By on October 28, 2014

Ethanol Pump

In less than a week, the B&B will head out to the polls to decide the direction the United States will take for the next two years.

Big Ethanol, too, is interested in the direction taken.

AutoblogGreen reports Fuels America, an advocate for the fuel source, is conducting a major advertising campaign to persuade the Obama administration and the Environmental Protection Agency not to make cuts into the Renewable Fuels Standard, the mandate that makes E85, E10 and every other blend possible.

The blitz — which kicked-off last week — is being carried through Beltway media such as Politico, RollCall and WTOP-FM, and will continue until November 5.

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149 Comments on “Ethanol Advocates Conduct Pre-Election Ad Campaign Blitz...”


  • avatar
    Hummer

    Anybody on my voter ballot, republican, democrat, other – that I hear give support to the use of ethanol in fuel, automatically gives there opponent a vote from I.
    Hopefully I don’t have to do the lesser of two evils.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      +1 Same here.

      Supposedly Maine is on the verge of repealing our law requiring 10% corn-juice in gasoline sold here.

    • 0 avatar

      I wonder why the massive ad campaign by the oil industry isn’t mentioned. Theirs is ongoing. Theirs is patently dishonest. The alternative fuels business isn’t anywhere near as well funded or organized.

    • 0 avatar
      VoGo

      We in the US have ethanol for 2 reasons:
      1. The presidential primaries for both parties start in Iowa, a heavy corn state, where the candidates have to promise to support ethanol to have a chance to get off to a decent start to the primary season

      2. Our Senate has as many senators from populous states such as NY and CA as it does from Kansas, Nebraska, the Dakotas, etc. Which gives corn farmers way more clout than nearly any other special interest.

      I am as green as they come, but even I don’t support corn based ethanol. It may make political sense, but it just does not make economic sense.

    • 0 avatar
      DeeDub

      This is one of the few issues where party isn’t the dividing line. It’s pretty much the corn states vs the rest of the country.

    • 0 avatar

      Ethanol is for drinking, NOT driving.

  • avatar
    dwford

    The idea that we burn food in our gas tanks just baffles me.

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      And the fact that government, hence lobbyists, are even remotely in any position whatsoever to have any kind of say on the matter whatsoever, is why thinking people by now realize it is pretty much six-of-one, half-a-dozen-of-another whether our domestic oppressors, or those they call “terrorists”, end up winning the childish sandbox fight the two are currently engaged in on other people’s dime.

    • 0 avatar
      heavy handle

      The fact that people still think of industrial corn as “food” baffles me (although I applaud the PR!).

      This isn’t the sweet corn you eat at summer barbecues. It’s an industrial product that’s made into countless chemicals, plastics, sweeteners. The residue is then fed to livestock, along with enough drugs to help them keep it down.

      Ethanol isn’t taking breakfast away from schoolchildren. It’s diverting chemical waste into you gas tanks.

    • 0 avatar
      Xeranar

      You do realize ethanol is not actually food, right? In fact there is little if any value in you consuming ethanol as a substance, it’s a poison to be plain about it.

      The issue is that corn is an inefficient source of ethanol because it has a relatively low-yield benefit compared to switchgrass, certain algaes, and a number of other green fuels. But corn is over-produced in the US for various reasons, not the least of which is big Ag doesn’t want to concede their lucrative field bonuses while keeping the fields active at modest cost instead of letting them go fallow or even sowing proven tri-bean setups that would rejuvenate the soil faster.

      It’s just a big mess because two major economic forces are running into each other.

      • 0 avatar
        Lorenzo

        A lot of people think government should be butting heads together, but instead it gets paid off to pick winners. May the biggest bribe, er, campaign contribution win!

      • 0 avatar
        mypoint02

        Corn is over-produced because of the ethanol mandate. I don’t care how well funded or not the ethanol lobby is. If they can’t exist without a government mandate they don’t deserve to…

        • 0 avatar
          Xeranar

          Actually it existed long before ethanol became a hot button issue with the Republican party. Corn has historically been a feed food for livestock, in fact close to 90% of the annual yield goes into feedstock, only about 10% reaches the human plate as cob or canned. So if you look at the production cycle of corn and ethanol you’ll see this is just another valve to keep production up for big Ag. It isn’t exactly as if the government is doing this for some secret government benefit, they’re keeping the corn price from collapsing.

          • 0 avatar
            tresmonos

            Xeranar,
            Your two posts above hit the nail on the head.

            After witnessing the commercialization of ag during my childhood, the only thing this ethanol thing is doing is propping up the remaining families still doing ag. Big business could give less of a sh1t. And they’ll absorb even more independent farmers when corn collapses again.

          • 0 avatar
            Xeranar

            No problem, Tresmonos.

            I grew up in Western PA in the inner city but I knew some farmers through family friends. Corn was a big part of their yield for survival up until the ‘buy local’ movement made it profitable to grow veg again. The difference though was that they were all small holders, less than 100 acres for the most part. Places out in the Midwest & Great Plains can be 1000s if not 10,000’s of acres and it’s all owned by Big Ag and associated big farm conglomerates looking to squeeze every ounce of value out of the soil. It’s a shame because it is efficient but it is completely destructive. Nobody is planning ahead for stability because they can just do giant rotations at a minimum effort.

    • 0 avatar
      TW5

      Burning any liquid fuel grown on arable land is baffling.

  • avatar
    challenger2012

    I work in the oil drilling industry. If you think the oil buniness is rigged, look at the Ethanol guys, their slogan should be “Less mileage and more money.” By the way, have you looked at the price of gas this week? No market pressure on the Ethanol guys to drive down costs.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      Without a doubt ethanol is one of the biggest scams ever foisted on to the American public. There is absolutely nothing positive about using ethanol and the negatives are endless

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        +1

      • 0 avatar

        First, ethanol began using “food” a feedstock. Things have evolved over time. There certainly was a move to help the farmers while reducing our dependence on the world market price of oil. Now we are helping Big AG, as well as some family farmers, BUT ethanol does play an important role.

