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Transportation Government The Almighty Buck United States

Corn Shortage Hampers US Ethanol Production 419

Posted by timothy
from the but-think-of-the-poor-candlemakers dept.
drdread66 writes "A nationwide corn shortage brought on by last year's drought has started to curtail ethanol production. While this shouldn't be surprising to anyone, it raises public policy issues regarding ethanol usage requirements in motor fuel. Given that the energy efficiency of ethanol fuel is questionable at best, is it time to lift the mandate for ethanol in our gasoline?"
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Corn Shortage Hampers US Ethanol Production

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 10, 2013 @04:38PM (#42852417)

    ... As long as we can drive around cars! Cleaner burning cars too!

    • by masternerdguy (2468142) on Sunday February 10, 2013 @05:01PM (#42852661)
      Actually ethanol burns worse than gasoline and (if you make it our way) takes more energy to make than you get from burning it, but that's ok because of, well, I have to really reach for this one -- JOB CREATION!
      • by amiga3D (567632)

        By burns worse are you saying it pollutes more? I guess it does contribute to greenhouse gases since one of the byproducts is Water Vapor.

        • by newcastlejon (1483695) on Sunday February 10, 2013 @05:28PM (#42852935)
          Burning most fuels will produce water, even lowly methane. I suspect the parent was referring to the lower energy density of ethanol; it's about two thirds that of petrol.
      • by shentino (1139071) on Sunday February 10, 2013 @06:12PM (#42853285)

        I'd actually be curious how ethanol does versus gas and oil once BOTH sides have all their subsidies removed.

        Subsidies are a pox on the free market.

        • by MightyYar (622222) on Sunday February 10, 2013 @07:25PM (#42853877)

          Yeah, I'm originally from a part of the country that was impacted by Sandy, and I got into an argument with a co-worker over subsidies for beach fill projects. While I agree that we'd be better off without subsidies, I take offense when people pretend that only the beach communities benefit from federal money. I mean, when's the last time you traveled through a suburb that paid for it's own highway system? Most of those suburbs made a developer very rich when taxpayers funded a highway through farmland.

          And I'm convinced it's unavoidable. Even if the Federal government were limited to defense and courts, we'd still have certain places getting more benefit from base and prison locations, not to mention the way government contracts get granted. This is why I tend to favor limiting the size and scope of the government unless the benefits outweigh the additional monkeying around with the free market.

          • by ChrisMaple (607946) on Sunday February 10, 2013 @09:08PM (#42854591)

            Suburbs don't get developed where there isn't already good access. (Read about Robert Moses and Long Island.) Developers generally have to put in the roads that are in their development; taxes fund their maintenance.

            Most suburbs are areas that were independent towns long before they were considered suburbs. Southwestern Connecticut is considered a suburb of New York City, yet consists of towns dating from about 1640, before there were even bridges out of Manhattan. Better roads, and railroads, made them more economically viable so that they grew: not developers colluding with government to put a highway through farmland.

        • by kenh (9056)

          Don't forget the Government requirement to include Ethanol in gasoline - that skews the market as well...

      • by nmb3000 (741169) <nmb3000@that-google-mail-site.com> on Sunday February 10, 2013 @06:54PM (#42853645) Homepage Journal

        Actually ethanol burns worse than gasoline and (if you make it our way) takes more energy to make than you get from burning it, but that's ok because of, well, I have to really reach for this one -- JOB CREATION!

        What I don't like is how ethanol is damaging for older vehicles. I know I have nothing to back it up, but ever since 10% ethanol started showing up at the pumps I'd swear I've had more trouble with my older car (difficulty starting, power, etc). Reading articles such as this one about the upcoming Ethanol-15 [popularmechanics.com] redouble my concerns.

        It's the corn lobby and government subsidies that's driving adding ethanol into our gasoline, nothing else. I'm all for alternative-fueled cars designed to run on E85 (or E100 for that matter), but leave the stuff out of the "gas" pump.

        • by budgenator (254554) on Sunday February 10, 2013 @08:02PM (#42854177) Journal

          E10 has no effect on automotive engines except an imperceptable power reduction, and cleaner exhaust emissions. Small engines are more finicky on E10, especially the low compression flat-head designs. It helps to keep fresh fuel in the tank because it absorbs moisture from the atmosphere and wet alcohol can turn into acid, vinegar actually.

