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Nathanael Greene’s Blog

NRDC and others slam ethanol tax credit give away to oil in new ad

Nathanael Greene

Posted June 24, 2010 in Moving Beyond Oil, Solving Global Warming

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Everyone who thinks Big Oil should get $31 billion from U.S. taxpayers, please sign on the dotted line.  That’s the message of a new ad running today in Congress Daily sponsored by NRDC, the Union of Concerned Scientists, Friends of the Earth and the Clean Air Task Force. The ad highlights the wastefulness and redundancy of the Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit (VEETC), which amounts to little more than a massive government bribe to oil companies to get them to buy and blend gallons of corn ethanol they are already required to purchase under the Renewable Fuel Standard.

UCS-VEETC-Print-Ad.jpg

As I’ve discussed here and here, corn ethanol is a mature technology that has been commercially viable for decades and today provides nearly 10 percent of light-duty vehicle fuel in the United States. Though the ethanol industry argues that the VEETC is critical to its survival, the reality is that most of the VEETC value ends up in the pockets of oil companies as profit.

So why has Old Ethanol mounted a massive lobbying campaign pushing Congress to extend the VEETC?  Multiple independent analyses (see the blogs above) show that the ethanol industry will continue to grow without the tax credit, just at slightly slower rates. But corn ethanol producers have built out their industry to supply the additional gallons of ethanol oil companies purchase beyond RFS mandates as a result of the tax credit. So now this mainstream industry is asking American taxpayers to continue spending billions per year just so they can keep their market a little tighter and their profits a little higher.

And what do we tax payers get in exchange for these billions of dollars? Not much besides more greenhouse gas emissions, more of the water pollution that has caused a dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico as large as the BP oil spill, higher prices for the corn soil in our stores and fed to our livestock, and more deforestation, as I discussed here. The ad drives this point home by telling taxpayers not to be fooled by the name of the subsidy: it’s not about creating new or cleaner ethanol. The VEETC almost exclusively supports ethanol from corn, which, when all direct and indirect costs are added, creates more global warming pollution than the oil it is supposed to replace!

No matter how you slice it, the VEETC is a massive giveaway to Big Oil for obeying the law that buys us little to nothing in terms of new jobs, environmental performance or even additional domestic ethanol production beyond the quantities already mandated by the RFS. And by subsidizing the best and worst gallons of ethanol, the tax credit comes at the expense of developing new and cleaner biofuels, such as those made from dedicated “energy crops” like willow and switchgrass, which I’ve talked about here.

We can and should support ethanol producers who open new plants, create new jobs, produce more advanced biofuels more efficiently and deliver real environmental benefits—but not by continuing to use scarce taxpayer dollars to pay for every single gallon of ethanol produced at decade-old plants. We can do better by supporting emerging and more competitive energy technologies in non-polluting wind, solar, geothermal and advanced biofuels that create many more times the green jobs we need and far less pollution. Now is the time for Congress to stop subsidizing Big Oil and Old Ethanol and allow the corn ethanol tax credit and tariff to expire at year-end.

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Comments

Brooke ColemanJun 24 2010 10:53 AM

Nathanael,

We need substantive subsidy reform, no doubt, but misleading people will only embed the parties. Let's take this one section: "more greenhouse gas emissions, more of the water pollution that has caused a dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico as large as the BP oil spill, higher prices for the corn soil in our stores and fed to our livestock, and more deforestation".

Let's take it one by one:

Greenhouse Gas Emissions
EPA: corn ethanol more than 20% better
New GTAP data for CA: 17% better

Dead Zone
Fact: fertilizing crops creates runoff that contributes to the dead zone. Fiction: getting rid of ethanol will suddenly mean that farmers plant less corn, plant less crops. Is using less corn ethanol really NRDC's strategy for getting farmers to plant less corn? It won't work (but Big Meat will love you; see below). But using less ethanol will require more oil extraction on the margins (re: BP and the Gulf).

Higher Grain Prices for livestock
As you should know, higher oil prices are by FAR the biggest driver of grain prices. But when did NRDC decide to defend the trough? Livestock actually does create deforestation, and yes, factory farms are annoyed by ethanol (see: http://www.ase.tufts.edu/gdae/Pubs/rp/PB07-03FeedingAtTroughDec07.pdf). This just doesn't make sense.

More Deforestation
You ought to spend some time with a recent Bruce Babcock presentation (he did the EPA land use work): http://www.arb.ca.gov/fuels/lcfs/workgroups/ewg/061710lcfs-ewg-elasticity-prstn.pdf. In general, U.S. crops acres are way down in the last 50 years and 20 years. Corn and soybeans are slightly up, but wheat and cotton are way down. While there is bad correlation between crop land and forest, there is incredible correlation between crop land and use of idle crop land. In short, the slight increases in corn and soybeans are happening on idle land (so far). Theories are theories; data does not support the deforestation correlation you cite.

We need to move away from mono crops. We need to move more aggressively toward advanced biofuels. But factually-challenged analysis is not going to get us there.

Russ FinleyJun 24 2010 12:39 PM

Brooke,

Note that the two GHG studies have different results. That's because this isn't a precise science. No two studies will get the same results.

Ethanol proponents lambaste the EPA for any decision that does not support their bottom line while simultaneously highlighting decisions that do support them. You can't have your cake and eat it too.

In other words, these studies show that corn ethanol still produces 82% as much GHG as gasoline after commandeering thirty five thousand square miles of prime food producing cropland, millions of cubic feet of natural gas, gallons of oil, and thousands of tons of coal.

According to a real wold test by Edmonds, we would get 12 times more GHG reduction than what corn ethanol is providing just by finding a way to get Americans to stick to the speed limit on highways!

Imagine what could be done with simple CAFE legislation and slightly lower speed limit, like the one we had for almost two decades.

A value that small is likely to disappear in the near future as more research is done, and certainly depending on who gets to pick the inputs.

For example, the EPA findings on GHG are the result of picking a time frame measured in mere decades for destroyed carbon sinks to regenerate. Had they picked a more realistic and safe time frame the results would have been different.

Some research also indicates that nitrous oxide release is much higher than the values they used.

Research doesn't stop. Back in 2006 a meta-study by Farrell et al published in Science looked at six ethanol energy studies and concluded that GHG reduction was about 18%, but that was before land use impacts were considered and before the nitrous oxide studies by Crutzen!

