By on April 22, 2009

The EPA is currently soliciting comment on a proposed waiver to allow 15 percent ethanol blends (E15), and despite enduring a year of hard knocks, the ethanol lobby is making a desperate stand to reverse its declining fortunes. Peruse already-submitted comments, and you’ll notice that Growth Energy (the new K-Street tip of the ethanol spear) dominates the list with a host of spurious “supporting materials.” The group’s main argument (PDF) is fine-tuned for the jobs-crazed economic-political climate, centering around the assertion that “according to one estimate, allowing blending of E15 has the potential to create at least 135,000 jobs.” Which sounds great as long as you don’t look at the “hidden” cost of increasing blending credit receipts. Needless to say, Growth Energy isn’t asking anyone to go there, having helpfully created some talking points to help make commenting easier. We suggest commenting on the proposed waiver as well, but rather than dutifully regurgitating GE’s talking points why don’t you go through our E85 archive first. Or check out a few recent news stories after the jump which illustrate our unrelenting skepticism of so called intermediate ethanol blends.

For starters, check out this recent post to GM’s Fastlane blog, detailing the need for more testing of intermediate ethanol blends. In the words of GM Biofuels Implementation Manager, Coleman Jones, “GM is a big supporter of ethanol as an alternative fuel to help reduce petroleum use, but with respect to mid-level blends, there is a lot of testing that needs to happen before such a change is made.” Jones states that the only testing to be done on the engine impacts of E20 were done six years ago in Australia, and those showed catalyst damage on 40 percent of tested vehicles. And this comes from ethanol’s biggest backer outside of the energy industry. Not that GM is backing away from ethanol, though. As Jones puts it, “widespread use of E85 is the best and likely the only way to meet the 36 billion gallons of ethanol in 2022.”

Of course the “mandatory flexibility” approach is going to run into trouble as well, especially since California is preparing fuel carbon standards which the ethanol lobby claims “unfairly targets” their grift. Er, industry. The SF Chronicle reports that the rules, aimed at reducing fuel “carbon density,” take into account not only the carbon released through consumption, but also through production. Naturally, corn ethanol has some of the worst production-end carbon intensivity, a fact that Growth Energy’s Wesley Clark is happy to obfuscate. “Why should American ethanol makers be made responsible for Brazil’s policies on deforestation?” asks the former General, demonstrating his new-found K-street debate-shifting ninja skills. Because midwest corn ethanol scores worse than any other fuel, with land-use changes factored in. Sir.

And as goes California, so goes every other halfway-crunchy state in the union these days. Oregon’s legislature is considering a host of anti-ethanol bills, as local pols begin to smell the populist blood in the water. “I hate ethanol,” admits Eugene Rep Vicky Walker. Why? Because like our own Menno, Ms Walker has seen her Prius mileage drop since E10 hit the streets.

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37 Comments on “E85 Boondoggle Of The Day: Comment?...”


  • avatar
    johnthacker

    The EPA is currently soliciting comment on a proposed waiver to allow 15 percent ethanol blends (E15),

    Waiver to allow states to mandate 15 percent ethanol blends (E15), more precisely. Confusing to get quite right, but it’s important. E15 is already allowed, but this would allow states to mandate that all gas be at least E15.

  • avatar
    menno

    If E15 is now allowed, that’d be news to me. To my understanding, E10 is either allowed -OR- E85 (to approximately E70) is also allowed for sale in flex-fuel vehicles.

    If E15 is allowed now, then the ‘gummint’ had better step up to the plate early on ALL automobile warrantee claims relating to engine problems which could be attributable to ethanol concentrations in excess of 10%, because in virtually ALL cases, unless a car is certified as a flex-fuel vehicle, it states in the owner’s manual to NOT use fuels exceeding 10% ethanol concentrations.

    Of course, this could go a long way towards explaining why my Prius went from 42 mpg on E0 to 33 mpg (supposedly) on E10….

    I’ve found a gas station with E0 again and gladly pay the extra 20 cents per gallon for the pure motor fuel (roughly 10%).