        Second: When most people here the term “energy dependence” they think we need to supply all of our own energy needs as if American oil producers would sell their oil to Americans for less than the global price. But people actually believe that. OPEC produces about as much oil now as they did 40 years ago. Every time we boost production, they cut it. Their aim is to keep the price of oil stable at a higher price than would occur if only market forces dictated demand. We can drill and produce until we produce all of our own oil and OPEC still controls the world market price with their spigot.

        Third – A rousing idea is to have all vehicles capable of burning whichever fuel is the most economical, making them compete with each other. What rational person things we should be slaves to a single fuel and to those who control the global market price?

        Fourth – For those who complain that ethanol is less energy dense than gasoline one should know that diesel is about a third more energy dense than gasoline. It has to do with what a fuel costs versus its range and efficiency. If diesel fuel wasn’t taxed so high to extract extra tax dollars from the over the road trucking industry (that’s you and I who pay in the long run) we’d all be driving diesels as they do in Europe and Japan. Of course the truckers tear up our roads and SHOULD pay the bulk of the taxes to repair and maintain them. Europe and Japan lend themselves well to rail over trucking, so this has to be considered.

        Fifth – We should be developing all sorts of alternative fuels. Yes, there will be vested interests the oil industry will cite while ignoring their own. The API has NO CREDIBILITY on this issue, as they talk out of both sides of their mouth.

      • 0 avatar

        There are MANY positives about ethanol and many negatives about gasoline.

        No, it doesn’t take more energy to make ethanol and ethanol produces.

        Even if it did, if there was no oil available we wouldn’t care. Perhaps we should wait until we run out of oil OR the global market price of oil becomes so high we can’t afford it to develop alternative fuels. That makes a lot of sense, right?

        • 0 avatar
          snakebit

          Thirty percent ethanol? I’m not happy with the fifteen percent content we have now. I’m completely done with ethanol in my petrol. Where is the class action suit I can join to rid ourselves of this junk in our fuel?

        • 0 avatar
          carve

          Ruggles: if you look at all the costs, including transport by truck rather than pipeline, distilling energy, and the vast amounts of energy required to fertilize, pesticide, and tractor a farm, Ethanol gives out roughly what you put in…some people say slightly more, some slightly less, but either way it’s a huge waste of fossil fuels (that’s where that energy to run the farm is coming from, after all) effort and farmland and a huge environmental strain that gets you basically nothing. There are no positives. The only beneficial way to use corn ethanol is to have a separate ethanol tank in your car that is only tapped when your engine begins to knock, allowing you to run higher compression ratio and higher boost levels. There are no other positives.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            This is false. Ethanol is energy net positive when all of the byproducts are included.

            Ethanol production not only produces alcohol, but it also produces edible byproducts such as distiller grains that can be fed to animals. This is not a small component of ethanol production — the US produces so much of these that they end up exporting some of it, primarily to China. Any study that ignores those outputs is a dishonest study.

            Corn ethanol has its issues, but that isn’t one of them. There’s plenty of BS coming from the anti-ethanol camp.

          • 0 avatar
            carve

            LOL- So…we input a lot of fossil fuels and output a similar energy value in Ethanol (with a lot of environmental damage in the meantime, such as deforestation, soil depletion, aquifer depletion and fertilizer and pesticide-laden farm runoff). The end result is no net energy gain in usuable fuel and a bunch of waste fit only for animals, which is the only useful net gain. Brilliant! If the ethanol was used to run the tractors, trucks, and as feedstock to make the fertilizer and pesticide, silliage to feed to animals is all you’d have left….maybe not even that much. How is that better than just feeding the corn to the animals again?

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            Animals need to eat.

            If those animals aren’t fed distiller grains, then they’ll eat something else.

            That something else takes energy to produce and harvest, regardless of what it is.

            When you cherry pick information and ignore the entire cycle, then you will miss this stuff. Ethanol is energy-positive, irrespective of how you may feel about it.

          • 0 avatar
            carve

            PCH: the animals feed is the ONLY useful output, as the energy put into the crop is more than what is extracted in ethanol. If the only net benefit is animal feed, why not feed all of the crop to the animals? It’s not as though the farm is self-sustaining ethanol powered; the energy comes from fossil fuels and the net result is animal feed. Just cut out the middle man and feed it all to the animals

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            The net effect of ethanol production is some reduction in oil dependency.

          • 0 avatar
            carve

            No- the net effect is having to dedicate a lot more farmland to animal feed than we otherwise would. It needs a greater ethanol energy output than fossil fuel input to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. You yourself admit that without accounting for animal feed, it’s not energy positive, so the animal feed is all your producing- not energy gain.

          • 0 avatar
            redav

            I am not opposed to ethanol as a fuel, but I am opposed to using any more ethanol in gasoline than necessary to pollution issues (10% or less). Ethanol from corn is simple folly.

            I do believe that if ethanol is used as a fuel, then it should be in specialized engines with higher compression ratios to benefit from its higher octane to balance out its lower energy content. Let the regions that campaign for ethanol be the ones to use it. Make farm equipment, generators, heating equipment, etc., in the areas where it’s produced use it. That fixes the problem of lack of pipelines and keeps it out of my gas. If it proves a success in corn states, then it can be expanded to adjacent states; if it’s a failure, then let them enjoy the bed they made.

          • 0 avatar

            More corn for ethanol = more by-products = more animal feed = cheaper beef = fatter, unhealthier Americans = more gas burned hauling them around and billions in health care costs. Add the billions spent fixing/replacing cars that died too soon due to ethanol. How exactly is more ethanol a good thing?

