DC Swamp denizens strike back on biodiesel

While demand for biodiesel is down, senators and crony corporatists deep-six proposed EPA reductions in biodiesel mandates

Guest opinion by Paul Driessen

Despite what I thought were persuasive articles over the years (here, here and here, for example), corn ethanol and other biofuel mandates remain embedded in US law. As we have learned, once a government program is created, it becomes virtually impossible to eliminate, revise or even trim fat from it.

This year, it looked like this “rule of perpetuity” might finally change. The Trump-Pruitt Environmental Protection Agency proposed to use its “waiver authority” to reduce its 2018 biodiesel requirement by 15% (315 million gallons) and (possibly) lower the 2019 total down to the 1-billion-gallon minimum mandated by Congress. The proposed action would not affect corn or other ethanol production and blending requirements, despite growing problems with incorporating more ethanol into gasoline.

The biodiesel proposal reflects hard realities. Biodiesel costs over $1.30 more than regular diesel made from petroleum. Despite this far higher cost, it gets fewer miles per gallon than conventional diesel. Domestic US producers are unable to make enough biodiesel. In fact their output is at least 250 million gallons below the mandated amount; the rest is imported, keeping America reliant on foreign suppliers.

Some analyses conclude that domestic biodiesel output is actually one billion gallons below what the mandate explicitly and in reality requires. So the USA is truly reliant on imports to meet the quota.

Since biodiesel is made from soybean, palm, canola, flax, sunflower and other plant oils, those crops must be grown on millions of acres of land, using enormous amounts of water, fertilizer, pesticides and energy. (Biodiesel can also be made from waste vegetable oil and animal fat, but those are in minuscule supply.)

The demand for biodiesel is down. Volkswagen’s fraudulent emissions tampering reduced demand for diesel-powered cars, and more people are driving electric and hybrid vehicles. Fraud is also rampant over Renewable Identification Numbers that must be issued for every gallon of biodiesel produced and sold.

Moreover, the primary justifications for biodiesel (and all biofuels) are missing in action. Fracking and other technologies have ended worries about imminent depletion of petroleum supplies, and a growing body of evidence shows that climate chaos due to human emissions of (plant-fertilizing) carbon dioxide exists almost entirely in computer models and data manipulation – not in planetary reality.

Finally, foreign production often generates more social and environmental problems than biodiesel. Oil palm development in Indonesia, for example, causes deforestation, soil erosion, water and air pollution, habitat and wildlife losses, and social unrest. Plantation owners, investors and employees do well; some become very wealthy. Others, especially traditional landowners, suffer from reduced incomes and land use rights, takings of cropland they relied on for survival, rising land prices and other conflicts.

In addition, like any carbon-based fuel, biodiesel emits carbon dioxide when it is burned. In fact, over the entire life cycle of growing and harvesting crops, turning them into fuel, transporting and using them in vehicles, ethanol and biodiesel emit as much CO2 as petroleum – and require infinitely more acreage.

However, anyone who thinks reality, logic and common sense do or should play an essential role in public policy decisions has an abysmal understanding of how the Washington, DC Swamp operates. Programs, mandates and subsidies beget vocal beneficiaries, industries, lobbyists, and crony corporatist arrangements between them and elected representatives – who receive dinners, trips and campaign contributions in exchange for votes that perpetuate programs, mandates, subsidies and electoral success.

No sooner had EPA announced its intended biodiesel reductions, than the Swamp Denizens rose up in righteous wrath and united indignity. Several US Senators threatened to block confirmation of President Trump’s EPA nominees, unless the agency abandons its plans. Confronted with this reality, EPA caved. The biodiesel quotas remain, and will increase even further. The DC Swamp won – this round.

It’s pretty easy to understand why Illinois Democratic Senator Tammy Duckworth would battle EPA over biodiesel. Hers is a farm state, with a lot of Big Biofuel farmers and distillers, and her party has become solidly anti-hydrocarbon and anti-Trump. These days, Democrats line up largely in lockstep in opposition to domestic drilling, pipelines and refineries – though hardly on any personal actions to reduce fossil fuel use in their homes, offices, vehicles or especially air travel.

However, biofuel advocacy and confirmation blocking has become bipartisan. Senator Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) is leading the charge. The powerful Republican chairs the Judiciary Committee and serves on the Agriculture, Budget, Finance and Tax Committees.  He was once a self-proclaimed “pig farmer,” but these days he and his family are mostly involved in growing corn for ethanol and soybeans for biodiesel.

Indeed, the Grassley family together collected $1.4 million in farm subsidies between 1995 and 2014.

Even Senator Joni Ernst (also R-Iowa) is on the nominee blockade bandwagon. She may have been raised on a pig farm and learned how to drain swamps, kill pork and make special interests squeal. (Recall the famous campaign ad.) But she is also on the Ag Committee, and Iowa is the corn state. Indeed, corn grown on acreage equivalent to her entire state (36 million acres) is converted to ethanol every year.

These senators (and many House and Senate colleagues) are determined that ethanol, biodiesel and other biofuel mandates and “targets” will always and only go in one direction: upward.

They are all convinced that any change, no matter how small or how focused on foreign imports of biodiesel, is a potential threat to the entire biofuel program, including their beloved corn ethanol program. (Even worse, the EPA proposal could threaten their future campaign coffers and reelection prospects.)

They’ve promised to “oppose any effort” to reduce blending levels for ethanol in gasoline or “undermine the integrity” of biofuel programs. They threatened to “vote down” the President’s EPA nominees, unless the agency totally scrubbed its plan to reduce biodiesel mandates and imports. They claim these actions are necessary to protect energy innovation, fuel diversity and jobs. Some still talk about biofuel preventing petroleum depletion and dangerous manmade climate change.

Perhaps they are all smoking that special tobacco product they sell in Boulder, Colorado. But they have powerful positions and powerful friends, and they mean business. So the EPA and White House capitulated.

The Renewable Fuels Standards (RFS) legislation began as an environmental program. But it has become a major farm subsidy program – and a vital campaign contributions program. It distorts markets by creating cash flows that people depend on for their livelihoods, lifestyles and lobbying fees.

In the case of ethanol, it involves growing corn that requires millions of acres of land, billions of gallons of water, and vast quantities of pesticides, fertilizers, tractor fuel and natural gas … to produce energy that drives up food prices, damages small engines, and gets one-third fewer miles per gallon than gasoline.

With biodiesel, we have congressionally mandated production levels that are unnecessary and unrealistic. They are far above what farmers have shown they can grow and produce here in the USA. The mandates are also well above the amounts of biodiesel we need. And yet the laws require that production from biodiesel, corn ethanol and advanced biofuels (from switchgrass, et cetera) climbs steadily year after year.

For once we have some people at EPA who might – and should – look into all of this, and implement practical, defensible reductions in these domestic and foreign biofuel levels. We should not saddle them with more politically driven mandates that hurt the environment and American consumers.

But we did. The Washington Swamp won. That’s how it operates. However, the battle is not over. It has merely been joined. Next time around, there may not be critical nominees to hold hostage.

Paul Driessen is senior policy analyst for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (www.CFACT.org), and author of Eco-Imperialism: Green power – Black death and other books on public policy.

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October 22, 2017 7:58 am

One would think that such subsidies that benefit only a few people would be easy to get rid of.
The problem is the culture of Washington in which deal making is considered the ultimate goal of political life.
Politicians agree to protect each other’s subsidies, so 20 subsidy programs, each of which benefits 5% or less of the population gets 100% protection from the group.

Ernest Bush
Reply to  MarkW
October 22, 2017 9:17 am

The real problem in Washington, with respect to biofuels, is that many establishment politicians have a personal financial stake in biofuels, particularly methanol. This problem exists on both sides of the aisle, in fact.

Reply to  Ernest Bush
October 22, 2017 4:02 pm

The US has the best representatives in Congress that money can buy.

Reply to  MarkW
October 22, 2017 9:20 am

These subsidies do not benefit only a few people. ALL of Iowa runs on subsidies—farmers are one of the biggest corporate welfare recipients out there. Cut the corn subsidies, the economy of Iowa takes a huge hit. Expect the same thing with the PTC (Iowa will block nominees if that comes up)—it will never end because greedy, selfish, evil politicians care nothing about America.