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    This is just stupid: it’s not green, it’s not energy-positive, it’s not cost effective and it’s potentially damaging. Heck, even the “little Farmer” doesn’t get much out of this: it’s little more than a slush fund for agribusiness

    Do we not support the corn industry enough but pouring starch and syrup into every piece of produced foodstuff? Do we really need to burn corn as well?

    When you have greens and libertarians against something, it’s a good hint that it probably ought to be scrapped.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    Even if you support ethanol, E15 makes no sense, because we don’t have cars that operate on it and because we can’t make enough ethanol to create E15 across the board for everyone.

    If our objective was to convert every gallon of gas sold in the US into an E10 blend, we couldn’t even do that, because there isn’t enough ethanol to go around and we don’t have the crop growing capacity to produce that much.

    Producing E15 simply means that will be other fuel being sold that has little or no ethanol. You’re not adding to the ethanol pie, but just redistributing the same amount of ethanol unevenly across the spectrum. In the big picture, it’s a wash.

  • avatar
    npbheights

    I happily spent $3.49 a gallon a few weeks ago on E0- Pure Gasoline for my boat (80 gallons) at a marina instead of the destructive E10 at a gas station at $2.09 a gallon.

    I wish I could fill up my classic cars at the marina (I asked). Florida state law states that although E10 is mandated as an auto fuel, Pure gasoline will be allowed for marine use and “collector vehicles” but I can not find a source for pure gasoline for my collector vehicles.

    As for E15 in classic cars and boats, I might as well pour rusty water in the gas tank and see what happens.

    Guess I have to write a letter to Charlie Crist.

  • avatar
    chuckR

    There are others besides menno who suspect that E10 already screws up their mileage. Is it ECU mapping that is inappropriate for the blend? Is it something else? How much worse would E15 be? I noticed a 5% drop in mileage when I could no longer find E0. The car I drive is maintained as before, but it sure looks like the mileage drop is disproportionate to the energy content drop of the E10 blend. Its like bread that’s been stretched with sawdust, filling but non-nutritive.

    Is there a website that has locations where you can buy E0?

  • avatar
    Edward Niedermeyer

    johnthacker: It is indeed a bit confusing, but state mandates don’t seem to be the issue. From the EPA summary (PDF):

    “Section 211(f)(1) of the Act makes it unlawful for any manufacturer of any
    fuel or fuel additive to first introduce into commerce, or to increase the concentration in use of, any fuel or fuel additive for use by any person in motor vehicles manufactured after model year 1974 which is not substantially similar
    to any fuel or fuel additive utilized in the certification of any model year 1975, or subsequent model year, vehicle or engine under section 206 of the Act.”

    Also:

    “the Administrator may grant a waiver for a prohibited fuel or fuel additive if the applicant can demonstrate that the new fuel or fuel additive will not cause or contribute to engines, vehicles or equipment failing to meet their emissions standards over their useful life.”

    And:

    “Any approval, either fully or partially, is likely to elicit a market response to add E15 blends to E10 and E0 blends in the marketplace, rather than replace
    them. Thus consumers would merely have an additional choice of fuel.”

  • avatar
    nudave

    Perhaps when corn flakes get to be $20.00 a box, America will pull its head out of its ass.

  • avatar
    SunnyvaleCA

    “blending of E15 has the potential to create at least 135k jobs”

    Yeah, 135k jobs replacing destroyed catalytic converters and engine components.

  • avatar
    volvo

    “according to one estimate, allowing blending of E15 has the potential to create at least 135k jobs.”

    And 134K of those jobs will be in auto repair. :)

  • avatar
    cwallace

    When are we finally going to start calling BS on all these “…will create X thousands of new jobs” claims that automatically come with any green initiative? 135,000 new jobs will be created by jacking up the ethanol blend by five percent? Sounds like a mighty inefficient process, squeezing corn cobs.

  • avatar
    JMII

    Like npbheights said: E10 is a BIG problem for us boaters. I’ve been using Pri-G for years but couldn’t find any last time I was in West Marine so I picked up some Stabil that is specially designed to fight off the evils of E10. If E10 causes as many problems as I’ve heard (and seen!) E15 will be a complete disaster. Which means I’m sure it will be in a gas station on my corner tomorrow :(

    Funny thing is the Indy Racing League despite running Ethanol fuel and promoting it to death last year is now sponsored by ApexBrasil so even they know Ethanol made here in the US of A is boondoggle.