            Only 2% of farmland is used to grow fruits & vegetables. End all ethanol mandates which would force more farmers to grow more fruits and vegetables. I would not be surprised if corn displaces every other food crop and twinkies become our only food.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            ” You yourself admit that without accounting for animal feed, it’s not energy positive, so the animal feed is all your producing- not energy gain.”

            Argh. Food is energy.

            We’re all burning BTUs, calories or whatever. It has to come from somewhere.

            Consuming a BTU of alcohol provides less benefit to the Saudis and the rest of them than a BTU of oil.

            And no, it (mostly) doesn’t matter where the US gets that BTU of oil because oil is largely fungible and more consumption here drives up the price for everyone, which puts somebody’s money into Arab coffers.

            If you don’t care for the Middle East, then it would be wise to consume some other kind of product that doesn’t boost the value of their assets.

          • 0 avatar
            carve

            “The net effect of ethanol production is some reduction in oil dependency”

            I know the feed counts as energy, but How does low-quality animal feed reduce our dependence on fossil fuels? If it’s costing more fossil fuel energy in than we get ethanol out, then the only net product is an exchange of fossil fuel energy for low-quality feed. Instead of converting a lot of that crop energy to ethanol, since feed is the only net gain, let’s just devote the crop directly to feed. We no longer need to process the ethanol, reducing input, and the feed will have a much higher energy content for the animals as it still contains the simple sugars. We’ll burn a lot less fossil fuel and produce a lot more feed (or the same amount on a fraction of the land)

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            You don’t know that petroleum is used to produce and deliver food?

          • 0 avatar
            carve

            Yes. Explain how using 100 BTU of Fossil fuel to make, say, 90 BTU of Ethanol and 90 BTU of animal feed reduces our dependence on foreign oil more than using 100 BTU of Fossil fuel to make 40 BTU of human food and 140-180 BTU of animal food (The BTU’s are probably higher because you no longer have to use any energy to produce the ethanol)

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            Your 90 BTU figure is made up. You can’t be smart about this stuff if you start with bogus data.

            The ethanol component is fossil-fuel neutral. Consuming 100 BTUs of fossil fuels will yield about 100 BTUs of ethanol, plus the food.

            Well guess what? That’s better than the ratio for fossil fuel, because fossil fuel production itself is energy negative. (I’m sure that you didn’t know that.)

            About one-sixth of the energy in fossil fuel is lost in the process of turning it into stuff that we can use and getting it to us. Fossil fuel is energy negative, but since we don’t all have direct access to crude oil and since our cars need refined products i order to operate, it is necessary to lose some BTUs in order get BTUs that are suitable for consumption.

            In other words, you’re holding ethanol to a higher standard, while simultaneously ignoring that it actually achieves that standard that fossil fuels fail to meet. Your position makes no sense at all.

          • 0 avatar
            carve

            I’m just using round numbers, but they’re the right ball park. Your knit-picking does nothing to say how it reduces dependence on fossil fuels, because basically a lot of energy that would be in the food is now used to make ethanol. Food is generally more valuable than fuel…which is why we use fuel to increase yield.

            Energy negative doesn’t mean it costs a little energy to get a lot- it means it costs a lot to get a little. If fossil fuel were energy negative, we would’ve lost the ability to extract it long ago. Want to show how great ethanol is; run all the farming, distilling and distribution on bio-fuel. It’ll quickly grind to a halt.

            If it takes one barrel of oil to extract and refine six more, I can use that six to extract 36 more, etc. etc. That’s energy positive. If it takes 1 BTU of fossil to make 1 BTU of ethanol (or worse, .9), I do a lot of work without accomplishing anything, or even move backwards! That is energy negative. How does spinning your wheels without actually producing more high-quality energy than you consumed (which is what 1:1 is) reduce dependence on fossil fuel? Remember- due to losses, the part of the crop that is transformed to ethanol necessarily contained more energy than the ethanol contains, and distillation requires another energy input, so you’d wind up with more energy of higher quality by leaving it as food.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            I’ve already explained it.

            If you put the fuel directly into your tank, then you’d have to expend even more energy to produce the animal feed that was lost by not producing the ethanol.

            Unless you believe that animals can live on air and sunlight alone, it should be obvious that they need food, and producing their food requires energy.

            “If it takes one barrel of oil to extract and refine six more, I can use that six to extract 36 more, etc. etc. That’s energy positive”

            That’s actually funny. You don’t get this at all.

          • 0 avatar
            WheelMcCoy

            >> The net effect of ethanol production is some reduction in oil dependency.

            I’m not even sure that is the case. Pure gas will get better mpg than gas blended with ethanol. The net effect is more frequent visits to the gas station.

          • 0 avatar
            WheelMcCoy

            >> If you don’t care for the Middle East, then it would be wise to consume some other kind of product that doesn’t boost the value of their assets.

            HESS avoids oil from the Middle East, and prefers to explore parts of South America, Asia, and Europe. It does, however, get oil from Venezuela — another dis-functional region.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            Ethanol is less energy dense than gasoline, which is less energy dense than diesel. Your MPG should decline slightly if driving on E10, and more if using E85.

            However, net net, you will be consuming less fossil fuel if you drive with ethanol because the ethanol came with some free animal feed. If you had used straight gas, some more fossil fuel would have been needed somewhere else in order to feed the animals.

            The “pure gas” thing is a bit silly. Modern cars are made to run on E10; some automakers specifically recommend Top Tier gasoline, which is an E10 product. You may not want to use E10 in your two-stroke or your 65 Mustang, but a newer car can either handle it or else was optimized for it.

          • 0 avatar
            MBella

            The ethanol byproduct feed isn’t a very good product. There were already large problems with feeding corn to cattle. Since the ethanol distilling process removes most of the energy content from that corn, that feed is very “empty”.