Reply to  Sheri
October 22, 2017 9:53 am

which is the entire reason Iowa has fought so hard to maintain its post position in the Presidential Sweepstakes we hold every 4 years. And the politicians in BOTH parties love it that way because buying and selling influence for votes is how Washington “works”.

And no matter how “anti-corporatist” some candidate is, ask yourself, just as a thought experiment – do you think even Bernie Sanders would ever say a SINGLE critical word about ethanol mandates? Do I even have to ask?

Reply to  Sheri
October 22, 2017 10:15 am

Trouble is, if farming were profitable they’d complain about the greedy farmers who let poor children starve.

The way world economy works ensures farming is almost everywhere marginally profitable with subsidies, because governments or me as a matter of fact don’t want to food prices go up and profit farmers.

We had a couple of years profitability. It was called a ‘food crisis’. One of the reasons was subsidies made corn ethanol too profitable.

It’s easy to hate farmers. Don’t do it.

Reply to  Sheri
October 22, 2017 10:41 am

Hugs: I don’t hate farmers per se, I totally dislike and despise government subsidies and hand outs and the people who lap them up. If that includes some farmers, or all farmers, then so be it. Farmers are perfectly capable of making a profit without all the government handouts. Just like most of the world is capable thereof. The government meddling, rewarding some, punishing others and encouraging lapping up of handouts never ends well. It won’t with farmers, either. We just have not reached the end where all the money for the handouts dries up and everyone is out of luck. If you visualize food shortages without subsidies, image 10 times that for when the money runs out. I prefer to solve things up front, not when everyone is running around screaming and shouting. No subsidies. Let the market work. Of course, we’ve breed dependence now, so it won’t end well. We reap what we sow.

Reply to  Sheri
October 22, 2017 11:28 am

Yes , the bio-fuels eKo-fascist racket is massive . It supports both crop prices and the land prices associated with them . When I was back in western Illinois for a family reunion this summer , I found our old neighbors contracted their entire several thousand acres to the local distillery . Our old tenant commented that the massive concrete bases of the local wind farm would be there for geologic times , but that was ok because he got a rent for the transmission lines crossing his property .

Gunga Din
Reply to  Sheri
October 22, 2017 1:05 pm

Reminds me of Ronald Reagan a bit. A minor point brought up during his campaign was farm subsidies.
Why pay a farmer not to grow something?
When he tried to remedy the situation, all hell broke loose (in the MSM).

Bruce E Lingle
Reply to  Sheri
October 22, 2017 1:08 pm

I seem to recall the Iowa Republican caucus was won by a candidate who ran AGAINST ethanol subsidies. And I recall thinking that was pretty amazing.

Reply to  Sheri
October 22, 2017 1:42 pm

Sheri, what percentage of Americans live in Iowa?
I think that qualifies as “few”.

old construction worker
Reply to  Sheri
October 22, 2017 3:23 pm

corporate welfare recipients. I had to remind my representatives. No matter how much money corporate welfare recipients gives to them they can’t vote but I can and do.

Reply to  Sheri
October 23, 2017 9:49 am

MarkW: It’s not just Iowa that gets the ethanol subsidies. Plus, the power of the representatives of Iowa play into getting rid of the subsidy. Grassley is an expert at getting government handouts—he gave us the PTC along with the increase in electric prices, damage to the environment and so forth that go with wind. If numbers were all that counted, then maybe a program that only served Iowa could be eliminated.

John Harmsworth
Reply to  MarkW
October 22, 2017 10:24 am

The Renewable Fuels Act never was a “Green” project. It was introduced during a particularly tough time for agriculture as a farm subsidy with “Green ” cover for WTO rules.

Reply to  MarkW
October 22, 2017 12:16 pm

One would think that such subsidies that benefit only a few people would be easy to get rid of.

Benefits are concentrated, costs are diffused. As David Friedman [PDF] explains it:

Special interest politics is a simple game. A hundred people sit in a circle, each with his pocket full of pennies. A politician walks around the outside of the circle, taking a penny from each person. No one minds; who cares about a penny? When he has gotten all the way around the circle, the politician throws fifty cents down in front of one person, who is overjoyed at the unexpected windfall. The process is repeated, ending with a different person. After a hundred rounds everyone is a hundred cents poorer, fifty cents richer, and happy.

Reply to  MarkW
October 22, 2017 12:29 pm

No, the problem of getting rid of such subsidies is not limited to Washington DC culture.

The problem is ultimately one of concentrated benefits and diverse costs.

Those who benefit are strongly motivated to protect the subsidy, while of those who pay the costs, any one individual would receive minimal benefit from ending the subsidy, so the opposition is weakly motivated.

This has nothing to do with DC culture and everything to do with general human psychology.

Reply to  MarkW
October 22, 2017 1:47 pm

MattS, without interlocking self interest, there would only be one or two senators to vote to support any individual subsidy.

October 22, 2017 7:59 am

Only when people get really uncomfortable does anything actually happen.

One can point out all the stupidity and unreasonableness, but most people won’t care unless it actually directly impacts them.

Reply to  rbabcock
October 22, 2017 9:21 am

At which time it’s usually too late, but you are right, that’s when action is taken.

John M
Reply to  rbabcock
October 22, 2017 2:12 pm

Generally true but consider the DOD’s implementation of jet fuel refined at sea from sea water. Amazingly cleaver idea as it doesn’t require transport at sea.

Yet, Obama administration forsed biofuels on the DOD at many times the cost of a far more insightful solution.

R. Shearer
October 22, 2017 8:01 am

Virtually any waste fat or oil can be converted into diesel fuel.

I Came I Saw I Left
Reply to  R. Shearer
October 22, 2017 8:40 am

Biodiesel is a great use for waste food industry grease, whether private or commercial

Bruce Cobb
Reply to  I Came I Saw I Left
October 22, 2017 8:50 am

Define “great”.

Reply to  I Came I Saw I Left
October 22, 2017 9:08 am

Great at a local level when enthusiasts take waste oil from McDonalds or smaller companies, filter it, then dilute it with regular diesel to enhance their virtue signalling credentials. At a commercial level its an expensive and minor contribution to diesel fuel use.

Furthermore, using straight vegetable oil in a modern diesel engine, whilst possible, destroys the engine with containments and residue very rapidly.

There seems to me no benefit from using bio diesel. Like windmills, the practise was abandoned many years ago in favour of more efficient, refined, fossil fuel derived diesel.

I love the smell of Castrol R, a vegetable based racing oil with a distinctive smell, but it was superseded many years ago by mineral oils, and now synthetic oils. Alas, Castrol R will never be smelt again by motor racing enthusiasts.

I Came I Saw I Left
Reply to  I Came I Saw I Left
October 22, 2017 9:12 am

great = practical, ie., cost effective. Instead of having to pay someone to take waste grease, people will pay to collect it. Similar to using logging waste products (that used to be burned) to manufacture wood pellets for heating purposes. Fantastic use of resources.

I Came I Saw I Left
Reply to  I Came I Saw I Left
October 22, 2017 9:16 am

No one who knows anything runs their diesel on pure vegetable oil, unless they know how to do it. Adding filtered 10% to diesel is harmless. In both cases filtering is the key.

Reply to  I Came I Saw I Left
October 22, 2017 9:40 am

I came I saw: Using left over wood products for heating was great—until it went to an industrial scale. England reportedly buys pellets from the USA that are from clear cutting on private land. Before you say Why? consider that a land owner can net millions from the land in a short period. What happens after that really doesn’t matter. I keep wondering how long I can buy “bricks” made from sawdust before the manufacturers run out of sawdust sources and start grinding wood to saw dust to sell. As people transition to pellet stoves, again, the demand goes up. If the supply of left-over wood goes down, new sources will be tapped.

