The Last Days of Ethanol?

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A prosaic commodity—corn—is making strange political bedfellows. But their stance makes infinite sense.

They oppose heavily subsidized ethanol, made from corn. Opposition comes from such diverse advocacy groups as the Democrat-aligned activist organization to the Tea Party-aligned FreedomWorks. Other opponents ranging across the ideological spectrum include the American Bankers Association, the Sierra Club and the libertarian Competitive Enterprise Institute.

They believe, as do sensible Americans, that using food for fuel is public policy insanity. The Environmental Protection Agency, keeping true to its usual irresponsible actions, decided earlier this year to allow the use of fuel containing ethanol in any gas-powered car or truck  An agency that is supposed to protect the environment looks the other way despite such environmental consequences as water pollution from heavy application of farm chemicals applied to corn fields to increase production, clearing of wildlife habitat, and plowing marginal and erodible lands to boost corn supply.

Ethanol was sold to the public as a way to reduce crude oil imports. Yet for our investment of $17 billion from 2005 to 2009, the reward to taxpayers was a paltry 1.1 mile-per-gallon increase in fuel economy. Simply keeping our tires properly inflated could have saved more than that.

Congress earlier this year voted to extend the current $7 billion ethanol subsidy for one year and the tariff on ethanol at the existing rate as part of the Bush tax rate compromise. Ethanol now eats up 35 million acres of corn, forcing farmers to convert wheat and soy acreage into corn.

There are more than 200 ethanol plants in two dozen states. Production, however, is centered in the Midwest. About 40 percent of U.S. corn grown is used to make ethanol.

We’re not only wasting taxpayer money on ethanol for domestic use, but also exports are surging, the Renewable Fuels Association reported April 18. If the current pace of exports continues all year, they could total more than 700 million gallons, compared to 400 million gallons in 2010.

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  • davarino

    Get on the bandwagon, ethanol good, its so tastey.

    If I were an ethanol producer I would be worried, cause this gravey train aint going to last forever

  • m.demetrius

    Sugar cane takes less fertilizer, makes more sugar per plant. It's not the most efficient crop to produce, but its use for ethanol production would not jeapordize the food and feed prices that corn for ethanol does.

  • tom foolery

    Excellent logic you have, because other sources of energy have negative impacts we should ignore ethanol's negatives and continue the absurd production of a so called source of energy that consumes more energy than it produces. Brilliant!

  • LibertyMan

    Carbon footprint is much bigger when one walks to work.

    But then again the envirowacko religion is more about emotion then actual science.

    The Enviro-Wacko Religionists have murdered over 150 million Africans because of their religion over science and their quest to control. 150 Million dead people are no consequence to the Enviro wacko religionist. They have no conscience. Just a quest for power.

  • larry hagedon

    Lots of misinformation in this article. I will tackle some of the main fallacies.

    It is a lie to say we in America divert one kernel of corn from food to any of the other corn products. In fact we saturate all corn markets, including world food markets, and we always have a surplus of corn left over when the new harvest comes in. Always.

    Agricultural products, be they corn, wheat or livestock, always bounce around in price like we are seeing today, always have always will.

    Grain crops like corn account for around 10 cents of the price of a $3.00 box of cornflakes. The petroleum used to produce, transport, process, and market that box of cornflakes comes to around 40 percent or $1.20. Most of the price rise in food is going for the petroleum used.

    Corn is a feedstock that is used in many markets. It is not just a food. If we only grew corn for food, and not for pharmaceuticals, nutraceuticals, vitamins, industrial chemicals, plastics and fuels, we would have to reduce our corn production by around 50 percent.

    We now pay farmers 2 billion dollars to not grow crops on 30 million acres. Without our present corn markets we would be forced to idle millions more acres at substantial cost. Failure to do so would lead to massive overproduction of corn and other crops and a crash in world agricultural prices. This would bankrupt our farmers and without many billions of dollars in farmer bailouts, would destroy world agriculture and lead to mass starvation.

    When we object to the 10 billion or so in federal ethanol subsidies we also need to address the 51 billion dollars in American petroleum subsidies.

    We produced 13 billion gallons of ethanol last year. That offset 10 percent of our petroleum imports. As we are hemorrhaging well over one billion dollars a day to import petroleum. This is a 400 billion dollars a year transfer of our nations and our childrens wealth to our enemies. As part of that money goes to support Muslim terrorism, we should be thankful we have a growing ethanol industry that keeps this money in America, grows American companies, employs American workers and pays billions of dollars in American taxes.

    Ethanol started the ball rolling to develop the bio technology industry and the new Age of Bio Technology that we are now entering.

    Bio Technology includes food production, animal feeds, pharmaceuticals, nutraceuticals, vitamins, industrial chemicals, plastics and fuels. The list of products that we can make thru bio technology is endless, including any product now made from petroleum and massive amounts of inexpensive but nutritional new high protein food and feed additives.

