E85 Boondoggle of the Day: Just Give Us Land, Lots of Land
In an excellent E85 editorial we published two years ago, Michael Karesh pointed out that U.S. corn growers would need a landmass nearly the size of Texas to make a significant dent in American gas consumption. And now a lot of the existing corn-growing land is under water. Ethanol opponents reckon the recent flooding will mean that even more of the current corn crop will be devoted to E85 production– driving-up food prices even further, faster. They want the feds to suspend its ethanol "mandate" (i.e. .51 per gallon subsidy, tariffs on imported ethanol, price supports, CAFE credits, etc.). That little piece of business currently stands at a directive for 15 billion gallons of biofuels by 2015, and 21 billion gallons by 2022. The ethanol industry says HELL NO. Instead, they want the feds to release protected land for their [s]profit[/s] patriotic efforts. According to The Detroit News, "Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa… and other farm state members of Congress argue that the Agriculture Department should allow more planting in 35 million acres of conservation land as a way to help ease the price increases." It just gets worse.
If land taken from the conservation program for ethanol has been in the program for >15 years, so much sequestered carbon will be released, according to an article in Science magazine last Feb that it will take at least 48 years of growing ethanol to repay the carbon debt. And according to experts in the matter, we need to start reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the next 10-20 years. Thus, taking land from the conservation program to grow ethanol is a lose-lose for the planet. See my article on the carbon impact of biofuels from the June Env'tal Health Perspectives, published by the National Institute of Env'tal Health Sciences: http://www.ehponline.org/docs/2008/116-6/focus-abs.html
97escort Great thing to burn up alllll the food. What do you eat? The USA produces over half the worlds corn crop and is using 30% to replace maybe 5% of the gasoline. Then if you figure a huge amount of hydrocarbons are used to produce that ethanol and most vehicles lose more than 5% of mileage when burning E10 you using way more hydrocarbons to produce ethanol than you could ever realize in savings. Brought to you by the taxpayers dollars. Stock up on beef now. the price will skyrocket after the current glut due to the farmers dumping the cows they cannot afford to feed. Of course that will make escort happy since he thinks the rest of us shouldn't eat beef. Have some friends in town from England. They are paying 12 dollars a gallon for gasoline. They have an even more 'Evil Big Oil' in England, apparently.
Carlos, I call bullshit. You can yell about PES all you want. The truth is that agriculture has done more to harm the environment than oil can ever hope to accomplish. Get over it. Besides, it seems agricultural had it's own hand in PES, whose product is it that got the captain drunk after all? I am pretty sure that he wasn't drinking fermented petroleum.
I'm with psarhjinian: corn ethanol is a breathtaking, bi-partisan boondoggle. Within the Republican Party it is the kleptocratic, corporate-welfare wing that has been the most behind corn ethanol (cheered on by the Commander in Chimp). Within the Democratic Party, it is the populist, agri-sentimentalist wing that has pushed it (including, unfortunately, Barack Obama). But, more than anything, support for corn ethanol is aligned more along regional than party lines. Thank our founding fathers for giving Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, North Dakota and South Dakota as many senate votes as California, Florida, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania and Texas. I assume 97Escort's comment was tongue-in-cheek. Otherwise he (or she) clearly has no concept of the effect that biofuel policies have had on commodity prices, and therefore the cost of food among the poorest of the poor in Africa, Latin America and Asia. (Africans eat semi-processed corn meal, not highly processed corn flakes.) In any case, it all comes down to the subsidies and mandates. Without those, we wouldn't even be having this debate. But don't expect sanity to set in any time soon. For politicians like Charles Grassley, it is easier to ask for more favors for corn ethanol than to stop the policies that created the mess in the first place.