  • avatar
    johnthacker

    It’s somewhat legal to sell E15 now, it’s just not legal to market and sell it as regular gasoline fit for non flex-fuel vehicles and sell it in normal pumps, have it not void your warranty to use it, etc., etc. This application is about treating E15 just like regular gas for all purposes.

    The paragraph “Any approval, either fully or partially, is likely to elicit a market response to add E15 blends to E10 and E0 blends in the marketplace, rather than replace them. Thus consumers would merely have an additional choice of fuel” is misleading. How many of you see the choice between E10 and E0 blends, especially in the winter? I didn’t even see that even when E10 was more expensive than E0 during the corn boom, thanks to legal environmental requirements in this area. If you believe that the current regime with E10 makes it no more difficult to get pure gasoline, only adding a choice to the marketplace, then by all means believe the EPA and support this application.

    In reality, the result of legalizing E15 and treating it as a normal gas, indistinguishable from E0 (and E10) for legal and marketing purposes, would be to allow the EPA, state EPAs, and other governmental bodies to mandate E15 during particular periods for claimed emissions and pollution benefits.

    The same application’s “context” from the EPA also argues that “Several examples include the phasedown of the amount of lead allowed in gasoline in the 1980s and the introduction of reformulated gasoline (RFG) in 1995. Some segments of the public were convinced that the new fuels caused vehicle problems or decreases in fuel economy. Although substantial test data proved otherwise, these concerns lingered in some cases for several years.” So the EPA argues that decreases in fuel economy and any vehicle problems from current reformulated gasoline (which means E10, since MTBE is phased out) are a myth. If you believe that, then you’ll have no problem with the rest of their assertions and E15.

    Nothing stops a flex-fuel gas station that sells E85 from also offering a E15 blend, and nothing stops someone who owns a regular, non-flex-fuel vehicle from purchasing E15 from that station and filling their car with it. Other than voiding their warranty, etc. Just can’t treat it as real gas.

    Minnesota is also applying for a waiver, this one to mandate E20 (or more) in all gas by 2013.

  • avatar
    jpcavanaugh

    This topic chafes me on so many levels. First we subsidize it. Then we have to pay the higher subsidized prices (instead of the cheap South American sugar ethanol kept out by tarriffs) to blend it into the gas (which, as I recall, must be done locally and not at the refinery), then we pay again when our cars suffer a 10% milege drop and again when our cars don’t tolerate the stuff over the long run and require expensive repairs. Like many of you, I can’t find a local station that sells pure unadulterated gasoline. All this and we foul the environment in the process!

    I seem to recall reference to a study that domestic corn ethanol uses about as much energy to make it as it generates as fuel. Does anyone else recall this?

  • avatar
    johnthacker

    Nothing stops a flex-fuel gas station that sells E85 from also offering a E15 blend, and nothing stops someone who owns a regular, non-flex-fuel vehicle from purchasing E15 from that station and filling their car with it. Other than voiding their warranty, etc. Just can’t treat it as real gas.

    Minnesota is also applying for a waiver, this one to mandate E20 (or more) in all gas by 2013.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    So the EPA argues that decreases in fuel economy from reformulated gasoline (which means E10, since MTBE is phased out) are a myth. If you believe that, then you’ll have no problem with the rest of their assertions and E15.

    Not necessarily true. New cars are designed to run on something in the range of E5 to E10. At those levels, ethanol is a positive because it acts as a detergent.

    But new cars are not designed to run on E15. At those levels, the benefits of ethanol to your engine are lost, as what acts as a detergent at lower levels becomes corrosive at higher levels.

    For a modern gas engine, a little ethanol is good, but too much is bad. It’s not an all-or-nothing affair, it is something to be consumed in moderation.

  • avatar
    50merc

    nbpheights: “I wish I could fill up my classic cars at the marina (I asked). Florida state law states that although E10 is mandated as an auto fuel, Pure gasoline will be allowed for marine use and “collector vehicles” but I can not find a source for pure gasoline for my collector vehicles.”

