Sunday, December 06, 2009

More Evidence on Why Ethanol Really IS More Than Just Hype, It's "Dangerous, Delusional Bullshit"

From the NY Times article "U.S. Unlikely to Use the Ethanol Congress Ordered":

Two years ago, Congress ordered the nation’s gasoline refiners to do something that is turning out to be mathematically impossible. To please the farm lobby and to help wean the nation off oil, Congress mandated that refiners blend a rising volume of ethanol and other biofuels into gasoline. They are supposed to use at least 15 billion gallons of biofuels by 2012, up from less than seven billion gallons in 2007.
But nobody at the time counted on fuel demand falling in the United States, which is what has happened during the recession (see chart above, data here). And that decline could well continue, as cars become more efficient under other recent government mandates.
At the maximum allowable blend, in which gasoline at the pump contains 10 percent ethanol, updated projections suggest that the country is unlikely to be able to use all the ethanol that Congress has ordered up. So something has to give. “The market is full,” said Jeff Broin, chief executive of Poet, a company in Sioux Falls, S.D., that produces ethanol.

When Congress wrote the rules, in 2007, gasoline consumption had been growing for years, and it looked as if the nation would be able to use considerably more ethanol in the future. Gasoline consumption hit a peak of 3.4 billion barrels that year (see chart above). But gasoline demand fell in 2008, after soaring gas prices early in the year were followed by the economic crisis. Consumption was slightly less than 3.3 billion barrels last year, and it could end 2009 at about the same level. With consumers buying more fuel-efficient cars these days, and carmakers rushing to bring even more of those to market, gasoline demand may not recover much in coming years, even as ethanol production soars.

MP: As I have said before: Anytime you have prominent left-wing economist and NY Times columnist Paul Krugman agreeing that "demon ethanol" is a "scam" with such a diverse group as the Wall Street Journal, Reason Magazine, the Cato Institute, Investor's Business Daily, Rolling Stone Magazine, the Christian Science Monitor, The New York Times, John Stossel, The Ecological Society of America, the American Enterprise Institute, the Brookings Institution, the Heritage Foundation, George Will and Time Magazine, you know that ethanol has to be one of the most misguided public policies in U.S. history.

From RollingStone Magazine in August 2007:

Ethanol is not just hype -- it's dangerous, delusional bullshit. Ethanol doesn't burn cleaner than gasoline, nor is it cheaper. Our current ethanol production represents only 3.5% of our gasoline consumption -- yet it consumes twenty percent of the entire U.S. corn crop, causing the price of corn to double in the last two years and raising the threat of hunger in the Third World.

So why bother? Because the whole point of corn ethanol is not to solve America's energy crisis, but to generate one of the great political boondoggles of our time.


At 12/06/2009 11:40 AM, Anonymous morganovich said...

what's more, ethanol gas lower energy density than gasoline, so we will all get worse mileage on a blend. it also has different octane, so engines are not optimized for it. moving to a stronger blend will actually damage engines.

that said, given our government's penchant for broken window fallacies, they will probably try to spin wrecking all the engines in our existing cars as a job creation initiative for auto builders, parts suppliers, and mechanics...

At 12/06/2009 2:26 PM, Blogger rufus said...

We are producing, and using 11,930,000,000 gallons/yr.

Corn costs $0.07/lb. Ethanol can be, and is being, profitably produced, without subsidies, for $1.65/gal.

Gasoline reached $4.30 gal. before it threw us into recession. It now sells for $2.65/gal.

Oil refineries are being shut down every month. The Colonial pipeline, as a result, is on "allocation."

China has increased its oil consumption by 1.7 million barrels/day in the last 15 months, and we've been "finding" much less oil than we've been using for Several Decades.

Just because those publications (and Organizations) that are supported by Oil Company Ownership, and Advertising, don't like Ethanol doesn't mean they are Right.

At 12/06/2009 2:29 PM, Blogger rufus said...

And, the "Majors" have been using ethanol in their "Premium" gasoline for years. The only difference is they produced it from petroleum instead of biologics.

High Octane Ethanol is Good for your car engine, not damaging to it.

At 12/06/2009 4:15 PM, Blogger Cabodog said...

I can't speak for anyone else, but I'm pretty happy that I'm now burning 10% more gasoline (mixed with ethanol) to go the same distance...

As an experiment, I recently ran through a couple of tanks (illegally) of non-ethanol fuel and wasn't surprised to find my gas mileage increased by almost 10%.