    The foods, feeds and high protein food and feed additives produced from many different bio feedstocks and bio processes will compete directly with corn, wheat, rice and soybeans for world food and feed market share.

    More bio products are being developed daily.

    It is not only corn that is used as a bio feedstock, but literally any bio mass on the face of the earth. We are now ramping up our bio processing with the usage of garbage, waste plastics, sewage, farm manures, corn stover, green algae, industrial wastes, packing house offal, produce canning waste, roadkill, sugar cane, sugar beet pulp, switch grass… the list is endless.

    One of these newly developed bio products is real gasoline. Bio crude oil is being blended with petroleum crude and processed in petroleum refineries. Bio gasoline is thereby being mixed in with petroleum gasoline and you can not tell the difference. Chemically, it is real gasoline. That market is just starting to ramp up.

    It is sheer fantasy to think ethanol will just go away. On a world wide scale, companies like BP, Royal Dutch Shell, Cosmo oil of Japan, ADM, Cargil, Poet, Dow Chemical, Petrobras of Brazil, India Oil and EI DuPont are each and all investing multiple billions of dollars in capturing world market share of ethanol, but more importantly, in the new, multiple trillion dollar Age of Bio Technology that ethanol is ushering in.

    All major world militaries are investing heavily in bio technology because of the strategic necessity. All militaries, and the worlds airliners too, are preparing to increasingly switch to bio jet fuel, ship and truck fuels, as it becomes available.

    • Chazman

      Good post, corn is 20% starch and that is what is used to make alcohol. The remaining 80% is almost all protein. This is used to make steaks and hamburgers. Cows love the stuff and I love cows.

  • Alex Kovnat

    A nice thing about ethanol is, its antiknock (octane) rating is well over 100. Another octane-enhancing oxygenate, methyl tertiary butyl ether, gave good results but we (American society, that is) had to discontinue using it because it fouled surface waters and water wells. You wouldn't want to spill ethanol on purpose, but if it happens its not an environmental disaster.

    Methanol has been proposed as a gasoline extender and alternative fuel, but its more corrosive than, and has lesser energy content, than ethanol. So I wouldn't give up on ethanol just yet.

  • Ellie Wyatt

    Government Moonshine~ Michael Heberling

    "Later-model cars and trucks were supposed to have been re-engineered to mitigate the corrosive properties of the E-10 ethanol-laced fuel. Ed Wallace, writing in Business Week, finds that this is not necessarily true. “Not only is ethanol proving to be a dud as a fuel substitute, but there is increasing evidence that it is destroying engines in large numbers.” He goes on: “It now appears that in just a few years since the government forced ethanol use on the country, engine and fuel system failures caused by ethanol are causing major damage to more and more new and used vehicles.” Wallace concludes: “Sadly, when a truly bad idea is exposed today, Washington’s answer is to double-down on the bet, mandate more of the same, and make the problem worse. Only this time around motorists will be able to gauge the real cost of ethanol when it comes time to fix their personal cars.”

    • Ellie Wyatt… here is the link to this article. Why should this substance go away? people are getting rich from the government subsidies on a product that the market wouldn't bear if given a choice. ALL SUBSIDIES NEED TO GO AWAY. all of them

      • larry hagedon

        Yes Ellie, we need to end the 15 or 10 billion dollar ethanol subsidy, and the 52 billion dollar petroleum subsidy also.

        That article is just a long list of old, time worn plagiarized info, urban legends, out of date info and plain old lies.

  • Wesley69

    Expect it to be a political football in the 2012 election.

  • larry hagedon

    Yes Wesley, it will be political, but with companies like BP, Royal Dutch Shell, Cosmo oil of Japan, ADM, Poet, Petrobras of Brazil, India Oil, Cargill, EI Du Pont and Dow Chemical each and all investing multiple billions of dollars in capturing world ethanol market share, dont expect ethanol to just go away.

  • John

    We will always need oil – for planes, heavy trucks, ships, etc.. so get used to it.

  • enoughalready

    Who in their right mind would burn food for fuel. The good Lord in all his wisdom, created a planet rich with oil, gas, coal and gave man the knowledge to process it into useable energy. There is a 100 year supply of gas in this country and ample oil and coal. Now why would he do that if he didn't want us to use it. AND do you think man is so powerful and smart that even though he is but a speck of sand on a beach, he can actually control the climate!!!! We are one planet in one solar system among many galaxies…..and you think we can control the climate. You are a fool. CO2 is released every time we exhale. It is one of the elements essential to life.

    • larry hagedon

      Why do you think we are burning food for fuel? We are not, and it is a bald face lie to say we are.