    Well, though the marina’s price is awful, there’s always the option of filling up the boat’s tank and then using a siphon hose (sometimes called an Oklahoma credit card).

    I wish outfits such as AAA, the Horseless Carriage Club, lawnmower manufacturers and the like would speak up on behalf of easier access to non-adulterated gasoline.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    I seem to recall reference to a study that domestic corn ethanol uses about as much energy to make it as it generates as fuel. Does anyone else recall this?

    There have been several, and it really depends on the study as to the amount, but corn-based ethanol is between 0.7 and 2.0 units of energy in for every unit out. In other words, it’s net-negative except for a precious few studies.

    Cellulosic ethanol might be net-positive, but it’s as easy to scale up in production, doesn’t solve the mechanical issues, and suffers the same “growing fuel instead of food” problem. Of course, this might be an issue if we stopped putting corn in goddamn everything.

    As above, and regardless of the source it makes sense as a replacement for MTBE, or in situations where very high octane ratings are helpful. It does not make sense as a replacement for mass-market gasoline.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    In other words, it’s net-negative except for a precious few studies.

    Those studies ignore the food byproduct. If you include the food stuffs (animal feed) generated by ethanol production, it’s a net positive.

  • avatar
    slateslate

    for all the anti-tax “tea baggers” out there….if you want something to rant about, rant against ethanol. Republicans and Democrats from the ag. states are kow-towed by big corn.

    For a real alternative…..compressed natural gas + anti-sprawl zoning laws would be a better start.

    ymmv.

  • avatar
    DweezilSFV

    A side question: what did Arco use in CA to produce EC1 that made it compatible with engines that ran on leaded fuel at the time of the phase out?

    Also: corn is used for some 3000 different products, it’s not just for food any longer and hasn’t been for some time. How does that fit into the equation ?

    Set to open in Lancaster Blue Fire Ethanol refinery using waste products to produce ethanol
    http://WWW.bluefireethanol.com. Would this not change things in a positive way, especially over corn derived ethanol ? Or is Big Ag going to stomp this out as soon as it can?

    Not every barrel of oil that came out of the ground at the trun of the 20th Century produced the energy and by products that it does today.

    This is just a beginning isn’t it ?

    Sorry for all the questions and not trying to be antagonistic, but for an oppressive enviro mob that says “we can’t” to every solution from drilling, to wind farms that kill birds, to “land raping” oil shale recovery and still wants to scold us all for our “addiction to oil” [for the last 35 or 36 years], is this not a start for an alternative ? The infrastructure is already in place. If/when the cost is lowered to offset the reduction in energy derived, why not an alternative ? What’s the alternative ? Fuel cells in 20 years? And what of the “climate changing” effects of millions of cars releasing water vapor into the air? What a schvitz that will be!!!!!

    NG has it’s limitations as well: refueling infrastructure, tank size, weight etc.

    All the alternatives have problems and people to say ‘it can’t be done’.

    This is here right now. Not 10-15 25 years away.
    So, B&B : ‘splain me. I understand the “boondoggle” and the problems and have been a member of the Ethanol Coalition because I am fascinated by the idea of alternative fuels. This industry is in it’s infancy isn’t it?

    After 40 years of having no energy policy and hearing the same thing…..what’s the answer then?Just keep sucking up every last frigging drop of petrol and dismissing any and all alternatives because they’re not perfect replacements for oil?
    I don’t think that’s too bright an idea either.

    Please enlighten me. I have an old car too. I was concerned when lead was phased out. It’s still running fine. It’s been years since CA banned all lead in gasoline. I sincerely want to know and not trying to troll here.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    Ethanol is fine in theory. But in practice, it isn’t much of a panacea because you can’t make enough of it or any other biofuel to reduce oil consumption in any meaningful way. Biofuels of all kinds are just a drop in the bucket, at best.

    Also, corn is not the best material available for producing ethanol, because corn is an energy-intensive crop that has a lot of byproducts that can’t be used efficiently to create ethanol. With current technology, the only stuff that can be process into ethanol is the part of the corn that you can eat, while the rest of it either gets tossed out or else costs too much to be processed.

    There are better materials for producing ethanol than corn. Unfortunately, ethanol in the US has become a big-ag football that has put the focus on growing corn, instead of on the fuel output.