Alcohol has fewer BTUs per gallon; it's not rocket science to figure out you're not going to go as far on ethanol than gasoline.

What a scam that's been jammed down the throats of the American public.

At 12/06/2009 4:34 PM, Anonymous Benny "Tell It LIke It Is Man" Cole said...

Ethanol is a rural-farm subsidy, the love child of President Bush and the Republican Congress.
Rural and farm subsidies never die. Never.

One of the oddities of the federal budget, and a extensive system of cross-subsidies in place, is that urban areas subsidize rural areas.

All the preening by right-wingers about free enterprise and hating subsidies is mere posturing.

The R-Party is deeply entrenched in the ethanol program. Get used to it. It will never go away.

At 12/06/2009 4:36 PM, Blogger rufus said...

You better have that sick car looked at Dog. The DOE says it should gain about 2.5%.

At 12/06/2009 5:22 PM, Anonymous gettingrational said...

I think we should all grow switchgrass in our yards to produce ethanol -- I hope tbe neighbors don't mind.

Switchgrass ethanol can yield 540 more energy then required to produce it. Also switchgrass ethanol releases 94% less greenhouse gas then gasoline.

At 12/06/2009 5:39 PM, Blogger Colin said...

Benny, if ethanol is so intrinsically linked to the GOP, why did 34 Democrats vote to preserve the tariff on imported ethanol but only 22 Republicans? Why did 24 Republicans vote to end it but only 12 Democrats?

At 12/06/2009 7:25 PM, Anonymous morganovich said...


an engine has to be designed for octane as high as ethanol's (115) for it to work well. pushing up octane that high in an engine not designed and timed for it will cause you performance problems. this is why you don't put regular fuel in a race car or race fuel in a regular car.

ethanol yields 80 btu's/gallon vs more like 115 from gasoline. this is a 30% loss of energy density. you'll get worse mileage. this is a fact of chemistry.

ethanol is also corrosive to ferrous metal. it will oxidize engine parts, and this rust will jam injectors, foul plugs, and destroy fuel pumps.

your pricing data is just bunk. gasoline is just as cheap to produce. you are comparing a production cost to the fully distributed and marked up retail price of gasoline. you are also leaving out the heavy taxes on fuel that are about 40 cents a gallon.

E-85 (85% ethanol 15% gasoline) cost about the same per gallon as regular gasoline.

however, running it though a non-E-85 spec engine will total it is short order. you need a flex fuel engine.

same price but 25% lower mileage/gallon doesn't make me want to buy a new car...

At 12/06/2009 7:34 PM, Anonymous morganovich said...

sorry, those BTU figures are 85K and 115K. %'s are the same, but just left of the unit.

At 12/06/2009 7:59 PM, Anonymous Benny "Tell It LIke It Is Man" Cole said...


The Dems are weaklings too, that is why. Or maybe they were horse-trading, so they could get some of their own subsidies entrenched at taxpayer expense.

However, I would like to praise Dr. Perry for his post. Usually, he only bashes left-wing subsidies. We read repeated posts on the one-time sunsetted $3 billion auto clunkers program, and but nary a word on the annual and growing $8 billion in subsidies for rural telephone service.

Ethanol will become a permanent part of our subsidy landscape. But likely we will not see much more ethanol bashing from Dr. Perry. It is becoming a right-wing sacred cow.

The right-wing goes into hysterics over cash-for-clunkers, a one-time stimulus punch at the bottom of a recession, but looks the other way on ethanol. And ethanol will lift money out of your pocket every year for eternity. You are being forced to buy ethanol at the pump.

Oh well.

Vote for Ron Paul.

At 12/06/2009 8:14 PM, Blogger juandos said...

rufus you made some interesting comments, you have anything credible to back them up?

Corn Ethanol Subsidies: "A Poor Investment Economically And Environmentally"

Corn-Based Ethanol: Is This a Solution?