          • 0 avatar
            carve

            You haven’t explained it- you’ve only declared it.

            It’s funny that you think you make fun of me (with zero explaination) for “not understanding” what energy negative means, even though I explained it to you. I’m beginning to think you’re just trolling.

            If we used the fossil fuel directly for transport and for agriculture, we’d actually burn less of it overall as the food produced would have a much higher energy value than distillation byproducts (the difference is GREATER than what you get out of the ethanol) and we wouldn’t have to run the energy intensive distillation process at all.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            You’re the guy who went out of his way to show that he has no understanding of this stuff.

            If you start out with the energy of seven barrels with oil and end up with products that contain about six barrels’ worth of energy, then you just lost energy. That isn’t energy positive, it’s energy negative.

            For another, energy can neither be created or destroyed, so expecting anything to be energy positive is not exactly bright.

            When it is claimed that ethanol is energy positive, the reason for that is because it can use produced partially using energy that is not based on fossil fuels, such as sunlight, so we don’t really worry about the “cost” of that input. You can use sunlight to produce plants, but it won’t make any oil.

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            If you guys would stop eating meat and just drive a Prius already, all these issues go away.

          • 0 avatar

            @PCH.

            You say sunlight can’t make oil. However it can make synthetic fuel from Biomass.

            http://auto.howstuffworks.com/fuel-efficiency/biofuels/synfuel2.htm

            It may not be cost effective but it is technically possible to make synthetic fuel from sunlight and the fuel is very low in particulates and will burn in gas engines with fewer drawbacks than ethanol laced gasoline.

            It has been predicted that if mankind can generate electricity very cheaply (a super big if), electric cars will be redundant since synthetic fuels will negate the need for EV’s.

          • 0 avatar
            WheelMcCoy

            >> Ethanol is less energy dense than gasoline, which is less energy dense than diesel. Your MPG should decline slightly if driving on E10, and more if using E85.

            On a road trip I found a pure-gas station, but it was for 93 octane. My 2nd gen smiley Mazda3 took 87, so I didn’t expect much of a gain. I put in 10 gallons.

            My Mazda3 normally gets 33 mpg on the highway and I was surprised to be getting 3rd gen SkyActiv numbers with pure-gas. I saw 40+ mpg on the highway.

            An engine that knows how to use 93 octane would do even better.

            I’m not worried that E10 will damage my engine. It’s just that ethanol seems like a lot of fuss for a tiny net positive or net negative, no one seems to know for sure.

            In terms of environment, modern engines are very clean, so even on that front, ethanol doesn’t make much difference. For significant gains in oil independence and a cleaner environment, alternative fuels are needed. In the meantime, the US should stick with E10, avoid E85, offer pure-gas, and subsidize electric vehicles.

          • 0 avatar
            WheelMcCoy

            >> If you guys would stop eating meat and just drive a Prius already, all these issues go away.

            Haha, that’s a tall order! But I”m half-way there. I’m mostly vegetarian, but I’ll enjoy a steak once a month. I thought it would be tough to do, but I am slowly losing my appetite for red meat.

            It’s harder for me not to drive a fun car, but Mazda makes fuel efficient cars that are still fun.

            So I see a huge middle ground for all of us to find a comfortable but still responsible zone.

          • 0 avatar
            carve

            LOL- that’s not how it works. You don’t start with seven barrels and are left with six- You use the energy of one barrel to extract six more. You just turned one barrel of energy to six. That’s energy positive. To be a *source* of energy, you must be energy positive- otherwise it’s an energy sink. If oil is energy negative, where does the energy to pump it come from?

            By your standard, only gushers of refined gasoline that require no pumping or refining at all are energy positive, and the only way for oil to be an energy source.

            An energy source is something that produces more energy than was required to extract it. An energy sink produces less energy than was required to extract it. The closer you get to 1:1, the less sense it makes to do it. If it took a barrel of oil to extract and process a barrel of oil, there’d be no point wasting your time because you gained exactly nothing. This is where Ethanol is today.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            This is getting painful. If you can’t even grasp basic concepts, then there is no point in continuing.

          • 0 avatar
            carve

            OK- Let me make this very simple

            Let’s say your job pays you $70 per day, but your commute costs you $10. Is that income positive or negative? Now what if your commute is $71?

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            Let’s make this very simple: Your second-rate semantics don’t alter reality.

            Take a quantity of oil with X BTUs.

            Use more energy to refine it.

            You end up with less than X. Energy negative. Very simple concept. If you can’t grasp that, then you’re beyond hopeless.

          • 0 avatar
            carve

            It’s only negative if the costs of making it are greater than the finished product. That’s what “negative” means….less than zero net energy gain. Just doing subtraction doesn’t mean the end result must be negative. You can subtract one number from another, but if the number you’re subtracting is smaller than the number you started with, you’re still in the black- positive.

            7-1 = +6, a positive number
            7-8 = -1, a negative number

            Whether an energy production/refinement/distribution process is energy negative or positive depends only on this end result; it’s not automatically negative if there are any energy costs along the way; that’s not how subtraction works. If that were the case, then we’d quickly be unable to produce any energy.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            I’m dealing with a guy who thinks that 7-1=71. Absolutely hopeless.

          • 0 avatar
            carve

            Where’d I say that? I clearly said 7-1 = +6 in the very post you’re replying to.

            70-10 = +60
            70-71 = -1

            I’m dealing with a guy who thinks any subtraction must result in a negative number as the difference. I hope you never have to write a check for any amount- after you balance your checkbook you’ll think you’re broke. Absolutely hopeless. I’m hoping you’re just trolling at this point.

            Do you think 7-1 is a positive number or a negative number?

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_returned_on_energy_invested

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            Refining oil removes BTUs from it. (Or more to the point, it takes energy to refine oil, and the net is less than the sum of the parts.)