I Came I Saw I Left
Reply to  I Came I Saw I Left
October 22, 2017 10:17 am

Sheri, as far as I know, no land owner that has any sense is going to clear cut his land for pellets, unless he doesn’t have any wood suitable for lumber in the first place. Lumber will bring the highest return. I posted an excerpt from an article a while back that said Drax utilizes low quality residuals from the lumbering process to make pellets. That stuff used to be bulldozed into piles and burned. So it’s a great use of a waste resource.

Nigel S
Reply to  I Came I Saw I Left
October 22, 2017 10:33 am

ICISIL: The Ecologist begs to differ. ‘Enviva sources wood from clearcut wetland forests, important ecosystems which are home to a wide variety of animal and plant species and have been classified as global biodiversity hotspots by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which also considers them


Reply to  I Came I Saw I Left
October 22, 2017 10:36 am

clear cutting on private land

I’m ripping hair off.

There is nothing wrong in clear-cutting per se, nor in privately owned land compared to government owned.

Around here it is the government that does clear-cutting and actually defines it as the best way to deal with a forest at some point. I disagree mildly.

Clear-cutting is OK in small scale and you make pellets if that is the most profitable use. Anything else is just socialism. Clear-cutting is not the end. People from the cities tend to have a romantic view on forest that fogs their thinking.

What is not OK is clear-cutting with no prospects of new forest growth, or using large uniformly handled areas, ignoring historic sites etc. There is a lot that can be wrong in forestry. But it is not clear-cutting per se.

I agree on dropping subsidies on pellets, but then, it is like telling coal should not be taxed. None listens.

Reply to  I Came I Saw I Left
October 22, 2017 10:42 am

Nigel S, sorry my BS detector beeps. This is Alinsky tacticsin action, and almost always true only in technical sense if even that. I’ve become cynical after I was some decades ago believing what Greenpeace said. NGO’s are often pressure groups with no honesty in them. Everything they say must be thought to be untrue, because they get money and power from pushing falsehoods.

It is not big oil, it is big green.

Reply to  I Came I Saw I Left
October 22, 2017 10:52 am

I came, I saw:
“Enviva acknowledges that less than a quarter of its supply comes from wood manufacturing byproducts; the rest comes directly from forests an average of 36 years old. It doesn’t specify, however, how much is from whole trees versus “tops” that can’t be used for high-grade lumber.”
from http://southeastenergynews.com/2017/09/19/controversy-brews-over-new-north-carolina-wood-pellet-facility/
Drax does not appear to be using left-over stuff.

Hugs: Concerning clear cutting and private land, before you have a fit, I was stating a fact, not declaring clear cutting evil or debating public versus private land. The clear cutting is done on private land to avoid dealing with the government. I have no objection to clear cutting done properly that does not result in erosion and mudslides afterwards. However, pellets are advertised as ecofriendly and I have never meet nor heard on an environmentalist who agreed with clear cutting. Perhaps I missed one…

Reply to  I Came I Saw I Left
October 22, 2017 11:22 am


Thanks for clarification. I blush and shut up. Yes, environmentalists I’ve heard of never accept clear-cutting. Or, ‘killing’ a tree. Or collecting a dead tree.

I Came I Saw I Left
Reply to  I Came I Saw I Left
October 22, 2017 11:37 am

No one sells 36-y.o old timber for wood chips unless it’s cr.ap to begin with. Log the good stuff for lumber and building products (eg, veneer), use the leftover for pellets.

D[rax]B[iomass]I[nc] does not operate its own timberlands. Instead, it sources thinnings and other low-grade wood from landowners within a 70-mile radius of the two plants. The sourced material also includes wood chips and other residuals from local sawmills. The vast majority of DBI’s feedstock will be comprised of southern yellow pine, although some hardwood fiber may occasionally enter the supply chain.


Nigel S
Reply to  I Came I Saw I Left
October 22, 2017 1:06 pm

ICISIL: I suggest that ‘biomassmagazine’ is hardly impartial in this debate. Drax is a perfectly good coal fired power station in UK sitting on a coal field but it has been turned into a subsidy station burning wood imported from US to ‘save CO2’. This is insanity in anyone’s book. I’m sure what you say about the economics of timber production in US is true or at least that it was until UK energy bill payers were forced to offer fancy prices for wood pellets.

Reply to  I Came I Saw I Left
October 22, 2017 1:08 pm

I came: While you can keep going with your “fox guarding the hen house” sources, I went as left wing, pro-climate change solutions as I could and I still got this:


You can keep believing whatever you wish. You just can’t make it true.

I Came I Saw I Left
Reply to  I Came I Saw I Left
October 22, 2017 1:23 pm

Sheri, the leftists like to whine about clear cutting forests to make wood pellets. It’s not happening. Forests get clear cut for the maximum $ return. That doesn’t happen when you turn lumber grade or veneer grade logs into pellets. Nobody’s that stupid. Leftists whining about this issue is like them whining about the danger of natural gas pipelines going under rivers because of the pollution risk. There is no risk – natural gas is non-toxic, but they are stuck on stupid.

Reply to  I Came I Saw I Left
October 22, 2017 1:48 pm

Biodiesel is one use for waste food grease, but it is hardly the only one.

I Came I Saw I Left
Reply to  I Came I Saw I Left
October 22, 2017 1:59 pm

This is the kind of cr.ap that gets cut down to make wood chips – thinnings. It actually can dramatically increase the health of a forest to thin out stuff like this. Or it may be the branches of larger trees that can’t be used for lumber. This is also what they use to make paper – pulp wood.
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Reply to  I Came I Saw I Left
October 22, 2017 2:33 pm

I think that I Came I Saw I Left accurately describes the pellet industry best on utilizing the left over and scrap wood that would have been burnt in previous decades. There is also probably some massive fast growing hardwood plantations that are rotated out at 36 years purely to pellets for a cash crop and immediately planted back to the same or perhaps rotated into a pine plantation. If adding a mix of wood pellets into a coal burning facility allows a coal fired electricity plant to stay in operation, then we skeptics should be rejoicing. This is an outright win-win, in at least as far as not shuttering the coal generator.

Where I live in the pacific north west, our city burned all its wood waste for 50 years in giant behive burners that literally buried the city in dirty flash over time. 25 years ago, the wood waste like bark was sent to a new 60 Mw fired cogen plant and the sawdust and planer shavings went to a giant pellet plant. That was a massive increase in productivity that previously was just burnt up in smoke. In 25 years, that ‘waste’ has been converted to billions in revenues and thousands of person year employment.

We skeptics should really get behind mixing pellets with coal, to assist the coal industry in keeping their generators working, and so as we don’t prematurely destroy a perfectly good generating asset like they did in SA, Oz already. Or are about to do so in Alberta, just because of climate politics.

Sceptical lefty
Reply to  I Came I Saw I Left
October 22, 2017 3:57 pm

@ I Came ISaw I Left
“There is no risk – natural gas is non-toxic, but they are stuck on stupid.”

Are you serious? I accept that carbon dioxide is non-toxic, but … natural gas? There is too much good-quality evidence to ignore, indicating that natural gas has adverse effects in low concentrations over long periods, and in higher concentrations over short periods.

I Came I Saw I Left
Reply to  I Came I Saw I Left
October 22, 2017 4:10 pm

Yeah, I’m serious. I would be glad to look at any evidence you might have. I’ve never seen anything. High concentrations of mercaptan will make people feel sick.

Reply to  I Came I Saw I Left
October 22, 2017 6:17 pm

“Alas, Castrol R will never be smelt again by motor racing enthusiasts.”

Oh, there are still a few cans about, I’ve got some myself, sometimes tip an eggcupful in the tank to evoke the good old days..

It was filthy stuff, gummed your rings and valve guides up something rotten and required draining between races, caused any amount of time spent on stripping, washing in petrol and rebuilding.

Modern synthetics are much superior.

Reply to  I Came I Saw I Left
October 22, 2017 6:54 pm

Apparently not many of you understand the timber industry. For loblolly pine plantations, first thinning is normally cut around 15 years and used for fiber uses (paper and friends), second cutting is around 30 years and is chip & saw lumber, clear-cut is at around 45 years and is used for either utility poles or building lumber. After the clear-cut, the land is prepped and replanted, and the cycle repeats.

