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Posts Tagged ‘ethanol’


Tuesday, November 30th, 2010

November 30, 2010
Nuclear Townhall
Is it conceivable that a group of far-left environmentalists and far-right Tea Party insurgents can combine to take on perhaps the most powerful political constituency in the United States Senate, the farm lobby?
Maybe if they have Al Gore behind them.
A diverse coalition that included the Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth, Oxfam, Freedom Works, The American Taxpayers Union, the American Conservative Union, and the National Chicken Council sent a joint letter yesterday to both Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell asking them to discontinue the ethanol tax credit when it expires in January.
“Congress has the opportunity to end the $6 billion a year subsidy to gasoline refiners who blend corn ethanol into gasoline,” said the letter. “At a time of spiraling deficits, we do not believe Congress should continue subsidizing gasoline refiners for something that they are already required to do by the Renewable Fuels Standard.”
Conservatives, of course, have long been opposed to the tax subsidy as throwing good government money after a bad idea. Maverick scientists such as Dr. David Pimentel of Cornell have also long argued that ethanol was not even producing any new energy, since it requires large inputs from fossil fuels to grow corn.
Now environmental activists have joined, with even Al Gore admitting last week that subsidizing ethanol was a mistake and that he only did it to curry favor with Iowa farmers during his Presidential campaign.
World food organizations have long been expressing their alarm as well, since competition from biofuels drives up the price of corn. That’s the reason for the Chicken Council – chickens live on corn. In 2007, a UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food condemned biofuels as a “crime against humanity.”
So does all this mean the ethanol subsidy – initiated in 1979 by President Jimmy Carter – will be ending?  Don’t bet on it. Each farm state has two Senators and with over 200 ethanol distilleries up and running in the Midwest there won’t be many votes in favor. And even if the tax credit is eliminated, federal mandates that all gasoline contain 10 percent ethanol will remain.
As the late economics professor Arthur Nelson postulated in Nelson’s 3rd Law, “The more a government subsidy distorts the market, the harder it is to get rid of it.”

Read more about it at the Hill blog


Wednesday, November 24th, 2010

November 24, 2010
Nuclear Townhall
From the Editors

Al Gore’s admission that ethanol subsidies are bad for just about everything may reverberate into the coming Congressional debate over whether to extend the tax advantages and/or expand the mandate to 15 percent in gasoline.

Earlier this week, Gore confessed to an environmental conference in Greece that ethanol had been a bad idea all along. "It is not a good policy to have these massive subsidies for first generation ethanol," Gore told the gathering. "First generation ethanol I think was a mistake. The energy conversion ratios are at best very small.” 

Moreover, he admitted that his real motivation in plugging ethanol was to curry favor with farmers.  “One of the reasons I made that mistake is that I paid particular attention to the farmers in my home state of Tennessee, and I had a certain fondness for the farmers in the state of Iowa because I was about to run for president."

The matter may not end there. On yesterday’s American Spectator website, Andrew Cline, editorial page editor of the New Hampshire Union Leader, chronicles the long history about how, as Vice President, Gore cast tie-breaking votes several time to keep ethanol subsidies alive.

It’s not a pretty picture.

Scientific opinion had turned against ethanol well back in the 1990s but the lobbying pressure from farmers only became so intense. Gore played a big part in succumbing to this pressure. It was only after rising world corn prices set off riots around the globe in 2007 that the case against ethanol began to gain political punch. Even former oil man and President George W. Bush succumbed to the ethanol mystique, promising to double U.S. capacity by 2012.

The Obama Administration proposed the 15 percent standard and is locked into ethanol subsidies. With 189 ethanol distilleries already operating in the Midwest and 16 more under construction, it will take a powerful coterie of politicians to stand up to the ethanol lobby. But the incoming Tea Party Congress may just be that group.

Read more about it at the American Spectator


Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010


November 23, 2010
Nuclear Townhall
From the Editors

General Jubilation T. Cornpone was the Civil War hero of Li’l Abner’s Dogpatch of whom it was sung:  “With our ammunition gone and facing utter defeat / Who was it who burned the crops so we had nothing to eat.”

It’s been suggested on Nuclear Townhall that the Department of Energy ought to erect a statue of Gen. Cornpone outside its offices in honor of its support of corn ethanol. The 30-year-old government policy has not only wasted energy but placed significant upward pressure on food prices.

Now Al Gore has made a play to be remembered along with Gen. Cornpone when it comes to ethanol subsidies.  Speaking at an international energy conference in Athens this week, the Nobel-Prize-winning finally admitted ethanol wasn’t such a great idea."It is not a good policy to have these massive subsidies for first generation ethanol," said Gore at the green energy conference sponsored by Marfin Popular Bank. "First generation ethanol I think was a mistake. The energy conversion ratios are at best very small. [But i]t’s hard once such a program is put in place to deal with the lobbies that keep it going."