            That makes the process energy negative.

            I am not going to explain it again.

          • 0 avatar
            carve

            So, the problem is that you don’t understand what “energy negative” means. Energy negative means that not only do you use some BTUs in processing…it means you use more BTUs in processing than the finished product contains, thus resulting in a negative number. Energy negative is not defined as “anything other than zero-cost free energy”

            Corn ethanol is right around energy neutral- in other words a bunch of effort with no real payoff. Low estimates are .8 EROEI (you get less than you put in), high are around 1.2- slightly more energy than you put in. Depends on how you run the numbers and what that particular farm land is like. Even the least efficient oil extraction (tar sands) is about 5.6. Your number is 6. A decent well can be 20.

            Let’s say I have 100 BTU. If I use it to extract oil from tar, I get 560 BTU. If I use it for ethanol, I might get 120 if I’m lucky. Subtract the original 100 and I’m left with a net gain of 460 or 20, so the tar sands were 2,300% better investment of that 100 BTU, so even the opportunity costs of ethanol are a bad investment. It would be like paying $80 to commute to a job where you’d make $100 vs paying $17 to commute to a job where you’d make $100. The $80 isn’t even really worth the effort unless you’re desperate and your time isn’t worth anything.

            If refining and shipping the gasoline required a full 90% of the energy in that tar oil you extracted, it’d still be 450% as productive as ethanol…and the number is nowhere near 90%

            Here’s the real kicker though: when they run ethanol numbers, they consider the fossil fuel energy input to just be the energy in the refined fuel they burn! If they considered the energy all the way from the oil well to the farm field, there’s no way corn ethanol is energy positive.

          • 0 avatar
            carve

            So your problem is you don’t understand what “energy negative” means. It does not mean “anything other than completely free energy that requires no effort to obtain”. It means that the energy required to extract, process, and deliver the fuel is greater than the energy contained in the fuel. Another way to express this is energy returned on energy invested (EROEI) . If it takes 100 BTU to produce 700 BTU, my EROEI is 700/100 = 7.
            The least efficient oil extraction tends to be tar sands at about 5.6. Ethanol is approximately energy neutral (1) but ranges from 1.2 to 0.8 depending on how you run the numbers and how productive that farmland is. Note: for EROEI, <1 = energy negative. i.e. it takes 100 BTU to produce 80, and 80-100 = -20. A decent oil well will have an EROEI of about 20.
            If we invest 100 BTU in tar sands, we get 560 BTU out. If we invest it in best-case corn ethanol, we get 120. Subtract the investment and you’re left with a net gain of 450 and 20, so even the worst oil extraction is 2,300% better than ethanol. But wait you say- you still need to ship that oil to refineries, refine it, and distribute it! Even if that took 90% of the remaining energy in the oil (and it is nowhere near that high), that means the least efficient gasoline production is about 460% as efficient as the best corn ethanol production- Ethanol isn’t even worth the opportunity cost; we’re better off looking for oil
            Here’s the real coup de gras to the corn ethanol numbers though: The energy input they use is the energy in the REFINED fossil fuels. There’s a good chance the diesel in the tractor came from tar sands and the natural gas in the fertilizer came from fracking! If they have to account for the PRODUCTION of the fossil fuels from the well that they’re effectively turning into ethanol, there is basically no way ethanol is energy positive!

          • 0 avatar
            thelaine

            Thank you Carve, for setting the record straight. And now on to sugar subsidies, which cost consumers 3.5 billion dollars a year while killing jobs.

        • 0 avatar
          jfbramfeld

          So, your justification for using corn to fuel cars is that someday we will run out of oil? I could just as easily say that someday we will run out of farmland, someday (like today) corn becomes a much bigger expense for subsistence consumers. Whether the truth is that there is a little net gain or a little net loss of energy in the production of ethanol is the least of our worries. ADM loves government largess and most farmers love mandated ethanol because it raises corn prices and that’s it.

          • 0 avatar
            redav

            If we are concerned about running out of anything, we should power our cars with electricity since that can be generated from so many different renewable sources (solar, wind, tidal, etc.).

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            The justification for reducing American dependence on imported oil is fewer graves for soldiers killed in the middle east.

      • 0 avatar
        thelaine

        +1. Total scam

      • 0 avatar
        Russycle

        Not entirely true. A little ethanol can significantly reduce some emissions, especially carbon monoxide. But the 10-15% we’re talking about is ridiculous. So is producing it from corn.

  • avatar
    petezeiss

    Isn’t the hygroscopic nature of ethanol the reason Heet still sells despite universal fuel injection?

    I had a fuel line freeze last year. Dumped in some Heet, drove off. Shades of 1975.

    • 0 avatar

      Fuel injection is less universal when you are talking lawn care equipment :-) I’m resigned to paying over $4/gal for non ethanol gas, many grades of non ethanol gas are in short supply.

      Oil companies may legitimately point fingers at the E85 crowd, but they aren’t much better themselves.

      • 0 avatar

        I am told that the break even point for frackers is $85./bbl. It seems the objectives of OPEC and frackers are aligned. They both want oil prices over $100./bbl. Every now and then comes along an unintended glut. Frackers and high coast producers go out of business or stop producing. After a while, the glut is cleared and the price goes back up.

        Then you have major oil players engaging in contango strategies. The vast majority of oil contracts are never delivered. You have players with storage capacity that enables them to withhold supplies from the market until the price goes up. At times, there are tankers full of oil just sitting because land based storage is full. There’s a lot going on behind the scenes the Average person doesn’t know about and wouldn’t understand if they did.

        • 0 avatar
          challenger2012

          @ ruggels “There’s a lot going on behind the scenes the Average person doesn’t know about and wouldn’t understand if they did.” That statement of yours sounds more like how the Automoblie business run rather than the Oil business. Since when has the Oil crowd banded together to keep competition out? Want to buy gas from Exxon, no problem. Want to buy gas from Shell or Citgo, no problem. Want to buy a car from Tesla, now that’s a problem.