At 12/06/2009 8:44 PM, Anonymous morganovich said...


rural phone subsides are now a both sides of the aisle issue. the current round of "rural" broadband subsides that went through a fully democrat government are pretty substantial.

the funniest thing is how "rural" was redefined under this bill. such notable country idylls as brroklyn, philly, detroit, and compton are now on the rural list.

i fear we have reached a new age of compromise where each side look the other way on egregious subsidy so long as they get to ram through some pork of their own.

truly, we have not had a party that stands for small government in a long, long time.

republican vs democrat = coke vs pepsi.

it's just a question of which kind of big, intrusive government you want.

i fear that the real issue is that the reach of government power and spending is now so broad that it attracts the power hungry would be patrons and the kleptocratic.

worse, it creates a terrible prisoner's dilemma for private industry. if your competitor is willing to buy political patronage and use it to further commercial ends, you have to do it too or risk being disadvantaged. this creates a terrible cycle of patronage. look what it has turned such former greats as GE, GM, and kleiner perkins into.

under coolidge, the federal budget was 2-3% of GDP. that was small enough to keep the crooks out. it wasn't enough cake to steal nor enough patronage to hand out. 30% and climbing, however, well, that's another kettle of fish altogether.

throw enough money on the table and morality has a funny way of getting tossed out the window.

At 12/06/2009 9:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In response to the Rolling Stone excerpt, 20% isn't really an accurate figure on the account of DDG feeding.

DDGs are dried distiller's grains. Thay are basically what's left-over once the ethanol creation process has taken place. DDGs are fed to livestock as a replacement for conventional feeds. This practice seems to get little to no attention when ethanol is discussed as being a price driver in the corn markets and supermarkets.

When you compare the feed value of just plain corn to DDGs, DDGs have about 60% of the feed value of corn. DDGs are also cheaper than regular feed sources so it does balance out some. If you figure that only 40% of the nutritional value of corn is lost in the ethanol creation process, the 20% figure ends up looking more like 8%.

Don’t take this as a personal endorsement for ethanol by any means. I live in the Midwest and ethanol is very readily available. Some gas stations don’t even carry blends of gas without ethanol. In spite of this I try not to use ethanol because for one its much harder on you engine components (ask a mechanic what the inside of an E85 running vehicle looks like sometime compared to regular fuel), secondly because its subsidized heavily, and lastly because I get about 15% worse fuel economy when I use it. I just wanted to let more people know that ethanol by-products are not simply thrown away.

At 12/06/2009 11:59 PM, Anonymous Benny "Tell It LIke It Is Man" Cole said...


I agree. It is time for a Third Party.

We have reached a stage where sensible cutbacks are viewed as radical. Can we not leave Korea, 50 years after the war, and given the fact that S. Korea has an economy 20 times that of N Korea? Can they not defend themselves?

I can buy a 50 lb. bag of rice for $17 in Los Angeles, and a low grade of hamburger meat for 69 cents a pound. The dollar store is selling eggs, dozen, $1. Vegetables are almost free. Do we need food stamps anymore?

Yet, try saying we should pull out from Korea, or eliminate food stamps.

I can imagine the howling.

Canada has no homeowner's mortgage tax deduction. They do fine. Can we not eliminate federal housing programs? Sure, housing might be smaller--and we will pay a lot less in taxes.

We have a federal government of ossified lard and patronage, and I hate to tell you that includes our military.

Check out what Rovert Gates, R-Party appointee and DoD Secy, says about our military. He all but calls it a Cold War relic.

Try cutting DoD. You will be called a terrorist appeaser.

Federal red ink Niagara style.

At 12/07/2009 11:15 AM, Blogger rufus said...

Juandos, many of us feel that if corn really did take Carbon out of the ground, and put CO2 into the atmosphere it would be a Feature, not a Bug.

Having said that, that study is defective. It would only apply if you were deep-plowing "Native Grasses" that had been in place for more than 15 years.

Virtually all of your set-aside land is in rye, and other domestic grasses, not "native" grasses. And, "Deep-plowing" is going the way of the horse, and mule.

The Oil Drum is a notoriously anti-ethanol site. Only the "Starch" from the kernel is used for ethanol. The remaining minerals, and nutrients are fed to livestock as DDGS.

You retain close to 70% of your cattle-feeding ability when you process a kernel of corn for ethanol. So, if you process 4 Billion bushels to produce 12 Billion Gallons of ethanol (that's about what we're doing, now) you have, actually, "used" 30% of 4 Billion, or 1.2 Billion bushel of your cattle feed.

In other words, we used about 9% of our cattle feed for ethanol this year. Or, about 8 million acres. We have 30 Million Acres in Set-aside. Big Deal, eh?

Oh, and the cleanest engine you will ever see is the one that's been run on ethanol. Ask the Indy 500 mechanics. That's ALL they run.

