- gum- chi (시금치) using as substitute ingredients, pumpkin leaves and shallots from my garden. I could explain in great detail how it tasted, but until someone ate it themselves, they could only believe they knew what it tasted like.
“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE / Hamlet Act 1. Scene V abt. 1601

May 31, 2015 9:12 am

If memory serves me, it takes more energy to produce and deliver ethanol that it provides. Do biofuels produce less CO2 than traditional fuels?

Reply to  ossqss
May 31, 2015 1:32 pm

As mentioned above, E85 produces the same amount of carbon per mile as straight-up petrol. But due the performance detriments, a trip that took 100 gallons of gas will take 113 gallons of gas and 20 gallons of ethanol.
We now must produce the excess energy to drill, ship, cat crack, and prep 13 extra gallons of gas, the energy to produce the ethanol — and yes it is more to produce than is gained back — as well as increasing smog, (No que bueno for solar panels), as well as all the excess mining and manufacturing costs to produce the parts needed for the more frequent repairs.
Whether you’re a conservationist, a watermelon, or a tree hugger, the current alcohol fuels are an unquestionable disaster.

Reply to  Jquip
May 31, 2015 6:45 pm

Jquip: Unless of course you are “farming” subsidies; and feeding the left over “waste” mash to your cattle – then it is unquestionably profitable. Not the ethanol, but the “farming”. I had the “good fortune” to work in the development of some cattle feed lots 25+ years ago so I knew a little bit about the economics of ethanol back then. [I still avoid gasoline from one of the companies I worked for. 😉 ]

Reply to  Jquip
June 1, 2015 6:47 am

May 31, 2015 at 1:32 pm
As mentioned above, E85 produces the same amount of carbon per mile as straight-up petrol. But due the performance detriments, a trip that took 100 gallons of gas will take 113 gallons of gas and 20 gallons of ethanol.
Jquip, while I think I have the same point of view as you, please, please don’t use the same language as the non scientists. E85 doesn’t produce any carbon (carbon is produced in stars).
To clarify, did you mean carbon dioxide or carbon particulates or carbon something else?
Steve T

Silver ralph
May 31, 2015 9:19 am

And don’t forget that the UK has pledged to cut down all the trees in the USA, to feed our wood-burning power stations.

Reply to  Silver ralph
May 31, 2015 9:56 am

That’s a good thing, leaves room for biofuels.

May 31, 2015 9:20 am

So Obama plays the EPA tune and the world dances. Point at the source of the problem.

May 31, 2015 9:23 am

Coal is a biofuel.

Reply to  Patrick
May 31, 2015 9:43 am

Coal has profound energy density. Its everywhere and its kinda gross. I actually hate coal, but it can’t be argued that coal has huge advantages over ethanol. Also its viable

average joe
Reply to  owenvsthegenius
May 31, 2015 2:48 pm

I grew up across the street from a coal yard my uncle ran, where Union Pacific coal cars would pull up and dump their loads for him to distribute to the locals with coal furnaces. I used to play in it and get very black. I always liked the smell, kinda similar to diesel which I like also. I like the stuff.

Reply to  Patrick
May 31, 2015 12:53 pm

You hold an emotion, hate, towards coal? Too funny! In my experience, coal fuelled the lives of millions. Coal is even discounted for retireies in Ireland.

chris riley
May 31, 2015 9:25 am

Hanlon’s Razor – Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.
Stupidity on this scale simply is not plausible. This is a good thing. Stupidity cannot be fixed. Malice can be fixed.

May 31, 2015 9:37 am

Biofuels from waste products makes some sense, but bio fuel production for its own sake is a question mark. Land loss. I see nothing wrong with playing with energy sources, RandD. Clearly the propagation of ethanol policy is a green political play and nothing more. Most people on the left know this, and most on the right do as well. Biofuels viability to date is a big fat question mark.

May 31, 2015 9:43 am

Please publish comment on our lack of a serious ground game. Its a valid critique and one we should discuss.

May 31, 2015 9:46 am

Look at the face of the sun…once again nearly blank. It has been thus for a few weeks now, and it seems likely that those predicting a gran solar minimum have gotten it right.
In the past week it has snowed in a large numbers of places all over the world, in which seeds are already planted and trees were already blooming.
And now this insanity from the EPA.
We are truly living in a world controlled by insane politicians who are supported by scientists guilt of criminal malfeasance.

Mark from the Midwest
May 31, 2015 10:01 am

Of course Clinton will campaign in Iowa for higher utilization of biofuel, but ask her about an overall energy plan. I’m sure she has none, the response will be something like “we need to keep our options open.”
It should be interesting how her energy plan, implied as a series of opportunistic statements in varied locales, will unfold. Wonder what she’ll be saying about coal in West Virginia?
We should be equally tough on any and all Repbubs. This country sorely needs a coherent energy plan that is codified so that the EPA doesn’t have latitude to impose random acts of insanity.

John M
Reply to  Mark from the Midwest
May 31, 2015 11:02 am

Just as Al “Bigcarbonfoot” Gore hypocritically ran on a cheap gasoline pledge in 2000 (“folks ought to be to able to get in their cars and drive wherever they want whenever they want with affordable access to fuel”), it appears Hillary “Whatdifferencedoesitmake” Clinton is undergoing a similar polling year conversion…

In 2002, she and three of her senate colleagues — New York Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer and California Democrats Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer — used that very word, “tax” to describe then-pending legislation that was to require the blending of two billion gallons of corn ethanol per year into domestic gasoline supplies. Their March 21, 2002 letter said the pending measure would add “an astonishing new anti-consumer government mandate — that every US refiner must use an ever-increasing volume of ethanol.”
They said consumers would be “forced” to use ethanol and that the legislation was “the equivalent of a new gasoline tax.” In all, during her stint in the Senate, Clinton voted against ethanol 17 times.

She, of course, is counting on her base to exercise their usual standards of critical thinking come voting time.

May 31, 2015 10:10 am

It would be interesting to tally up all the costs of the ethanol fuel programs. Government subsidies, higher cost of road fuel, more tankers on the highways (can’t use pipelines), rotting out of fuel systems (cost me $110 for a ruined carburetor for example), additives to counteract the ethanol in fuel, reduced highway mileage, incompatibility in aircraft creating a need to have a separate distribution system, loss of wild habitat, greater use of water, increases in food prices ($44B a year just in higher chicken feed prices), unnecessary deaths due to starvation and other causes, and general disruption of the free market system come to mind. There are likely a hundred other unintended consequences.
The people advocating for ethanol fuel know all this, but their zeal to “save the planet” and screw everyone else trumps everything. It is malice and arrogance, and a strong corn lobby in Washington, that perpetuates this mistake. Write your Reps and Senators to end subsidies and reduce mandates.

Reply to  CarlF
May 31, 2015 1:10 pm

Tack on the costs and deaths associated with the so-called Arab Spring, which began with a series of food riots in various countries. Since ISIS came to power as part of this whole sequence of events, make sure to figure in all of the past, present and future consequences of those lunatics.
Including what it will cost to fight the inevitable war to rid the world of them. Since this may not occur until after they succeed in striking us here in the US, add that in too.

May 31, 2015 10:21 am

Agree with CarlF but believe another letter writing campaign will be a damp squib until we develop the grassroots. Websites and a few friendly media organizations are not enough. The ability to muster 100 regular folks at an obscure utility hearing is what we are missing. The Sierra Club and others provide that. What have got to counter.

michael hart
May 31, 2015 10:23 am

The holy grail in bio-fuel is still an efficient conversion of cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin to gaseous/liquid fuels.
I can subscribe to that aim.
You won’t find Greenpeace or “climate scientists” contributing much to that aim. Same as it ever was: People who might provide real solutions vs people who make a living finding problems.

Reply to  michael hart
May 31, 2015 1:50 pm

In the chemical warfare that the organisms on the earth have engaged in for billions of years, one of the most significant was and is the one involving lignin and cellulose.
Much evidence exists that it took over 60 million years for any organism to develop the means to break down lignin, and so end the carboniferous period by making coal formation much more rare. Even today, it is a difficult feat that only a handful of organisms manage.
But for those sixty million years, the amount of lignin present in plants and trees was far higher than it is today, and hence vast quantities of solar energy were stored and deposited in concentrated form.
It may be far easier said than done to devise the means to easily and cheaply convert lignin and cellulose back to their constituent monomers, short of burning them directly.
The beta 1-4 bond that differentiates cellulose from starch and other digestible carbs, together with the close association of lignin in the structure of plants, and the problems attendant with breaking it down, makes certain of this.
And scaling the processes that have been developed has proven to be a huge hurdle.
In any case, the Earth’s biosphere is starved to get the carbon, that was sequestered during the carboniferous, back.
We should not damage it further by preventing new lignin from being deposited into soil, where it serves several vital functions.
Even if we could
Removing the cellulose from fields and farms would be an ecological catastrophe.

Reply to  Menicholas
May 31, 2015 1:51 pm

Edit…removing the cellulose and lignin from fields and…

Reply to  Menicholas
May 31, 2015 1:58 pm

Imagine we develop the means to easily degrade cellulose and lignin, and it gets loosed on the biosphere and incorporated into the genetic material of one or more species of microbe.
The plants and trees of the world would lose the means to resist structural attack, and a catastrophe could ensue which would rot every plant and tree on the Earth.
I can think of no surer way to cause the end of the world as we know it, and as it has existed for many hundreds of millions of years.
We should not try to develop the means to do this, given the risk.
What say you to that?

May 31, 2015 10:35 am

Btw we suffered a complete financial collapse on our big green economy bets here in Tennessee. We bet the ranch on a particular solar solution and it blew up in our faces. An empty billion dollar plant is just the most visible sign of a wider disaster little covered in the States media. The same media outlets that were cheering the politicians on when the bet was laid.
The peoples memory is short and sometimes they forget things they never really knew. Easier than thinking I suppose.