It was my understanding, that Drax uses poplar trees for their pellets. There are a few companies that have patented and/or GMO rapid growth poplar trees that are ready for pellets after 20 years of growth.

Another Ian
Reply to  I Came I Saw I Left
October 22, 2017 8:56 pm


Seems often to be what your local diesel injection repair specialist thinks of the idea

Nigel S
Reply to  I Came I Saw I Left
October 23, 2017 10:53 am

Sheri: October 22, 2017 at 10:52 am: Thanks for the link to the article. When the pellet industry promoters have to resort to the ‘D’ word you know they’re on shaky ground. It’s tempting to laugh at the eco special interest groups who’ve got themselves hoist on their own petard but there does seem to be a genuine problem with once uncommercial forests that used to be left to wildlife and for recreation but now have become commercially exploitable by the pellet industry. Some are turned into plantations and some are just left to (with luck) regenerate. Both situations disadvantage wildlife and recreational users but not exploiting the forests disadvantages the owners.

Reply to  Nigel S
October 23, 2017 11:02 am

Having grown up watching “The Big Valley” “The Walton’s” and “Bonaza” that had forests and lumber mills. They showed the care of the forests taken by them and the mistreatment of them by their neighbors.

Reply to  R. Shearer
October 22, 2017 9:08 am

“waste fat or oil”
No such thing as waste.
Not long ago, the big thing among young college kids was to go around to big chain restaurants to procure the “waste” cooking oil for conversion to “biodiesel”, and go oh so green.
They found out that the used cooking oil was under contract and already committed. So who was buying it?

The Cosmetics industry. Due to the astronomical retail price of cosmetics, the manufactures could pay a huge premium for the raw materials, and the bulk commodity hobbyists could not touch them.
The ladies must have their makeup to look good, and will *not* be denied.

Reply to  TonyL
October 22, 2017 9:10 am


They also found out that burning vegetable oil in their engines destroyed them.

I Came I Saw I Left
Reply to  TonyL
October 22, 2017 9:28 am

That only happens with people who don’t know what they’re doing.

Reply to  TonyL
October 22, 2017 9:35 am

@ HotScot:
How true!
I saw one case where some kids took a vehicle up and down the California coast. 250 miles up, and 250 miles back, for a test run of 500 miles. They wrecked the engine at 480 miles and finished the run on the back of a tow truck. Even still, they declared their experiment with “biodiesel” to be a great success.
Keep these morons away from everything important.

In any event, I always wondered about that. Cooking oils tend to be very high in Sodium. The combustion must produce a fair amount of sodium chloride, NaCl, solid because the melting point of NaCl is vastly higher than anything you will find in an engine. I wondered if all that NaCl would act as an abrasive and *erase* the piston rings and score the hell out of the cylinder walls. Not good.
It is not obvious to me how to scrub the salt out of the fuel. Organic fats and oils are largely non-polar, of course, but have very polar bits, rendering the salt at least *slightly* soluble. (As it is in alcohol) Getting rid of it seems to be a non-trivial problem. (Where is an oil refinery when you need one?)

Reply to  TonyL
October 22, 2017 9:42 am


Run it through a desalter before processing?

Reply to  TonyL
October 22, 2017 5:43 pm

Some ladies! Some of us dislike the look and feel of make-up muck on our faces! We prefer to be real.

Reply to  TonyL
October 22, 2017 6:28 pm

“They also found out that burning vegetable oil in their engines destroyed them.”

My much-loved old 2.5 litre turbo diesel Merc ran on 50p per litre cooking oil a good bit of the time for the last seven or eight years and loved it, unfortunately she’s just died due to an advanced attack of of tinworm, so I’ve had to get a more modern one and I doubt it’ll cope.

My wife’s old Nissan Serena ran great off it too, and German Mercedes taxis were renowned for their ability to run on used cooking oil.

Thing to remember was to carry a new diesel filter as it gummed up fairly regularly, and mix a fair bit of diesel with it in cold weather to give the lift pump a chance.

It’s not commonly known, but some modern VW engines have the computer mapped to permit the use of rapeseed oil within a certain range of viscosity, I imagine for use in Third World countries.

Reply to  R. Shearer
October 22, 2017 9:45 am

@ I came I saw I left:

Adding filtered 10% to diesel is harmless.

Ha Ha Ha
I have seen diesel specs that allow for up to 5% “contaminants”, that is, a fuel component which is not up to standards. At 10%, you are just adding a contaminant to the fuel, and hoping the engine will tolerate it.

If you have a fuel, use it. Do not depend on the real fuel to cover for you.

David S
October 22, 2017 8:20 am

President Trump underestimated the size and depth of the swamp. In my opinion most of DC is the swamp. I usually put it this way; The government is run by crooks.

Reply to  David S
October 22, 2017 12:28 pm

Crooks who hold a deep hatred and contempt for American citizens.

October 22, 2017 8:26 am

“The Swamp” is a semi-organized crime syndicate and the members of the scum-wad Congress are the syndicate’s board of directors. The United States Congress is a hopeless case of sub-mediocrity. Don’t expect anything that’s any better than that which we are getting now — In fact, it is all downhill from here until the final collapse — Which is likely just a short period of time in the future.
F. U. B. A. R. and R. I. P. Uncle Simple. Give your thoughts and efforts to what comes next. Think eviction, not secession.

John Harmsworth
Reply to  ThomasJK
October 22, 2017 10:48 am

I think this is a problem in all the Western democracies. Our societies have become so affluent and entitled that they have no idea where wealth and productivity come from. Our democratically elected governments abet this nonsense with massive spending on social programs. The government knows it’s unpopular to tax people so they borrow money recklessly. Yet they know that at the end of the debt road they have one more trick up there sleeve. Moral hazard is actually built into the structure as money will be printed to debase the currency and wipe out the debt. Then we’ll all be poor but debt free and the elites can go back to borrowing and spending and self promotion at our expense.
Democracy seems like such a great idea, until politicians start to feed on an ignorant and self-interested public. Then it becomes the ultimate scam!

October 22, 2017 8:29 am

“Despite what I thought were persuasive articles over the years (here, here and here, for example), corn ethanol and other biofuel mandates remain embedded in US law. ”

Much as we have been saying over and over about the “global warming” mantra, this is another issue that has NOTHING AT ALL to do with science, other than false scientific claims are used to publicly justify yet another political bribery scam. It also has nothing to do with economics, other than the fact that all political briberies involve taking money from the public at large and giving it to a politically useful (and hence favored) group.

This is one of the largest scams that the US Government is operating; it started because every Presidential Candidate for the last couple of decades promised to support it to hopefully give them a leg up in the early Iowa caucuses, and then it became a litmus test for the parties who were both trying to nail down Electoral Votes in the midwest, which has become a swing region in recent years.

SO – the corn to fuel / ethanol industry is essentially a vast bribe that the US Government extracts from fuel users, but mostly from the two coasts, and gives to business interests in the midwestern corn states, who in turn lavish contributions on midwestern corn state politicians. (like Ben Sasse)

Leftist Democrats were the key architects of this system and have cheered it every step of the way, so even though it is odious I have little sympathy for the fact that, in terms of net monetary outflow, New York and California are being screwed by it more than anyone else. (States like Texas have some corn production that mostly balances out the harm done by it) Of course, consumers of both fuel and corn products are screwed everywhere since this funnels money to business interests, who funnel big cuts to their favorite politicians, but that’s the purpose of ALL market manipulation. (as if you didn’t know that already)

So why has Trump backtracked? Because he’s politically savvy enough to realize in this current political situation, he has to. Because the political situation is so fragile, the Farm States are able to leverage their ability to swing elections either way, and thus Senators like Grassley can demand that the bribery scheme that was set up for their benefit remain inviolate. The only way to change this, ever, is for one party to finally gain enough political power that they won’t have to submit to this kind of extortion anymore.

But we are not there today – not even close.