          • 0 avatar
            Xeranar

            What in the world are you talking about? I understand you may work as a baseline employee but just because you crank a handle doesn’t mean you’re sitting in the boardroom. The fact that there are only 7 major oil companies in the world and 3 of them are divisions of the original Standard Oil is a simple enough reason to question. Never mind that if you look at regional servicing the names on the pumps change but the companies that service them are the same. In Pittsburgh wherever you choose to buy gas you’re really buying Sunoco OR getting some from a small Gulf refinery that is selling to Sunoco. The fact that the oil/gas trades hands with multiple brand names but largely the same refineries working to delivery across lines suggests extreme collusion.

            The actual issue with the oil industry is that there is no oil industry. There are the OPEC countries that control the vast majority of the oil supplies & the supplies/distributors who agree to purchase barrel heads at a certain price and then pass those barrels unto each other and wholly-owned subsidiaries. There is no competition to sell me a gallon of gas because the biggest consumer is the US Military and the global demand is largely kept in line with global production. It’s definitively a rigged game that serves no purpose other than to prove when you allow capitalists to collude you end up losing worse than if you have them fight each other.

        • 0 avatar
          chuckrs

          Frac’ing is the enemy of OPEC. Drive oil prices lower and you put a crimp in the Middle East’s ability to fund islamofascist terrorists and as a side benefit, hurts Russia and Putin as well.
          I don’t know what the breakeven for frac’ing is, but based on the history of the past decade, I expect it to go lower.

        • 0 avatar
          Lorenzo

          I’ve heard the $85/bbl number too, but that’s an average. The Texas shale is more productive, the quality of the oil is very high, and the big players have lower costs, but they’re very tight-lipped about it. Fracking is expanding in Texas, so the current low price is not yet a deterrent.

      • 0 avatar
        petezeiss

        @JPWhite

        Yep, I buy non-ethanol for my small gas engines, too, after what ethanol gas did to the carb on my last Honda mower. And Stabil for the generator & snowblower… good stuff.

  • avatar
    aristurtle

    I’m in favor of corn-based ethanol, but only for human consumption.

  • avatar
    schmitt trigger

    As dwford mentions, quite rightly: “The idea that we burn food in our gas tanks just baffles me.”

    Ethanol does make some sense if it was made from sugar-rich products, like sugar cane.
    But the fact that low cost ethanol from Brazil has forbiddingly high import duties, it is a clear sign that the US ethanol mandate is only pork-legislation designed to benefit big ago-business, and to pander to voters in the corn states.

    To top it off, Lawnmowers get their carbs wrecked with E10.

    • 0 avatar
      mikey

      I forgot to run my leaf blower out of gas last fall. 2 yrs old, and its in the shop,getting the carb overhauled….Grrrr

      • 0 avatar

        I have had a $40 weedwhacker for about 5 years now. I have never drained the gas, and in the spring I start it up with the same gas/oil that has been in it all winter, and it runs great. I know you are supposed to get rid of the old gas every year. Does that not apply to the gas you mix with oil?

        Either way, I consider it an experiment, the worse that can happen is I ruin a something that cost $40 5 years ago.

      • 0 avatar
        Monty

        New plug every two years, fresh synthetic oil very year, and some Seafoam in the tank for the first start-up – my lawnmower is 20 years old, my snowblower is 10 years old and both run like the day I bought them.

        I got the snowblower out of the storage shed this weekend, filled it with fresh gas, dropped about 1.5 ounces of Seafoam in the tank and with 5 pushes on the primer instead of my usual 2 or 3, it started on the first pull.

        I have never used ethanol based fuel in either motor, and never will.

        • 0 avatar
          petezeiss

          I normally just wire-brush the gakk off my plugs. Do yours actually consume the electrodes?

          • 0 avatar
            greaseyknight

            With small engines I tend to just replace the plug if I have any doubt. In modern cars, with modern ignition systems, plugs last forever. Not so much in small engines with their low tech ignition systems that tend to fry plugs. Any plug with a resistor in it is very suspect to me, had a dirt bike that burned up resistor plugs like candy, switched to non-resistor and not a problem since.

        • 0 avatar
          oldworntruck

          funny but seafoam is mostly alcohol anyway….

          • 0 avatar
            petezeiss

            Ya know… that’s sort of where my thinking went when I found that the isopropyl alcohol in Heet cured the problem caused by the ethyl alcohol in my gas.

            So, for fuel lines, isopropyl good, ethyl bad.

            Good thing I’m skilled at basket-weaving ’cause I sure ain’t no chemist.

      • 0 avatar
        Rick T.

        Hmmm, here in Tennessee all of the two-cycle oil I add to the (ethanol free) gas has a fuel stabilizer in it. I think Echo is the usual brand.

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      Ethanol from algae is also a viable alternative.

  • avatar
    ...m...

    …i design fuel stations for the largest retailer in central texas: for the past six years they’ve been all-in on E85, but last week they dropped it completely from all new projects and are replacing the E85 tanks and dispensers on remodel sites with conventional petroleum fuels as well…

  • avatar
    RHD

    So how do the cars and trucks in Brazil survive on such allegedly lousy alcohol fuel?

  • avatar
    Duaney

    As a full time mechanic, the damage that the 10% ethanol does to our fuel systems is over the top. Even in modern fuel injected vehicles. And to mention also the vapor lock in warm weather, and this is frequent too in fuel injected vehicles at our altitude. Mostly I drive diesel’s, but for my gasoline fueled vehicles I try to buy pure gas, (we have one location in the city, 30 miles away), or I buy the AV gas at the airport at $6.00 per gal. Hey, it’s worth it to avoid the rusted out tank, or the destroyed carburetor.

