By on November 22, 2010

It is not a good policy to have these massive subsidies for first generation ethanol. First generation ethanol I think was a mistake. The energy conversion ratios are at best very small… One of the reasons I made that mistake is that I paid particular attention to the farmers in my home state of Tennessee, and I had a certain fondness for the farmers in the state of Iowa because I was about to run for president

Al Gore reveals [via MSNBC] that politics, not science, made an ethanol believer out of him. More than anything else, the admission underlines how badly ethanol can lose the war of ideas and still be heavily subsidized without fear of political attack. After all, what Presidential hopeful (read:every member of Congress) wants to shut down the biggest pork trough in Iowa, a state that just happens to be the first primary of the race for the White House? Heck, Al Gore probably had to lose his favorite weedwhacker to ethanol gum before he came out against the stuff. But just because your representative won’t vote against ethanol, doesn’t mean you can’t… surf over to pure-gas.org for a list of ethanol-free gas pumps near you.

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33 Comments on “Quote Of The Day: Al Gore’s Ethanol Regrets Edition...”


  • avatar
    Jerome10

    I can’t even tell you how angry stories like this make me.  Just more proof that most of what is wrong with the government today is due to politics and money and has absolutely nothing to do with doing what’s best for the most number of people.
     
    This is just one example of an uncountable many.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    The West Wing had a great episode (“King Corn” http://westwing.bewarne.com/sixth/613kingcorn.html ) which dealt with this issue head on. Sometimes we get more truth from television shows than we do from the evening news.
     
     

  • avatar
    chuckR

    Al Gore has a Michael Kinsley moment of inadvertent truth-telling.
    What’s his next con?

  • avatar
    Daanii2

    Wesley Clark is the one I am most disappointed by. I admired the guy until he jumped on the ethanol bandwagon. But he didn’t even do it for politics. For money, apparently.

  • avatar
    JimC

    I am shocked, shocked…

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    You have to give the guy some props for being honest and admitting mistakes.  I only wish more people, certainly politicians in office, would man up and admit that they’re wrong, rather than plunge further into an endeavour for fear of being called a “flip-flopper”.

    It’s a shame that we value “being definite” in our leaders more than we value “being right”

    • 0 avatar
      Daanii2

      Problem is, his confession came too late to matter. Seems self-serving, too.

    • 0 avatar
      tparkit

      He is not admitting a mistake. He is admitting to calculated, protracted lying in his own service.

      However, his confession is unnecessary to anyone who has read up on the hydra-headed ethanol scam.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      I don’t disagree that it’s a more than a little bit contrite, but it’s better than most people who have been in power do.
       
      I also don’t think it does him any favours, but on the other hand he’s no bridges left to burn: the people who agree with him will generally respect this choice, and those that don’t will see it as one more reason not to.

    • 0 avatar
      Sugarbrie

      Gore’s mistake made him over $100 million…

    • 0 avatar
      Bytor

      I’d be happy to have anyone of any political stripe admit they were wrong on Corn Ethanol.
      Much Happier if they were still active when they did it.
      Any politician supporting this right now is either a liar or an idiot, and that would include just about all of them.
      That is the sad state of politics in the USA.

  • avatar
    Daanii2

    The MSNBC article you cited says this:

    “The U.S. ethanol industry will consume about 41 percent of the U.S. corn crop this year, or 15 percent of the global corn crop, according to Goldman Sachs analysts.”

    That is shocking. Over 40% of the US corn crop goes to our gas tanks? That’s waste on a huge scale. And we taxpayers pay for it. Unbelievable.

  • avatar
    Bunter1

    Gosh, I’m sure glad none of his current positions are motivated by personal gain…

  • avatar
    ixim

    The sooner the ethanol subsidies are killed the better. Yesterday can’t be too soon.

  • avatar
    Crabspirits

    The part I don’t get is why we are using corn in the first place Wheat grass generates more ethanol and grows like a weed.
    I guess we just have to wait for the already dwindling national water table to dry up and the problem will solve itself?

    • 0 avatar
      Bytor

      Grass sources used for ethanol generally require some cellulose method, which are still experimental.  Corn is used for it’s sugar content in a much simpler and proven sugar->ethanol process.
      Note I am not endorsing Corn ethanol, which I consider a massive boondoggle. It’s energy return is negligible at best.  About 1.3:1 if you included byproducts (animal feed). This isn’t a sustainable energy supply. It is just a tax dollar allocation scheme.
      Brazils Ethanol can make sense, it returns about 8:1 energy (better than TAR sands oil).
       

    • 0 avatar
      John Horner

      “Corn is used for it’s sugar content in a much simpler and proven sugar->ethanol process.”
      Perhaps we should call it the Moonshiner’s Revenge, since the process is pretty much the same.

    • 0 avatar
      Sugarbrie

      Experimental ??  Brazil is not growing corn..

    • 0 avatar
      Steve65

      Experimental ??  Brazil is not growing corn..
       
      They’re not making ethanol out of grass, either.

    • 0 avatar
      Bytor

      Brazil is growing SUGAR Cane, again for the Sugar is the simple Sugar->Ethanol process.
       
      Grasses are Cellulose. For grasses you need to make cellulosic ethanol, which is experimental.

    • 0 avatar
      Daanii2

      Grass sources used for ethanol generally require some cellulose method, which are still experimental.