Johnny Cuyana
Reply to  wws
October 22, 2017 9:03 am

WWS, notions well written; particularly regarding POTUS Trump being sufficiently politically savvy to know that, at this moment, he cannot move forward on this — that is, not on a free-fair market manner — for the reason which you wrote: that We The People are not even close to being “there”.

POTUS Trump is not king — he understands and appreciates this much better than did his predecessor — which is all the more reason for freedom-loving citizens to get behind POTUS Trump and to support him on this necessary Federal policy change … that is unless one remains interested in fundamentally changing our Constitutional Republic.

Reply to  Johnny Cuyana
October 22, 2017 9:34 am

Agreed. However, getting people to wake up and stop voting for their favorite extortionist is going to be highly unlikley. Greed and selfishness are the name of the game today. I have little hope of any of this changing. I don’t think Americans have what it takes to stop it. They haven’t lost enough yet to be motivated to action.

Reply to  wws
October 22, 2017 9:44 am

You would have to get ‘big money’ out of politics, to stop the political favouritism for pet industries like ethanol and biofuel, but in the USA, politics is big money. This is one of the same factors that help destroy Rome in the end, when cronyism and nepotism eroded their efficiencies at the art of maintaining political control. It can be done by brute force, which is next, but this gets messy too but in the end, you wind up back at 1776. If you are lucky.

Reply to  Earthling2
October 22, 2017 9:57 am

on the one hand you’re correct, of course, but on the other hand – name a country, any country in the history of the world, that has gotten “big money” out of politics.

The only ones I can think of are countries like the Soviet Union, which replaced “big money” by an all encompassing Secret Police (NKVD), or those who replace “big money” with raw military force (Franco’s Spain) And even then, it’s just the case of the same people using different, more brutal means to achieve the same ends.

Reply to  Earthling2
October 22, 2017 10:11 am

Pol pot and the Khmer Rouge.

Reply to  Earthling2
October 22, 2017 1:53 pm

The only way to get big money out of politics is to find a way to make politicians not worth buying.
The only way to do that is to reduce the ability of government to pick winners and losers in society.
To quote P.J O’Rourke, “When government controls buying and selling, the first thing bought and sold will be politicians”.

October 22, 2017 8:32 am

The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.

Johnny Cuyana
Reply to  TA
October 22, 2017 8:49 am

TA, a notion understood by all, is that no good deed goes unpunished … which is a primary reason why many good intentions never even have a chance to transition into attempted good deeds.

Reply to  Johnny Cuyana
October 22, 2017 9:28 am

Which means that any action punished, no matter how good or righteous, will likely be abandoned for the comfort of the actor. Right has no might, wrong is strong?

Hocus Locus
October 22, 2017 9:00 am

As a lark I was curious to see whether WUWT comments can make their way into Google. I searched for the quoted phrase “palm oil desert”. After a bunch of less inappropriate results such as those with punctuation between the words, there it was:

Hocus Locus August 1, 2017 at 4:44 am

I am the advancing Great Indonesian Palm Oil Desert, created to permit Europeans to use touchy-feely diesel fuels while my devastation remains comfortably elsewhere.

Missing from Google was any reference to my 2014 post at Slashdot where I originally coined the exact phrase.

Consolidation of human knowledge retrievals through central one-entity indices like Google is ultimately worse than the tragedy that befell the Library of Alexandria because on the Internet knowledge and connections will burn away when no one is looking. Bing was even worse, it arrogantly dispensed with my explicitly quoted phrase in a desperate zeal to sell me palm oil products. Or show me photos of just-actual-deserts with no palm oil in sight. At least Google attempted to string the words together; I imagine Bing thought it was being clever. And KUDOS to Anthony for continuing to manage his site in such a quasi-static way that our comments appear to search engines as static on the page and not invisible through some ephemeral Javascript/lookup/Disquslike dynamic horror. Sites run with Disqus send their comments directly into the Abyss of Cultural Forgetfulness.

But it does show that characterizing it as a ‘desert’ is too politically incorrect to ever catch on. So folks like me (and the rain forest guy I linked to) are lone voices… in the desert. Biofuel is GOOD despite its impact on the environment and no dissent will be tolerated.

Reply to  Hocus Locus
October 22, 2017 9:57 am

Consolidation of human knowledge retrievals through central one-entity indices like Google is ultimately worse…

Yes, and computers/internet greatly enable unaccountable centralization of power. Virtually impossible to catch/prove someone red-handed modifying data and incredibly easy to erase tracks. For clever fraudsters it’s a dream come true.

Reply to  Hocus Locus
October 22, 2017 12:30 pm

Just Google your screen name followed by WUWT, and you will get back some of your most recent comments. I don’t know long they will be kept, or better organized, but what we say here is being indexed and saved. I wish the Word Press search function had more depth, but maybe I don’t know how to use it properly. I find myself googling previous stories and comments to find what I was looking for here.

The intelligence agency (pro)files on each of us would be much more in depth, having our real names and locations etc, that would be part of each citizen file on our viewpoints and opinions. Not that they care what our climate opinions are, (hopefully), only that we all have a file.

James Loux
Reply to  Hocus Locus
October 22, 2017 4:19 pm

Hocus Locus: Missing from Google was any reference to my 2014 post at Slashdot where I originally coined the exact phrase.

The results of your search on Google got my curiosity, since I exclusively use Duck Duck Go, so I tried the same search on DDG. WUWT did not show up, but a comment on a forum on insectnet did. In May of 2011, while discussing labeling for insect specimens, wollastoni used your exact phrase, “palm oil desert” for an area in Borneo. He beat you to it!

May 4, 2011 at 4:50am
Post by wollastoni on May 4, 2011 at 4:50am

You are right “biotope description” is key ! There were a huge diversity on Borneo before it has become a huge palm oil desert in nearly 20 years only.

A friend of mine also indicates on the label if the species is rare / nearly common or common in the locality.

The Insect Collectors’ Forum : collector-secret.proboards.com/
The TOP 100 INSECT AUCTIONS : http://www.collector-secret.com/top-insect-auctions/
Delias of the World : http://www.delias-butterflies.fr
My blog about insect photography : macrophoto-insectes.blogspot.fr/

Read more: http://insectnet.proboards.com/thread/1004#ixzz4wHTSvsJ6

Bill Illis
October 22, 2017 9:02 am

We can expect the solar and wind subsidy-mining business to operate much the same when proposals are forwarded to end them.

John Robertson
October 22, 2017 9:02 am

Kleptocracy, once fully established, may be unfixable by peaceful means.
Once the civil levers of power are controlled by fools and bandits, who make laws protecting their activities, Roberts rules for committees may not be adequate.
A self serving “civil service” and citizens content to live off of the productive public..how will you reform these?
Clear identification of conflicts of interest, such as federal employees having a vote, would go a long way.
But what is the “Informed enlightened self interest” of a career parasite?

Reply to  John Robertson
October 22, 2017 9:26 am

Parasites have no enlightenment.

John Harmsworth
Reply to  John Robertson
October 22, 2017 11:06 am

I agree, John, but whether reform comes by peaceful means or otherwise (or not at all), what would replace modern democracy that would be better? Can we put greater restraints on politicians to limit spending? Term limits? Psych testing (I’m pretty sure some are sociopaths)?
It appears that we are close to a future where all production will come from AI and robotics and no one will “work”. Who will own the bots?

Reply to  John Robertson
October 22, 2017 11:17 am

Maybe, this last election in which so many people voted against the status quo in Washington will finally open eyes to the fact that elections change nothing. Jefferson knew the solution. From Kinky Friedman
“polyticks–we all know what a tick is, and poly just means a bunch of them.”

October 22, 2017 9:06 am

gee….George Bush was not who he pretended to be

Reply to  Latitude
October 22, 2017 10:09 am

You underestimated the extent and direction of the “compassion” of the “compassionate conservative”.

Reply to  skorrent1
October 22, 2017 1:28 pm

I liked George W. Bush, but I was rather put off by him claiming himself to be a “Compassionate Conservative”. He played right into the hands of the Left who claim no conservative is comppassionate, by saying *he* was different than your average, run-of-the-mill conservative with no compassion.

I didn’t like Bush’s immigration policy and wrote at the time that he was going against the will of the American people.