May 31, 2015 10:36 am

Where are the Unicorns? When it comes to energy you may want to go back to some earlier posts

May 31, 2015 10:36 am

For those with problems with algae in their swimming pools and other places of entertainment… a simple solution I cam across while building and operating re-cycled water aquaculture systems involved running the treated re-cycled water through a bag of barley straw – seems it contributes stuff that algae find reprehensible. Downside is you have to change the straw fairly frequently… you will have to experiment to find the right timing.

May 31, 2015 10:47 am

There IS a place for SOME biofuels. I totally agree using good cropland is a horrible idea! That said, we could instead use marginal lands that cannot support our main crops. Non irrigated low input systems could make it feasible. No need to mess with actual crop lands.. But then that is intelligent so will likely be ignored in favor of emotions.

Reply to  Randy
May 31, 2015 2:01 pm

Poor lands would yield a very diffuse source of energy. The means to gather and concentrate the material would likely exceed the energy gotten back. And the effort to do so would deprive the soil of the materials it needs to form, persist, and increase.

Reply to  Menicholas
May 31, 2015 2:20 pm

No, I grow forests on dry lands now, fertility and soil water holding capacity increases over time. There is a wide range of trees and bushes that have multiples more useful material per growing area then lets say corn. Siberian peashrub seeds to name just one. I am not well voiced in what plants would yield the most ideal dryland materials for fuels, but considering the range of things I grow outproducing corn and getting materials with similar make ups with less input is not a problem at all.

Reply to  Menicholas
May 31, 2015 2:59 pm

Even for corn on prime farmland, when all of the inputs are accurately calculated, it is likely that the fuels used to make the ethanol exceeds the ethanol produced.
Many studies have shown this to be true.
The ones that were used to justify ethanol mandates to begin with have been shown to be flawed.

Reply to  Menicholas
May 31, 2015 5:56 pm

Good thing then that you can multiply the amounts grown with treecrops with less inputs, and labor. You mention prime farmland next to corn as if corn on prime farmland out produces trees on marginal lands, it does not come close. We are talking an order of magnitude difference or so. Also I might point out that this HAS been done with mesquite, and they just harvested wild grown stuff, they didn nothing such as my own work does that greatly magnifies the biomass a tree will grow. So say what you like but it really could likely work on the small scale, without messing with actual croplands. No where close to enough lands to replace fossil fuels.
My own work is taking lands generally left to cattle, adding in trees set up with what we might call “tarraforming”, which gives us various treecrops (non irrigated) while also building soil and multiplying the amounts of grass (that the cattle eat) that can be grown. So we can literally ADD crops and fertility while getting multiples more out of a system that covers much of the high desert in one variation or another…

Alan Robertson
Reply to  Menicholas
May 31, 2015 6:17 pm

@ Randy-
Your comments about your work is fascinating. I’d like to know more about what you’ve found, especially with Mesquite, which is rampant around many places where my feet fall…
I’ll see if there’s any info on the web and will be delighted if you decide to tell us more.

Reply to  Menicholas
May 31, 2015 6:42 pm

Was years since I read about that specifically alan. I had seen things like… http://www.terradaily.com/reports/Mesquite_Energy_May_Be_Harvested_For_Ethanol_999.html
So I decided to look for the newest info and found…
Looks comparable to corn. But they arent purposely increasing what the tree can do as my work does so I expect it can be some amount better then this. In either case certainly better then using space we use for corn now. Use mesquite from the marginal lands.

Alan Robertson
Reply to  Menicholas
May 31, 2015 7:00 pm

Thanks Randy!

Alan Robertson
Reply to  Randy
May 31, 2015 4:55 pm

The trick becomes to utilize marginal lands while simultaneously increasing their capacity to be productive. The planet has millions of square miles of unproductive/marginal lands and mankind will eventually figure out how to make better use of them. The best method we’ve found so far is the increase in atmospheric CO2.

Science or Fiction
May 31, 2015 10:51 am

I find it highly unethical to use food or farmland for fuel.

Reply to  Science or Fiction
May 31, 2015 11:10 am

Please see the response from Eric McAfee to this article that I have posted below. It’s now in moderation, but should exit from there soon.

Reply to  philincalifornia
May 31, 2015 11:54 am
Reply to  philincalifornia
May 31, 2015 2:05 pm

If making ethanol from corn was so good for the economy and for the animal feed industry, why has the cost of grains and chicken and beef exploded since the mandate went into effect?

Reply to  philincalifornia
May 31, 2015 4:02 pm

…. and not come back down with corn prices being halved back to ’07 prices? I don’t know the answer to either. Nor do I know the answer to why my gasoline cost at the pump went down to almost $3:00 a few months ago, and is back over $4:20, with the price of crude not moving much.

Alan Robertson
Reply to  philincalifornia
May 31, 2015 4:23 pm

I have noticed that prices of some things have begun to abate, but (opinion follows) surely the ceaseless operation of gov’t printing presses churning out $bills has some effect.

Reply to  philincalifornia
May 31, 2015 11:26 pm

Phil, crude was down in the low 40’s for a while there, and falling fast. And WTI and Brent were near the same price.
Brent is now back to a 10% premium over WTI, and WTI is now back at around 60, and trending up.
One must also look at whether the out months are in contango or backwardation to get the big picture anyway.
Just looking at spot price for front month tells an incomplete tale.
And besides for all of that, refined products have their own markets, separate from the prices of crude.
The crack spread can widen if, for examples, many refineries are transitioning from one blend to another, or are down for maintenance, or for a host of other factors.

May 31, 2015 10:57 am

I am very concerned about the economic and environmental costs of transition to biofuels.
I am also very concerned about the obesity crisis.
Could we not obtain subsidy funding to offer free liposuction and possibly solve both these problems in one go.
We could call it “arse fracking”. That would be sure to make the enterprise popular with all the leftist/eco pressure groups.
I can’t really believe that my idea has so far been so widely ignored.
Of course, we’d still be converting valuable food resources into energy. But in my system – people would get to have all the fun of eating the food first.

May 31, 2015 10:59 am

Sometimes things are so corrupt that only a scorching blaze will allow the “intelligent” uses room to grow. Elongated Musk moved quickly from technological saviour to YIELDCO. Perhaps its because the otherwise useful possibilities of the underlying technology never added up to the hype. Peter Thiels ” 140 characters vs jet packs” scenario. Not much money ti be made if the thing stays small.

May 31, 2015 11:08 am

Eric, this “essay” is very misleading, unless you meant to bring out the type-before-thinking vitriol spewers who still think the bioethanol industry has much if anything to do with phony climate change.
If people want to be educated on what corn-based bioethanol plants actually do, you should read the response to the similar Forbes magazine article, copied in its entirety below.
I hope you will educate yourself on DDGS and the conversion of the valuable food constituents of corn to higher value cattle, chicken and pig-feed. Here’s a start:
Also, I don’t see much mention of the price of food in general coming down as corn prices have come down from almost $8 per bushel to as low as ~$3.50 per bushel recently. That’s probably because they haven’t.
…. and no, I’m not in the industry. I just have to understand it for what I do.
Also, one of my rules of life in general, is that if George Monbiot supports something, then it must be a pile of lying crap.
Eric McAfee’s response to Forbes article (from just over a year ago) as promised:
James, thank you for your interest in cleaner, more sustainable fuels and chemicals. The oil industry currently benefits from a 90% gasoline mandate in the US (the artificial “Blend Wall” created by the oil industry due to an unwillingness to invest in biofuel blender pumps at retail gas stations). Your diligent efforts to break the 90% crude oil gasoline mandate in favor of renewable, 113 octane, high oxygen, cleaner, domestic, job-creating fuels are to be encouraged!
Due to your scientific background and experience cleaning up hazardous waste sites, you are probably aware that corn is not a single molecule or material. Rather, corn is comprised of about 72% starch, which converts to sugar in the body of an animal. The other 28% of a corn kernel is primarily protein, corn oil and fiber, which are the valuable “distillers grain” components of animal feed extracted from the corn kernel by an ethanol plant.
The enzymes in ethanol plants convert the 72% starch from corn kernels into sugar, which is fed to yeast in order to produce ethanol. So, ethanol plants are “waste processing facilities”, since none of the valuable corn proteins, oils or fibers are converted to ethanol.
Instead, ethanol plants extract the 72% of lower-value, starch “waste” from the corn kernel and produce a concentrated, high-value, Distillers Grain animal feed from the remaining 28% of the corn kernel. Since this concentrated animal feed is able to be fed without the 72% starch “waste” material, it is more valuable per ton than corn: especially to China and the other 80 countries that purchase Distillers Grain from the US to feed animals at a lower cost (including import tariffs) than purchasing and transporting whole corn with 72% starch from the US.
To update you on recent developments in the biofuels industry during the past three years, the $0.45 per gallon VEETC (known as the Blender’s Tax Credit since it was paid to oil companies and not to farmers or ethanol plants) was terminated by Congress in December 2011, along with the $0.54 per gallon tariff that protected US ethanol producers from heavily subsidized Brazilian sugarcane ethanol. You are probably aware that commencing January 1, 2012 the ethanol industry received no subsidies at all from the federal government on a per-gallon basis.
Since you have an interest in cleaner, less expensive fuels, you will be pleased to learn that biofuels have enabled the agricultural section in the US to no longer receive large farm subsidies that were required prior to the use of ethanol as a vehicle fuel. These USDA and other subsidies paid farmers NOT to grow corn – known as the Set-Aside Program – at a cost to taxpayers (the same people that buy food) of up to $5 billion per year. Due to the economic viability of corn production as a direct result of ethanol produced by waste processing facilities known as ethanol plants, farmers no longer qualify for billions of dollars of annual subsidies to not produce corn.
Ethanol is 113 octane and about 30% oxygen, allowing the lower quality 82 octane gasoline now being produced by oil refiners to meet fuel performance and federal air quality requirements. Oxygen makes crude oil gasoline burn cleaner. Without ethanol, the average gasoline currently produced in the US would not able to be legally sold as a vehicle fuel.
Increased octane is virtually certain in the future in order to comply with fuel economy laws. Your fuels and chemicals experience most certainly includes an understanding of the role of octane as an ignition inhibitor to allow engines to produce more energy from a gallon of fuel at high pressures caused by turbocharging smaller engines. Indy race cars run on 100% ethanol and NASCAR uses 15% ethanol in order to achieve higher mileage and more horsepower by utilizing the 113 octane in ethanol.
In 2013, the EPA stated that it would no longer accept engine tests that did not contain at least 15% ethanol in the test fuel, and the EPA sought engine manufacture standards for testing 30% ethanol. Why? The EPA stated that the 54 miles per gallon CAFE fuel efficiency standard would not be achievable in a gasoline engine without a 30% blend of the 113 high octane provided by ethanol. It looks like future engines will be closer to the 113 octane ethanol in Indy cars than the poor quality “bunker fuel” often used in the large engines of oceangoing ships.
Lastly, any commentary claiming “harm” by corn farmers or the use of ethanol or any other biofuel should consider that every gallon of biofuel displaces a portion of the $1 billion per day of US investment capital that is exported to purchase foreign crude oil. This is the equity for the growth of the US economy, being spent on the purchase of a consumption item, not a capital investment in future productivity. The economic “multiplier effect” is enjoyed by OPEC and other foreign crude oil producing countries, not the US. Simply noting the location of the multiplier effect is being transferred to US workers should be sufficient for the amateur economist to understand a basic cost of imported crude oil: a $1 billion daily economic drain on the US economy.
Since you have read this far, please consider any future articles about biofuels to be a comparison with the economic, environmental and social impacts of the mandated fuel that we are currently mandated to purchase by the monopoly that controls the fuel retail outlets in the US: the crude oil industry.
In the future, please compare the biofuels industry to the oil and gas industry, which receives more than $100 billion per year of direct cash subsidy from the US taxpayer: 1) 100% tax-free earnings using Master Limited Partnerships to own facilities and pipelines (MLP’s are illegal to use for biofuels facilities); 2) accelerated tax write-offs for well drilling (illegal for corn farmers and ethanol plants); and 3) more than $100 billion per year of military protection for shipping lanes and foreign oil fields.
Our generation has a burden to undertake the technology innovation, investment and operational management to provide renewable, sustainable alternatives to the dwindling crude oil reserves that are increasingly expensive and environmentally damaging to produce. Whether your view of Peak Oil is that 2006 was the high point for oil production, or whether you are bullish on fracking, Canadian tar sands and offshore drilling, the future of oil production is significantly higher costs of production.
A quick look at the stock prices and quarterly earnings of Green Plains, Pacific Ethanol and others will show that biofuels production is financially sustainable. Using sunlight to grow a crop, then removing the waste starch to produce a 113 octane oxygenate called ethanol and selling higher value protein/oil/fiber animal food is a less expensive way to produce fuel.
As a biofuels CEO recently stated: Ethanol is the least expensive molecule in the fuel tank, and a lot of domestic and foreign consumers want to buy it.