And to ice the cake, GHG may not even be our biggest concern when it comes to industrial agriculture:

http://biodiversivist.blogspot.com/2009/10/transgressing-identified-and-quantified.html

Ed HubbardJun 24 2010 03:42 PM

Once again, NRDC and its friends are seeking to discredit the significant gains and economic and security benefits our country has received, and continues to receive, from our domestic ethanol industry. Rather than admit and acknowledge these benefits, NRDC’s new ad campaign seeks to influence energy policy by misleading the public about the true benefits of one of the central incentives that is driving and expanding domestic production of ethanol; the Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit or “VEETC.”

The new ad seeks to convince lawmakers and officials that VEETC is a wasteful and redundant tax incentive that amounts to a bribe to the oil companies to get them to buy and blend gallons of corn based ethanol. But, one only needs to look at the some simple facts to recognize the flawed arguments posited by NRDC and other industry critics.

First, when one looks to the economic figures from the industry, it becomes crystal clear that VEETC is far from wasteful. While the ethanol tax incentives cost $5 billion in 2009, the industry added $53 billion to our nation’s gross domestic product and supported nearly 400,000 good paying, non-exportable American jobs. In addition, as a result of the economic activity from ethanol, the industry contributed $8.4 billion in federal tax revenue, saved approximately $4 billion in farm program deficiency payments, and added nearly 7 billion to state and local government coffers. Finally, the industry put an additional $16 billion in the hands of American consumers through increased economic activity and new jobs, and freed our nation from spending $21.3 billion for foreign oil.

VEETC is a market based incentive that is provided to blenders and oil refiners who blend ethanol into the gasoline. The tax incentive provides for a sustained, lower price for ethanol as compared to petroleum based fuels. By providing a sustained lower price for ethanol, the incentive protects the industry against the price fluctuations of a highly volatile global oil market. The goal is to provide American consumers with an alternative that remains competitive for the long term.

Because oil and gas have, and continue to, receive significant subsidies, it is disingenuous to criticize the ethanol industry for seeking incentives to help them compete. Our industry is very competitive, when there is an even playing field. The fact that there is no uproar about the 550 billion in subsidies for oil production is more telling about the flaws in NRDC’s critique. The $5 billion that our nation invests toward domestic ethanol production pales in comparison to the incentives for oil.

The VEETC is an incentive that is designed to drive down the price of ethanol at the pump for consumers. By providing a swift mechanism of refundability, the tax incentive becomes embedded into the price at which ethanol is sold. The savings are felt by consumers and the benefits accrue to ethanol producers at varying levels depending on market conditions. It is hardly a “bribe” to the oil industry.

Second, the assertion that the VEETC is redundant fails to understand the structure of the U.S. ethanol program and appreciate the overarching goals of our renewable energy strategy. The VEETC and Renewable Fuels Standard are designed to work in a complementary fashion to help our nation meet the goals of environmental quality, energy security and economic development. While the ad correctly asserts that the RFS requires the blending of ethanol, it does not state where that ethanol comes from. There is no requirement under the RFS that the mandated volumes be satisfied with domestically produced ethanol. By incentivizing investment and production in the U.S., the tax incentive ensures that the volumes mandated under the RFS are allowed to be filled with domestically produced ethanol. We don’t want to go to a situation where we trade energy dependency from one country to another. The goal here is to develop an independent and secure domestic energy supply in the same way that wind and solar are incentivized.

According to a recent report issued by Entrix, the failure to extend the ethanol tax incentive will result in a reduction of domestic production volumes by 38%. Given that the industry is producing almost 13 billion gallons of ethanol today, this would mean the loss of approximately 4 billion gallons of production; effectively turning back the clock to 2005 production levels.

Finally, the NRDC ad ignores the fact that the VEETC goes to all ethanol regardless of feedstock or process. It benefits all ethanol producers, even those who produce advanced and cellulosic ethanol. Since it reduces the price fuel retailers can charge for the product, it benefits the entire industry, not just the corn based ethanol industry. It is designed to help the industry compete against a highly subsidized and highly volatile international oil industry. It also helps recondition a century old mindset amongst consumers where petroleum is king. Most importantly, it gives fuel consumers an affordable, clean, low-carbon alternative to high-carbon petroleum based fuel.

That should be a goal for all of us to share.


Michael SmithJun 24 2010 06:31 PM

I'm thrilled to see Mr. Coleman's reference to Dr. Bruce Babcock. Isn't Dr. Babcock the one who said, "It is puzzling why the biofuels industry continues to defend these subsidies when it has its mandates in place. Tax credits cost taxpayers more than $5 billion per year, and import tariffs convey the message that the ethanol industry is so uncompetitive that it needs protection against foreign competition." in an aptly entitled report "Mandates, Tax Credits, and Tariffs: Does the U.S. Biofuels Industry Need Them All?" See http://www.card.iastate.edu/publications/synopsis.aspx?id=1125

Ron SteenblikJun 25 2010 01:30 AM

Brilliant, Nathanael! The only change I'd make is to have the guy holding the check decked out in Wellington (gum) boots, covered in oil.

One of the aspects of cognitive dissonance in this whole debate is how the ethanol boosters have tried to exploit the spill by contrasting their product with oil, as if the two are unrelated -- except at the point of blending, of course, and even that relationship is played down.

But from where does the industry think it gets the natural gas so important to the fermentation and distillation of ethyl alcohol from corn starch? Or the natural gas used as a feedstock in the production of the fertilizer used to boost corn yields?

Yes, some of that gas comes from gas-only wells, but a lot of it is so-called associated gas -- i.e., associated with the production of crude oil. Natural gas was certainly associated with the Deepwater Horizon" disaster.

The industry's reply will no doubt be that its plants have become more energy-efficient, and that many are moving to use more biomass as fuel for process heat. But the fact remains that the industry still gobbles up large amounts of natural gas, which helps stimulate the demand for the fuel, which in turn of course encourages more domestic exploration and development of gas. And some of that natural gas, as long as off-shore drilling is allowed, is going to come from rigs placed in the sea.

R Brooke ColemanJun 25 2010 10:20 AM

A couple of follow-up thoughts based on responses:

1) Dr. Babcock's position on ethanol subsidies is no big deal. There is a conversation to be had there about how to incent biofuels in the wake of mandates. But his expertise is land use change, and he makes some interesting points about where they are occurring that are not consistent with the rhetoric in the ad or on this blog.