I did like him removing Saddam Insane from power but I think he missed a golden opportunity to remove the Mad Mullahs of Iran from power when he had them surrounded by hundreds of thousands of American troops. All Bush would have had to do was encourage revolution in Iran, and it would have happened, imo. No American troops needed, just the threat of them invading Iran would have been enough.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards army is a private army created by the Mad Mullahs because they can’t trust the regular Iranian army. Bush should have encouraged the regular Iranian army to overthrow the Mad Mullahs. He could have created all sorts of mischief for the rulers of Iran.

The Mad Mullahs have killed numerous Americans over the years. They deserve every bad thing that can happen to them.

I do believe war with the Mad Mullahs is inevitable, if they remain in power. Bush kicked the Mad Mullah can down the road, just like he kicked the North Korea can down the road, and now we have to deal with both of them, and we don’t have the luxury of kicking either one of these cans down the road anymore. It’s going to be war or capitulation.

There’s a good reason U.S. military doctrine used to say the U.S. had to be prepared to fight two regional wars at the same time.

I’m also VERY disappointed that Bush 43 would never fight back against the MSM. They told lie after lie about Bush and all we got from the White House was crickets. So Bush allowed their lies to stand as truth. Like the “Mission Accomplished” lie they told and still tell to this day.

Thank God Trump fights back. Of course, you see what fighting back does, it gets the MSM furious and they tell ten times as many lies as they normally would. But they are harming their own credibility more than they are harming Trump’s.

Obama comes out and makes a speech saying there is too much divisiveness in the nation. He doesn’t tell you *he* is the one creating the divisiveness. He wants you to think Trump is the culprit.

And Bush 43 gives a speech presumably to trash Trump but all the things he complains about were not done by Trump. Bush is taking the Left’s version of the truth.

Bush is definitely a member of the Swamp. Jeb is, too.

We are not listening to the Swamp people anymore. Trump is the Man and Bush 43 and Obama are history, no matter how many speeches they give. They are the ones who got us in the situation we find ourselves in now, and Trump is the person who is doing to have to get us out of this situation. Trump doesn’t need failures giving him advice.

Retired Kit P
Reply to  Latitude
October 22, 2017 10:19 am

Lots of folks assume things about people and are then disappointed.

I was very happy with Bush in the areas of energy and the environment. To be sure I had low expectations. After 8 years of Clinton BS, Gore was not a choice for me.

As a liberal Republican, Bush was exactly who I expected. Energy and the environment are certainly areas that require some creative thinking. We needed new coal, gas, and nuclear power plants along with fossil fuel and uranium to fuel them.

Some of you focus on the token amount of renewable energy that was offered up a compromise and miss the big picture.

October 22, 2017 9:25 am

Extortion is now allowed in the government functioning—”I will hold your nominees hostage till you pay the ransom”. I suppose that was to be expected. When the judiciary and all of DC and the media are into lawlessness and anarchy, it is what one gets. It is rather sad that America sold out to the politicians and just sit back and say “oh sigh”. Of course, one deserves to lose one’s country if one does nothing when the invasion starts and continue to support the invaders day after day. Politicians own the country. “We the people” are nothing.

Retired Kit P
October 22, 2017 9:59 am

“Despite what I thought were persuasive articles …”

So a paid lobbyist thinks his articles are persuasive, who knew?

Lots of people are persuasive, it is called BS if you are the least bit skeptical. .

“virtually impossible to eliminate”

So what?

“Biodiesel costs over $1.30 more than regular diesel made from petroleum. ”

Not true! Since my motor home has a 700 mile range on 3/4th tank of fuel, I have the ability to shop for fuel. When buying fuel 60 gallons at a time, saving $30 to $60 makes a big difference.

The first time I bought B20 was at the Shell down the street from Walmart in Hermiston, Oregon. It was 20 cents cheaper than Costco in Portland which is 20 cents cheaper than other stations along our route.

“it gets fewer miles per gallon than conventional diesel. ”

Again not true! http://biodiesel.org/docs/default-source/ffs-basics/biodiesel-myths-vs-facts.pdf?sfvrsn=6

“Biodiesel has higher cetane than U.S. diesel fuel. B20 (20 percent blend of biodiesel with diesel fuel) provides similar fuel economy, horsepower, torque, and haulage rates as diesel fuel. Biodiesel also has superior lubricity, and it has the highest BTU content of any alternative fuel.”

“Since biodiesel is made from soybean, …those crops must be grown on millions of acres of land, using enormous amounts of water, fertilizer, pesticides and energy.”

Again true! Paul D needs to get out of the Washington DC beltway where regular people make a living producing something rather than lying.

From the same link:

“Biodiesel actually benefits the world’s protein supply. Processing biodiesel from soybeans uses only the oil portion of the soybean, leaving all of the protein available to nourish livestock and humans.”

Paul D goes on and on. He list more than 30 BS reasons. None have merit.

There is a systematic method to evaluate the scientific merit of something. Paul uses a systematic method of spreading propaganda.

Bruce Cobb
October 22, 2017 10:12 am

All right, who poured Stop Leak in the Swamp?

Reply to  Bruce Cobb
October 22, 2017 5:22 pm

Can we get a few toms of Draino, old fashioned sodium hydroxide drain cleaner?

Reply to  hanelyp
October 22, 2017 9:06 pm

Yeah…but they removed the active ingredient aluminum oxide that created heat to melt the grease. Something to do with drains made of plastic these days.

October 22, 2017 10:18 am

Just write an executive order that bans the Human consumption of corn and corn products. Because it is needed for biofuel production to reach the mandates of the Politburo …. eh, Congress.
As a side benefit, when the population starts to replace fructose with glucose, the obesity level should see a markable reduction.

October 22, 2017 10:20 am

Excellent review of the issue and the swamp creatures. One can only hope this loss in Congress is only the first shot in the battle. The difficulty for rational people to drain the swamp is their lack of the means to get the message out. Driessen’s and others analyses need to get mass media attention several times a day every day. Exposure on WATTS UP is great, but it’s like preaching to the choir. Maybe it’s time to borrow from the New Left and march on Washington.

Curious George
Reply to  Tom Bjorklund
October 22, 2017 10:49 am

Republicans control both houses of the Congress. That does not mean that Democrats are a good party; only that the GOP bears the brunt of the shame.

Reply to  Curious George
October 22, 2017 4:16 pm

de facto control of the senate is by Democrats and Never-Trumps.

Jeff Rola
October 22, 2017 10:41 am

While I agree that there is a swamp of special interests surrounding Washington, this article pushes the interest of the biggest “gator” in that swamp, big oil. Mr, Driessen cherry-picks every tired negative out of context talking point on biofuels that the fossil fuels industry has produced over the last twenty years. Classic mis-direction. However, bad as biofuels appear to be, they are still better than petroleum. Better for communities. Better for the economy. Better for the environment, and better for the country.

Dr. Bob
October 22, 2017 11:12 am

From their own mouths:
The U.S. imported a record volume of biomass-based diesel in 2015. Imports of biodiesel and renewable diesel soared to an estimated 670 million gallons in 2015, up from 510 million gallons in 2014, according to U.S. EPA data. This increase in imports is particularly interesting because 2015 was a year with no forward-looking $1-per-gallon blender’s tax credit, and, for 11 months of the year, no RFS targets were in play. In 2013, however, an increased RFS mandate over 2012 coupled with a forward-looking tax credit made for another record year of imports. Nearly 350 million gallons biodiesel entered the U.S. in 2013, and more than 200 million gallons of renewable diesel from Neste Corp.’s Singapore production facility alone entered U.S. ports. That’s according to Susan Olson, who leads the ag and biofuels division at Genscape Inc., which hosted a webinar March 3 titled “Impacts of International Trade on the U.S. Biofuels Market.” U.S. production in 2015 remained flat at about 1.42 billion gallons, compared with around 1.47 billion gallons in 2014 and 1.50 billion gallons in 2013. http://www.biodieselmagazine.com/articles/924511/importing-to-meet-california-demand

Neste Oil has a particularly good situation importing hydroprocessed palm oils into California from their Singapore plant. They get all RINs at 1.7X the going RIN value plus a generous California LCFS bonus of over $1/gal plus blender credits. This is a highly profitable endeavor for Neste. They claim that they source Palm Oil from sources that don’t destroy rain forests, but that only increases demand causing others to source from the dreaded palm oil plantations which were once rainforests. IT is a zero sum game. If you increase demand for palm oil, someone will fill the demand which can only come from new sources which come from burning existing forests to create new plantations.