      Is it a sin to use Gods Bounty of surplus corn to produce pharmaceuticals that can help heal us? What about nutraceuticals, and vitamins? Is it a sin to use our God Given Bounty of surplus corn to produce consumer goods that you use every day? I think not.

      The Good Lord in all his wisdom placed growing plants on this earth for us to use. By processing corn and all the other of Gods plants for best uses we become good stewards of Gods Bounty.

      Get your facts straight. When did I ever say we could control the climate? Never did, never will. When did I say CO2 was harmful? Never did, never will.

  • LindaRivera

    It is a huge crime against humanity that corn is grown for fuel instead of food. This is one of the big reasons there have been food riots because it has created a very substantial food shortage and also has caused the cost of food to increase. It is extremely wicked targeting the poor who are in a desperate battle to survive.

    We have huge amounts of oil in this country and don't need to grow corn for food! But anti-America, anti-Free World ruling elites refuse to allow the oil to be drilled preferring instead to purchase oil from the Middle East. They are happy to finance global jihad.

    • larry hagedon

      Not one kernel of corn that America produces is taken away from our food supply and made into fuel, not one. It is a lie that we take food and burn it for fuel. We do not.

      It is a lie that there has been a food shortage because we took corn and used it for fuel. It is simply not true.

      We always saturate every food, pharmaceutical, nutraceutical, vitamin, industrial chemicals, plastics and fuel markets in the world with corn, and we have surpluses of corn left over every year when the new crop comes in.

      Yes there are hungry people in this world. They are hungry for many reasons but one reason is because the high price of petroleum makes corn too expensive for poor people to buy. Petroleum prices drive world prices of all products. That is not the fault of ethanol. Were we to ban using corn for ethanol, all of the corn we are growing for ethanol would rot, as we already, as we always do, have sold all the corn the world food markets will bear.

  • Enchanting Ethanol

    So much corruption surrounding ethanol! Newt Gingrich has taken money from the ethanol lobby. Gore supported ethanol when he was running for president and recently admitted his folly. B.Clinton who had money invested in an ethanol plant in Brazil that engaged in slave labor, recently rejected ethanol. Bush put the high levels of ethanol mandate in place. It goes on and on.
    The sad thing is it looks like this problem is going to continue with the new trend in reporting on ethanol. Finally, most news outlets are reporting that corn ethanol has problems— inefficiency, land use issues, waterway pollution, food security/inflation, etc. The new narrative is that cellulosic ethanol is the real answer and corn ethanol has been sucking up all the subsidies. If we just give cellulosic “the capital” we will have cheap “homegrown” energy for all.

    • larry hagedon

      I wouldnt believe much of anything Newt, AlGore, or Clinton says.

      I am a bit skeptical that Brazil still uses slaves, but even if they do , they are a sovereign nation. We can not dictate our values or laws to them.

      You have got to be kidding about believing anything the mass media says!?!?

      What you are talking about is the Age of Bio Technology. They already have plenty of capitalization. BP, Shell Oil, Cosmo Oil of Japan, India OIl, Poet, ADM, Cargill, Petrobras of Brazil, EI DuPont, and Dow Chemical have all recently invested multiple billions of dollars in capturing world ethanol market share and a place at the table in the Age of Bio Technology. They do not need Americas few billion dollars of ethanol subsidies.

    • Gerry

      Most help arltiecs on the web are inaccurate or incoherent. Not this!

    • fviisud

      LCh6DA doigbheqgguf

  • Enchanting Ethanol

    Cellulosic ethanol has received subsidies and has been unsuccessful. Look at Vinod khosla’s Range Fuels and Cello Energy. Range Fuels has gotten about 162 million in tax-payer dollars and about the same in private funding, but has not produced the cellulosic ethanol it promised. WSJ reported that the Range Fuels CEO says that no one has figured out how to produce commercially viable portions of cellulosic ethanol. And Cello Energy is bankrupt. (See WSJ 2/10/11 The Range Fuels Fiasco) (

  • larry hagedon

    The fairy tale that ethanol damages older cars has just a grain of truth to it, It did damage a few 70s cars that were manufactured with plastic fuel systems. Those cars are all antiques now.

    I use E85 in my 92 Chrysler quite often, It does no harm at all.

  • larry hagedon

    Sorry to hear that two companies failed: and it is a bit too early to call industry pioneer Range Fuels out of the game.

    Cello seems to have had ethical problems and made claims in their prospectus of things that were not yet true.

    Here are 50 companies, including Range, that are still fighting to come to market. Many of these folks have done their testing, run their demonstration plants and now the first few production plants are under construction. These first generation plants will all be obsolete almost instantly upon opening, just as new computers used to be obsolete the minute you brought them home from the store. The second and third generations of production plants will learn many lessons from the mistakes of these brave pioneers.


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  • Daniel Martin

    i had use it on my non flex -fuel suv bravada03 for 4 years with no problems

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