2) The response to Ron has nothing to do with ethanol plant efficiency. It has to do with the fact that it takes energy to produce energy, and that if we discount every alternative energy based on the fact that they too are reliant on the grid or fossil fuel for production, we can kiss wind, solar, advanced biofuels, hydrogen, and nuclear good bye. This game -- usually in the form of "environmentalists are hypocrites because they drive cars and take trains powered by fossil fuels" -- is not useful. What we need clear articulation of is: what are the benefits/disbenefits of these different fuels and how should we incent them the right way? Unfortunately, the debate is more heavily populated with misinformation and ideology than information and reason.

Ron SteenblikJun 25 2010 10:47 AM

Ah, c'mon, Brooke, you can do better than that -- throwing all forms of alternative energy into the same pot.

As you well know, one of the advertised claims of cellulosic ethanol production is that it would use the lignin as a fuel for process heat, and therefore require much less in the amount of fossil fuels in the fermentation and distillation process. Are you saying now that cellulosic ethanol actually won't differ that much from corn ethanol in that respect?

Let's look at the table in this study, which I am not making any claims to be the last word. But presumably it is more or less in the ballpark in terms of relative EROI. (Or see page 10, here)

Discounting for the fact that it was produced by the World Nuclear Association, it nevertheless shows the ratio of output-to-input energy of 3.7-12 for solar PV, 6-80 for wind, 10-60 for nuclear power plants, and 43-205 for hydro-electric plants.

What's the best corn ethanol these days, 1.6? And that's not counting the energy in the corn. Even 2.0 would be low by comparison with these other energy sources.

You keep saying "Unfortunately, the debate is more heavily populated with misinformation and ideology than information and reason", yet from what I have seen that misinformation and ideology (or, more accurately, jingoism) is coming overwhelmingly from the side that is trying to hang on to its subsidies than those who are saying that the subsidies should be allowed to lapse.

John SmithJun 25 2010 12:00 PM

Are we using wind, solar, nuclear, or hydro-electric power to drive our cars? I didn't think so. Why don't you compare apples to apples and the application which the energy that we are creating being used for. Ethanol is being used to decreased our need for foreign oil when it comes time to pump fuel in our cars, not solve every energy crisis in the world.

Russ FinleyJun 25 2010 12:22 PM

Brooke,

You have missed the entire point when it comes to GHG reductions. Reductions per dollar are what count and corn ethanol is comically inefficient when it comes to that parameter, assuming it actually provides any reduction when all factors are accounted for.

----"Fiction: getting rid of ethanol will suddenly mean that farmers plant less corn, plant less crops"----

Take out the word "suddenly" and the obtuse term "plant less crops" out of the above quote and look at what you get:

"Getting rid of ethanol will mean that farmers plant less corn" --which is true and verifiable. Corn is a very nitrogen intensive crop.

---"...using less ethanol will require more oil extraction on the margins (re: BP and the Gulf)."---

Every environmental organization in this county has fought offshore drilling, just as they are fighting corn ethanol. The Gulf oil spill is an example of what can happen when the environmental lobby loses to the industrial lobby. If anything, it is a call to arms to fight the industrial lobby harder and more effectively.

---"As you should know, higher oil prices are by FAR the biggest driver of grain prices."---

I plotted the average annual price of corn against the annual average price of gasoline for 2005-2008 and found that the price of corn climbed much faster than the price of gasoline:

http://home.comcast.net/~russ676/desiremore/food%20gas%20chart1.gif

In other words, you just admitted that consumers can't win (by having a cheaper fuel) if the price of corn ethanol rises with the price of oil.

---"Livestock actually does create deforestation"---

No one denies that but so does corn ethanol. Your task is to try to explain how pouring ethanol on that fire reduces that problem.

---"You ought to spend some time with a recent Bruce Babcock presentation"---

See Smith's comment with Babcock quote: "It is puzzling why the biofuels industry continues to defend these subsidies...".

---"In general, U.S. crops acres are way down in the last 50 years and 20 years."---

The following link explains what the Conservation Reserve Program is, what it has accomplished, and why it was implemented.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conservation_Reserve_Program

This year we planted we planted 89 million acres of corn. We planted an average of 106 million acres of corn per year between 1930 and 1936. Read the book "The Worst Hard Time--The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl"--1930-1936.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dust_bowl

The 89 million acres of corn planted this year is 4.6 million more acres than the average planting in the twenty years predating the 2005 biofuels legislation. It would take about six hours to drive around that corn field at 60 mph, assuming you didn't slow down at the corners. Roughly a quarter of the entire corn crop will end up in ethanol refineries.

World pop is heading toward 9 billion, food prices are rising.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100606/ap_on_he_me/going_hungry

"..Families from Pakistan to Argentina to Congo are being battered by surging food prices that are dragging more people into poverty, fueling political tensions and forcing some to give up eating meat, fruit and even tomatoes.."

http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2010/jun/15/food-prices-rise-un-report

"Food prices are set to rise as much as 40% over the coming decade amid growing demand"

A paper published in Ambio, the journal of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, found that:

"The net energy contents for the world and EU27 was found to be 7200-9300 and 430 TWh respectively, to be compared with food requirements of 7100 and 530 TWh. Clearly, very little, or nothing, remains for biofuel from agricultural primary crops.."

http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=10466&page=1
http://www.tsl.uu.se/uhdsg/Publications/Ambio_Agriculture.pdf

Ron SteenblikJun 25 2010 12:28 PM

John, it was Brooke Coleman who wrote "if we discount every alternative energy based on the fact that they too are reliant on the grid or fossil fuel for production, we can kiss wind, solar, advanced biofuels, hydrogen, and nuclear good bye." Apples and oranges indeed.

However, in response to your specific question, "Are we using wind, solar, nuclear, or hydro-electric power to drive our cars?" Maybe not (except on a tiny scale) now, but we could very well in the future.

My point is that the life cycle of corn ethanol (as opposed to sugar-cane ethanol or cellulosic ethanol) is a lot more entwined with the life-cycle of hydrocarbon production -- including offshore drilling -- than the ethanol industry seems ready to admit.

R Brooke ColemanJun 25 2010 12:38 PM

Ron,

Glad to see your argument moving. It's gone from a "guilt by association" that applies to all forms of energy (and most people) to a more interesting (if beaten to death) comparison of relative energy return. Put another way, it was your undifferentiated point of critique that put all fuels in the same pot (guilty, as charged, of using fossil energy), when in fact there are magnitudes involved that are important. That was my point. So we are moving forward. Here is where I stand on this tired debate of relative ROI.