    • 0 avatar
      heavy handle

      Are we talking carburetors or “modern fuel injected vehicles?” You mention both.

      Haven’t seen a rusted-out tank in over a decade. Even then it was limited to specific brands, which I attributed to cost-cutting more than ethanol.

      What seems funny to me is that “gasohol” has been around since the Carter presidency, and people are still blaming it for auto makers’ deficiencies. Heck, battery acid is way more corrosive, but everyone’s managed to get that under control.

    • 0 avatar
      KixStart

      This must be pure FUD.

      I’ve been using 10% for decades without difficulty and I tend to keep my cars for 10 or more years, so I’d notice if there was a problem.

      Mileage decrease has been negligible… I had the opportunity to switch back and forth between both when 10% ethanol first came on the market back in the early ’80’s or thereabouts. Fuel fill cutoff variation probably had a greater effect on the mileage computation.

  • avatar
    Astigmatism

    Can someone tell me if the photo at the top of the article implies that there are actually parts of the country where you top out at 89 octane, with the extra pumps going to glorified gas/vodka mixes?

    • 0 avatar
      Xeranar

      E85 pumps tend not to have extra hydraulics in them to pump all normal variants and the mixtures. So I’ve seen the pumps that have the E85 variants and the others that have the traditional variety.

  • avatar
    aristurtle

    Ultimately, a field of corn grown for ethanol acts as a solar power collector — you’re storing solar energy in some easily usable form.

    In this respect, a cornfield is SUBSTANTIALLY less space efficient than a solar-electric power plant. Further, it requires freshwater irrigation and arable land, whereas a solar power plant can happily live in the Arizona desert.

    • 0 avatar
      RHD

      +100

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      A solar power plant in California’s Mojave desert is now running into problems with environmentalists. The mirrors are frying birds in flight over the plant at the rate of one every two minutes. They’re estimating as many as 300,000 a year will get flash-fried in flight.

      http://www.weather.com/news/solar-plants-birds-20140808

      • 0 avatar
        Brian P

        That can only happen with a solar-thermal plant (which concentrates the light). With photoelectric panels nearing 20% efficiency, there’s little reason to go with solar-thermal any more.

        • 0 avatar
          Lorenzo

          Solar thermal is actually more efficient on the scale of the Mojave plant. At 20% efficiency on a large scale, solar panels have a long way to go to beat traditional heat exchange.

          On a smaller scale, like a home or large building in the right location, it’s very competitive, but for the volume of electricity consumed, the source must be scaled up beyond solar’s current sweet spot. That’s why the fairly NEW Mojave plant uses thermal.

  • avatar
    jacob_coulter

    I honestly believe the biggest reason why we have the Ethanol scam is because of one dynamic:

    Iowa being the first Presidential Primary/Caucus.

    Almost every Presidential candidate from both parties has to kiss the Ethanol ring because they need a good showing to look “viable” for the rest of the Primary.

    And Senators/Congressman that are aspiring Presidents also make sure to bend over backwards to cater to the state’s interests with federal legislation in case they ever decide to run for President some day.

    Take away the Iowa Caucus and make the first contests a collection of states on the same day.

  • avatar
    korvetkeith

    http://pure-gas.org

    I try to vote with my wallet as much as possible. Do the same.

    • 0 avatar
      TMA1

      Thanks, I was looking for something like that. Nothing near me, unfortunately, unless I want to run my car on 105 octane.

    • 0 avatar
      MBella

      I was so happy when I moved to Seattle and found a gas station near me in Everett that sells 100% gasoline. I try to only buy from him.

      • 0 avatar

        @MBella.

        I found a gas station near home that is all non ethanol gas as well. I am so unaccustomed to that I was totally baffled at the pumps and went inside to ask which of the pumps was non ethanol. All of them are said the proprietor. I took a few seconds to sink in.

        He typically has no supply of one of more grades of gas.

  • avatar
    RogerB34

    Ethanol additive to gasoline was proposed and defeated in the Pennsylvania state legislature 1935. The purpose was to inject dollars into farm income as agriculture went into a depression early ’20’s.
    The purpose today is the same with Green House Gas emissions as the environmental bogey man. Ethanol decreases VOC in warmer months and that’s all that can be said for the environmental benefits. A pig with lipstick and here to stay.

  • avatar
    Sky_Render

    “More dependent”?

    The US is currently the world’s number one producer of crude oil. More dependent on what?

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      “In 2013, about 33% of the petroleum consumed by the United States was imported from foreign countries”

      http://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.cfm?id=32&t=6

      The US does not produce enough oil to be energy independent. The US currently does not produce as much as oil as it did when it peaked in 1973, although it does produce more than it did before the oil price spike of the mid-2000s.

      Some of you are horribly misinformed about these matters.

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        61% of the oil the US imports is from Canada and Mexico, we know more then you think

        • 0 avatar
          Pch101

          I must have missed the headlines in today’s news. I could have sworn that Canada and Mexico were different countries.

          Perhaps we could invade them both. We’d be close to energy independent if we just took them over.

          • 0 avatar
            redav

            Lie2me said “61% of the US *IMPORTS* is from…”

            It’s quite clear he understands they are different countries.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            “Energy independence” is defined as freedom from the need for imports, not “energy from other countries that are nearby.”

            It is clear that the thread starter believes that the US is energy independent, when that isn’t even close to being correct. The places from which the US imports its energy are irrelevant to the question of whether the US is import dependent (which it is.)

          • 0 avatar
            redav

            The system swallowed a reply, but to summarize: there’s a lot more to independence than merely zero imports.

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            “I must have missed the headlines in today’s news. I could have sworn that Canada and Mexico were different countries.”

            Gee, really? I wonder how effed-up the world would have to be for Canada to cut off the oil spigot to the US?