May 31, 2015 11:29 am

I’m surprised no one above has taken note of this:
April 28: EU restricts the use of agricultural crops for biofuel
With Europe the world’s biggest user and importer of biodiesel – from crops such as palm oil, soy and rapeseed – the vote is expected to have a major impact around the world, notably in the European Union’s main international supplier countries Indonesia, Malaysia and Argentina. It is likely to signal the end to the expanding use of food crops for transport fuel.
“Let no-one be in doubt,” said Robbie Blake, Friends of the Earth Europe’s biofuels campaigner, “the biofuels bubble has burst. These fuels do more harm than good for people, the environment and the climate. The EU’s long-awaited move to put the brakes on biofuels is a clear signal to the rest of the world that this is a false solution to the climate crisis. This must spark the end of burning food for fuel.”
With the vote, the European Union has agreed to put a limit on biofuels from agricultural crops at seven percent of E.U. transport energy – with an option for member states to go lower. Before the vote, the expected ‘business as usual’ scenario was for biofuels to account for 8.6 percent of E.U. transport energy by 2020. Current usage stands at 4.7 percent, having declined in 2013.
Indirect greenhouse emissions released by expanding biofuels production will be reported every year by the European Commission and by fuel suppliers in an attempt to increase the transparency of the impacts of the policy.
Commenting on the vote, Kirtana Chandrasekaran, Friends of the Earth International’s food sovereignty coordinator, said: “While the EU has not gone far enough to stop the irresponsible use of food crops for car fuel, this new law acknowledges a reality that small-scale food producers worldwide know – that biofuel crops cripple their ability to feed the world, compete for the land that provides their livelihood, and for the water that sustains us.”
Around the world, 64 countries have policies to increase or maintain the amount of biofuels used ….

Reply to  rogerknights
May 31, 2015 11:53 am

Don’t conflate Europe’s biofuel “bubble” with the US bioethanol industry.

May 31, 2015 11:34 am

“Cool Planet’s process uses wood chips, agricultural waste products or other nonfood organic matter, heating them in a pyrolysis unit to temperatures as high as 500C. The vapors that are emitted by the heated biomass are channeled through a proprietary catalyst and then condensed into a biofuel that Bolsen says is molecularly identical to conventional fossil fuels.”
“Further, according to Bolsen, the organic matter left over from the process can be enhanced and sold as a soil additive that retains moisture so well, it allows farmers to reduce their water use. This biochar product, which the company has branded CoolTerra, decomposes very slowly, which means it can lock carbon into the earth – and keep it out of the air – for hundreds of years, he said. This effect is why the company labels the whole production process “carbon negative.””
I suppose CoolTerra could be applied to a crop field the same as granular fertilizer is. This would be low tech, as are wood chips. Rewind to 40 years back. We heated wood in a sealed test tube over a bunsen burner. Looked like charcoal was left over. We removed that and lit the accumulated gas. It exploded.

Reply to  Ragnaar
May 31, 2015 12:54 pm

This CoolTerra product is nothing more than charcoal, with all the nutrients cooked out. It is worthless for enhancing the soil.
In their own words,

decomposes very slowly, which means it can lock carbon into the earth – and keep it out of the air – for hundreds of years

So the stuff will stay around forever, with no bioavailability at all, and no nutrients. Keeping soils fertile is not at all, just a matter of adding raw carbon. What a lot of people around the biofuels debate do not appreciate is just how much biomass must be returned to the field (or left there) to maintain the fertility of the soil. If you harvest every last bit of everything that grows as “biomass”, you have nothing left to return. In effect, you are “strip-mining” your soil, and the soil will rapidly become impoverished. Crop yields plummet and you can even get a “dust bowl” situation where nothing grows. This situation can develop quite rapidly, sometimes just a few years.
So why would anyone engage in such a destructive, short term farming practice?
The only reason is subsidies or mandates which make it look profitable in the short term. This is especially true when people can take a short term lease on some land, and then walk away when the lease is up.

Reply to  TonyL
May 31, 2015 2:20 pm

Okay, charcoal:
Consider natural forest fires. Lots of charcoal. The forest recovers and is arguably better off on long time scales. Not long ago I helped burn grass on my father’s farm. He was paid by the government to do that. My uncle tells me it’s an old family tradition. Renville County has some of the best farmland in the world. I have no idea if gasoline from trees is economical?

Alan Robertson
Reply to  TonyL
May 31, 2015 2:39 pm

Tony, you make some very good points about soils and bio- availability of nutrients.
The use of charcoal as an agricultural soil supplement is very interesting and was sparked by the discovery of terra preta soils in tropical American jungles. I don’t know much about the subject, but it appears that the charcoal absorbs and then acts like a time- release agent of available nutrients. The origins of the terra preta soils seems to have been in the “pit privies” of jungle inhabitants long ago, who dumped fire pit ashes/charcoal and broken (porous) pottery pieces into the mix, where nutrients were not lacking. Over time, the soil’s beasties utilized those nutrients and worked their magic, building rich deposits of soils which are atypical of the nutrient- deficient laterite jungle/tropical soils.

Reply to  TonyL
May 31, 2015 2:40 pm

charcoal is absolutely NOT worthless for enhancing the soil. It isnt a fertilizer itself, but it regulates water, nutrients and biological processes. It will store a bit of excess nutrients that might otherwise runoff, same with water. In my dry and marginal lands giving a place for the soil biota to live is especially useful. It also buffers PH issues, to much salt and several other issues. Roots also grow very well with a good amount of it, and unlike biomass that breaks down which is a different topic altogether, it remains in the soil.
I use it to great effect in my work, and yes I have plots with different variables and controls so I can see what works the best with the least effort. You might look into “terra preta” , lots of other people use charcoals for soil building as well.

Reply to  TonyL
May 31, 2015 3:06 pm

Tony, the people that do not know already what you just said are the sort who pretend to know what they are talking bout, or may actually believe what they say, and are just incredibly ignorant.
Like the guy who thinks you can avoid ever using fertilizer by growing some legumes every other year.
He has never run the numbers, or even looked up the relevant data from actual farming.

Crispin in Waterloo
Reply to  TonyL
May 31, 2015 3:08 pm

The stories worth reading are from Japan where they have used biochar for centuries. The right crop with the right form of char (temperature of processing) inoculated with the right materials (urine, for example) will host microorganisms that are beneficial to plants. This is not hocus pocus, neither is it a panacea. Lost of biochar experiments fail.
At the moment biochar is a fave among stove designers because they imagine they are going to get credits far above the carbon market value under the Gold Standard for making char out of woody biomass and burying it underground.
The first carbon accredited project was registered by Servals in Chennai, India. They organised for 6000 homes to cook with furniture offcuts (i.e. waste biomass) making charcoal by using a top-lit updraft gasifier/pyrolyser. The charcoal is purchased and sold to a foundry, not buried in the ground. Because this saves the burning of coke, there is a carbon credit involved. Someone somewhere is buying the offset.
The women actually make a small amount of money while cooking in this way. Servals makes the stoves.

