Tuesday Titter – Burnt Edition

Josh writes”

Another ‘Then and Now’ cartoon inspired by the brilliant @LD_Sceptics article “There is No Food Crisis – If Only We Stopped Burning it as ‘Green’ Biofuel

Like his work? Buy him a pint.

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August 9, 2022 2:35 pm

Why is it, that like so many things that sustain life, elites look at farming and farmers with derision?

Reply to  Scissor
August 9, 2022 3:52 pm

Too close to the dirt.

Reply to  Scissor
August 9, 2022 10:39 pm

Gentlemen and Players Syndrome. The elites are Gentlemen (and, of course, Gentlewoment, and any other definition), while the rest of us are Players. Gentlemen never get their hands dirty, while the Players do.

Reply to  Scissor
August 10, 2022 5:14 am

I anticipate a change there – now that Farmer Bill has arrived on the scene!

Sly from the North
Reply to  Scissor
August 10, 2022 4:39 pm

I think it depends more on the type of food produced and the means and intrants used to produced them, then on the activity itself.

Reply to  Scissor
August 11, 2022 3:09 am

Not elites: scumites!

Mark D
Reply to  Mike Haseler (aka Scottish Sceptic)
August 11, 2022 7:09 am

When I hear “elites” I think “parasites”.

Bill Powers
August 9, 2022 2:36 pm

I think I read on here many years ago that it requires more Carbon Energy to make ethanol: i.e. transport, convert, transport, distribute than the ethanol actually delivers in usable energy. If true we could reduce our carbon footprint by not making ethanol and likely lower the price of food.

Reply to  Bill Powers
August 9, 2022 4:02 pm

Yes, it’s true. Ethanol production is subsidized by government “green energy” schemes, like many environmentally destructive practices. And real food could be grown on that land instead of GMO Monsanto corn syrup.

Rud Istvan
Reply to  Bill Powers
August 9, 2022 4:20 pm

See comment below. It depends on the farming assumptions. With US best practices, the net energy gain is positive, not negative. It does not become skeptics to adopt (echo) only worst case assumptions.

Mike Dubrasich
Reply to  Rud Istvan
August 9, 2022 8:41 pm

Ditto Rud. Please let’s not go Carbon Crazy. Who gives a fig about “carbon footprints”? CO2 is the fundamental building block of life, and just in case you think it’s the control knob of climate, warmer is better.

Farmers grow what consumers want and will pay for, edible or not. There is no corn shortage. Corn is cheap. If a famine occurs, it will due to runaway authoritarianism, not farmers. Put down the gun and hug a farmer.

Reply to  Mike Dubrasich
August 10, 2022 5:19 pm

I disagree. Moving carbon around uses resources. Moving less carbon for the same useful output is probably best.

Reply to  Rud Istvan
August 10, 2022 5:18 pm

Then US agriculture distillate should be cheap.
Why would green stuff not be cheap?

Reply to  Rud Istvan
August 11, 2022 6:01 am

Barely positive. Corn ethanol is a poor choice. In the bigger picture, even the better biofuel crops suffer the same limitations as wind and solar. Highly dispersed, low energy density (low Btus per acre), no matter what crop you grow.

If crops planted, cultivated and harvested themselves spontaneously, and were then sun dried and burned in place with 100% recovery as useful energy, we would need to plant every arable acre in the U.S. and still not come even remotely close to meeting societal demand for fuels. Of course, then we would have no food, feed or fiber.

On-farm applications, especially for wastes, can be quite effective, as Rud well knows. But societal scale industrial biofuels is a loser.

Reply to  Bill Powers
August 11, 2022 3:15 am

I spoke to a farmer who said they had looked at going over to bio-diesel crops (oil seeds) and they had worked out that 50% of the crop would never leave the farm as it would be needed to power the equipment on the farm. I’ve now learnt that if they do away with petrochemical fertilisers that they reduce output by 30% …but they still have to run most of the same farm equipments. So of the 70% of remaining output, 50% (of original) goes to bio-diesel to run the farm leaving 20%. Then you start factoring in things like the biodiesel needed to transport equipment to the farm, the biodiesel for the postman, even the biodiesel for the customs and excise checking that the bio-diesel isn’t being sold off the farm without paying tax, and soon, the entire crop is being allocated for something or other, without (net) a single drop of bio-diesel being produced.

August 9, 2022 2:42 pm

And it’s only green biofuel if it’s organic corn?

Joao Martins
Reply to  MJP
August 10, 2022 2:59 am

This IS a very pertinent question, I don’t understand the “minuses” it got.