          • 0 avatar
            Lorenzo

            All you guys should check the dates of your data. The situation is changing dramatically. We still import certain types of crude and certain types of refined products and always will. We don’t export crude (currently illegal), but we ship lots of refined products overseas also. It’s not a simple production-consumption equation, but the fact our domestic production has gone from 5 million bbl/day to 8.5 million in five years, with more on the way, has changed the world market.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            Exporting refined products is an indication that the US has excess refinery capacity.

            To determine oil dependency, compare domestic crude production with domestic consumption. Any consumption that exceeds production will need to be imported.

      • 0 avatar
        Sky_Render

        US overtakes Saudi as world’s largest oil producer:

        http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-07-04/u-s-seen-as-biggest-oil-producer-after-overtaking-saudi.html

        Note the date of that article: July 2014. If you’re going to call me uninformed, at least do a little research to find out how out-of-date your sources are.

        • 0 avatar
          Pch101

          You apparently don’t know the difference between energy production and energy independence.

          The US produces some oil.

          The US does not produce enough oil to be self-sufficient.

          The math: Domestic oil production – domestic oil consumption = net surplus.

          But US consumption exceeds US production. There is a deficit, not a surplus. That deficit needs to be imported.

          As noted, you are horribly misinformed. If you don’t even understand the math of oil dependency, then you aren’t qualified to discuss it.

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            Does the US consume all the oil it produces? Might be wiser to consume the oil of foreign producers before consuming our own, I’m sure others thought of that long before I did

        • 0 avatar
          danio3834

          That article says that in spite of being the no. 1 producer, the US is still the no. 1 consumer and imports 7.5 million barrels per day.

      • 0 avatar
        mkirk

        Are you sure? We are very close to 1973 if we havent already surpassed it as of 2014 with output continuing to increase.

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    I wish I could buy 100% gasoline in Las Vegas, but alas, since all of our gas comes from California, there is no pure gas to be had.

    A 200-mile round trip to get it negates the point.

  • avatar
    Duaney

    For finding pure gas, try the website, “pure-gas.org”. It shows locations of pure gas in each State.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    I do think ethanol is a large waste of taxpayer dollars in subsidisation and handouts to all parties involved. This tax money could be better spent, paying down debt or investing in transport infrastructure.

    I do realise a large false industry is supported by this. But a gradual winding back of these wasteful programs by ALL countries should be encouraged.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    Try again!

    I do think ethanol is a large waste of taxpayer dollars in subsidisation and handouts to all parties involved. This tax money could be better spent, paying down debt or investing in transport infrastructure.

    I do realise a large false industry is supported by this. But a gradual winding back of these wasteful programs by ALL countries should be encouraged.

  • avatar
    raph

    E85 – cheap arse race fuel! Most people might not like it but its well liked in car modding circles.

  • avatar
    TW5

    I don’t have a problem with ethanol per se, but I have a problem with the way we produce ethanol, and the way we use ethanol. Growing ethanol on arable land is an inefficient waste of farm land, and we have alternative ways of producing ethanol without growing corn. The SAE has also written several papers about uses for ethanol fuel. Blending is the least productive option available so naturally it’s what we use.

    The debate is rarely about what policies we pursue, rather the criminally insane way we bring our policies to life.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    This is for the guys who don’t realise how entrenched ethanol is forced upon you. These green “feel good” people do cost society unnecessarily.

    “Recalling such treatment, Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT) remarked at the forum, “I can’t think of another product in the American economy that really had the trifecta – a tariff barrier, a subsidy, and a mandate.”

    http://www.taxpayer.net/library/article/corn-ethanol-subsidies-are-alive-and-well

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    http://www.taxpayer.net/library/article/corn-ethanol-subsidies-are-alive-and-well

    I hope this comment posts this time.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    I foresee TTAC readership evaporating.

  • avatar
    thelaine

    Big ag corporations allied with both the left and the right to raise the price of fuel and food. Well done ADM. This is the crowning achievement of the ag subsidy racket.

    They have people believing that it will make us less likely to be involved in wars in the middle east. They have people believing that it is going to meaningfully reduce our oil imports from our enemies in saudi arabia, Canada and Mexico. They have people believing it is a more efficiently produced form of fuel than gasoline!!!

    There is absolutely no sense of proportion which considers cost vs benefit. As long as you can describe some benefit in acceptable language that is “green” or “provides jobs” or “gets us out of the middle east” people are happy to go along. Just repeating the slogans makes it so, without any sense of cost.

    You’ve got to hand it to them, they have been fking the American public for years and not only do we tolerate it, but lots of people have learned to enjoy it. It makes some people rich by mandating a money transfer from you to them and you think it’s a good thing. Bravo ADM. Those solyndra boys were rank amateurs. You guys are the pros.

  • avatar
    thelaine

    This is just a massive subsidy to giant corporations paid for by ordinary consumers of fuel and food. It does nothing meaningful to our foriegn policy or energy security. They are just mandating that you make other people rich. Plenty of people will shill for that. The rest are dupes.

  • avatar
    thelaine

    Ethanol has no effect on our mideast policies and no meaningful impact on our “energy independence.”

    There has been, however, a massive, government-mandated transfer of wealth from people who purchase food and fuel to agribusiness.

    The graft is so massive it has caused politicians from both parties to climb into bed together in a bipartisan orgy of greed.

    People who defend these policies are either financially connected to the theft and drizzling out arguments like corn syrup or they are the fools who are licking it up.

  • avatar
    Drzhivago138

    Looks like I came too late for the “discussion,” which was probably a good thing, since I’m not good enough with facts, figures and sources to adequately defend my position. All I can really say is this: I’d like anyone to find me a more dependable source of _renewable_ energy that’s here_and_now. Thank you to Pch101 and anyone who shares the same view for getting the facts straight.

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