Gore was speaking, of course, of the entire American Midwest, which has now built nearly a quarter of its economy around ethanol subsidies. Dozens of ethanol distilleries have been built at the cost of hundreds of millions of dollars and 40 percent of the corn crop now goes into our gas tanks.

Moreover, Gore was also willing to admit that he originally supported ethanol subsidies to kowtow to farmers and that the government-initiated push into biofuels has pushed up world fuel prices. "The size, the percentage of corn particularly, which is now being (used for) first generation ethanol definitely has an impact on food prices,” he said. “The competition . . is real."

The former Vice President may be modeling for that statue real soon.

Read more about it at Reuters



Friday, November 12th, 2010


November 12, 2010
Nuclear Townhall
From the Editors

When ethanol subsidies and mandates were first adopted in 1979, one of the arguments was that, in addition to reducing our foreign fuel dependency, it would “benefit farmers.”  And indeed, how could farmers not benefit from the artificial demand for their crops?

Today nearly 30 percent of America’s corn crop goes into U.S. gas tanks. The program has done nothing to reduce our oil imports.  That 30 percent of the corn crop barely replaced 3 percent of domestic oil consumption. Numerous studies have shown that ethanol provides only marginal energy gains and may actually lose energy. 

Failing that, proponents began arguing that corn ethanol would reduce global warming. Burning last year’s corn crop was “carbon neutral,” whereas burning fossil oil added to the atmosphere’s carbon burden. That argument has been questioned as well, since ethanol provides less energy than gasoline and biofuels can take 90 years before they become carbon neutral. The only thing going for it is that it is “natural.”

Still, ethanol has succeeded in doing one thing – rewarding farmers. The whole Midwest is now so dependent on ethanol subsidies and mandates that no Presidential candidate can make it through the Iowa caucuses without pledging his allegiance to ethanol.   

What no one ever noticed is that diverting huge portions of the nation’s food supplies into gas tanks might have an impact on someone else – people who eat, for example. Now, after extended silence, representatives of those other parties are finally speaking up. This week the Grocery Manufacturers Assn., the National Meat Assn., the National Chicken Council and several others filed suit against the Environmental Protection Agency’s recent ruling that raised the permissible level of ethanol mixed in gasoline from 10 to 15 percent. “[This ruling] will put pressure on the meat and poultry supply, which will lead to higher food prices for consumers," said J. Patrick Boyle, president of the American Meat Institute in a statement issues yesterday.

In fact, the biofuels effort has been doing this for a long time. In 2007 there were “tortilla riots” in Mexico and disturbances throughout Africa and Asia as a result of biofuels’ pressure on food prices. The United Nations’ Food and Agricultural Organization has been calling biofuels a “crime against humanity” ever since, although nobody pays much attention. Even many environmental activist groups have turned against biofuels, as they usually do when the true impact of their ideas about “renewable energy” finally become apparent.

The food producers’ lawsuit may finally bring home to the public what has been obvious all along. There is no such thing as a free lunch, nor a free fill-up at the gas station. While farmers may be profiting from the ethanol boondoggle, everyone else is paying the price.

Read more about it at the Los Angeles Times



Friday, November 12th, 2010

November 12, 2010
Nuclear Townhall
From the Editors


In a case of the pot calling the kettle black, North Carolina environmental groups have announced their opposition to a plan by Duke Energy to substitute wood for coal in two power plants.

The announcement coincides paradoxically with this week’s declaration by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that it will be encouraging utilities to burn wood for coal in order to meet its new carbon standards. In guidelines released Monday, the EPA said utilities substituting wood for coal would not have to do anything else to reduce carbon emissions.

The EPA maneuver based on a flawed thesis – among some environmental camps – that burning crops and forest products is somehow “carbon-neutral.”  Because the carbon in plants and trees were taken out of the air only recently, the theory goes, it will not add to atmospheric carbon dioxide, whereas the carbon in coal is being released after millions of years.

But carbon fixed by plants or trees can enter the soil or the food chain and may take decades or centuries to make its way back into the atmosphere.

Burning this year’s crop – or worse yet, long-living trees – only accelerates the cycle. One study published in Science two years ago found it may take 90 years to neutralize the carbon deficit created by clearing land for biofuels. On the other hand, environmental groups often argue we “can’t wait” for nuclear power plants to cut carbon emissions because they may take ten years to build.
 â€¨Burning crops and trees also promises other potentially alarming effects. The ethanol craze that now consumes 30 percent of the corn crop by some estimates has been blamed for rising world food prices that set off Mexico’s “tortilla riots” in 2007 and brought down the government of Haiti. The threat of decimating the nation’s forests was what prompted Elizabethan England to substitute coal for wood in the 16th century.