      Not really. Making cellulose from ethanol is not hard at all. The method for turning cellulose into ethanol is the same as turning sugar into ethanol, plus one added step. That added step uses acid or enzymes to free sugars from cellulose. You then use yeasts to ferment the sugar into ethanol, same as always.

      People have been using acid for many years to free sugar from cellulose. The newer enzymes do a better job, being faster and producing more. But they are also expensive.

      That’s what is experimental — finding a process cheap and fast enough to compete with sugar to ethanol. Because there is an added step, it’s hard for the cellulose-to-ethanol people to compete. But their edge is that they can use some kinds of cost-free waste to make ethanol. That may make up for the extra step.

  • avatar
    Crosley

    Absolutely disgusting.  Iowa being the first state to have a primary/caucus is a major factor why this ridiculous Ethanol subsidy came about.
     
    Ethanol has NEVER been about “saving the earth”.  It has everything to do with self-serving politicians and big business.
     
    End ALL farm subsidies, it’s just corporate welfare.

  • avatar
    George B

    There is a loophole to get Brazilian sugar ethanol into the US without the high duties.  It involves shipping Brazilian ethanol with some water to a Caribbean Basin country, dehydrating to US standards, and shipping finished ethanol to the US without the high duties.  Bonus points for using cheap stranded natural gas for the processing.  There is a cap on the amount that can be imported duty free, but creative people could chip away at that restriction early in every odd number year before the election season starts.
     
    http://renergie.wordpress.com/2008/07/31/ethanol-imports-and-the-caribbean-basin-initiative/

  • avatar
    grzydj

    Corporate welfare is alive and well in the US, but there’s no putting the lid back on this bottle of hooch. I think Gore is right in principle, but corn has always been heavily subsidized, as have many crops that farmers grow.
     
    Try talking a farmer, or anybody for that matter into growing non subsidized switch grass and see how well you do.
     
     

  • avatar
    FleetofWheel

    Good on Mr. Gore making making this admission. As time progresses, expect to see further retraction-like statements from him regarding the areas of energy and the environment.

  • avatar
    Dr Lemming

    Lots of Gore hate, which I suppose is to be expected on a gearhead site.  The simple reality is that politics is a messy business often filled with uneasy compromises.  Gore was correct when he said a few years ago that the trouble with many of the proposals to respond to global warming is that they may be technically astute but lack a political reality baseline.
     
    I give Gore credit for admitting the folly of of his ways.  Compare that with GW Bush, who in his new book blatantly lies that he was hesitant to invade Iraq.  All documentation points in the opposite direction.  He should have manned up and admitted that he was wrong on that one.

    • 0 avatar
      jkross22

      It’s not so much Gore hate as it is calling a spade a spade.  Gore, like nearly all politicians, is a whore.  He’s also a hypocrite with regard to energy consumption, asking others to do what he will not.  If it’s so important for everyone to do, let’s see someone like Gore lead by example rather than continue his life of conspicuous consumption.

  • avatar

    The REAL shame (sham?) is that low BTU, low value corn-ethanol isnt really a BIOFUEL. Its manufacture and transportation take large amounts of diesel. And it obscures the real biofuel that we should be developing huge…cleaner, higher-cetane, BTU, value…BIODIESEL that can be used in most any diesel or jet/turbine engine.

    • 0 avatar
      benders

      I would argue that ethanol production has the potential to reduce diesel consumption. The corn is going to be grown and harvested anyway. Hauling to a local ethanol plant reduces total travel distance and the transportation by rail of the finished product is relatively efficient.
       
      There is room for more than one biofuel.

    • 0 avatar
      Bytor

      Why would corn be grown anyway? There isn’t an unlimited market for corn. Nearly half the supply is going to Ethanol, it has largely been an increase in production, only a small is diversion from food. If it wasn’t for Ethanol there wouldn’t be near as much corn being grown.
      It increases land use, fertilizer use, energy used in producing ethanol, fertilizer run off, that increases the ocean dead zone.
      All for a ridiculously low 1.3:1 energy return, and that is the optimistic number when you count by products.
      It is really a sad joke. The result of lobby dollar driven political system.

  • avatar
    brandloyalty

    I would save some anger for the farmers etc. who put their morals aside to profit from this fiasco.  No better than someone who works at a cigarette factory.
     
    Now, the Canadian national government (right wing, based in the prairies) is preparing to require gas sold in Canada to contain 5% ethanol.
     
    Then again, why should I expect a rational response to the stupidity that got us into this mess?

    • 0 avatar
      tparkit

      Indeed, save-the-earth huckstering is a political way of life up north. The biggest problem in Canada is that there are no actual conservative parties — with the exception of Alberta’s Wildrose Alliance, newly formed at the provincial level for the same general reasons as the Tea Party.

      So far, the federal-level “Conservative” party has provided Canadians with increased taxes (by reversing a campaign promise to protect existing resource income trusts, then eliminating these), done absolutely nothing to reform the nation’s human rights gestapo, shepherded illegal migrants from the high seas into Canada’s porous refugee/welfare system, spent billions to bail out the auto industry/unions, fattened the banks and blown an enormous real estate bubble by providing taxpayer-backed mortgages to people who are bad credit risks, and generally out-liberaled the Liberal Party at every turn. The US has its RINOs, Canada has its ubiquitous CINOs.


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