At 12/08/2009 4:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

E10 has ruined thousands of outboard motors,chainsaws,snowmobiles and other small engines. Even additives fail to block water pickup from separating over time.

E15 would be a worse disaster. All ethanol mixtures should be banned or at least outlets should have to offer straight gas as an alternative.

At 12/08/2009 5:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi I wored for Cargill and made ethanol from corn for a year. the process is very inefficient and energy intensive. also we used a lot of water and generated tons of waste. the only reason cargill could do it is thatteh govt gives them a subsidiary of 50c/ga !! all of us chemist who had intellegence saw this while the white uneducated nebraskans who ran the plant were so happy doing this etc. what a brainwashed gang of fools americans are thatthey cannot think beyond their beer and reality shows on tV ?? they deserve foolish leaders that they have who will lead the imperialist american empireto ruin. after all all empires extinguish themselves without any external forces history son read history

At 12/08/2009 7:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We found out in our small community served by a volunteer fire department, that if the local ethanol plant catches fire, water won't put it out, it spreads the fire. Only a special foam costing $40 per gallon will suffice and it has to be applied vertically. we do not own a ladder truck and do not have a budget to buy either the foam or a ladder truck.

At 12/08/2009 7:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You people need to do your homework. First of all Ethanol returns 70% more energy than it takes to produce. New car parts are extremely resistance to ethanol but the engine may not be optimized for ethanol. If we took away the subsidies that are paid on behalf of petroleum based fuels (mideast military, petroleum reserve, production credits, etc.) gas would cost well over $6/gl and we would have to subsidize ethanol for it to compete. We have almost 2 billion excess bushels of corn this year so the food vs fuel debate doesn't hold water either.

At 12/08/2009 7:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ethanol, is doing TWO things, that a really bad.
One is downrirght criminal.

First, it's using crops of grain that could save millions of starving people world wide lives as fuel.

Two, it's use in motor vehicles at rates over 10%, destroy's engines.

( At present the Governmental Agency responsible for this mix, is mandating a 5% increase to 15%), even thopugh they KNOW it is highly damaging, and destroys engines.

And, not over a long period.....

In the Dallas/Ft. Worth Metroplex, numerous vehicles have had major engine failue due to excess ethanol (over 10%) getting into the fuel delieries.

Warranty does not cover it,and the vehicles owners are having to foot the bills.
Some, most, in the thousands of dollars range.

At 12/08/2009 8:22 PM, Anonymous Cougar Jon said...

First how can mechinized agriculture keep up production in an energy restrained economy? At the begining of the 20th century almost 1/2 of the agricultural land base was used to grow hay for horses. If agriculture were to produce product to meet it's own energy needs what would be the results?
Second what is the end desination of this ethanol going to the east coast by the unit train load? Is it off shore?

At 12/08/2009 8:51 PM, Anonymous MVP said...

Cabodog - that is EXACTLY what I find. When I lived in TX where all the gas is 10% Et-OH, I got barely over 300 miles to the tank. Now I am in NC, and in our area the gas is no ethanol, and I consistently go 330-350 on a tank. (And the car is 2 years older and over 100K miles, so that wouldn't help mileage at all.) When I drive thru SC or GA and get back on the ethanol, my miles per tank drop EVERY TIME.

At 12/08/2009 11:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have used E-10 for years and it cleaned the tanks , carb's etc and I also use soyoil mix (11 %) in the DF works fine do not lose power from eather, know I do not have gas lines freeze any more

At 12/09/2009 5:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

have u ever read "alcohol can be gas" by david blume yea corn isnt the right thing to turn into alcohol corn only produces 214 to 399 gallons of alcohol while we can us cattails they produce 2500gal of alcohol per acre can be produced here cheap

At 12/09/2009 6:57 PM, Blogger jack said...

moganovich, e-85 is sold for $.40 less a gallon in CA, then rgular unleaded.

At 12/14/2009 12:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"ethanol yields 80 btu's/gallon vs more like 115 from gasoline. this is a 30% loss of energy density. you'll get worse mileage. this is a fact of chemistry."

Right morganovich, but we're only blending in 10 percent ethanol. Your figures assume using 100% ethanol fuel. Rufus' figures are real, yours are not.

And you don't get 115 octane ethanol fuel. Again, it's blended into gasoline to raise the octane, but you can't get the full octance without going to 100% ethanol.

Redo your figures assuming 90% gas, 10% ethanol, which is what most people use.


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