Reply to  TonyL
May 31, 2015 3:14 pm

What this all breaks down too is believing that we can run our economy by using photosynthesis as a means to capture and store solar energy, and then convert the stored energy to liquid fuel, and somehow this is sustainable without outside inputs of energy.
It would be more efficient to use land capable of agriculture for agriculture, non arable land for grazing or just keep it for natural biomes, and capture solar the most efficient ways we know, that use no water, fertilizers, do not have to be gathered, and trucked…etc.
The energy produced is run through wires.
If that cannot be made to pay, how can the far less thermodynamically efficient processes needed to get liquid fuel from solar ever going to pay?

Reply to  TonyL
May 31, 2015 3:55 pm

Menicholas 3:14 pm
Who said anything about “run our economy”, and why do you think this is speculative when today you can go and look at US bioethanol companies making 13+ Billion gallons/year of the stuff? Think area (Nebraska, Iowa, etc.).
After massive profitability in 2014 with no subsidies, the bioethanol companies are not in any hurt for now. See, for example:
If you, and others, who still seem to think this is some kind of phony climate change scam, you should subscribe to Ethanol Producer Magazine or RFA SmartBrief, read it for a week, and see how much they’re driven by “greenhouse gases”. Sure they give it some lip service as an afterthought, but not much.

Reply to  TonyL
May 31, 2015 3:58 pm

“What this all breaks down too is believing that we can run our economy by using photosynthesis as a means to capture and store solar energy, and then convert the stored energy to liquid fuel, and somehow this is sustainable without outside inputs of energy.”
Energy density:
Wood 17
Coal 24-31
Crude Oil 42
I am more interested in woodlands and not farmland, though farmers can have more trees than they know what to do with? Crude oil transportation to the refinery can have many costs, hurdles and safety issues. Wood transportation might be a 120 mile round trip for a logging truck. Or less with waste wood chips. It will boil down I think to cost efficient extraction from the wood. Might never be possible.

Reply to  TonyL
May 31, 2015 6:14 pm

“It would be more efficient to use land capable of agriculture for agriculture, non arable land for grazing or just keep it for natural biomes, and capture solar the most efficient ways we know, that use no water, fertilizers, do not have to be gathered, and trucked…etc.”
I happen to live next to some of this “non arable land” used for grazing. Im watching as the ranchers slowly fail over decades. People blame the drought and many other things, as the amount of grasses per acre slowly shrinks. Seems to me the cattle just dont let the grasses seed well enough and other plants slowly take the space.
So to keep i tshort, my own work alters the surface of the landscape a bit so water is maximized where it will have the greatest affect for trees, I am growing a range of trees non irrigated now. Productively I might add. All the while this set up builds up biomass, since these are deciduous and not evergreens. So at this point Im growing crops on lands this isnt considered possible while also maximizing the system already there.
Im not arguing we can provide lots of fuel like this, not my field, but we definitely can grow productively on large tracts of lands considered non arable atm with a more matured mindset. We can also get more meat from these lands while doing it, all the while the fertility is slowly increasing year by year. as I perfected this model Ive been told for years Im just a silly dreamer, but it does in fact work, and unless laws suddenly change I will have commercial orchards set up with this soon. We are currently looking for the initial lands to do it on, I have 5 acres now I test my projects on, but its to far out, going for 20 plus acres closer… HALF the world beef comes from simlar marginal lands!!! Most of these places could in fact ADD crops while getting more meats with the right mindset, and in all honesty once people see it in practice the methods will spread on their own just because you make more money.

Reply to  TonyL
May 31, 2015 10:10 pm

I am not sure where the conversation about the article morphed into a discussion about the productivity of marginal lands, methods of improving soils, overall production of biomass of various plants, or whatever.
What I was talking about was the practical and real world effects that are happening now, and what might occur now that this mandate seems to be being extended.
If you read my comments above, I pointed out my concern with robbing the soil to produce cellulosic ethanol.
And pointed out that the practical reality is not where the pie-in-the-sky dreaming would have anyone believe. It present it has never been shown to be commercially feasible to produce liquid motor fuel from cellulosic materials of any sort. The chemical bonds are not going to yield to wishful thinking.
My best guess is that biodiesel is more likely to have a practical commercial impact at some point. Small scale processes have shown for years that under a certain type of high pressure and high temperature reaction, any organic material at all can be made into biodiesel. But the process has been impossible to scale up in a way which is commercially feasible.
Small scale trials of producing biofuels from such sources as algae, cellulose, and other non-food crop materials are not really the subject at hand. At least not as I see it.
And regarding this defense of the whole mandate as being somehow good for the feed industry, I am not buying it.
If it made economic sense, no mandate would be required.
There is an argument to be made for adding an oxygenating agent to motor fuel, during certain seasons and in certain locales, but that is not the issue here either. Methyl tert-butyl ether was used for a long time, but seems to have become impossible to use due to an unfortunate tendency to wind up in groundwater, although I am becoming less certain that this is/was a real issue, and not confabulated as part of the ethanol dealio.
And although new cars can handle 10% ethanol with few issues, the same is not true for small motors and such. And the hygroscopic nature of ethanol makes it problematic for several reasons even as an additive for cars.
Regarding the price of grains, these began to go up as soon as it became clear than the mandate would become law.
But the real shock did not come right away. The drought through the corn belt was a huge shock, as was the drought in Texas. Both events had repercussions which were far worse than had been the case in previous droughts, because so much acreage was being devoted to corn which was mandated be turned into ethanol.
Markets become highly distorted under conditions of such mandates, and the law of unintended consequences has shown itself in several places.
But the worst part about the whole thing is that there is overwhelming evidence that once one takes an accurate and full accounting, it takes as much or more energy to make the ethanol as will ever be gotten back.
The first time anyone shows a closed system in which a farm is able to make a profit producing ethanol and not use any outside energy sources, I will change my mind.
As it is now, no one can run a farm on liquid fuels which are obtained from crops grown on property, and do so while making a profit. Until someone can demonstrate such a closed system is possible and practical, there is no reason to suppose the ethanol mandate makes any sense at all.
Smoke and mirrors can do wonders, but it cannot turn BS into chocolate cake.
Ok, I do not know what that means either. 🙂
Good night.

R. Shearer
Reply to  Ragnaar
May 31, 2015 1:56 pm

How many gallons of fuel has Cool Planet produced in the last 5, 2, 1 years?

Reply to  R. Shearer
May 31, 2015 2:32 pm

An insignificant amount of gallons of fuel.
“How can we help prevent soil erosion and provide clean air and water? How can we make this world more beautiful and green? The answer is, by growing more trees and then using more wood, both as a substitute for non-renewable fossil fuels and materials such as steel, concrete and plastic, and as paper products for printing, packaging and sanitation.” – Patrick Moore.
The fun part is, we get to cut down trees. Log until the cows come home. Then replant.

Reply to  Ragnaar
May 31, 2015 2:08 pm

The processes have proved to be difficult to scale. And increasing the C to N ratio in soil is very bad for soil.

Reply to  Menicholas
May 31, 2015 2:24 pm

Soybeans fix nitrogen from the air into the soil. Corn, beans, repeat.

Reply to  Menicholas
May 31, 2015 3:03 pm

Corn beans repeat. Hey, thanks for telling everyone. I suppose farmers can stop buying fertilizers now.
Thanks, you just saved us all tens of billions per year.

Crispin in Waterloo
Reply to  Menicholas
May 31, 2015 3:15 pm

Char in the soil remains char for hundreds of thousands of years. There is in fact a carbon cycle in the ground – lots of carbon leaches out of the soil into rivers. But the charcoal from fires of long ago can easily be seen in hominid digging sites.
There is a theory from India that adding char might be hosting organisms that are able to deconstruct P and K minerals from their bound mineral state and then they die, leaving the P and K in an form accessible to plants. There is plenty of P/K in soils but it is in inaccessible forms. Feeding those bacteria with sugar is one way to promote their release and avoid putting fertiliser on the fields. The reference work is by Dr Anand Dinkar Karve at ARTI, Pune.

Reply to  Menicholas
May 31, 2015 3:23 pm

Modern agriculture depends on maximizing every parameter to optimize yields.
I for one am not commenting on the tangential issue of adding charcoal to soil as an adjuvant or enhancer.
Slash and burn techniques are well known. The method provides for one or at most a few crops, and then the land must either be fertilized or left fallow for some number of years.

Reply to  Menicholas
May 31, 2015 3:24 pm

Fertilizer costs in a typical Minnesota corn and beans operation might be 10 to 15% of total costs.

Reply to  Menicholas
May 31, 2015 3:28 pm

I am just guessing, but I suspect if adding charcoal to soil, in the context of modern techniques, would serve as a substitute for more expensive phosphate and potassium, then someone in the field of commercial agriculture would have noticed by now.
I am not saying this is not true, but it stands to reason that there is more too it than that.
I have also found that what can be done on a small scale and in an unintensive garden situation, will not translate into a viable technique for agribusiness on the scale which feeds the hundreds of millions with a relative handful of people working the land.

Reply to  Menicholas
May 31, 2015 4:14 pm

Not recommended, but China does this:
…. and that’s corn waste too. A colleague, by coincidence, was driving under that smoke, right at that time.

Reply to  Menicholas
May 31, 2015 6:21 pm

with slash and burn little is left as charcoal in the soil, what is left also isnt “activated” and doesnt work as well, and lastly… charcoal is not in fact a fertilizer it helps the soil in other ways. so relating charcoal use to slash and burn is basically meaningless. One is a growing system that is an entire failure imo. The other has measurable benefits that last millennia.