        • by jafac (1449) on Sunday February 10, 2013 @10:44PM (#42855089) Homepage

          I don't know much about this with Ethanol.

          My experience with Biodiesel was that I ran B99 for 5 years. When my supplier folded, I had to switch back to petro-diesel, but commercial suppliers had switched to Ultra-low sulfur diesel, (to decrease sulfur emissions). This caused a reaction with my fuel-pump seals (NOT my fuel filter!). My fuel-pump started leaking, (and this leaked onto the wiring harness, and also ate away a temperature sensor that caused all kinds of weird symptoms for a while before I figured out what was really going on - the temperature sensor controlled injection quantity, and as that flaked out, the engine just started injecting incorrect amounts, intermittently, as the fuel temperature changed.)

          Anyway - when it started to leak enough that I SAW the dripping, I rebuilt the pump with new seals, of a different type of rubber (Viton) which can handle ULSD and Biodiesel. (It was the ULSD that was really the problem - though had I not used Bio, it wouldn't have been a problem, according to VW).

          The rebuild kit was $99, and it was 8 hours of my time. (a pro could have done the job in 2 hrs). I also had to replace some of the soft fuel lines, but it's hard-lines from the tank to the filter, so this was 2 soft lines from the filter to the pump.

          I guess the injectors are supposed to also have some bushings that are going to fail on me as well, but 20k miles later, they seem to still be okay.

          Later model VW's void the warranty if you use Biodiesel that comes from sources other than rapeseed oil. (ie. if it comes from corn oil, they say that the acid esters will eat the seals or harm the engine's emissions control equipment somehow - 2005 and later engiens have much more advance emissions control than my 2003).

          So the biofuel isssue can be pretty complex. Whether ethanol is going to be any worse for those components than gasoline, I don't know. I think that diesel/biodiesel is chemically much more complex than gasoline and ethanol. And I think that Biodiesel is still difficult to produce, in reiable quantity. I don't know that anyone has a good industrial process for that yet. Not on the scale that regular diesel is produced.

      • by mabhatter654 (561290) on Sunday February 10, 2013 @08:11PM (#42854229)

        But if you didn't have extremely cheap oil Ethonol is the only game in town.

        What people miss is that all (useful) energy comes from the Sun. Fossil files are just the byproduct if burrying the prehistoric forests several times over... Ethanol is the best power-to volume you are gonna get until batteries make some major revolution or two more.

        Ethanol infrastructure is necessary to have if Oil was somehow taken away overnight. It's a hedge more than a plan for everybody.

      • by cheater512 (783349) <nick@nickstallman.net> on Sunday February 10, 2013 @08:13PM (#42854237) Homepage

        Australia does also use ethanol in fuel. None of it comes from crops grown specifically for it.

        Most of it is made from the waste material left over from crops like sugar cane.

      • by thrich81 (1357561) on Monday February 11, 2013 @02:05AM (#42856073)

        The people that really care about fuel quality -- the hot rodders -- like ethanol. The following quote is about E85 (85% ethanol) -- "When it comes to using E85 I can’t tell you enough how nice it is to tune for cars with this fuel. Burn temperatures are lower, initial octane rating is much higher than gasoline at ~105, and it’s not uncommon at all to gain 40bhp+ by using E85 alone with no other changes aside from tuning." This is from a professional tuner's article on a popular Volvo site (http://www.matthewsvolvosite.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=5&t=54435). Both ethanol and methanol are very high octane fuels which burn extremely well in piston engines. They don't have as much energy per gallon as gasoline but for power output in an engine tuned for them they are better.

    • Ethanol: (Score:4, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 10, 2013 @05:49PM (#42853105)

      It's what cars crave.

    • by OverlordQ (264228)

      It's not that we'll go hungry, it's the price of meat will go up.

      • by MightyYar (622222)

        So fuel gets more expensive and meat gets more expensive...

        It's like the environmentalists and PETA teamed up and won :)

    • Cleaner burning cars too!

      No cars burn cleanly. It's all the rubber in the tires, they make lots of nasty black smoke. Mag wheels make an impressive flame, however..

  • Yes. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Richy_T (111409) on Sunday February 10, 2013 @04:43PM (#42852459) Homepage

    Short answer: Yes.