Somewhere in this discussion Rud Istvan wrote: “With US best practices, the net energy gain is positive, not negative.”

The meaningful expression is “With US best practices”, stress on “best”: what are they? Conventional agriculture using tried and proven scientific agronomic practices, or “organic” production?

(Long argument, just a hint: For some reason corn is not native of where it is cropped in the USA, nature created the species way farther south, then the humans living there selected for more seeds in bigger ears, which need bigger plants to enable that growth. Neither the original corn not the artificially selected that is cultivated seem to be able to thrive where it is cropped in yhe USA without a “little” help from humans. By the way, I have great doubts that cultivated corn can survive on its own even in its “center of origin”: it is a completelly domestic species created by artificial selection; in a stric sense, “domestication” means the total dependence from humans for reproduction as a species or variety).

Trying to Play Nice
Reply to  Joao Martins
August 10, 2022 4:57 am

I doubt if most people could survive on their own in the woods. So what is your point about corn?

Joao Martins
Reply to  Trying to Play Nice
August 11, 2022 4:15 am

My point is, for corn “survival” in crop fields, it must have A LOT of inputs delivered; it will not survive out of what it gets from the soil and the thin air in the region where it is cropped in the USA. And because of that, most calculations of the energy gain or loss are flawed: too many inputs ignored.

August 9, 2022 3:58 pm

I have to shake my head at the imbecility of people who think that growing, harvesting, transporting, processing corn to extract some ethanol for a 10% additive to gasoline is somehow “green / planet-saving”.

(It is in one respect – only people “green behind the ears” would believe this).

Reply to  Mr.
August 10, 2022 5:21 pm

Also how can you emit “less carbon” while paying more?
What the heck are you paying for?

Note that applies to EPR construction too. There is certainly a lot of fossil fuel linked to these ridiculous “safe” design.

Rud Istvan
August 9, 2022 4:09 pm

I like Josh’s work. But it is unfortunately based on three partial myths thatbI woild hope skeptics here would not propagate. Facts just are.

One is that it takes more diesel to grow corn than the ethanol energy it provides. Many studies have looked at this using varying farming assumptions (for example, moldboard or chisel plowing (or both) then harrowing before planting (‘tilling’, usually at least two heavily loaded tractor passes) requires much more tractor diesel than no till planting using glyphosate, one combined pass with the relatively lightly loaded tractor. Having looked at many such studies, IMO the actual in practice in US ethanol net energy gain is about 1.4x. Not something less than 1.

Second is that ethanol blended into gasoline is all about biofuels. It isn’t, and never was—until the farm lobby got onto E15 and (worse) E85. Ethanol is an octane enhancer replacing groundwater polluting MBTE, itself developed to replace air polluting tetraethyl lead. Any octane enhancer is good, because it enhances the number of useful gasoline gallons that can be refined from a barrel of crude. Ethanol is near ideal because it doesn’t pollute anything. And there is a second benefit. It is an oxygenate additive, so reduces summer smog. The original 10% ethanol max national ‘blendwall’ was set by figuring ‘ideal’ ethanol for premium gas for smog prone LA summers. Most pumps say ‘up to 10%’, because different regions will blend less, varying by season and gasoline grade.

And the third myth I have commented on here before, using my large Wisconsin dairy farm as the personal fact example. No different than when I bought it in 1985 we used 75# hemp twine string bound rectangular hay bales laboriously collected and stored in the barn lofts using bale wagons and bale lifts. But now we use only 1000# hemp mesh bound hay bales stored in white plastic ‘sausages’ on field edges, moved by tractor bale forks. (I haven’t needed to use my hand hay bale hooks for over two decades. They are obsolete antiques from an era when much more farm harvest labor was required.) We used to grow less corn and more alfalfa, crush it cobbed in a tractor implement, and use the crush as a direct alfalfa feed supplement (along with separately harvested chopped fermented green corn silage stored in two tall blue Harvestors). Our cows never did like the crushed cob corn very well. We had lots of birds (like our wild turkeys) pecking undigested corn kernel bits out of the pasture cow pies. About two decades ago, we began selling all our corn (harvesting kernels only using a new harvester so the cobs go returned to the soil) for ethanol (no more fermented green corn silage—the Harvestor silos now sit empty), buying back the after fermentation protein enhanced (from yeast) ‘distillers grain’. Nationally, about 42 percent of the corn crop goes to ethanol, returning in about 27% distillers grain (both by ‘dry’ weight defined as 7% moisture—the level at which deadly fusarium mold cannot develop). Our cows love their distillers grain, an ideal ruminant feedstock supplement (it is protein and roughage enriched, just what ruminants want). The upshot is we now plant more corn, less alfalfa, have happier dairy cows, and make more money dairy farming. (Ours are all ‘black and white’ Holsteins, about 350 head (milking about 150 at any point in time) run on a combined about 460 acres. My neighbor owns the new circular sunken working pit milking parlor for the combined operation. Only cost about $250k (ok, about two new 150hp tractors equivalents)—cut milking labor from three to two people and from 3 hours per parlor session to 1.5, so a no brainer farm labor return on farm capital investment. Combined, we are just inside the top quartile for Wisconsin dairy farms by cows and class 1 milk output.