1) Fossil fuels are unique in that they come from a massive but dwindling stored energy resource. You start with a BTU and use/lose something like 20% of it to get it to market (leaving out all the other energy we expend to secure these resources). Some people like to say that you start with a BTU and end up with only .8 of it (so oil is bad); others like to say that you don't need much energy to put a pipe in the ground and a whole bunch of energy pops out (so oil is good). And the debate goes round and round, internet wide.

2) Most alternatives do not have the benefit of just sticking a pipe in the ground and watching the energy pop out. If they are compared as if all BTUs are the same, on these terms (are suggesting this?) they lose. All of them. Wind and solar both lose to tar sands, as your chart illustrates. Unlike oil, alternatives need to make/convert energy from energy. In general, the more expensive alternatives like solar convert energy to energy more efficiently than the immediately price-competitive and technically less sophisticated ones like corn ethanol. Great. If life was a menu of options, solar would beat corn ethanol based on this metric, hands down. But that's a false choice because these energies are not on a menu, do not necessarily compete against one another, and have wide variability when it comes to price competitiveness.

3) Instead of presenting relative energy-to-energy efficiencies like a menu and declaring the lower ones bad (as if we can simply order solar instead of ethanol), it is more productive to use these metrics to help inform real choices. The real choice for corn ethanol is whether we should use it instead of gasoline. While not as good as some, it is generally accepted that corn ethanol produces more energy than is consumed (this should not surprise people, as corn ethanol is basically an accumulation of a suite of energy inputs, including some fossil, and the sun, as captured by the corn plant). So, next question.

4) If corn ethanol is a step in the right direction, as we allege, but only a step, it makes sense to incent and promote even more efficient biofuels and energy. Now we have come full circle. Go ahead NRDC, let's do it. But lose the misinformation about GHG, forests, and feed troughs. And does corn ethanol bashing get you closer or farther from your goal, from a strategic perspective?

Ron SteenblikJun 25 2010 12:52 PM

Brooke,

I can agree that "it is more productive to use these metrics to help inform real choices."

However, I do not agree that "The real choice for corn ethanol is whether we should use it instead of gasoline."

There are other choices, among which are: (1) eliminate the tariff on imported ethanol, which is made mainly from sugar-cane and uses no natural gas in the process; (2) not pay oil companies to blend ethanol that they are required by law to blend in any case; (3) invest in R&D into other transport alternatives.

But, again, I think you are ducking the point about corn ethanol: more than the other energy sources I mentioned (except for hydrocarbons), it uses a lot of natural gas. And some of that natural gas comes from offshore oil-and-gas wells.

Russ FinleyJun 26 2010 01:27 AM

Ed,

The blending subsidy is quite literally a bribe to oil companies. You are right when you say it is meant to lower the price of ethanol blended gasoline. Duh! The oil companies use the subsidy to offer a lower price to buyers. And every economist knows what consumers do when the price of gasoline is lowered. They use more of it.

Q: Why did God create economists?

A: To make weather forecasters look good.

Economists butter their bread by making claims that can't be proven one way or anther--causation verses correlation, the bane of their existence. Consensus on any economic issue is lost the instant a second economist walks into a room. Note that a planet full of economists failed to prevent or even predict our present economic collapse.

According to your second sentence, the $5 billion investment in blending subsidies to oil companies in 2009 generated $86 billion dollars in benefits to Americans, not to mention creating 400,000 jobs.

Call me a skeptic but that just sounds too good to be true. Let's start by looking at the fact that corn ethanol generated $8.4 billion in federal tax revenue and another $7 billion for state and local coffers. The fact that a similar amount would have been generated by the sale of oil if corn ethanol and soy biodiesel hadn't been forced down citizens throats instead sort of nullifies that argument.

How about the fact that we saved approximately $4 billion in farm program deficiency payments--by replacing a $4 billion dollar subsidy with a $5 billion dollar subsidy we saved Americans money, which does not make sense to me either.

400,000 jobs? 200 ethanol refineries x 60 employees = 12,000 jobs, and I know it is more complicated than that and you know about the concept of job destruction. Google "Parable of the broken window."

These refineries are doomed to fail without unending government support and all those $ billions invested will be wasted. Removing the tariff, blending subsidy, and mandates would send the majority into bankruptcy.

That leaves the claim that this $5 billion blending subsidy put "$16 billion in the hands of American consumers through increased economic activity and new jobs, and freed our nation from spending $21.3 billion for foreign oil."

In theory, we would get the same effect by mandating the sale of American made cars. But we all know that's silly. So why isn't your claim just as silly?

Your post is really long and parsing everything else wrong with it will consume a lot of time. Suffice it to say, it's all weak. Your premise that letting corn ethanol fail would be a bad thing is your biggest missing link. The "too big to fail argument" may eventually bring this country to its knees.

Sam salamyJun 26 2010 07:55 AM

Ethanol production using sweet sorghum is the bridge from corn to cellulosic to algae. Now is the time to embrace funding for its development and implementation. Whatever is needed to compete with oil must be done. Southern farmers can grow sweet sorghum in 4 months resulting in 2 to 3 harvests a year. EPEC Biofuels offers this "bridge" of opportunity. Raising the funds should be job one. It is time to band together with a common cause. Big oil is taking our global economy down.

Russ FinleyJun 26 2010 11:45 AM

Brooke,

"...leaving out all the other energy we expend to secure these resources.."

It has been pointed out dozens of times by now that peace in the Middle East is in everyone's interest, especially ours, oil or no oil. It has been pointed out time and again that our military budget is independent of the amount of corn ethanol produced and that it is physically impossible to produce enough of it to make a meaningful difference, regardless of monetary and environmental costs. It has also been pointed out over and over that every drop of oil in the Middle East would get sold to somebody if we didn't buy it.

You keep trying to turn this into a debate over alternative energy in general when the debate is about corn ethanol in particular--a fossil fuel intensive alternative fuel picked not by the market and consumers, but propped up by political interests and literally forced upon consumers.

Future supply and demand for oil and food will guarantee that the price of corn ethanol has nowhere to go but up. It is an economically, environmentally dead end concept.

---"If corn ethanol is a step in the right direction, as we allege, but only a step"---

"If?" We are spending billions building hundreds of corn ethanol refineries assuming that ethanol will be the future choice of liquid fuel?

Isn't it more likely that ethanol is a step in the wrong direction and if so, what are we going to do with our hundreds of corn ethanol refineries?

Ethanol has 30% less energy by volume than gasoline. It is produced slowly by fermenting sugars derived from food stock and the corn version of it consumes prodigious amounts of fossil fuels.

