The Truth About Cars » corn http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Fri, 13 Feb 2015 23:08:36 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » corn http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Iowa to Peddle Corn Squeezings During Pres’ Primary http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/iowa-peddle-corn-squeezings-pres-primary/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/iowa-peddle-corn-squeezings-pres-primary/#comments Sat, 07 Feb 2015 21:32:48 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=994498 Look for the leading presidential candidates to sing corn ethanol’s praises, louder than ever, in 2016. A bipartisan coalition of Iowans, called America’s Renewable Future, is gearing up to make it happen. America’s Renewable Future is led by Republican political strategist Eric Branstad, son of Iowa governor Terry Branstad; and Derek Eadon, a Democratic political […]

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Look for the leading presidential candidates to sing corn ethanol’s praises, louder than ever, in 2016. A bipartisan coalition of Iowans, called America’s Renewable Future, is gearing up to make it happen.

America’s Renewable Future is led by Republican political strategist Eric Branstad, son of Iowa governor Terry Branstad; and Derek Eadon, a Democratic political strategist who directed President Obama’s re-election campaign in Iowa.

“We want to influence the caucus goer to support a candidate who supports the RFS [renewable fuel standard],” Branstad tells TTAC. “We want to change the national dialog to support the RFS. The best way is by agitating and informing the presidential candidates how important the RFS is to the state of Iowa and to the country.”

The renewable fuel standard (RFS) refers to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations under the 2007 Energy Security and Independence Act. It requires 15 billion gallons of renewable fuel, mostly corn ethanol, to be mixed with gasoline this year, increasing to 36 billion gallons by 2022. Sixteen billion of those 36 billion gallons are supposed to come from “cellulosic biofuels,” which potentially are far more environmentally friendly than corn ethanol. The remainder of the mix includes other “advanced biofuels” and biodiesel.

(But no-one expects cellulosic to contribute much in 2022: it missed its original production target for 2013, 1.75 billion gallons, by nearly three orders of magnitude. An eminent source from the advanced biofuels side of the industry, calls the 36 billion a “stretch target with no teeth in the statute.”)

Nonetheless, even without cellulosic, the ethanol industry “is among the biggest job creators in Iowa,” and the source of “73,000 jobs [about five percent of the state’s employment—not shabby!] and $5 billion in wages,” says Branstad. The state has 50 refineries.

While the industry’s benefit to Iowa is obvious, its benefit to the rest of the country is less so. “You have one state which, because they have the first primary in the presidential election, is trying to screw every driver in the US,” says the advanced biofuels source. He notes that if Iowa were a country, at 3.9 billion gallons of ethanol annually, it would be the third largest producer in the world, after the US (10.4 billion gallons, not including Iowa’s total) and Brazil (7 billion gallons).

Of course, the major rationales behind the renewable fuel standard standard are to reduce greenhouse emissions, and dependence upon foreign oil. Most economists and many environmentalists think the greenhouse reductions would be more effectively accomplished with a carbon tax.

Mike Millikin, editor of Green Car Congress, would prefer a low carbon fuel standard that does not pick a particular emerging technology, but absent that, advocates mending the RFS, rather than voiding it. But at best, corn ethanol reduces greenhouse emissions by a measly 20 percent over gasoline, a small reduction compared to what could be obtained for cellulosic ethanol. But Millikin argues that “Efficiency in production and developments on the crop yield side will likely result in greater reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from corn ethanol, leaving aside the whole gnarly issue of land use change.”

Unfortunately, that gnarly issue won’t just go away. When food cropland is converted to produce fuel crops, the food crops have to be replaced to keep feeding the populace. That means putting new land into agricultural production. One problem is that this raises the cost of land, which raises the cost of everything that depends on land, including food, as was seen in the late ‘00s. (Forty percent of all American corn goes to ethanol, up from single digits in the ‘90s.)

The other is that natural and semi-natural lands store copious carbon. Converting central US grasslands to produce corn would release roughly 93 times the amount of carbon that would be saved annually by corn ethanol production. This creates a “carbon debt.” And if the experts on climate change are to be believed, greenhouse emissions need to be stanched now, not 93 years from now.

Cellusic ethanol can skirt both the land use and the food problems, and as such, may ultimately compete with electrons to power the nation’s fleet. A few plants are on the verge of ribbon cutting, says Scott Sklar, a prominent, Arlington, VA-based renewable energy consultant who assembles clean distributed energy projects for commercial, industrial, and military applications worldwide. He says regulatory pressure on a strict schedule is needed to make it happen.