Reply to  Menicholas
May 31, 2015 11:04 pm

The economics of farming are not very much in dispute, being that it is well studied and not exactly a theoretical endeavor.
Corn following beans uses about 25% less nitrogen per year, but part of hat is given back in increased need for P and K.
But the market is tilting away from beans. It used to be that considerations such as sol condition and minimizing input costs factored heavily into decisions about what to plant. Less so now.

Adam from Kansas
May 31, 2015 11:54 am

Ethanol is not going to be viable until it can made from farm and yard waste instead of food. Face it, the era of cheap oil is bound to come to an end once everyone in China, India, and Africa get their first gasoline powered car (something that billions of people do not have yet).
Getting it made from yard waste at least will be almost revolutionary here, as it comprises by a decent margin the largest chunk of what gets buried in landfills (and never decomposes because of lack of oxygen).

May 31, 2015 12:58 pm

Totally off Topic but for anyone interested in the ‘Solar Powered’ aircraft “Solar2” making its way from Nanjing China to Hawaii you can watch it here–
Also trackable on Flightradar24—
The speed at this moment is a remarkable 33 MPH.

Reply to  D.I.
May 31, 2015 1:08 pm

Just look for a ‘Stick thing’ on Flightradar24 in the Sea of Japan.

Reply to  D.I.
May 31, 2015 1:31 pm

Update–It seems something has gone wrong, Solar2 has dissapeared off radar,hope everything O.K.

May 31, 2015 1:22 pm

I read a story that shows the Germany officials lying about the objective facts concerning the blooming of forsythia blossoms in Hamburg and other matters. The link is:

Cooling…German Springs Arriving 20 Days Later Than 28 Years Ago!

I have seen this sort of real world data as well as proof of governmental lying all over the cAGW delusion for years. Some people are just misguided by propaganda. Some are deceiving themselves. Some just want to believe in spite of all evidence. There are other reasons people believe this nonsense … or claim they do.
Simply put; even though some here really believe that a cooler atmosphere can “heat up” a warmer surface the simple fact is that we have seen no cooling for almost 20 years in spite of the alarmists being in charge of the data sets. Their own figures, corrupt though they may be, tell us that CO2 does not control the climate and that by all logic CO2 looks to have no effect on net at all.
Will it take a mile of ice covering Wisconsin to stop this CO2 delusion?

masInt branch 4 C3I in is
May 31, 2015 1:45 pm

Quotes to remember.
“ethanol in the gasoline supply would increase in coming years”
With Obama out office in January 2017 ! decrease can be coming.
“the Agriculture Department will invest up to $100 million to help improve infrastructure”
That means bribes, kick-backs and subsidies to the Farm Lobby and Farm Unions especially in California. But with Obama out of office in January 2017 ! Musk will have to buy Honda Diesel electric generators to re-charge his solar cars and solar homes.
EPA’s “Biofuels Cycle” looks to be just a wishful Washington DC Spin Cycle.
Here’s the Other Spin Doctors:

Crispin in Waterloo
May 31, 2015 1:49 pm

It is interesting to see they think that the solution to hunger in the developing and First world is to stop burning ‘food’. What are we supposed to do – give it to them free? Are they not supposed to ‘grow their own’? Once they accomplish that well, what happens to all the energy-intensive production in the West? Stop? And put all those farmers out of work?

May 31, 2015 3:06 pm

“Europe now burns enough food calories in fuel tanks every year to feed 100 million people.”
100 million children in developing countries are underweight.
3.1 million children each year die of malnutrition.

May 31, 2015 3:20 pm

There is an article in Newsweek today posted on yahoo news. The headline is, James Lovelock: ‘Saving the planet is a foolish, romantic extravagance’ it’s an interesting article if anybody is interested

Midwest Rhino
May 31, 2015 3:46 pm

The hate propagated against ethanol is like that against global warming “deniers” … mostly emotion while ignoring facts, often mixed with profanity even on conservative sites. Average Joe and Phil in California are trying to introduce some logic.
An ethanol mandate is not free market true, but does anyone consider gas to be in a free market? Does no one remember the wars in the Middle East, where Greenspan emphasized the importance of keeping the flow of oil flowing? We have treaties with the Saudis, and Hillary got them their jets, but are they really our friends? We’ve basically enriched many enemies, treating them as “most favored nation” as far as trade, because we run on energy. Oil has not been cheap, and is only slightly cheaper than ethanol per calorie delivered, when mixed for high compression engines. (I would like to buy non-ethanol for small engines more easily, but run them dry each use and they are fine)
And every dollar that goes to some farmer or ethanol producer does NOT go to our geo-political enemies, and reduces demand, lowers price in that global market. And there is indeed a multiplier effect of dollars spent from actual production (as opposed to the government taking money and spreading it around as “stimulus” for their friends, at your expense). Printing money is not production but rather slicing up a share of your pie. Growing grain is making more pies.
Selling corn to China at $4.00 bushel instead of $2.25 helps offset some of the trade imbalance, caused by all you filling your homes with cheap electronics and clothes from China, helping them build their military. AGW is part of the left’s path toward globalism, and sending our production overseas is another leg of that stool. At least make them pay a decent price for our food that they desperately need.
And yes, we overproduce grain, so any other use for corn is awesome for keeping farms profitable and well equipped. A stable food source is a commodity over which wars are fought. It is in our national interest to maintain ours as the safest and most abundant in the world. And you know government still pays farmers to NOT grow crops, on CRP ground, or other similar programs. Because man shall not live by leveraged buyouts alone, he needs to have productive farmers not in bankruptcy.
And why is burning corn evil, but growing cotton is NOT evil? Or not growing vegetables in all your big over fertilized lawns, isn’t that evil too then? You pollute the air with your untuned lawn mower, and make neighbors listen to the noise, while that Mexican kid pictured above starves since you won’t grow him some potatoes in your big lawn. And what was the logic of that cartoon? Low prices drove them out of business, now higher prices are also bad for the Mexican farmer? That’s just another lie, more propaganda … Mexico produces 2.5 times as much corn as they did 30 years ago, an amount that has grown steadily.
And blaming the food cost increase on corn is crazy, since especially now with corn at $3.50, most of the corn price increase is from increased fuel, and other inputs. And most of the food price increase is from other middle men, not the grain cost. You get 58 pounds of corn for $3.50, or if you run it through a cow that might make six pounds of beef. But there are some processing charges before it appears at your grocer.
Ethanol is not about global warming, it’s about keeping our energy dollars here, or balancing our trade deficit. The dirty deals we made with Saudis or others over the decades had a real cost, while we act like it was magic that oil kept flowing. We need fracking, nuclear, ethanol, coal … all of it. Africa and Russia have plenty of good land, but they are commies, or at war always … that is not our fault.
I see little logic in the sudden hate for ethanol, except that the left has joined in because they saw farmers tended to be conservative, so they hate to see them profitable. I have double digit acres, and work more at food plots and other conservation. But better off farmers do more to conserve the land. Producing ain’t cheap.

Alan Robertson
Reply to  Midwest Rhino
May 31, 2015 5:58 pm

This has been another great thread/read at WUWT and has convinced me to learn a whole lot more about what I thought I knew about ethanol production in the US.

Reply to  Alan Robertson
May 31, 2015 8:37 pm

But wait Alan, there’s more. It’s all about the cost of feedstock (well that’s a bit of an oversimplification of the situation but close enough). Todd Becker, CEO of Green Plains has said that the price of sugar derived from corn is now about 8 cents/pound or 20 cents/Kg. Getting down to 20 cents/Kg has long been accepted as a desirable target for next generation biofuels (although, as we see, that was still not quite enough in the current environment), but it now puts some high volume, higher value specialty chemicals in the range. The US, with its huge technology leadership in this field, is in the driver’s seat for capitalizing on these opportunities. Many molecules, particularly some of those involved in polymer production (> $200 – 300 Billion/year products combined) are getting within the range, along with a host of other massive volume compounds. Then there are more complex molecules that sell for >$100/gallon equivalent (some are solids). Clearly these are well within the range now and they are actually planet-saving too, for real, as some of the current processes involve quite dirty chemistry.
Much of this has been capitalized by the free market too.

Reply to  Midwest Rhino
May 31, 2015 6:28 pm

The dislike for ethanol is in part because of the fact that it is government mandated via a lobby which has controlled the politicians in congress for years requiring us to water down our fuel with low BTU ethanol. It causes numerous problems in engines especially older and smaller engines and in boats where the fuel is not replenished frequently especially during winter layup period. I have spent a lot of $$$ correcting persistent problems in my boat, thanks to ethanol. All fuel in NJ must be contaminated with ethanol, no choice. Now the EPA is pushing for even more (who do you think is behind the push) and if you look at the mandates the amount of ethanol will go up every year.
The ethanol industry has become a leach on the industry that provides our transportation fuel, wanting more blood every year and we have dishonest politicians taking their lobby $$$ to get re elected. Now the EPA has become the corrupt bidder.
Would you be happy if the government mandated that you were required to incorporate 10-15% of a competitors product in yours and you were still responsible for the quality? In addition the government is requiring incorporation of cellulosic ethanol which has been scarce, while fining the fuel blenders for not incorporating non available cellulosic ethanol.
There are a lot more problems with biofuels and ethanol that have already been covered.

Midwest Rhino
Reply to  Catcracking
May 31, 2015 7:28 pm

yeah I mentioned the small engine issue, and wish the ethanol free was more available, even if at a 30% markup. But my Camry with 100k on it has never had an issue.
Forcing the use of a competitors product? You mean we spent no money keeping global oil access flowing, no tyrants or terrorists are enriched if oil is at $120/barrel instead of $50?
“The ethanol industry has become a leach on the industry that provides our transportation fuel” … well the oil industry has been a leach on the taxpayer in that we made dirty deals with Saudis etc., and the industry enriches our geopolitical enemies. You think they don’t have lobbyists?
If there is corruption, that should be rooted out. Direct payments could be eliminated. The EPA and any bidding for bribes is its own problem.

