published Tuesday, July 10th, 2012

A drought of common sense

High temperatures and drought in many parts of the Midwest are harming America's corn crop, experts say.

And that presents Congress with additional justification to end its costly promotion of ethanol. It is true that the direct 46-cent-per-gallon subsidy for production of corn-based ethanol finally ended this year. But it is equally true that by federal law, 15 billion gallons of corn-based ethanol still will be getting blended into the nation's fuel supply by 2015.

The cost of that is high to us all as consumers.

That's because the propping up of an ethanol market that would otherwise collapse under the weight of its own pointlessness and unpopularity has led to the diversion of massive amounts of corn out of the U.S. food supply and into fuel production. And that means we pay more for groceries ranging from corn-fed beef and cereal to corn chips and sweeteners.

Now, thanks to an unfortunate assist from bad weather, those grocery prices may be going even higher. With corn supplies already strained by the rerouting of much of the crop to ethanol manufacturing, a drought-spawned poor harvest might very well lead to some eye-popping bills in the checkout line.

And for what -- other than to placate farm state lawmakers who use federal backing for ethanol to buy votes?

Expanding ethanol production certainly isn't a boon to the environment, no matter what its fans on Capitol Hill claim. Corn requires lots of land to grow, not to mention lots of pesticides and fertilizer. It also takes a great deal of diesel fuel to run the farm equipment necessary to grow and harvest all of that corn.

Moreover, ethanol harms small engines and can reduce gas mileage.

It is high time that Congress get out of the business of subsidizing energy production -- of any type, but most especially of expensive, counterproductive ethanol.

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Why pay more at home when we can just mindlessly pay more overseas? Or to lung doctors because we can't clean the air?

And why not realize the problem is using a badly made engine when you can just blame the fuel? Can't possibly be that your problems could be solved with a better engine. Can't consider thatl

BTW, anybody who uses the false statistic about cornfields using more fuel than they produce discredits themselves. That number was shown to be a lie since it was charging the entirety of a corn field's consumption when most of the production went to food stocks.

July 10, 2012 at 2:07 a.m.
conservative said...

Two excepts from the very Liberal :

most important (and most astonishing), it may take more energy to produce a gallon of ethanol than it actually contains.

David Pimentel, a professor of ecology at Cornell University who has been studying grain alcohol for 20 years, and Tad Patzek, an engineering professor at the University of California, Berkeley, co-wrote a recent report that estimates that making ethanol from corn requires 29 percent more fossil energy than the ethanol fuel itself actually contains.

Corn Dog The ethanol subsidy is worse than you can imagine. By Robert Bryce

July 10, 2012 at 11:57 a.m.

Thanks for citing that discredited report.

Turns out they were fudging numbers with inaccurate and misleading methodology.

You couldn't do a better job of ruining your position.

July 10, 2012 at 3:55 p.m.
nucanuck said...


This may be the first time in history that you may be closer to the truth than happy.

EROEI takes in many factors that most of us never even consider, but the brutal truth is that most new forms of energy are dropping in EROEI to closer and closer to ZERO.

Canadian tar sands profitability would be quite low if natural gas prices had not been driven down by a temporary glut. That won't last because natgas companies are losing huge dollars at current pricing (and supply).

The bottom line is that low cost, easy to extract energy is in decline. Remaining energy sources, fossil or renewable, are going to rise more quickly than our ability to buy.

Only a harsh economic downturn will suppress demand enough to interupt this inevitability.

July 10, 2012 at 9:47 p.m.

Nope, conservative was nowhere close to the truth. That report has been widely debunked.

For example, it charges the ENTIRE cost of a corn field to ethanol production when the vast majority of the field's outputs went to non-ethanol foodstocks.

You can certainly dislike the use of distiller's grains to fatten cattle, but it shouldn't be used to promote a false agenda against ethanol.

The numerous other examples of sloppy methodology in it just compound the problem. If you want to make a point about energy conservation, you don't need to hang out with known liars who have their own intentions.

July 10, 2012 at 11:07 p.m.
nucanuck said...

Everything is debunked by someone. Rightly or wrongly, I follow The Oil Drum and Nicole Foss at The Automatic Earth for the most reliable insights to be had. Neither has much positive to say about the economics of ethanol. I highly recommend both site for regular reading.

July 10, 2012 at 11:24 p.m.

There's a difference between debunked and disputed.

I'm sure there's somebody disputing everything, but a genuine debunking? That's another matter.

The problems with the above report are well known, and if your sites look at them, they are not much, if at all, better.

July 10, 2012 at 11:57 p.m.
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