I have no problem with hydroprocessed renewable (bad term) diesel (HRD) as a fuel as it is much cleaner than conventional diesel in a number of ways. But FAME (Fatty Acid Methyl Ester) diesel is bad for a great number of reasons including softening of seals in engines and fuel systems as well as increased NOx emissions.

Our government at its finest. Mandating we use something that isn’t good for us or the environment.
Dr. Bob

Bill Murphy
Reply to  Dr. Bob
October 22, 2017 10:10 pm

For a little perspective, 1.42 billion gallons sounds like a lot, but that’s only 33.8 million barrels, or about 3 1/3 days of projected USA crude oil production for 2018. That’s volume. Total BTU content even less and NET BTU much less still. A minor energy player.

Retired Kit P
October 22, 2017 11:15 am

“Parasites have no enlightenment.”

I often wonder what folks do to make a living, especially when I see comments like this.

A few of us here brag about our accomplishments. Paul D for example wrote a book. He is a self ‘qualified’ expert. I am a board qualified senior reactor operator for both naval and stationary nuclear reactors. I produce electricity.

Parasites have important roles in society and many are enlightened. School teachers for example. I have profound disrespect for about ⅓ of teachers. I was watching my oldest play tennis. His high school tennis coach who was also the trig teacher who convinced him to drop math because it was too hard. We had something in common. We both went to naval nuclear power after college. However, he dropped out because it was too hard.

Then there are the ⅓ who make a difference. In college, there was a group of former enlisted military who were struggle with going back to college after being out of school for few years. It turns out an army vet and I both had the same inspirational science teacher.

My point is that accomplishment is easier for some than others. However, making a long list of reasons not to accomplish something takes no effort at all.

October 22, 2017 11:17 am

According to my research, we burn 34% of our entire corn crop in the form of ethanol primarily devoted to auto fuels. If this was such a great deal for the economy and the environment it should be carried out without any government subsidies.

The net effect of the “ethanol mandate” is to put motor vehicle fuel use at the top of the bidding list for corn. That is to say, if a fuel distribution company wants to sell one gallon of gasoline, it must pay any price for the ethanol necessary to comply with the mandate. Thus through the economic effects of substitution, that price becomes the benchmark for every other use of that corn or the hydrocarbons that can come from that corn. This trickles down to affect the price of other crops such as beans or wheat. It bids up the value of farm land. It bids up the prices of farm equipment. Lastly it bids up the world price of food, which was a factor in the overthrow of some governments in the Middle East, where they must import food.

(That last point was validated to me in person by an expert with direct experience on the ground in Egypt.)

To see how much of an economic mirage this has created, notice how loudly the farm lobby squeals when there is any hint of reducing the subsidy. This is a direct waste of billions. It is an indirect waste of even more billions. This was never a good idea. The more time that passes, the more bad effects accrue to it and all other biofuel subsidies.

Retired Kit P
Reply to  buckwheaton
October 22, 2017 12:50 pm

Well Buck you are not very good at doing research.

Start with the 2005 Energy Bill and read why the mandate for renewable fuels was put in place. There is no corn ethanol mandate.

For example, Texas could have used sugar cane ethanol.

Buck is not very good at engineering either. The food value of feed corn is not changed when an engineering process is used to remove the energy.

Buck is good at blame. Buck has not learned that association is not causation. Many factors affect food prices. It is a huge leap of logic to blame political turmoil in Egypt on Indiana corn farmers.

October 22, 2017 11:40 am

I would take a bit of issue with the criticism that USA corn for ethanol is contributing to world hunger. I quote ristvan in his comment from Sept 23/17 that this is to blame for a spike in world hunger. I think that parts of this essay reads more as a lobbyist than from a science point of view. For the record, IMHO, a bio diesel fuel cell could make an important contribution to the mix of energy mediums that we will need long into the future when fossil fuels become more important to manufacturing products from than they are to today for thermal combustion.


Disagree. The main biofuel produced from food crops is ethanol from maize (corn) in the US. But what is overlooked is the 41% of the corn crop used for ethanol turns into 28% protein enriched distillers grain, an outstanding ruminant food supplement. In the end, less than 13% of the crop. And almost all corn exports are as animal feed for hogs and poultry. Corn is an important diet consideration in Latin America and parts of Africa like Kenya. It is all produced and consumed locally.

Reply to  Earthling2
October 22, 2017 12:46 pm

It is very sound economics to state that when government mandates the use of fuel products derived in any way from the hydrocarbons that come from human-edible or animal-edible crops, that has the effect of directly tying the value of those crops to the world price of other sources of hydrocarbons. Since the main feedstock of hydrocarbons in liquid fuels products (gasoline, Jet-A) is petroleum the main world price in question is crude oil. That price differential is made worse in direct proportion to the level of government subsidies of biofuels. Since mandates and subsidy-distorted prices operate to increase the demand for these crops, there is only one way the price of those crops and every product derived from them can go. That is up.

There are a number of countries particularly in the Middle East that cannot grow enough grain crops to feed their populations. Those countries must import grains or products derived from grains such as bread flour and can only pay for them using foreign exchange. In the case of Egypt, that country had almost run out of foreign exchange and as a result the government decided to reduce the subsidy it gave for bread. The drastic increase in the price of bread has been traced directly to the civil disorder that precipitated the so-called “Arab Spring” and the overthrow of Egypt’s government. That lead to the turmoil elsewhere, including Libya.

see for example:
Boston Globe: The Arab Spring was a revolution of the hungry

Retired Kit P
Reply to  buckwheaton
October 22, 2017 12:54 pm

There you have, Buck learned economics from the Boston Globe.

Reply to  buckwheaton
October 22, 2017 1:53 pm

“The drastic increase in the price of bread has been traced directly to the civil disorder that precipitated the so-called “Arab Spring” and the overthrow of Egypt’s government. That lead to the turmoil elsewhere, including Libya.”

You may as well just blame climate change for the Russian drought, or the Syrian drouth, which most of is in a desert anyway. The Russian drought led to a slow down in exports of grains for bread etc to its client states. Or you may as well blame Hillary Clinton and Obama too for bungling the whole middle east file since 2009. The point is, to blame the ME problems on corn for ethanol in USA is very short sighted. The complexities of the problems in the ME are centuries old, if not older and include geopolitics at a global scale. Don’t blame corn ethanol here in the USA for the price of bread in Egypt. Or the malfeasance Gov’t that ruled there, although maybe decades of support for President Hosni Mubarak became part of the issue. Egypt used to be the bread basket for the Romans, so what happened to their ability to grow their own bread with all that fertile river land and irrigation availability?

October 22, 2017 11:44 am

The fence I am on is dividing me down the middle. I hate anything that is subsidized by the government that takes taxpayers money and gives it to special interest as crony capitalism to pick winners and creates losers. The losers are the people paying higher taxes and fees to subsidize the winners that get rich off of losers. The other side is the winners in this case employ a higher number of the population in the process that turns out the product in question. As an advocate of supporting higher CO2 for a healthier environment. The ethanol requires something like 2 to 3 gallons of fossil fuels to create 1 gallon of ethanol that also adds CO2 when it is burned. That’s a good thing in my point of view. Those millions of people that are directly and indirectly employed because of ethanol is also a good thing and also by their paying taxes and buying products from their incomes pay more taxes that offset the subsidising of the industry. That all the products those people are able to buy with their incomes therefore employ more people indirectly. The problems with the burning of ethanol has created employees too, as well as more employees to fix the damages it causes. The complexity of the whole situation therefore has increased employment and revenue that fund Governments that subsidize those products. The downside is the cost the people have to pay for the products with higher taxes and the damages it causes, because the government demands them to use those products.

