Thursday, May 19, 2011

Boondoggle Ethanol Program Got You Down? Help End it.

Ethanol is Not About Energy Independence

Have you figured out that the federal ethanol program is not about becoming energy independent, but about putting Midwest corn farmers on the government dole? If not, keep reading. If so, are you ready to help end it? That's in here, too.
Corn fieldImage by Rastoney via Flickr
If you think ethanol lowers fuel prices, then I guess you don't know that each gallon of ethanol is subsidized 47.5 cents per gallon by our tax dollars. In fact, Brazil exports ethanol, but we put a 54 cents per gallon import tax on Brazilian ethanol and then limit its import to seven percent of US production. If it were about saving money, we'd simply import the much less expensive ethanol from Brazil.

If it were about energy independence, we wouldn't use corn, either. It takes about 65% more energy to produce ethanol from corn than the ethanol yields. Who says so? Among others, University of California-Berkeley geoengineering professor Tad W. Patzek in Science Daily back in 2005.

At this point, you may be confused simply because the truth and what you've been led to believe are very different. So, let me say it directly: We use more energy to produce ethanol from corn than the entire amount of energy yielded from the corn-made ethanol. More simple? It takes more energy than we get back, so the ethanol makes us MORE dependent on foreign oil and costs us more money.

"Ah," you say, "but it was supposed to be about energy independence, wasn't it? How could this be?"

The Wrong Crop for the Wrong Reasons

Well, only if you believe the rhetoric. You see, one reason Brazil's ethanol is so cheap is that it's derived from sugar cane, not corn. But we use corn, so it looks more and more like this is a give-away program to Big Ag than anything else.

Being someone who pays attention, you ask, "But don't we also grow sugarcane in the United States?"

We do. We also grow sugar beets. Both of them produce about five times as much ethanol per acre as corn, which makes the ethanol from those crops much less expensive to produce. We also have switchgrass throughout the United States.

Switchgrass is very interesting. For one thing it takes half the costs to produce switchgrass per acre as it does corn. For another, switchgrass can grow in marginal growing areas, meaning the costs are still less because it requires less productive lands. Remember how it takes 65% more energy to produce corn ethanol than the ethanol yields? Ethanol from switchgrass yields 500% more energy than it takes to produce it. And you don't even have to replant switchgrass! So, why are we focused on corn?

Does Archer-Daniels-Midland have huge investments in switchgrass like it does in corn production? Nah, I didn't think so.

Look up switchgrass and ethanol online and you'll see there are quite a few articles on it. Several good ones in Scientific American alone. From 2006 to 2008 there were several studies announced and quite a few stories written on the emergence of switchgrass as an alternative to corn as a source of ethanol. Since 2009, articles on switchgrass disappeared. I wonder why.

How do we fix this mess?

Well, we obviously can't rely on Washington. That's a near-certainty.

Gas PumpImage by Frank Kehren via Flickr
Now, here is how we combat this massive, wasteful federal give-away program. Not all filling stations have ethanol in their gasoline. At a 90% gas/10% ethanol blend, which most filling stations use, for every 10 gallons you pump you have pumped nine gallons of gas and one gallon of ethanol. That gallon of ethanol costs you and other taxpayers 47.5 cents. Pump ethanol-free gas and when you fill up, you save taxpayers about a buck.

Want to put an end to this subsidy and get three to four percent better gas mileage? Pump gasoline without ethanol. Even the federal government admits 10% ethanol gets poorer gas mileage.

If enough of us do this, then we can bring this to an end. When ethanol-free gas stations are over-run with business and ethanol mix stations have declining sales, it will right itself through simple supply and demand.

I know that you may not know where your nearest ethanol-free gas station is located, but I'm looking out for you: Go here: for a current list which is listed by state and then by city. It's easy to look up. Now you're all set.

Hey, who loves ya, baby?
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  1. One angle not touched on is that by converting food producing corp land into fuel producing land, it takes FOOD from a hungry world. This is in America's interest to show the world that Evil OPEC has caused us to literally take food out of the baby's mouth due to their high costs. Every gain the US sells on the world food markets is in part funded by taxpayers. Now the world has to see the consequences of America-basing and hating - and that their votes at the UN against us and all the protests by their poeple, especially those living in OPEC nations, is really a problem caused by high energy costs. Without this current program, the analysts say the Arab spring would not have occured without the higher food prices.

  2. Anonymous,

    Thanks for the reply. You are correct in your assessment, but it was outside the scope of this particular posting.

    Personally, I'm more concerned about the increased food costs to American consumers, already whipsawed by massive job losses and rising energy costs.

  3. I discovered this during my study of why HFCS is in everything. I've found that corn is basically the source of all evil. Obesity (and with it diabetes and heart disease), high energy costs, environmental damage, food shortages, big agriculture (family farms dying, bad farming practices [CAFOs, chicken barns]) and increased allergies all link back to corn. I try to tell everybody because until we change our habits, the big companies (and the government) will continue the way they've been because it's more profitable and people seem to want it that way.

    I've been telling all my friends to buy ethanol-free gas, even if they pay a little more, but I couldn't find a station. I'll definitely be supporting Bob's from now on and tell my friends. I drive by there all the time, he should have a giant sign up: No Ethanol!

  4. Greetings All,

    Nice ant hill to start kicking. Another issue to address are the effects that government mandated ethanol mixes have on government mandated emissions controls systems. Ethanol devours catalytic converters as well as attacking all sorts of hoses, gaskets and other assorted sealing devices and sensors.

    The link to ethanol free stations is great and there is an absolute lack of pure gas up here in Metro Atlanta. Smells like a business opportunity to me.


    Shane Bruce


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