The future of ethanol in America depends on the success of converting cellulose into ethanol. America had cellulosic ethanol refineries a century ago. The trick is getting the process to be economically competitive. It is becoming more obvious every year that cellulosic ethanol is not likely to be economically competitive in a meaningful time frame, if ever.

And to ice the cake, ethanol from tropical cane dwarfs even cellulosic when it comes to net energy, let alone price. Our politicians have built an industry (corn ethanol) that has no hope of competing in a global ethanol market.

Which suggests that corn ethanol is actually a step in the wrong direction. Diesel fuels made from biomass might be a smarter move when you look at the mileage diesel engines get, but it now must compete with a fuel that has hundreds of refineries already built.

If politicians are capable of picking economic winners for us, we would not need a free market. The Soviet Economy was an example of how well that works.

The free market (what remains of it) must now seek out the best alternatives for oil while competing against a government backed behemoth.

Dave GarJun 26 2010 02:44 PM

Russ and Ron love to beat the drum that corn ethanol has 30% less energy than gas. But what they fail to realize is that ethanol has a much higher octane level than gas and that engine designers can get the same fuel mileage out of ethanol as they can gas. In fact it has already begun, check out the new 2011 Buick Regal, 30 mpg on gas and 28 on E-85 ethanol, pretty darn good I'd say and the company says it will get better yet in the future. Imagine pulling into a gas station, reg. gas is $3.00 and E-85 is $2.40, what do you think the owners of this Buick Regal will choose. Cars like these are a real game-changer for ethanol and it can't come soon enough. Kudo's to Buick!!

Another question I have is why do people like Russ and Ron think its a good idea for Brazil,( that uses slave labor in the sugar cane fields), to chop down trees so they can ramp up their production to fill our needs up here. We have 14 billion gallons of ethanol capacity in the U.S. and I believe Brazil is around 1/2 that. So there answer is shut our industry down and expand Brazils by 14 billion gallons. Nah, that wouldn't cause any harm at all and I'm sure the price of sugar would get much cheaper too, hah. I would really hate to see what would happen to the economy and the people in the midwest if ethanol was to suddenly disappear, it wouldn't be good. Would Ron and Russ give a darn, I'm sure not.

And to Brooke, keep up the good fight, your crushing 'em to dust !!

Ron SteenblikJun 26 2010 03:59 PM

Russ and Ron love to beat the drum that corn ethanol has 30% less energy than gas[oline].

I can't see any reference above to that by me. And I acknowledge that ethanol has a higher octane rating than gasoline. So what?

Another question I have is why do people like Russ and Ron think its a good idea for Brazil,( that uses slave labor in the sugar cane fields), to chop down trees so they can ramp up their production to fill our needs up here.

Yes, there have been a few cases of abuse of cane cutters. But it is no more accurate to characterize all sugar-cane production in Brazil as "using slave labor" than it is to say that U.S. corn production depends on exploiting migrant labor -- migrant labor that at times feel agrieved enough to seek redress in the courts.

How mant trees are the Brazilians cutting down to ramp up sugar-cane production, Most of the expansion is into former pastureland. And I have certainly see plenty of apple orchards in the eastern United States cut down to plant corn.

We have 14 billion gallons of ethanol capacity in the U.S. and I believe Brazil is around 1/2 that. So there [sicanswer is shut our industry down and expand Brazils by 14 billion gallons.

What a ridculous exaggeration. Dave Gar, in fact, has provided the answer: with 14 billion gallons of domestic capacity in place, U.S. ethanol production is hardly going to fold up shop if the VEETC and the import tariff are not extended. The RFS will still largely be met by U.S. ethanol. But the expansion of the industry would be slowed considerably.

Russ FinleyJun 26 2010 04:25 PM

Dave,

The lower energy content impacts the mileage of the 300 plus million cars on the road today, not designed to take advantage of high octane fuels. The fact that engine systems can be designed to improve mileage by taking advantage of the higher octane rating is not relevant to the existing fleet. New engines capable of handling both low and high octane fuels efficiently will be expensive and complex, requiring engineering compromises that will prevent the engine from running optimally on either fuel type.

If your plan is to retool the entire car fleet with new engines, why not go all the way and make every car a hybrid or diesel? The figures you quote for the turbo-charged, injected, Saab engine Buick, by the way, are unlikely to actually materialize, and 20 mpg city is not what I call revolutionary. The answer is not to replace the fuel in our ICE cars, but to replace the ICE cars.

As with diesel engines, you can turbo charge combustion air, inject fuel at higher pressures, increase the compression ratio, and change the timing to get more power if you use a fuel that can handle the higher pressures without pre-igniting (knocking). That is old-school mechanical engineering and nothing new. All of those techniques were being used during WWII to get more power out of aircraft engines.

I personally don't think it is a good idea to use cane ethanol either for the reasons you cite. I'm just pointing out that without unending government support, corn ethanol can't compete economically in the long run.