Bruce Cobb
Reply to  johchi7
October 22, 2017 12:58 pm

The jobs argument is a losing one. Breaking windows can never be good for the economy.

Retired Kit P
Reply to  Bruce Cobb
October 22, 2017 1:08 pm

Bruce what do you to make a living? I think it looks a lot like the breaking window industry than does farming.

Reply to  Bruce Cobb
October 22, 2017 5:28 pm

“Retired” talks like he’s never worked an honest day in his life.

Reply to  johchi7
October 22, 2017 1:03 pm

In 1850 the French economist Frédéric Bastiat wrote an essay describing the economic effects of the following events: A band of ruffians breaks the windows of a shop. The shopkeeper must hire several tradesmen to repair the damage. An outside observer will say, well look at how many people benefitted from the work. The glass company is happy too. But this is a shortsighted conclusion for it does not take into account the work or economic benefit that would have come from the shopkeeper’s money but for it being consumed to replace a functioning asset. The economic effect of any decision is the sum total of what is seen and unseen. We only see the window being fixed. What economic effect is unseen is how the shopkeeper would have spent the money. What is unseen is the person he would have hired but now cannot because he no longer has the capital set aside.

The wealth that was destroyed is the amount of wealth it took to restore the shop windows to their pre-incident condition. In addition, the shopkeeper can never gain wealth from the benefit he would have derived from his planned investment of it. That loss stretches into to the practical future as a loss of the perpetual profit.

When government mandates some activity, it is almost certain that there was no profit in doing it or else a private business would already be working assiduously to earn that profit. The money of the subsidy and all the economic effects of the mandate are loss, no matter how well hidden or how widely dispersed or how diffuse in the broader economy. It matters not how many people it employs as they could have be employed to earn a profit. Now they are employed as an expense. Just like hiring them to dig a hole and fill it up.

Parable of the broken window

Retired Kit P
Reply to  buckwheaton
October 22, 2017 1:19 pm

“Just like hiring them to dig a hole and fill it up.”

Farmers are actually producing something we need. Furthermore, they produce more than we need.

Furthermore there is no rule that says we can do things in more than one way or that the cheapest is always the best.

I have nothing against economic arguments other than they seem to me agenda driven than useful in determine a long term best plan.

Retired Kit P
Reply to  johchi7
October 22, 2017 1:06 pm

It is not subsidized it is a mandate.

The market place determined that corn ethanol was the winner.

It takes the same amount of tractor fuel to produce corn to feed it directly to cows and chickens as does for corn processed to remove energy.

For the record, the Ag industry pays taxes just like power industry. Blaming higher prices on producers and ignoring the taxes they pay gets old.

Everyone wants cheap food and energy but demand to be overpaid for how they make a living.

Reply to  Retired Kit P
October 22, 2017 4:05 pm

It is not subsidized it is a mandate

“Subsidy” and “mandate” aren’t mutually-exclusive terms.

mandate: (dictionary.com)
1. a command or authorization to act in a particular way on a public issue given by the electorate to its representative
2. a command from a superior court or official to a lower one
3. an authoritative order or command

subsidy (dictionary.com)
1. a direct pecuniary aid furnished by a government to a private industrial undertaking, a charity organization, or the like.

Here’s an example of “subsidy” and “mandate” working together in perfect harmony:

= = = = =
Since its creation of the domestic market for corn ethanol after the energy crisis of the 1970s, the federal government has nurtured and maintained the ethanol industry with a steady stream of subsidies.
Biofuels enjoy a guaranteed market as their production is mandated by the federal government through the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).
= = = = =

Reply to  Retired Kit P
October 22, 2017 5:42 pm


The process of corn to ethanol extracts the starch for the fuel and still leaves feed corn for livestock and the high fructose corn syrup as other products that are sold. So instead of just one product as feed or milling for meal for human consumption, etc…the process creates a division into more products from the same source corn.


Corn is subsidized whether for fuel or direct uses as livestock feed or to human food,etc.


Again this is why I said “The ethanol requires something like 2 to 3 gallons of fossil fuels to create 1 gallon of ethanol that also adds CO2 when it is burned.” where quoting from this last link… “So what if we have to spend 2 BTUs for each BTU of alcohol fuel produced?” and “If government funds become short, subsidies for fuels will be looked at very carefully,” he said “When they are, there’s no way ethanol production can survive.”

In my opinion, the government should never subsidize something that should be able to create enough of a profit by itself.


But as I gave in my comment above in general… all of these subsidies tend to pay for themselves by employing a greater number of people that work to grow the crops to the distribution of each of their byproducts to you the consumer, as their incomes generate not only taxes that repay the subsidies, but growth of other industries creating products those employees buy with their income, that creates more taxes that fund your local communities to the federal and state government where the subsidies come from.

I am not throwing stones or digging holes. There shouldn’t be any subsidizing. The fact that there is subsidizing is all I am showing how it affects this industry. Trump won a lot of these areas because he supported the ethanol production that his opposition was against. It’s the “Swamp Dwellers” that have swayed him somewhat on it and now he seems to be against them. We still have to wait to see how that plays out.

October 22, 2017 5:47 pm

Crap news

October 22, 2017 9:34 pm

Notes from 2012:


Thank you for your kind words. In 1998 I briefly took over management of an oil company that also owned an ethanol plant in Wyoming. Despite good management and huge state and federal subsidies, it only broke even. I know a little about the corn ethanol business. We had great people and they worked really hard, but it was just the wrong business.

I recently sent something like this to one of our more intelligent Canadian senators:


I have widely publicized this information for about a decade, so it should not be news to anyone who follows the subject.

I have long believed that corn ethanol used for motor fuel, and grid-connected wind power and solar power are energy and economic nonsense.

I wrote these conclusions in articles published as early as 2002.

My point is that this information is not new and it has been clearly stated in public forums such as this one many times before, for about a decade.

The fact that it has been routinely ignored is, I suggest, a measure of the utter incompetence and corruption that pervades the entire subject of energy and the environment.

But I digress – my immediate concern, which I apologize for carping about yet again, is the use of 40% of the huge USA corn crop for gasoline additives. Due to the drought this season, corn now costs over US$8 per bushel – and corn is a staple for many poor people in the Americas.

This situation is simply wrong – it is a monstrous ethical and humanitarian failing, and our leaders in the USA and Canada should have the courage and integrity to end the fuel ethanol mandate immediately.

John Hardy
October 23, 2017 12:55 am

“a monstrous ethical and humanitarian failing” I agree

Nick de Cusa
October 23, 2017 1:41 am

google public choice theory

October 23, 2017 7:38 am

I like Ethanol being available but, not mandated. It’s nice to run a tank or 4 during the winter to keep moisture out of the fuel system. Super/turbo-charged engines make the best usage of it. Corn is currently less than $4 a bushel (US) and is not expected to rise much in the next 4 years according to the Agboard. Not like much of the good corn gets used anyway. Much of that corn they use is low-grade and then it’s fed to livestock after cleaning, cooking and energy removal. I believe Ethanol is a product worth having around and it sure would be nice if it could be done profitably. Maybe in the future.

Bio-diesel. I haven’t figured out any good reason to have it around. It’ll do in a pinch but, there doesn’t appear to be any pinching going on anytime soon.

October 23, 2017 11:12 am

Boycott Iowa! Okay, well continue to boycott Iowa.

October 23, 2017 1:34 pm

Solution to the argument:
Remove ALL subsidies and let the “gods sort them out” (credit to Floki (AKA Gustaf Skarsgård) of The Vikings network series)

October 23, 2017 1:34 pm

Solution to the argument:
Remove ALL subsidies and let the “gods sort them out” (credit to Floki (AKA Gustaf Skarsgård) of The Vikings network series)

Gene siedenburg
October 23, 2017 4:38 pm

Don’t believe this !!! Big oil gets Hugh subsidies every year, it’s called fuel independence , we made the Saudis rich and they are trying to break the biofuels industry’s. Then oil prices will skyrocket again. Investigate for your self

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