  • avatar
    DweezilSFV

    @PCH101: thanks.That helps explain it.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Those studies ignore the food byproduct. If you include the food stuffs (animal feed) generated by ethanol production, it’s a net positive.

    The problem of corn as an animal feed is not a new one, but ethanol exacerbates it by keeping it around, if not ramping it up because all that corn by-product is good for (sort of) is animal feed. And yes, it’s net-positive, but the ratio is not great and can easily be offset elsewhere in the supply chain.

    And then there’s the health issue: most ruminant animals are not really set up to live off of corn cellulose (and non-ruminants can’t digest it at all), but because we produce so damn much of the stuff we feed it to them anyway.

    About the only good thing, if you could call it that, is that the more corn ethanol we use, the less corn gets made into corn syrup and starches. All in all, it’s a terrible crop.

    Grasses, cane/beet and (eventually) algal ethanol are better sources, but they’re not replacements, nor should we be putting money into supplementing or replacing fuel instead of reducing it’s use.

  • avatar
    Lumbergh21

    As for E15 in classic cars and boats, I might as well pour rusty water in the gas tank and see what happens.

    Annually rebuild the carburetor, replace all rubber fuel lines and gaskets, and recommended replacing the fuel pump at least every five years. No big deal since you are doing your part to save the world, right?

  • avatar
    Lumbergh21

    Please enlighten me. I have an old car too. I was concerned when lead was phased out. It’s still running fine. It’s been years since CA banned all lead in gasoline.

    I too own a classic and live in California. Carburetor problems have been my bane sice we went from MTBE to ethanol. Luckily, I haven’t had any problems with the valve seats, that I know of, since they eliminated lead from the fuel.

  • avatar
    Engineer

    After 40 years of having no energy policy and hearing the same thing…..what’s the answer then?Just keep sucking up every last frigging drop of petrol and dismissing any and all alternatives because they’re not perfect replacements for oil?
    First step: if you are hoping the prostitutians are going to solve this, you are going to be sorely disappointed. So let’s try and keep this out of Washington’s hands. It’ll save us all a bunch of money, head ache, etc. etc.

    Second step: Strip away the mandates, limit the subsidies. Why does corn ethanol need BOTH subsidies AND mandates? Because even with all those subsidies it can’t compete. That sums up everything that’s wrong with corn ethanol.

    Subsidies may help to speed a workable alternative fuel to market, but tellingly it has consistently failed to do so yet. And subsidies these days get written by the lobbyists, which means only [insert my client\'s product here] qualifies. A broad-based subsidy, that allows any fuel that meets carefully selected criteria might work. But considering all the political interference, we’re probably better off without any subsidies.

    Third step: follow the money (or logic). When you are converting Food into Fuel, you are destroying value. Food has to meet many requirements, including safe production, nutritional value, etc. Fuel has so little value that we burn it to get the energy. Socialist agricultural policies may allow food prices to be as low as that of fuel, but food has much more value than fuel.

    A simple way to create value, would be to convert Waste into Fuel. We certainly have plenty of it. The technology is also available, as CHOREN and Range Fuels demonstrate. But really, any waste-based technology would help to solve several problems, while providing low cost fuel. Unlike the current offerings…

  • avatar
    Pch101

    When you are converting Food into Fuel, you are destroying value

    There are a lot of valid arguments against corn-based ethanol, but this isn’t one of them.

    Consuming energy presumably creates value for the person consuming it, or else he wouldn’t bother to consume it in the first place. (He may not be paying for all of the externalities, but that’s a different argument.)

    Whether or not the resource is versatile makes no difference as to whether it is worth using as energy. From a purely economic standpoint, if it was cheaper and easier to run your car on butterflies than it was to run it on oil, you’d get a net and head for the fields for your next fill up.

    As it turns out, humans had no logical problem using moving water to power their mills, transport their boats, and fill their bellies. Just so long as there is enough water to go around, the versatility of the resource is not a problem and more likely a benefit. By your standard, that would be some sort of lunacy, and the Dutch wouldn’t have existed at all.

    Why does corn ethanol need BOTH subsidies AND mandates? Because even with all those subsidies it can’t compete.