HelmutJun 27 2010 02:37 AM

What do you suppose the average compression ratio of an OBD-II vehicles is? A lot of OBD-I's have a 10 to 1 ratio. It's those old push rod designs that stuck around in vehicles like the Chevy Tahoe, Ford's V-8's or "the vulcan" Fords early flex fuel. 3.0 liter. No more than 8.5 to 1, more bore than stroke. Correct me if I'm wrong but didn't Pimental and Searchinger both use those as the average American vehicle. 11 miles per gallon!? C'mon guys.
My 95' Toyota Camry (94,000 miles on) is doing fine, after spending $330 bucks for the piggy-back, fuel injector, conversion kit. The mileage has been no where near, as bad as Chicken Little said. I have one more adjustment to make. Mileage may be down 2 mpg hard LA city driving. My access to a Dyno or 5-gas analyzer is limited. It was much cleaner when I tested it, about 1/2 the CO2 of anything running on petroleum. 1/3rd less NOX, A little more O2, overall better than I expected. We lived in Brazil 23 years ago and our 1.3 liter Fiat was carbureted and as I recall, we weren't running out of fuel every week. That was E-100.
Carbureted in some applications with a cat, may work about as well as fuel injection. The A/F ratio is 9 to 1. How many Hybrid fans have actually looked at an even partially disassembled Prius.? I'm not knocking the tech, a solar powered car would rock. Oh yes... it will. Americans just aren't going to all buy a Hybrid tomorrow. If they could it would be with unpredictable impact. (not sure why? just the way we do it) Retooling for bio-fuel is not much of an issue, in fact should save energy. It's basically done. Just not in a solar powered plant. It also won't sell that new $40,000 high tech push button thing to the biggest and laziest, cheapest suckers in the world. Ford Eco-boost is a vast improvement. The new Fiesta should be flex-fuel. New diesel engines are much more efficient and cleaner. (just expensive)
I've no degree in engineering, but if I had to base a decision based on my experience in Farming, Commercial Fishing and Auto repair. It seems that NRDC has been a little tough on Corn based. If your not actually growing corn or producing Alcohol, aren't you just a little more likely to be suffering from misinformation or ideology.
Our world is heavily populated with combustion engines, and will continue to be, some continuously running. They will be mass produced long after we've debated net energy, EROI, VEETC or other well intentioned cerebral exercises. They will run on bio-fuels cleanly and efficiently, if people take care of them. If I perform the maintenance on enough of them I may afford healthcare.
Of course being said, anything our government finally does will most likely not mandate the use of more efficient farm equipment, cleaner plant power, sane land use regulation, advanced bio-fuels, or even a flex-fuel Fiesta at my local Ford dealer.
VEETC or no it shouldn't be so damn hard to crank out fuel grade Alcohol cleanly and efficiently. I guess if you don't threaten to take away the cookie jar some kids won't even consider their own misbehavior.
What has got to go, besides the actual eco-destruction,is everything else big energy gets away with. When I commercial fished in Alaska, we were regulated by the amount of days we could fish, escapement, etc. If we had gear in the water over time. The Coast Guard would board your vessel, you had to shake each fish, then be heavily fined. Big trouble for the little guy. When I saw Pinedale Wy. and the Wind River mt. range lowlands, packed with Gas rigs, spewing toxic waste, a part of me seriously died. I think our problem is not so much where we get our Ethanol but where we get our Democracy.
Thank you Mr. Greene. I was waiting to hear more boring VEETC stuff. Really, I was, because ethanol is a choice I can afford to make, experiment with etc. Seemed like a good idea 23 years ago in Santa Catarina.
Reading these comments has helped aleviate my post- traumatic ,enviro- disaster, stress syndrome. BP's gift to the world, Pebble Mine, and "GasLand" in less than a month's time was a rough wake-up call.

Russ FinleyJun 27 2010 10:06 AM

Guys, all things being equal, the lower energy content of ethanol is not a big deal as long as it is priced low enough to compensate. You just have to make a few more trips to the gas station.

When it isn't priced low enough, consumers end up paying more for the ethanol blended gas than they realize because they are unaware that they are getting lower mileage.

In a nutshell, the blending subsidy is designed to hide from consumers the real cost of that ethanol. The price is being paid out of a tax pool instead of at the pump.

Bob WinnsonJun 27 2010 02:48 PM

Since ethanol adds to the fuel supply, gasoline prices are lower than they would be. Take it away, and the price goes up and/or more oil needs to be drilled for. Gasoline is actually $10 or more per gallon to the taxpayer--it has FAR more hidden costs to the taxpayer than ethanol. Try counting the costs of military protection of oil fields, shipping routes, the social health costs, air and water quality, etc. Ethanol (whether corn, sugar cane, or cellulosic) is by far a less expensive and less damaging fuel to society than gasoline. Not perfect, but better and actually available today in significant quantities, with legitimate promise for dramatically increases quantities.

Bob WinnsonJun 27 2010 02:54 PM

The 2011 Buick Regal will have an FFV option with an engine more capable of taking advantage of ethanol's higher octane. This is a good move--and when other car models offer the same then the argument about losing fuel economy due to the engines not taking advantage of the higher octane will go away. Also--please take note that most FFV owners find that the fuel economy increase is near 15% on average (range from 10-25%); not the 30%+ that the anti-ethanol crowd posts around the web. Some studies also find some (non-FFV) car models lose no fuel economy on ethanol blends, even up to E30.
http://www.autoguide.com/auto-news/2010/05/2011-buick-regal-to-run-e85-starting-this-fall.html
"The base 2.4L four-cylinder will be E85 capable as well. The turbo engine in particular is expected to eliminate the fuel economy discrepancy that occurs when running on E85. Motors running on ethanol tend to see a 15 percent drop in fuel economy, however GM expects the gap to narrow below 10 percent on the turbo engine, with virtually no discrepancy in the future."

Ron SteenblikJun 27 2010 03:25 PM

Bob, you write:

Gasoline is actually $10 or more per gallon to the taxpayer--it has FAR more hidden costs to the taxpayer than ethanol. Try counting the costs of military protection of oil fields, shipping routes, the social health costs, air and water quality, etc.

Since make the claim that gasoline costs $10 more per gallon per taxpayer (which, given that consumption of petroleum products in the United States is 300 billion gallons a year, implies subsidies of $3 trillion a year) how about you showing how those subsidies are broken down, Bob.

Friends of the Earth did a calculation recently (in a piece critical of subsidies to oil and gas) and found that the tax-expenditure programs amount to less than $0.10 per gallon. Others, adding in costs for maintaining the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and reasonable cost-recovery for the protection of shipping lanes, bring the total up to somewhere around $0.25 to $0.30 per gallon. So, it will be interesting to see what you count to bring up the total by another $9.70 per gallon.

Dave GarJun 27 2010 05:28 PM

The real problem is the oil companies control distribution and the ethanol industry is pretty much at their mercy. Right now, the oil industry is hogging the whole .45 cent blenders credit, I see little coming to the producers when gas is $2.15 on the futures market and ethanol is $1.55 . The economics of corn ethanol would be a whole lot better if we could get paid a fair price for what we are producing. The spread between gas and ethanol is way too wide and at historic levels, even an extra dime on the price would do wonders for an ethanol producers balance sheet. So what is the fair value of ethanol ?? I know its not $1.55 . I maybe wouldn't be that opposed to giving up the VEETC but I don't want to give up the import tariff, I believe our economy in the midwest is too important. I believe in supporting Americans more than Brazilians.

And Ron, I do agree that the expansion of corn ethanol should be slowed ...for now. I would even go as far to say that maybe there should even be a moritorium placed on the building of any new plants for maybe 5 years and let things settle down for a while. I'd like to see more of a controlled growth in the industry, as corn yields continue to rise and a surplus of corn grows, then permit a few more plants. This would also keep the price of our grain more stable and affordable for all users. With the European nation possibly allowing some member countries the option of using GMO seed, there will probably be a surge in corn yields around the world which will hurt our exports so we will need more ethanol plants in the future.