Willem post
Reply to  Rud Istvan
August 9, 2022 4:55 pm

Thx for a great summary

Dave Yaussy
Reply to  Willem post
August 10, 2022 5:44 pm

Agreed. Though I had seen Rud’s explanation before, this was another great summary my farming relatives will appreciate

John Hultquist
Reply to  Rud Istvan
August 9, 2022 7:32 pm

Let’s repeat this: Ethanol is an octane enhancer replacing groundwater polluting MBTE, itself developed to replace air polluting tetraethyl lead.

Effective January 1, 1996, the Clean Air Act banned the sale of the small amount of leaded fuel that was still available in some parts of the country for use in on-road vehicles.

Folks born before 1980 will not be familiar with this history.
EPA Takes Final Step in Phaseout of Leaded Gasoline | About EPA | US EPA

Joao Martins
Reply to  John Hultquist
August 10, 2022 3:18 am

Then, the energy balance should NOT be only thought as ethanol REPLACING oil, it should also take into account the “enhancement” it makes in gas.

Also: as it is not MAINLY a REPLACEMENT (in terms of energy), the optimum percentage of the mixture (respecting to octane enhancement) should be calsculated and not arbitrarily established by a political mandate; but that was never done, as far as I know, neither in the USA nor in any other country.

David Blenkinsop
Reply to  Rud Istvan
August 9, 2022 8:43 pm

You say, “(‘tilling’, usually at least two heavily loaded tractor passes) requires much more tractor diesel than no till planting using glyphosate, one combined pass with the relatively lightly loaded tractor.”

Which makes sense in terms of the point you are making, that there is a gain of ethanol energy versus the tractor fuel used to produce the ethanol, at least when chemicals are used instead of traditional tilling. However, I am not seeing any sign there that this is a truly complete accounting of the *total* energy cost of producing ethanol? What about the energy that went into producing the glyphosate, and other farm inputs, including the cost of repairing the tractor as needed, etc?

I am not attempting an in depth analysis here, but the prospect that government subsidies have to be used to motivate the bioethanol production is in itself almost a sure sign that this practice uses more energy overall than it produces. Also it just seems plausible that this farming energy cost is most likely associated with more, not less, use of fossil fuels! Get modern farming involved, pay tax dollars to get ethanol out of that system, and are you getting enough solar energy storage in the ethanol to balance what is used up on the regular fuel end of things — including everything that industry requires to make all the things that the farmers require?

Going a bit further, since you mention E85 fuel as problematic, why, I’m sure that governments are promoting this (maybe not as ostentatiously as they promote lithium battery vehicles, but still). The point of Josh’s cartoon remains a good one then, unless they are going to admit that burning mostly biofuels is a bad idea?

Jon R
Reply to  David Blenkinsop
August 10, 2022 10:40 am

^^^ This. Unfortunatly to be a good dairy farmer you have to be a good grifter. No offense just saying. Grew up on a cattle farm and never trusted the dairy boys.

Willem post
August 9, 2022 4:49 pm

Biden changed gasoline to having 15% ethanol, instead of 10%.
That means 45 million acres will be in corn, instead of 30 million
Does Pelosi’s husband know about that growth opportunity?

Reply to  Willem post
August 9, 2022 5:01 pm

Pauli Sr. is kinda retired…it’s Pauli Jr. taking ovah….the old witch just took Pauli Jr. over to Asia with her….oops, that wuz a BIG SECRET….

August 9, 2022 4:55 pm

Lots of technology going into farming…use a drone with camera to determine which parts of a field need more or less fertilizer and the gps allows the fertlizer to be dispensed to match the need rather than a fixed rate application….and those tractors are gonna become no operator needed.

John Hultquist
Reply to  Anti-griff
August 9, 2022 7:39 pm

those tractors are gonna ….