Reply to  Catcracking
May 31, 2015 10:16 pm

So if the government made you mix 10 to 15 % Mexican corn with every Bushel you sell, and you were fined if it were not available or was too expensive, like cellulosic ethanol happens to be for fuel blenders, you would be comfortable. Oh now the Agriculture department is going to spend millions building distribution facilities for Mexican corn using your tax dollars, instead of your corn, you would be OK with that? Now we are going to raise the requirement to 20%, OK with you? If you don’t want to mix in competitors corn you can buy credits from TESLA or some other rich guy who has acquired green credits from their government subsidized battery factory.
Where does the madness end? Not before you are sucked in as others have indicated.
BTW, I have a lot of respect for the small farmer and wish him well, but as you know a lot of farming has
been taken over by big investors who make a fortune not planting crops that they would not plant anyway on land they bought just to get the taxpayer dollar.

Reply to  Catcracking
June 1, 2015 5:56 am

I forgot the EPA is already after the farmers, ranchers and anyone else who has water, even puddles, on their property under their regulations expanding the clean water act.
Puddles, Potholes Under Government Control — Has EPA Gone Too Far?
“”EPA’s attempt to redefine ‘navigable waterways’ to include every drainage ditch, backyard pond and puddle is a radical regulatory overreach that threatens to take away the rights of property owners and will lead to costly litigation and lost jobs,” said GOP House Majority Whip Steve Scalise.
Sen. Joe Manchin, the West Virginia Democrat, earlier this week, the regulatory state — of which EPA is a major part — has become an enormous brake on our economy, one that violates Americans’ constitutional rights.”
Got any water, pond or ditch on your farm?

Midwest Rhino
Reply to  Catcracking
June 1, 2015 6:10 am

That’s silly, there is no profit in helping Mexico compete. But Obama did declare a moratorium on gulf oil, and a deep water rig went to Petrobras, as Obama smiled and told Brazil he wans US to be their biggest customer.
But the part about requiring certain blending if it is not available doesn’t make sense either. I don’t know about all those other rules, and they may need to be cleaned up. The flat 10% requirement makes sense, but not the cellulosic parts. Obama seems to think making the requirement will magically make the industry produce it. Corn was already a working process, and now it is very close to oil, and has higher octane.
The cellulose part seems as wasteful as the TESLA or Solyndra scams, for now. Maybe spend some money on research if it would solve some other problem (make a profit while mowing highways, for instance). But I haven’t really followed what the law says about using cellulosic.
But ethanol is a real fuel, with high octane. If we ever get the economy rolling again we’ll need more fuel, and shouldn’t need to import it. Ethanol is by far the most efficient solar energy. And the plants can be run on natural gas, which in a sense converts that natural gas into a liquid fuel for transportation.

Midwest Rhino
Reply to  Catcracking
June 1, 2015 7:36 am

yeah, the EPA is part of the “commie”/progressive klan that aims to control us by any means necessary, most of which are unconstitutional. Remove them and I think the 10% ethanol mandate could work to stabilize farms and lower energy prices.
Lower energy prices overall is good for the poor, and sucks the wind out of countries solely reliant on the oil they happen to sit on. (Middle East mostly, but also Russia, Venezuela)
And yeah, the corporate farms I hear of should lose any other subsidies or direct payments, but I don’t know the nitty gritty of that. Many distortions are from zero interest rate policy, quantitative easing, and huge spending by big government. Ethanol mandate is not spending, and revenues from farms generate taxes. Solyndra was a boondoggle giveaway to Obama donors, along with other redistributions to unions or any leftist group. An ethanol mandate goes directly into rural America, where the life is needed to maintain those acreages and smaller towns. But some of the money for the ethanol plants, or direct payments for the farms, and the leveraged market players that get bailed out then buy up a million acres … those are destructive distortions. The IMF and monetary policy have a lot to do with the distortions, so we see gold go from $300 to $1200, oil from $17 to $150 back to $50. All this manipulation and refusal to win wars we get in, and EPA and other regulatory regimes … are killing our economy.
The distortions screwed a lot of small farmers over different periods, and I’m very small, buying the old homestead area for memory sake, but not the whole farm. I didn’t spend my life on the farm, so am just conserving what I can and enjoying semi-retirement in the country. I’d like to advance some horticultural interests, but it’s tough to compete globally.
I still find it amazing that an acre of corn can produce about 440 gallons of ethanol, and the protein part still goes to feed cows. Meanwhile the $trillion we spent and blood we shed on wars to keep oil flowing is now mostly wasted, as ISIS is selling that Iraq oil, and Russia client Iran seems to be controlling much of the region. There are many considerations. The “oil industry” is not just US.

Reply to  Catcracking
June 1, 2015 4:25 pm

“and now it is very close to oil, and has higher octane. ”
This snippet of a comment makes me wonder what you think “octane” even means?
Are you, as many people may tend to do, somehow confusing “octane” with “energy content”?
Because the two are completely unrelated.
In fact, the octane number on gasoline is a measure of how readily a given mixture will ignite when compressed, and implies nothing about energy content.
Higher octane rating number means that a given mixture will have a higher resistance to ignition when compressed.
In other words, it is harder to make it burn. This is important because it allows for a higher compression ratio of the air-fuel mixture. Having a fuel which has an insufficient resistance to ignition for a given engine can lead to engine knocking and run-on, i.e. the fuel will tend to ignite spontaneously…it will preignite before the piston reaches the point of optimum compression.
Ad as for ethanol being “very close to oil”, perhaps you could explain what this means?
Do you mean in price? Is that before subsidies?
Whatever anyone thinks it means, the price of corn will once again shoot way up if and when there are any supply problems. There is now much less of a cushion in the system.
Those who raise chickens, hogs, cattle, and other livestock understand this very well, and there are less of them now and herds are smaller, and so meat is now more expensive than ever in history, and prices are rising quickly, and may never go back down.
I know one thing, only a person who is personally lining their pockets from this insanity, or is woefully uninformed, could possibly support ethanol mandates.

Midwest Rhino
Reply to  Menicholas
June 1, 2015 5:15 pm

It is helpful to mix higher octane ethanol with lower octane gas, not because it has more energy. You notice higher octane gas costs more, there are some performance benefits in some cases.
At the moment rack prices for ethanol is pretty low, like $1.60, and it will be hard to be profitable at that price. But it may be hard for fracking to be profitable if oil is around $50 instead of $90. It’s around $60 now.
Without the “subsidies”, corn ethanol is close to oil in price. Most of the actual subsidy is over, and the ethanol plants are built, and the system is working. Most vehicles are built to handle ethanol just fine, but yeah, let me buy ethanol free for a buck more a gallon, for small engines or boats.
I know you claim it costs more to make ethanol than it sells for, according to your new data. I think that’s wrong, but you didn’t give a link.
In 1999 we produced about 240 million Metric tons of corn. In 2014 we produced 361 million metric tons. 20% of that today is used for ethanol, meaning we are still producing some 50 million more metric tons than in 1999 AFTER subtracting the ethanol portion. Would you like to revise your comment about “one thing I know is I’m right and anyone that disagrees is wrong”?
The price for fall corn is about $3.40/bushel, which barely allows for inflation over the last decade. But oil in 1998 or so was around $17/brl, then it went to $140, now back to $60 for now. That means all inputs for corn are way up, and other costs of producing and delivering food are way up, including Obamacare costs. One of the reasons prices went way up was mutual fund players gambling in commodities. That’s the same reason gold or oil went way up, as people don’t trust the USD. Now with everyone inflating their currency, the USD is the tallest midget, and the dollar has soared.
The bubbles in the dotcoms, then housing, now inflated currencies, has more to do with the distortions than ethanol.

Reply to  Catcracking
June 1, 2015 4:28 pm

BTW, add to the above that ethanol has far less energy content than gasoline, and gas with ethanol in it robs fuel economy, no matter the octane.
Ethanol has higher octane because it is hard to make it burn. That is all an octane rating even means.

Reply to  Catcracking
June 1, 2015 5:04 pm

” Ethanol is by far the most efficient solar energy. And the plants can be run on natural gas, which in a sense converts that natural gas into a liquid fuel for transportation.”
First, as to efficiency, you must have meant to write “least efficient solar energy”, because the way you wrote it is as far from being correct as any sentence ever written in the history of language.
As for using natty gas to run ethanol plants, I guess you already forgot about the sentence you had just written when you wrote this. I thought ethanol was liquid solar? What would you need to add energy from nat. gas? Unless…oh, yeah…that’s right! When a person spouts so much bullshit, it can be tough to keep the lies straight. Well, better luck next time in trying to spin a consistent fairy tale.
As for the reason for your tiresome and nonsensical explication, thank you for setting the rcord straight by admitting you are personally standing to gain from this scam. I confirms the obvious fact that only someone who was on the receiving end of such chicanery could ever defend it. But it still makes you a very unethical person.
Hope you can sleep at night, knowing you support and profit from this theft by deception, fraud, and what amounts to murder.
” Meanwhile the $trillion we spent and blood we shed on wars to keep oil flowing is now mostly wasted, as ISIS is selling that Iraq oil, and Russia client Iran seems to be controlling much of the region.”
No matter what one thinks about the reasons for the wars we have fought over the past 15 years, they were definitely not for the purpose of keeping oil flowing. Going to war skyrocketed prices immediately. Especially the one in Iraq. The oil was flowing, and then stopped for many years when we invaded. If one was cynical, one could be convinced that the war was started with this in mind, as it quickly led to the highest prices in history, and did the opposite of “keeping the oil flowing”.
As for the rest, oil is a global market, and it matters not who is selling it. If our enemies profit from the sales, that is a bad thing, but has nothing to do with supply. And Iran has long been a major oil producer.
Besides for all of that, the US is well on the way to energy independence, via the fracking revolution. Ethanol is a burden on this trend, not a help.
I hate to spend so much time criticizing another person point of view, but the crap you are spouting, Midwest Rhino, is just too ridiculous to let slide.