    Just because oil is cheaper and has a head start doesn’t necessarily make it better.

    The main argument against oil is that the consumer retail price that drives consumption doesn’t include all of the externalities, which effectively leads to overconsumption, which leads to current or future problems.

    So, for example, if we consume so much that we become vulnerable to being owned by the oil barons of the Middle East (who already aren’t our biggest fans) and set ourselves up for some political calamity down the road, we’ll have not covered that cost in today’s gallon of gas. Ditto with the guy who gets cancer 30 years from now or the kid who gets mowed down in a crosswalk because cheap oil fell into too many or the wrong hands.

    Again, using that argument, there would have been no Manhattan Project or ARPANET (which gave us the internet, and the chance to engage in virtual talk here at TTAC about the alleged uselessness of government), because there was no free market impetus to pay for it. Not a very good argument, because it fails to account for the fact that the short-term costs and risks that preclude a free-market solution from launching a product don’t necessarily lead to its failure once a foundation has been created by government that can support that product.

    The better argument against ethanol is that you can’t make nearly enough of it. Take the amount of spare arable land we have and grow whatever you want on it to make fuel, and you just won’t end up with a lot of fuel.

    The US uses so much energy already that we can’t introduce a crop that will ever keep up, ever. (There isn’t enough Chinese restaurant waste, either, so no biodiesel paradise is in our future.) We just use too much, and we can’t grow our way out of it, no matter what. It would make sense to try if we could, but since we can’t, it’s a waste of money to pretend that we ever could.

  • avatar
    gusplus

    When will M10 be permitted to be mixed into my brownies to help me cope with this shit?

  • avatar

    After losing two, no, three Jet Ski carbs, one motorcycle and one snow blower to gas o horror, I want to know to whom I send the bills for repair.

    Now that gas is $3 or less a gal, this makes no sense, and is energy-negative.

    I so wish I could get ‘real gas’ here in NY.

  • avatar
    brush

    That report by the CSIRO is an interesting read. from what I can gather, ethanol from wood is the best for the enviroment, slightly changes performance and range (economy), but hits longevity, reliability and perceved drivability. All this from E20 blend, will these result be magnified by 85% ethanol?

  • avatar
    George B

    I’m neutral regarding ethanol fuel if it can compete on a price per BTU basis with gasoline. Not much interested in paying corn farmers to convert land, rainfall, sunlight, and perfectly good diesel fuel into food and then paying ADM to make food into ethanol, but I’d be willing to deal with ethanol fuel material compatability issues if it was ever cheap and unsubsidized.

    The alternative fuel process to watch is carbon to syngas followed by syngas to liquid fuel. It’s currently too expensive, but at least it scales up. The US has large quantities of cheap low quality coal to make into syngas.

    Syngas: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Syngas
    Fischer-Tropsch Process: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fischer-Tropsch
    Coskata process: http://www.coskata.com/Process.asp

  • avatar
    GS650G

    E10 is to gasoline what 3.2 beer is to ale. When you see that yellow sticker your paying more money for less energy under the presumption of saving the environment, starving out the arabs, or some other cause.

    How did we allow ourselves to get into this mess?

    More to the point, we mandated MTBE by law in 1990 for certain areas only to outlaw it because alarm bells were rang over groundwater contamination. OK, fair enough but what about the waste water from ethanol production? Or the unbelievable amount of water consumed to make it? Does mixing corn with tax dollars make it all right?

  • avatar
    Robstar

    I was under the impression that most (all?) places in chicago were already at E10 to E15. I want to know why gas here is 2.40-2.75 for premium again if I’m not getting real gasoline…?

  • avatar
    Engineer

    There are a lot of valid arguments against corn-based ethanol, but this isn’t one of them. Consuming energy presumably creates value for the person consuming it, or else he wouldn’t bother to consume it in the first place. (He may not be paying for all of the externalities, but that’s a different argument.)
    Come on, Pch! You know by arguing value I am including the externalities, since the prices have been so severely distorted.

    Tellingly ethanol struggles to compete, even with all those distortions.