Now done. As replacements for existing equipment are purchased these will be common.
They now can control a 2nd tractor from one with an operator in it keeping visual contact.
Alternatively, on office operator and watch over several.

Peta of Newark
August 9, 2022 8:15 pm

Read this one carefully folks – in the light of Rud’s outpouring – it really rather blows Ethanol clean out of the water – especially a lot of the generous claims made about the stuff.
But we know why that is, Rud has ‘Taken the King’s Shilling‘ – this makes him happy and he’s projecting that onto his bovine charges.
Who wouldn’t?



  • High exhaust emissions of organics (smog) from engines burning Ethanol
  • Poisoned catalysts,
  • Corroded engines from water affinity, thus acid creation.
  • Blocked fuel filters from slime & algae growth within fuel tanks
  • Poor cold starting
  • Gummed up Copper parts
  • Low flame temp (crap engine efficiency)
  • Reduced fuel economy = meaning more fossil is actually consumed
  • Even modern computer controlled engines cannot handle the stuff –
  • i.e. Yes it increases Octane in theory but that increase is unusable
  • If the Octane increase was used, it would increase NOx emissions, = yet more smog (Photochemical variety this time)
  • That it replaces MTBE is a tired old crock, MTBE is effectively banned for well over 10 years now – yet the wheels kept on rolling?

3rd from lastly, cows are Sugar Eaters, how can they be ‘happy’ eating mush that’s had all its sugar extracted?
Otherwise, what would happen to the waste from Ethanol factories, how much to be rid of if cows didn’t eat it? (Silly me, people would eat it)
What would E10, E15 or E85 fuel cost if nobody ate the waste?

2nd from lastly: How to explain the huge correlation between Roundup use (per acre and in toto) and Covid fatalities in those areas – Glyphosate now seemingly an absolute requirement for growing anything & everything in the US these days but esp Corn

1st from lastly: How much to reverse the childhood dementias coming from Roundup use/poisoning? At present rate that = 100% of all children by year = 2050. What about adult dementias?

Zero’th from lastly: How to reverse/repair the soil erosion (dust storms, muddy-water floods & elevated CO2 levels) and water consumption from its production?

i.e There are no Free Lunches, no matter how vehemently Governments and their crony scientists & lawyers may claim to the contrary

Reply to  Peta of Newark
August 10, 2022 12:54 am

Seek help …. May the Glyphosate be with you.

Reply to  LdB
August 10, 2022 5:20 am

Yep, Lefties want a new DDT to attack!

Reply to  Peta of Newark
August 10, 2022 7:35 am

What about Brazil? Brazil produces 2 sugar cane crops per year to make alcohol and sugar……and VW plant in Brazil used to make a car that used E100. In WW2, some fighter planes had supercharged engines that used alcohol added when into the boost.

August 9, 2022 11:43 pm

why did wheat change to corn?

Ben Vorlich
Reply to  billtoo
August 10, 2022 3:46 am

Corn is an interesting word. Where I grew it referred to oats the predominant cereal crop, But on the internet
The sense of the Old English word was “grain with the seed still in” (as in barleycorn) rather than a particular plant. Locally understood to denote the leading crop of a district. It has been restricted to the indigenous “maize” in America (c. 1600, originally Indian corn, but the adjective was dropped), usually “wheat” in England, “oats” in Scotland and Ireland, while Korn means “rye” in parts of Germany.

August 10, 2022 1:52 am

The local garages in my area of England sell high-octane “E5” fuel which is actually E0. At 4% more expensive than E10 but giving 5% more economy and power, it’s the logical choice. With the added bonus that it doesn’t rot my engine from the inside.

Reply to  Roger
August 10, 2022 5:17 am

Yep – when E10 came in, I tried it for a month (in my Fiat Panda) and found I got 10% less mpg than with E5. Surprise, surprise, I now use E5 and save at least 5% on cost per mile. It really is one of the stupidest scams ever.

Dr. Bob
August 10, 2022 7:33 am

The production of all biofuels are tied up with both the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 which established the Renewable Fuels Standard and the California AB 32 Global Warming Reduction Act which authorized CARB to establish the California Low Carbon Fuels Standard. Both of these acts subsidize “renewable” fuels but on different bases. RFS is a fixed credit called a RIN which is then sold on an exchange with pricing based on demand from “Obligated Parties”, fuel producers and marketers that are obligated to use a certain volume of renewable fuels each year established by the EPA known as Renewable Volume Obligations. The RVO for ethanol is about 16 billion gallons per year or just over 1 million bbl/day.
The current value of subsidies for Ethanol are $1.62/gal. This is paid by the Obligated Party and passed on to the end user in fuel costs. Biodiesel and Renewable Diesel get $1.765/gal today. Cellulosic Biofuels (made in small quantities get $3.01/gal subsidy. These values are then corrected for the energy content of the fuel with biodiesel having a 1.6 multiplier and Renewable diesel a 1.7 multiplier. Thus RD produced from soy oil gets subsidies of $3.02/gal. This is passed on to the end user in the cost of fuel. Essentially a hidden tax.
Much more to discuss in this area.