Midwest Rhino
Reply to  Catcracking
June 1, 2015 5:44 pm

most efficient way to capture solar energy … sorry you couldn’t figure out what I meant when I was “explicating” as you call it. The btu’s have to come from somewhere, corn gets it from solar.
“Clarifying a controversial comment in his new memoir, former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said he told the White House before the Iraq war that removing Saddam Hussein was “essential” to secure world oil supplies,”
Now you can argue with that if you want. But in any case we had alliances with the Saudis, and goals for the region, while we watch millions get slaughtered in Rawanda and other regions without oil. Tell me again you KNOW it was not about oil, and the economy, at its root. But then you are always right, and you know I’m a terrible person. sheesh.
“What would you need to add energy from nat. gas? Unless…oh, yeah…that’s right! When a person spouts so much bullshit, it can be tough to keep the lies straight. Well, better luck next time in trying to spin a consistent fairy tale.”
ummm … ethanol plants need energy from somewhere, to produce the liquid. Natural gas is cheap.
“This week Coskata announced that it is changing the feedstock focus of its first commercial operation using its syngas fermentation technology from using biomass to natural gas. Their plans to use biomass to make ethanol won’t be abandoned entirely, but the natural gas project will be developed first.”
“As for the rest, oil is a global market, and it matters not who is selling it. If our enemies profit from the sales, that is a bad thing, but has nothing to do with supply.”
When we use 10% ethanol, we use about 8% less oil. That lowers demand and price. “It matters not” if we are supplying all our own oil and don’t need imports, we can still lower global prices by exporting refined oil and ethanol. We’re also starting to export liquified natural gas. Hurray for us. Oh, and we export lots of coal … making energy cheaper for the poor of the world. Hurray team USA! We need to mine more coal though.

Reply to  Catcracking
June 2, 2015 12:59 am

“I know you claim it costs more to make ethanol than it sells for, according to your new data. I think that’s wrong, but you didn’t give a link. ”
I never said that. What I said is that there is plenty of convincing evidence that the energy it takes to produce the ethanol is equal to or greater than the energy in ethanol.
Spending money to produce food makes sense. Wasting food to make fuel makes no sense.
If it is so great, why the mandates? Anyone is free to buy some ethanol and put it in their tank if they want…no one needs a mandate to do that.
How many would if it was not mandated?
And why would anyone want to add something to costly gasoline if that something reduces the mileage the gas gives them?
Only a pure fool.
And as I said, the price of corn is at a multi year low. If it stays there, great. I would not bet that it does.
Global cooling/grand solar minimum is only one of the risks. But we have seen and have ample evidence that the supply is now much less resilient, and the price is much more unstable.
This may be bad news even for the farmers who grow the corn. They have to try and guess whether to lock in a price, or wait and see if prices improve, have to decide what to grow in the face of uncertainty.
But this thread is not on the subject of the price of ethanol, it s on the subject of ethanol mandates and how this impinges on worldwide food supply, being that the US is the top grower and the producer of the largest surpluses in the world. Or was. Not sure about now,

Reply to  Catcracking
June 2, 2015 1:37 am

“Would you like to revise your comment about “one thing I know is I’m right and anyone that disagrees is wrong”?”
So you use quotation marks to attribute this statement to who? I do not think anyone said this, and you seem to be talking to me.
I will not have any conversation at all with a person who not only puts words in someone’s mouth, but actually states that it is a direct quote when no such thing was said.
You are an outright liar. I cannot stand liars.

Midwest Rhino
Reply to  Menicholas
June 2, 2015 5:30 am

“I know one thing, only a person who is personally lining their pockets from this insanity, or is woefully uninformed, could possibly support ethanol mandates.”
That is what you said, and after I thoroughly corrected several of your ignorant statements, ignoring your hateful vitriol, I think my paraphrase was correct. Now you return to the hate speech of “you’re a liar”.
Stick to your chemistry, you seem better at that. You’re right, it takes more energy to produce ethanol than it yields out the tank. BUT most of that energy comes from the sun, and most of the “production” happens in the field.

Paul Westhaver
May 31, 2015 4:18 pm

Another good read Eric. Thanks. BTW, I say burn wood.

May 31, 2015 5:45 pm

“I see little logic in the sudden hate for ethanol” Midwest Rhino
No sudden hate. The spring that feeds ethanol mandates is the same polluted source feeding all other energy mandates. It is all subsidy farming and you probably know that. You fight for ethanol today thinking you will be the last eaten. Maybe so but eaten you will be.

Midwest Rhino
Reply to  troe
May 31, 2015 6:52 pm

“It is all subsidy farming and you probably know that. You fight for ethanol today thinking you will be the last eaten.”
That’s a wild assumption. I gave maybe a dozen reasons you are wrong, but sure, go with the “last eaten” theory.

iron brian
May 31, 2015 6:25 pm

growing algae takes water – acres of it. Where are you going to get the water? evporation will eat up your water and it will need to be replaced continuously. sure, use wastewater, but most of that is in populated areas with little acreage to spare. It is possible, but so is running the hundred backwards, but not as funny.

May 31, 2015 6:36 pm

Another related topic about subsidies this time for the TESLA empire, exposed by the LA Times..
Elon Musk’s growing empire is fueled by $4.9 billion in government
“Los Angeles entrepreneur Elon Musk has built a multibillion-dollar fortune running companies that make electric cars, sell solar panels and launch rockets into space.”
“And he’s built those companies with the help of billions in government subsidies.”
“Tesla Motors Inc., SolarCity Corp. and Space Exploration Technologies Corp., known as SpaceX, together have benefited from an estimated $4.9 billion in government support, according to data compiled by The Times. The figure underscores a common theme running through his emerging empire: a public-private financing model underpinning long-shot start-ups.”

Reply to  Catcracking
May 31, 2015 9:12 pm

His real name is Howard Hughes Jr.

Reply to  philincalifornia
May 31, 2015 10:23 pm

I thought his real name is P.T. Barnum considering the sales techniques.
“there¹s a sucker born every minute.”

Mike Maguire
May 31, 2015 8:19 pm

Biofuels are the lie about the lie.
They lie(understate) about their total contributions to atmospheric CO2 when looking at the complete picture as they lie about CO2 being a pollutant.
Biofuels waste tremendous amounts of natural resources, produce massive pollution, tie up tens of millions of acres that could be use to grow food and other crops, increase prices, ruin small engines, are a less efficient source of fuel than gasoline and only make a tiny difference in our dependency on foreign oil.
Basically, it’s just a way to take money away from and penalize one group of farmers/producers( animal farmers-higher feed costs) and send it to another group(crop farmers) while benefiting energy interests, politicians and agribusiness.

May 31, 2015 8:39 pm

“Biofeul” or Biofuel?

June 1, 2015 12:15 am

Eric Worrall
Thankyou for the above article.
In March 2008 I published an essay on the observed effects of introduction of biofuels. My assessment can be read here.
Its synopsis says

This paper reviews effects of large use of biofuels that I predicted in a paper published in August 2006 prior to the USA legislating to enforce displacement of crude oil products by biofuels. The review indicates that policies (such as that in the EU), subsidies and legislation (such as that in the USA) to promote use of biofuels should be reconsidered. The use of biofuels is causing significant problems but providing no benefits except to farmers. Biofuel usage is a hidden subsidy to farmers, and if this subsidy is the intended purpose of biofuel usage then more direct subsidies would be more efficient. But the problems of biofuel usage are serious. Biofuel usage is
• damaging energy security,
• reducing biodiversity,
• inducing excessively high food prices, and
• inducing excessively high fuel prices, while
• providing negligible reduction to greenhouse gas emissions.
All these effects were predicted in my paper on the use of biofuels that was published in August 2006 and can be seen at
My 2006 paper also predicted objections from environmentalists if large use of biofuels were adopted although this then seemed implausible because many environmentalists were campaigning for biofuels to displace fossil fuels. But this prediction has also proved to be correct.


June 1, 2015 7:10 am

Cellulosic ethanol is the biggest fraud in ‘mandated technology’ since Lysenkoism. It is a good thing that ‘cold fusion’ got thoroughly debunked before the Greens could shove it down our throats.

June 1, 2015 8:41 am

I never really understood why they (EPA, alarmists etc.) are so enamoured with bio fuels. Don’t they understand that carbon dioxide is a by-product of ANY combustion of fuels containing carbon. Ethanol, for example has a molecular formula of CH3CH2OH. Petroleum products just have more carbons and hydrogens.

June 1, 2015 9:10 am

Here are more specifics on the EPA mandate.
Note that all categories of ethanol are increased, even those that probably will not be available because it’s manufacture is marginally not viable or outrageously expensive (cellulosic biofuel). The waste of subsidies will continue. Not the quotas are established to “spur” production. Is that the job of the EPA?
It is worse than we thought.
“Under the notice of proposed rulemaking, which Administrator Gina McCarthy signed on May 29, EPA proposed adjustments to advanced biofuel and total renewable fuel targets for all 3 years.
The proposed quotas for 2015 and 2016 “are expected to spur further progress in overcoming current constraints in renewable fuel distribution infrastructure, which in turn is expected to lead to substantial growth over time in the production and use of higher-level ethanol blends and other qualifying renewable fuels,” it said.
Total renewable fuel quotas would be 15.93 billion gal in 2014, 16.3 billion gal in 2015, and 17.4 billion gal in 2016. Quotas for advanced biofuel would be 2.68 billion gal in 2014, 2.9 billion gal in 2015, and 3.4 billion gal in 2016. For cellulosic biofuel, they would be 33 million gal in 2014, 106 million gal in 2015, and 206 million gal in 2016.
For biodiesel, EPA said it was appropriate to raise the quota from 1.63 billion gal in 2014 to 1.7 billion gal in 2015, 1.8 billion gal in 2016, and 1.9 billion gal in 2017 as an incentive for more of it to be produced.”