And Ron, if there has been apple orchards chopped down and are now growing corn, there are certainly other circumstances behind it. They didn't cut them trees down because so there is just so much money to made growing corn and how big were these orchards, 500 acres, a 1000 acres, a far cry from the millions of acres of land that would be cleared in Brazil to ramp up their production.

And to Russ, no I don't want to re-power every car in America with better ethanol designed engines, I just want the automakers to start optimizing cars now for ethanol. And I don't want to use diesel because thats just more fossils fuels and hybrids, i have no problem with. I'd like to see a E-85 hybrid car. The majority of the cars that are on the road today won't be on the road 5 to 10 years from now, they wear out. You don't think the Buick Regal is progress, our opinions differ here greatly. If I were a traveling saleman, this would be the car for me, very stylish, cheap fuel and great mileage.

Good day!!

HelmutJun 27 2010 07:01 PM

If only they would stay in those shipping lanes. I've survived a collision with a tanker headed into Valdez and our skip was not entirely to blame. What else don't they do. Have a fail safe plan if the blow out protector doesn't work.

All the costs direct or indirect, calculations comparing costs are theoretical. So many things happen in real time that you just have to be there to see. What's predicted, often doesn't occur. Put your lap top away and get dirty. Jimmy Carter wasn't afraid to. Americans need to drive 4 cylinder cars. Get over their V8 flat screen on wheels. There is only one 4 cylinder flex -fuel available in our country. The Chev HRR. All these auto makers have economy cars, flex-fuels in Brazil, diesels in Europe. But almost none here. People who never looked under the hood, go on news talk shows and advise Americans to "drive their car into the ground". ??! We are ridiculous.

VEETC is horrible, but is having that much less Ethanol really a better idea. I'm finding it hard to believe anyones research on corn based Ethanol. It sounds like NRDC and other critics have zero tolerance or adamantly deny that there is any chance what so ever, that Corn based can be a cleaner fuel. Like it will lead to "Death Panels" or something. Cat's will literally be marrying dogs if Nebraska grows one more field of corn. Whether it goes in your fuel tank or your chicken. I'm sure that scares them. Your talking about a hell of a lot field corn already growing. Tell me specifically, where is this deforestation taking place? I understand there can be an inevitability with a fuel crop, and I don't want to see Agriculture get any worse than it is. But is there no other option to ensure a move to grass, algae, etc. Perhaps a documentary tour. CornLand" Seriously, if somebody like Searchinger actually worked his way to school, busting his but in the corn fields, then told me to forget it, he'd be more believable.

Now it's great that your concerned that I shouldn't pay 4.18 a gallon but I seriously doubt your going to buy me a new battery on wheels either. I don't like new anyway and if your not paying, then there's all that financing which is a whole nother sickness. Maybe NRDC should not equate ethanol production with Big bad oil companies at any stage of the game. Americans think in black and white. Electric car good, bio fuel bad. All these little Civics and Fits, Corollas and Yarises, what have you, could have and should have been flex fuel, a couple million tons of CO2 ago. The nice folks that buy those cars are not really the people who buy a Prius. Getting regulation into America's energy production seems impossible. I'm afraid of being anti any alternative for right now. I could use an E-85 pump closer than 15 miles right now. California would have me wait to finance an electric car. Even though I can't really afford it and the motor was wired in China. Cause that's what big, high tech auto wanted.

Russ FinleyJun 28 2010 11:45 AM

Bob, you say:

Since ethanol adds to the fuel supply, gasoline prices are lower than they would be. Take it away, and the price goes up and/or more oil needs to be drilled for.

Lower gas prices stimulate more use, which is a catch-22. That's why this problem has to be attacked by increasing energy efficiency instead of by merely replacing the fuel in our tanks. The price of liquid fuels will rise as demand exceeds supply. There is no way to stop it. On the other hand, doubling the price of your liquid fuel has little impact if you have doubled your gas mileage with a high mileage car, which also cuts the environmental impact of your fuel in half.

Environmental groups have been fighting offshore drilling for decades. Note that Obama had approved more of it while giving full support to corn ethanol. Ten billion gallons of corn ethanol did not prevent the Gulf disaster.

Not perfect, but better and actually available today in significant quantities, with legitimate promise for dramatically increases quantities.

Not perfect? A recent study in Nature shows that agriculture is doing far more damage to the planet's biosphere than fossil fuels. Dramatically increasing quantities of industrial agriculture is clearly a move in the wrong direction.

Corn ethanol cannot scale to provide dramatically increased quantities. The EPA was planning to get most of its cellulosic from Cello, which was convicted of fraud. Range fuels has given up on cellulosic in favor of methanol and nobody wants Brazilian cane ethanol except Brazilians.

The 2011 Buick Regal will have an FFV option with an engine more capable of taking advantage of ethanol's higher octane. This is a good move--

That Buick Regal is hoping to get 20 mpg city--definitely not a good move. The lower energy content of ethanol is irrelevant if it is priced low enough to compensate for lower mileage provided.

Russ FinleyJun 28 2010 12:15 PM

The economics of corn ethanol would be a whole lot better if we could get paid a fair price for what we are producing ...The spread between gas and ethanol is way too wide and at historic levels, even an extra dime on the price would do wonders for an ethanol producers balance sheet ... I don't want to give up the import tariff, I believe our economy in the midwest is too important. I believe in supporting Americans more than Brazilians.

"It is hard to get a man to understand something if his living depends on him not understanding it.”--Upton Sinclair

I would even go as far to say that maybe there should even be a moritorium placed on the building of any new plants for maybe 5 years and let things settle down for a while. I'd like to see more of a controlled growth in the industry, as corn yields continue to rise and a surplus of corn grows, then permit a few more plants.

This kind of government top down command and control economics sounds eerily familiar, comrade.

This would also keep the price of our grain more stable and affordable for all users.

You are acknowledging that corn ethanol has raised the price of corn for other users.

If I were a traveling saleman, this would be the car for me, very stylish, cheap fuel and great mileage.

Even the official press statement only purports to get 20 mpg city on gas. The 30 mpg highway will likely never materialize, and even if it did, it pales in comparison to a midsized hatchback I'm familiar with that gets over 50 mpg.

And good day to you to, sir! ;

Dave GarJun 28 2010 06:59 PM

Russ,

Of course ethanol has raised the price of corn. But what would you expect when the govt. comes out with huge mandates that takes production of ethanol from 4.0 billion gallons to 13.0 bil. gallons in a few short years. Alot of speculation came into the market by folks who didn't understand ethanol production. Most people don't get it that only 2/3 of the bushel is used and the other 1/3 is sold as high protein feed called DDG. And so what if corn did go up?? Are farmers obligated to sell their corn for as little as possible. Have you noticed the price of sugar lately, Russ. Sugar used to trade at .08 cents, now its .16 and was at .30 a few months ago and guess what, the cost to produce corn ethanol is less than the cost to produce sugarcane ethanol. The point is things just need a little time to catch up, corn technology will bring bigger yields and cheap corn to us once again.