Dr. Bob
August 10, 2022 8:13 am

People pay a lot of attention to ethanol in gasoline as so much corn is used to produce the 16 billion gal/yr currently consumed in the US. What is not discussed is the massive amount of biodiesel and renewable diesel that is produced from FOG, Fats, Oils, Greases. Fog is mostly (>60%) soy oil, so this has to be grown. Waste FOG such as Used Cooking Oil (UCO) and animal fats are all spoken for. It takes about 8 lbs of FOG to make a gallon of diesel. The current value of FOG is between $0.70 and $0.80/lb, so the feedstock costs between $5.60 and $6.40/gal. Then there are production costs and transportation costs as BD cannot be shipped by pipeline and must be railed to the final destination. All this adds to the hidden cost of fuel due to government mandates and have nothing to do with crude pricing.
The troubling aspect of this is that EPA and NGO pressure on refiners is forcing them to convert smaller refineries into Renewable Diesel plants. These facilities have capacities of 46,000 to 53,000 bbl/day for the Martines and Rodeo, CA refineries alone. Each one will require delivery of 1 unit train per day (100 rail cars at 23,000 gal/car) of FOG just to keep the plant running. Each refinery conversion will need new soy oil feedstock which will require planting 14 million new acres of soybeans or cannibalizing that much soy oil from other uses including biodiesel production. And there are more new RD plants and expansions of existing plants proposed or actually being built. Grön Fuels, LLC – Fidelis New Energy is proposing a greenfield 73,000 bbl/day FOG to RD facility in Louisiana. This will require 9 billion lbs of FOG per year to keep it operational. A staggering amount of land area will be required to grow that much soy oil. The US average yield of soy oil is just under 600 lbs/acre. Thus you need 15 million acres of new soybean planting to produce feedstock for this plant. We consume 20 million bbl/day of total fuel and chemical products, so you need 274 RD plants to meet the volume of fuel currently used in the US. So, no matter what, you cannot grow your way out of using fossil fuels.

Bruce Cobb
August 10, 2022 8:32 am

It’s hard to know who or what to believe about ethanol, so it all comes down to cost. When all costs are considered, including subsidies, opportunity costs, etc., my guess is that it adds considerable expense to the cost of driving. Some of the claimed benefits either were never true, or are no longer true (such as energy security).

Dr. Bob
Reply to  Bruce Cobb
August 10, 2022 9:37 am

Oxygenated Fuels were first introduced in the late 1970’s to lean out the air/fuel ratio of carbureted engines under the belief that most were running rich. This would reduce CO emissions, so they thought as CO was what was driving smog regulations. But the oxygenates, of which Methyl Tert-Butyl Eather (MTBE) was the best option, only helped increase NOx emissions which were harder to control. Only with the introduction of feedback control systems and advanced three-way catalytic converters was there a good way to reduce both NOx and CO. Now these emissions are so low as to be insignificant contributors to air pollution.
People forget that plant life in 1970 contributed half the atmospheric hydrocarbons to the smog equation, and there was nothing that could be done about that. Unless you want to cement over the entire LA basin, which is happening anyway.

August 11, 2022 3:03 am

The basic information we need is that an average adult needs about 20kg food a month or 240kg of food for a year. Then, all we need do is guess how long this climate insanity will continue, add on a few years to cope with the time it will take to recover anything near current levels of food output, and hey presto.. you know how much food you need to get over the climate insanity.

The other thing worth knowing, is that modern house floor can only bear about 140kg per square meter. Which is about six months food per square meter. So, for a family of five, you’ll need a room of 10 square meters per year of climate insanity.

If, we then assume the insanity lasts at least as long as the Russian five year plans, with a few years for recovery, you might budget on filling your entire house with food … whilst you live in a tent outside.

Did I mention the second house for the fuel? You may also want a few rooms stocked with weapons to repel the starving people trying to get your food.

Yep … we’re **ed, and most people here are rich enough to think of doing the above!

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