Millikin also suggests that corn ethanol plants might help get cellulosic ethanol into production. But the anonymous source says that corn ethanol is no more a pathway to cellulosic ethanol than wall phones were to cell phones. (The tightly packed structure of cellulose, relative to starch and sugar in corn, grain, hops, and other fermentables, renders its fermentation technologically challenging.)

The current battle line in the controversy over the renewable fuel standard is the so-called E10 blend wall. The ethanol industry needs to breach that wall in order not to shrink, while the oil industry wants to maintain the wall (this is, after all, about competition for space in your gas tank). The problem, from ethanol’s point of view: for E10, annual gasoline consumption, currently ~131 billion gallons, can only absorb 13 billion gallons of ethanol, less than this year’s mandated 15 billion gallons. And US gasoline consumption is actually expected to decline slowly, due to improvements in fuel economy that were unforeseen when Congress passed the RFS. “The E10 fuel pool is now saturated with ethanol,” says Millikin.

The lobby did bang a chink into the blend wall, when EPA issued a series of actions that ultimately enabled E15 to be used in model year 2001 light duty vehicles and later, after 54 ethanol manufacturers filed a petition to allow it. The final step, June 15, 2012, was approval of a number of companies’ misfueling (putting the wrong fuel in the tank) mitigation plans. http://www.epa.gov/oms/regs/fuels/additive/e15/

Not that it’s helped them much. Fewer than one US gas station in 1,000, all of them in 12 states, offer E15. (The big news is that Sheetz, a Mid-Atlantic retailer, plans to bring it to 60 of its stations, which will raise the fraction to ever so slightly more than 1/1,000.) Consumer demand is low, and despite EPA’s approval, oil companies are leery of liability in the event of misfueling.

Still, Millikin says that if too much alcohol is produced to blend as E10, E85 flexfuel vehicles, and/or exports might soak up the remainder.

A bigger concern among the lobby is actually simply to maintain the renewable fuel standard, says the advanced biofuels source. As Millkin explains, “Ethanol is a big industry, and gets tax breaks and incentives on top of having a mandated market for their product.” But the favorable politics in the Midwest does not extend to the rest of the country. “If there were a straight up vote on the Senate floor, they would probably lose,” says the advanced biofuels source.

If past is prologue, the renewable fuel standard would probably prove popular in presidential primaries even without help from America’s Renewable Future. “In ’08, Hillary Clinton and the President both supported the RFS, and it wasn’t as big of an issue then,” says Branstad. And “Look at the top two finishers in the Iowa caucuses in ’12: Romney and [Rick] Santorum both supported the RFS. Who were the bottom two? [Rick] Perry and [Michelle] Bachman,” neither of whom supported it. And on the day after the ’12 primaries, says Branstad, a front page article in the Des Moines Register proclaimed ethanol the winner.

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House Science Committee Approves Bill Blocking E15 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/02/house-science-committee-approves-bill-blocking-e15/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/02/house-science-committee-approves-bill-blocking-e15/#comments Thu, 09 Feb 2012 17:12:34 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=430211 The House Science Committee approved a bill that bars the EPA from approving E15 gasoline without a further study into its effects. The bill passed 19-7 as members voted along party lines. The bill was sponsored by Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI). Automakers and corn growers have clashed over E15, which is made from 15 percent corn-based ethanol biofuel. […]

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The House Science Committee approved a bill that bars the EPA from approving E15 gasoline without a further study into its effects. The bill passed 19-7 as members voted along party lines. The bill was sponsored by Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI).

Automakers and corn growers have clashed over E15, which is made from 15 percent corn-based ethanol biofuel. The EPA allowed its use in 2001 and newer vehicles, but various interest groups, including  Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, the American Petroleum Institute protested. In December 2011, Congress ended a 30 year subsidy for corn-based ethanol, that cost taxpayers an estimated $6 billion per year. Brazilian ethanol, which is made from sugarcane, also had its tariff lifted.

Opponents of ethanol noted that 40 percent of America’s corn crop went to ethanol usage, boosting food and animal feed prices unnecessarily by as much as 20 percent. Ethanol blend fuels are said to cause engine problems in vehicles not specially adapted to use them. Brazilian automobiles, for example, are designed to run on heavy blends of ethanol, including E85.

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