Russ, come clean and please tell me where your interests or investments lay. You work awfully hard trying discredit ethanol. What is it you are trying to protect??

Have another good day !

P.S. And no, I don't want to hear about your investment in a Toyota Prius.

Geoff CooperJun 29 2010 10:03 AM

Nathanael,

So....will your next ad depict an oil exec handing a big check over to a well-heeled environmental NGO executive???

** "...the Naure Conservancy lists BP as one of its business partners. The Conservancy also has given BP a seat on its International Leadership Council and has accepted nearly $10 million in cash and land contributions from BP and affiliated corporations over the years." May 24, 2010 Washington Post: "Nature Conservancy faces potential backlash from ties with BP" http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/05/23/AR2010052302164.html?sid=ST2010052203644

**"Crystal City-based Conservation International has received millions more and even gave BP chief executive John Browne a seat on its board from 2000 to 2006. (Browne relinquished his seat about the time a sex scandal ended his reign at BP.) And, the company has had dealings with the Sierra Club, Audubon, Environmental Defense Fund, among others."
http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/citydesk/2010/05/24/its-a-gusher-outrage-erupts-at-d-c-green-groups-ties-to-bp/

**"At least half of the 19 members of the [Gulf of Mexico Foundation's] board of directors have direct ties to the offshore drilling industry. One of them is currently an executive at Transocean, the company that owns the Deepwater Horizon rig that exploded last month, causing millions of gallons of oil to spill into the Gulf of Mexico."
May 4, 2010. "Nonprofit Conservation Group Has Ties to Oil Interests, Gulf Oil Spill" http://www.propublica.org/ion/blog/item/non-profit-conservation-group-has-ties-to-big-oil-interests-gulf-oil-spill

** "Environmental groups used to be funded largely by their members and wealthy individual supporters. They had only one goal: to prevent environmental destruction. Their funds were small, but they played a crucial role in saving vast tracts of wilderness and in pushing into law strict rules forbidding air and water pollution. But Jay Hair--president of the National Wildlife Federation from 1981 to 1995--was dissatisfied. He identified a huge new source of revenue: the worst polluters. Hair found that the big oil and gas companies were happy to give money to conservation groups. Yes, they were destroying many of the world's pristine places. ...Companies like Shell and British Petroleum (BP) were delighted." The Nation. March 22, 2010. "The Wrong Kind of Green." http://www.thenation.com/article/wrong-kind-green

I'll keep holding my breath for that ad...

Thanks.

Geoff

Russ FinleyJun 29 2010 11:21 AM

Dave,

What is it you are trying to protect??

Hint, it's big, round, and blueish in color.

My family cut oil for transport use 80% just by swapping low mileage vehicles for high mileage ones. This isn't rocket science. A Prius uses far less fossil fuel than the average American flex fuel car running on E85.

We all take into account the fact that only 70% of a bushel of corn entering a corn ethanol refinery is lost to the human food chain. Without the energy credit that DDG was given a few years ago the corn ethanol energy balance would still be negative.

I agree, as do most others, that given time the price of corn will come down as corn farmers all over the world plant more corn in an attempt to profit from the high price it commands--assuming demand does not continue to outstrip supply. That is how commodity farming works. The high price is caused by a temporary lag in supply relative to demand. But that is the problem. To meet demand we have planted a lot more corn.

Several recent studies have pointed out that using food for fuel can't scale (we cannot grow both) and that agriculture is doing far more harm to this planet than oil. See the links in my earlier post.

Agriculture is a necessary evil to keep humanity fed. A corn field is one species away from being as biologically impoverished as a mall parking lot.

Using food for fuel is already exacerbating malnutrition and damage to the biosphere and biofuel only represents about 2% of global liquid fuel supply.

Dave GarJun 29 2010 09:18 PM

This is for you, Russ. I know how well you like studies. Enjoy.

Ethanol has an overwhelmingly positive energy benefit according to a new report from the United States Department of Agriculture Office of Energy Policy and New Uses. Dry grind ethanol plants using conventional fuel power for thermal energy and electricity, as well as producing and selling dry distillers grains, can produce almost twice as much energy (ethanol) than it uses for growing corn, ethanol production and transportation combined, the Grand Island Independent reported. Also, the report found that ethanol's net energy ratio is much higher than USDA's previous estimate of 1.77 units of ethanol energy. The most recent data prepared for the USDA analysis showed dry mills producing dried and wet distillers grain produce a 2.1 to 2.6 net energy ratio.

And with higher corn yields in the future, this net energy ratio will only continue to climb.

Russ FinleyJun 30 2010 01:12 PM

Dave,

It has been acknowledged for many years now that corn ethanol has a positive return on energy. This debate has not been over the net energy balance or corn ethanol. It has been about its other negative impacts.

And the term "overwhelmingly positive" is not found anywhere in this USDA study. Cane ethanol has a 10 to 1 net energy ratio as opposed to this study result of 2.3 to 1 (ten gallons of fossil fuel to produce 23 gallons of ethanol)

And no, this net energy ratio will not continue to climb forever and ever. It is near it's peak thanks primarily to incorporation of combined heat and power technology.

A study done by the University of Nebraska two years ago found similar results and was also based on the same survey results.

Surveys are notoriously inaccurate. Everyone is putting their best foot forward. Until the actual gas and electric bills at the refineries are part of the study, the study can only be as accurate as the guy who got the job of filling out the survey.

The destruction of the environment from expansion of industrial agriculture is why the use of food crops won't scale:

"http://biodiversivist.blogspot.com/2009/10/transgressing-identified-and-quantified.html"

A paper recently published in Ambio, the journal of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, calculated how many net calories are extracted from the world's food crops and how many are needed to feed the world's population:

"Clearly, very little, or nothing, remains for biofuel from agricultural primary crops"


Russ FinleyJun 30 2010 01:28 PM

Geoff,

Nice job parroting Bob Dineen's latest propaganda:

The Bobs--Corn Ethanol's Dynamic Duo

"Could it be the unholy alliance between oil interests and environmentalists?"--Bob Dinneen, CEO of the RFA

I created my own anti-propaganda propaganda video.

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