    As it turns out, humans had no logical problem using moving water to power their mills, transport their boats, and fill their bellies. Just so long as there is enough water to go around, the versatility of the resource is not a problem and more likely a benefit. By your standard, that would be some sort of lunacy, and the Dutch wouldn’t have existed at all.
    Wowa, with that level of distortion-capability you should run for office.

    You’re also confused about the Dutch: they mainly use windmills to harvest wind energy to lift the water out of their low-lying country.

    Just because oil is cheaper and has a head start doesn’t necessarily make it better.
    I specifically pointed out that a subsidy can work. The goal of the subsidy would be to overcome oil’s legacy price-advantage and allow a viable alternative fuel to develop.

    Corn ethanol have failed to develop much in spite of all the subsidies, then had a growth spurt due to mandates and is now dying out due to the supply-and-demand limitations you mention.

    A lot of pain could have been avoided if Uncle Sam was willing to consider the failure of subsidies to achieve much growth a sign of corn ethanol’s limited potential.

    which gave us the internet, and the chance to engage in virtual talk here at TTAC about the alleged uselessness of government
    You may fancy a TEA party, but I’ve been clear that government has a role to play. That role does NOT include the ability to develop or even identify the fuel of the future. Leave that to the inventors.

    The role of government is to provide the proper incentives that would encourage the development of alternative fuels. Broad based so that anything Joe Sixpack invents in his garage may qualify. Unlike the current scenario where the lobbyists limit the benefit to [insert my client\'s product here].

    The US uses so much energy already that we can’t introduce a crop that will ever keep up, ever.
    Conservation will certainly help. Even Obama does not push that simple solution enough, preferring to pretend (like his predecessor) that some magic biofuel will save us all.

    There isn’t enough Chinese restaurant waste, either, so no biodiesel paradise is in our future.
    The Chinese restaurant waste is the low-hanging fruit, but it does point us in the right direction: waste-based alternative fuels. You know, the energy crop we have been producing without even trying…

  • avatar
    Engineer

    The alternative fuel process to watch is carbon to syngas followed by syngas to liquid fuel. It’s currently too expensive, but at least it scales up. The US has large quantities of cheap low quality coal to make into syngas.
    And all that garbage (82% carbon-based) would make a fine feedstock for such a scheme.

    Did you look at the references for CHOREN and Range Fuels. They’re doing exactly that. Range Fuels call their technology cellulosic ethanol to stick with the flavor-of-the-month, and grab some subsidies.

    Another case of Uncle Sam blindly sabotaging a workable altenative fuel.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    with that level of distortion-capability you should run for office.

    Funny, I was going to say the same of you!

    For some reason that you’ve failed to substantiate, you think that chewing on energy and running it through an esophagus is inherently superior to using a spark and air to burn it.

    That’s just not particularly logical. The fact that we can eat corn has nothing whatsoever to do with whether we should or shouldn’t run vehicles with it.

    That point cuts both ways. On one hand, the fact that we chew on it at summer barbeques doesn’t make it particularly “green” — since when did burgers, ribs and Wonder Bread become environmentally friendly? On the other hand, the fact that we put butter on it and get it stuck in our teeth doesn’t make it particularly bad for fuel, either. We judge energy sources based upon other factors (energy output, production capability, emissions, transportability, etc.), not on whether it doesn’t taste good.

    Alcohol as a motor fuel is perfectly fine. Your local drag strip will vouch for that, as would Henry Ford, who was making flex fuel cars long before they became a CAFE loophole. But there are flaws related to producing the amounts of it that we need. The ability to swallow it has nothing to do with those.

    I’ve been clear that government has a role to play. That role does NOT include the ability to develop or even identify the fuel of the future.

    You’re entitled to believe that, but you are wrong to assume that everyone shares your view.

    Unless you believe that inventors should have access to cash without supporting their need for it, government obviously has to decide which ones to choose, and which to reject, if it is going to dole out the incubator money to experiment with it. A guy who requests $100 billion to experiment with monkey methane is rightfully going to be rejected, and the government should be able to send him to the door without a free marketeer claiming that the feds are anti-primate.

    Ethanol obviously works as a fuel, at least on a small scale, so it’s fair to study it further. That doesn’t mean that we should commit all of resources to it or use corn to produce it, but it deserves a look.


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