Joe Chang
June 1, 2015 1:28 pm

apparently the high-priests at the EPA are not good engineers

Reply to  Joe Chang
June 1, 2015 10:18 pm

Absolutely correct.
The cans are terrible, unfortunately you can not buy one of the perfectly good old can anymore.
It is almost impossible to not spill fuel with these gas cans. Also it is impossible to use the spout with the can.
I suspect no one working for the EPA ever poured gas.

Reply to  Joe Chang
June 2, 2015 1:09 am

This is for sure Joe. I signed the petition and shared in on social media.
I had never spilled gas in my life until these ridiculous and expensive new cans became the only ones sold.
Now I cannot pour it without spilling at least a little…and I can pour concentrated acid between containers all day long with no gloves and never get any on my hands.
It takes both hands to hold the can and to operated the mechanism on the spout. Leaving no free hand for anything else one might need to hold steady., or anything else.

June 1, 2015 7:51 pm

Yes … and when the likes of Al Gore long even gave up on biofuels, it can only mean one thing … those still pushing it have a vested interest in biofuels. Ok… so guess who has the greatest conflict of interest in the matter?

June 2, 2015 1:32 am

EPA is trying to force the ‘chicken vs the egg’ flex fuel dilemma.
A growing portion of current vehicles on US roads are ‘flex fuel’. I.E They can burn anything from good ‘ole regular gasoline to 85% ethanol. The problem is getting fuel retailers to install the pumps.
Regardless of what one feels about ethanol today…a fair portion of the vehicles sold today are going to be on the road in 20+years. What will the fuel of choice be then? Will truly ‘advanced’ bio fuels be available?

Midwest Rhino
June 2, 2015 6:23 am

“If there is ever a reckoning, a demand by victims of green policies for redress for the injustice and brutality they have suffered, at the hands of well meaning fools, the biofuel lunacy will surely top the list of wrongs to be righted.”
Taking out all the corn bushels used for ethanol, farmers produced 50 million metric tons more corn in 2014 than in 1999, and the trend is ever upward. And countries like Mexico also doubled their production over the last 25 years, no doubt largely due to American technology and improved practices. Acreage from the late 70’s was about 82 million acres, now about 93 million.
Monsanto makes a lot of money but also delivers new technology and poor areas can grow more btu’s of food. Mexico and all poor nations are helped by that technology, like the efforts on golden rice. It’s wealthy nations, largely America, that produce these golden biotech ideas. But we are evil because we make profits, and instead should be giving welfare to the world? And the odd thing, in the end they benefit anyway, because they get the technology, often stolen. The world is better than ever in many ways, though if America retreats the evil empires might seize control.
The tyrants and Muslims still keep killing each other, and destroying development in their own countries. With America backing away from attempts at “nation building” (unfortunately mixed with too much “diversity”), is America really to blame for not giving all that extra corn away to feed evil empires?
Some American farmers go to these other countries, but the countries don’t build the infrastructure, and then some tyrant comes along and just confiscates what they built. It’s like Chavez and oil companies or grocers in Venezuela. Now we get the greenies coming along and saying America is evil for producing so much, but not feeding all the tyrant and commie nations for free, basically feeding the slaves of the tyrants for free. Again, AFTER ethanol, we produced 50 million metric tons more than 1999. Shouldn’t we be blaming the Saudis more, for selling their oil they get for $5/brl, and selling it at $65? Farmers work pretty hard, but those sheiks have never even washed their own car their entire life (I’m told).
I find this Sally Struthers approach to American food and energy policy repulsive. We are the most generous nation in the world, but it’s never enough, and tyrants demand more. Their people need to rise up like our forefathers did, but when we encourage that we get blamed for “nation building”. So Russia and the commies move in as Obama vacates, but we still aren’t giving enough?
Good grief. We are a sovereign nation still, we can’t put the world on our welfare program.

June 2, 2015 5:41 pm

Do you agree that one of the major reasons corn and other farm produce is growing so much better today is because the level of CO 2 is around 400 ppm not below 290 ppm as it was prior to 1900.
Even a city boy knows some farmers are artificially increasing CO 2 levels in “green house” facilities to increase productivity.
Why do the “crowd” you seem to relate to want to decrease CO 2 levels by using ethanol instead of fossil fuels (even if it does not work). Reduction of CO2 happens to be a big benefit claimed by the biofuel (including ethanol) industry because it is supposedly renewable. And if one disagrees, they are accused of destroying the earth for their children and grandchildren.
Do you agree that higher CO 2 is better for farmers and food production? What is optimum?
The big “evil” from fossil fuels is, allegedly, that they increase CO 2, polluting the atmosphere and warming the earth.
I think we agree on many points. The big exception is that I don’t think that the government should mandate that Ethanol or any other product be included into another product sold to the public. Besides Ethanol, many states require that an ever increasing percentage of renewable electricity be included in the electricity supplied to the consumer. This is driving up the cost of electricity for many who cannot afford the cost increase while making those rich who provide renewable electricity (which they likely got a subsidy to construct the facilities). Sometimes green electricity is in short supply and in NJ you power supplier has to pay around 50 c/kwh, which of course the consumer has to pay.
I notice you reject the thought of requiring that 10% Mexican Corn (maybe a poor example) be added to your product but it could be the corn of a farmer that needs your help as determined by the government for some reason. Hope you don’t have any “puddles” on your property that the EPA will soon regulate.

Midwest Rhino
Reply to  Catcracking
June 2, 2015 6:46 pm

No, the global warming stuff is a tool for globalizing us, and for enriching some “wankers”. I’m big on American sovereignty. I’ve been “preaching” for a long time we need MORE CO2, and that it helps green up dessert like areas. Indeed it helps crops grow … my bs is in horticulture. I don’t know what is optimum, we could certainly handle 600 easily, or more. But I don’t think humans are the biggest driver. Oceans outgas more as it warms, more insects, more microbes when warmer … those are much bigger factors. Even if we started long term cooling it could be 100 (or is it 800?) years before CO2 would start to decrease, since it lags air temps, like the hottest day lags the longest day. And China and India aren’t going to stop burning lotsa coal for their 2.5 billion people.
I’m for all energy, but the ethanol mandate is better than paying farmers CRP money to NOT grow, and if they’d just sell us the ethanol free stuff for a buck premium, all would be well with my small engines, without having to run them dry. We lost so much real production, keeping the farms profitable seems vital. Most of these red counties have been on Obama’s hit list for the last six years, except we still have ethanol. lol
The price spike the last few years was more about monetary policy and movements into commodities, as I see it. But the non big city parts of the country all need the boost of decent farm income. Ethanol helps with that some, and also helps minimize the profits our geopolitical enemies make on their oil. For the bigger farmers especially, they should drop the insurance supports and direct payments, at least as long as corn is over $3.
Fracking has also helped a lot of rural areas. The EPA sucks as bad as Lerner and the IRS. But I think the ethanol thing is already set up, and does a lot to help fly over country be profitable, and keep more dollars here. But too late for many smaller farms that got bought up. Financials and bailouts seem to be where the billionaires reside and collect their bailouts and use their leverage to get what they want, as real production was pushed overseas. But we still produce crops pretty well, so ethanol broadens that market. And they are still getting more efficient at the process.

Reply to  Midwest Rhino
June 3, 2015 6:47 am

Thanks for your comments, I respect your opinions and believe we should help our small farmers not ADM and the other big producers.. We just disagree on ethanol mandates which the EPA are constantly increasing the % ethanol for no good reason. I have no respect for the EPA and many of their policies including killing coal, taking control of “puddles”, pushing costly renewables, subsidizing useless activities, and increasing mandates for ethanol. They like other Executive branches (think IRS) have overreached their authority need to be dramatically throttled back.
Who do I send the bill to fix the persistent ethanol problems on my boat engine.
All the best

Midwest Rhino
Reply to  Catcracking
June 3, 2015 7:57 am

I’m not sure why they can’t use slightly more expensive components on small engines, to avoid the ethanol issues. I’ve done probably $1000 of damage to my chainsaws etc. over the years, but since draining/running them dry each time, have had no problems. Riding mowers seem to have upgraded so leaving 10% ethanol fuel in them is not an issue, though a fuel line cutoff valve, and then running till out of gas is probably safer. But making non ethanol fuel available at a premium would be another option.
Some argue that hey, if farmers can’t cut it, they deserve to go broke. But the thing is they don’t under produce, they over produce. Compare them to the Chicago teacher’s union, that can organize and go on strike and demand high pay, early retirement with benefits, for a crappy product. If farmers so organized we’d get food like Russia, but still pay more. Of course government would never allow farmers to so organize. We don’t even try to squeeze China or other “enemies” when we had times the world needed our food to survive. That is considered immoral and unfair, though Joseph in the old testament did that to obtain riches for the pharaoh during the seven years of famine.
Anyway … I’m not sure exactly how ADM or others work their deals, but they indeed have the clout to see things go their way. But we do have surplus, and an ethanol mandate supports the price a little, and food production is a real part of the national “defense”. The unionized bailout globalizing nation we have now is not “free market”, and making a real fuel like ethanol (despite its inconvenience in small engines) is much different than closing coal plants or wasting money on “carbon sequestration”, or Solyndra style scams. Most “carbon” was sequestered naturally, and we actually “unsequester” it to use it on gravel roads and in concrete. 🙂
Thanks for your rational response. I certainly get the opposition to ethanol mandates, but if rural America doesn’t get support as it feeds the nation without “organizing”, who will buy up and maintain the geographic majority of our nation? Making ethanol is better than paying farmers to leave fields in grass, which is just a pure subsidy with little product. Or maybe turning the land over to the oligarchs is part of “the plan”?