Faced with a state mandate to produce 12.5 percent of its electricity with so-called “renewables,” however, Duke Energy recently announced it would dutifully substitute wood for coal at two plants in North and South Carolina. Duke quickly discovered that “wood wastes” would not provide nearly enough material and so requested permission from the North Carolina Utilities Commission to chop up whole trees for its boilers. The commission approved.

Enter the Environmental Defense Fund and the Southern Environmental Defense Center, both of whom perpetually tell the world that “renewables” are the solution to all energy problems. "The commission’s decision allows utilities to cut and burn our state’s forests, with no questions asked," said EDF wood biomass specialist Will McDow in a statement reported by the Charlotte Observer. "Giving unrestricted access to burn thousands of acres of natural forest is imprudent."

Said one perplexed energy observer, "Anybody here ever hear of nuclear energy?"

Read more at the Charlotte Observer



Thursday, November 11th, 2010

If you think corn ethanol has become one of the nation’s biggest boondoggles, wait until you see where the Environmental Protection Agency has in store for the nation’s utility industries.
EPA pulled back the curtain yesterday with new rules saying that utilities will be allowed to escape the carbon regulations that begin next January if they switch to burning farm and woodland wastes instead of coal.
“The new guidance allows for the substitution of biomass — wood waste, switchgrass or other agricultural products — for fossil fuels as a way to meet the new air quality rules,” reports The New York Times. “Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said that would generate new income opportunities for American farmers and forestry companies while reducing global warming emissions.”
It is hard to imagine a more insane energy policy – although it certainly seems plausible that it could happen. Already several utilities around the country have substituted wood wastes for coal under the illusion that they are helping global warming.
The policy will also be sure to “generate new income opportunities for farmers and forestry companies” as farmers forget about feeding people and simply load up their crops for shipment to the nearest power plant. That is what already happens with the nation’s corn crop, where farmers now send 30 percent of their harvest to the nearest ethanol distillery, driving up food prices around the world. The UN Food and Agricultural Organizations regularly calls biofuels “a crime against humanity,” but nobody in this country pays much attention.
Biofuels in power plants will double down on this tortured policy. Massachusetts has already backed away from a wood-burning mandate after realizing that wood wastes are nowhere near adequate and that people will soon be chopping down the state’s forests to feed the power plants. The administration of Democratic Governor Deval Patrick came after a study by the Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences found burning wood would actually produce more greenhouse gases than burning coal.

It’s not hard to see out why. Wood has only half the energy density of coal and is widely scattered across the landscape so it requires much more energy to gather and harvest. A landmark study published in Science in 2008 found that substituting biofuels for fossil fuels does not become “carbon neutral” for 90 years. Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee calls biofuels “a controlled bonfire.”
Nevertheless, based on scuttlebutt from the environmental community, the Obama Administration is charging ahead. In doing so, they will be following in the footsteps of General Jubilation T. Cornpone, of “Li’l Abner” fame, of whom it was sung: 
“With out ammunition gone and facing utter defeat,
Who was it who burned the crops so we had nothing to eat.”
Someday the Administration may want to erect a statue of General Cornpone in front of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Read more at the New York Times’ Green blog


Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

October 26, 2010
Nuclear Townhall
From The Editors


Of all the follies of the Green activists movement, none will ever compare with the ethanol mandate.

First proposed by Amory Lovins in Soft Energy Paths (1976), the idea of substituting biofuels for imported oil was quickly legislated by the Carter Administration and has gained strength ever since buoyed by powerful agricultural interests happy to see corn prices escalate.

At first the environmental lobby was ecstatic. Ethanol was clean, green, homegrown and proof that “soft” technologies could replace the “hard” strategies of prospecting for oil and gas or building nuclear power plants. Most exhilarating, ethanol came with its own constituency – the great Midwestern farm lobby. No longer would green energy be the obsession of a handful of East and West Coast sandal-wearing nature lovers. Now real farmers would be on their side.

Then reality set in. Corn ethanol has never been shown to produce any energy gain. It uses at least as much energy as it consumes. Oil imports have never quivered in the face of ethanol competition. It also damages engines. Now the news comes that ethanol actually creates more ozone-producing nitrous oxides.

Thus it is not surprising that environmental groups like the Natural Resources Defense Council are now protesting when the EPA raises the allowable mixture of ethanol from 10 to 15 percent in gasoline as it did this month. It’s all too late. With the mighty farm lobby hooked on ethanol, the juggernaut shows no sign of slowing. We now incinerate almost one-third of our corn crop in our gas tanks. Who is going to tell farmers to swallow one-third of their corn?

Robert Bryce, author of the best-selling book Power Hungry, details all this and more in a lengthy submission on National Review’s “Planet Gore.”  It’s hard to know whether to laugh or cry.

Read more at National Review