    Long answer: No, it is, in fact, way past time.

    Next question?

  • by ickleberry (864871) <web@pineapple.vg> on Sunday February 10, 2013 @04:43PM (#42852461) Homepage
    Least efficient way of making the stuff. The tractors burn more diesel harvesting the stuff than the energy it will produce. Greenwashing at its finest. There are better ways of producing ethanol like from legitimate byproducts with the help of industrial waste heat but that's not what they're doing in the USA. Far too many people on the ethanol subsidy gravy train over there.
    • by Jawnn (445279) on Sunday February 10, 2013 @04:48PM (#42852517)

      Least efficient way of making the stuff. The tractors burn more diesel harvesting the stuff than the energy it will produce. .

      Not that I am inclined to disagree, but please... [citation needed]

      • by FrangoAssado (561740) on Sunday February 10, 2013 @05:04PM (#42852699)

        This is one of those topics where there are a lot of conflicting studies on the exact numbers (on how much energy you get compared to what you put in), but it seems that everyone agrees that corn ethanol is particularly bad: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethanol_fuel_energy_balance [wikipedia.org].

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Still the article points out corn ethanol produces 1.2 unit for every 1 unit put, so the original claim is wrong.

          • by icebike (68054) on Sunday February 10, 2013 @06:36PM (#42853477)

            Still the article points out corn ethanol produces 1.2 unit for every 1 unit put, so the original claim is wrong.

            True, the wiki article suggest that you get slightly more energy out than you put in. We'd get a lot more out with cellulose based production such as switch grass.

            But, the production side is only half of the picture. The other side is any inefficiencies when actually using the ethanol as a fuel. Chemical analysis of the PRODUCTION side does not always translate into real world use.

            You also have the USE side. According to the US Department of Energy [fueleconomy.gov] E85 (85% ethanol - so-called FlexFuel) gives 25 to 30% less mileage. My car's manual (2012 Chrysler product) just flat out states 30% less miles per gallon, and it further states don't ever use it unless your car has a FlexFuel badge. (which my car does not).

            E10 (10% ethanol), makes only a 3 to 4% drop in mileage (according to DOE). There are some stations in my area that have E15 (15% ethanol), reduces milage by 7.7% according to the DOE referenced study [ornl.gov]. My owners manual specifically warns against that as well. Essentially, the report indicated the reduction in miles per gallon continued as a linear trend with increasing ethanol content.

            Further there appears to be little pollution benefit from using ethanol, contrary to the claims of some people.

            Regulated tailpipe emissions remained largely unaffected by the ethanol content of the fuel.
            As ethanol content increased,
              oxides of nitrogen (NOX) and non-methane organic gases (NMOG) showed no significant
            change;
              non-methane hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide (CO) emissions declined on average for
            all ethanol blend levels tested. Neither pollutant changed appreciably from E10 to E20;
              ethanol emissions increased;
              acetaldehyde emissions increased;
              formaldehyde emissions increased slightly; and
              benzene and 1,3-butadiene were expected to decrease due to dilution, but measurements
            were conducted on only a subset of the vehicles and have not been thoroughly analyzed
            to date.

    • I've read that hemp is a useful thing to grow to make various products like this.

    • The tractors burn more diesel harvesting the stuff than the energy it will produce.

      Interesting.

      Since WW2 Brazil has been using home grown ethanol as a fuel because they either couldn't get oil (I'm told this is what diesel is made from) or didn't want to pay high prices for it.

      • by bird (12361) on Sunday February 10, 2013 @05:08PM (#42852743) Homepage

        Brazil doesn't make ethanol from maize- they make it from sugar cane.

      • Brazil mainly used sugar beets, I believe. In any case not corn. Corn is, as others mentioned, far from the best choice for producing ethanol
      • by amorsen (7485) <benny+slashdot@amorsen.dk> on Sunday February 10, 2013 @05:12PM (#42852787)

        Since WW2 Brazil has been using home grown ethanol as a fuel because they either couldn't get oil (I'm told this is what diesel is made from) or didn't want to pay high prices for it.

        Brazil AFAIK made ethanol from sugar cane. Sugar cane is an excellent choice for ethanol production; it is one of the most efficient plants when it comes to photosynthesis and it produces lots of sugar which is easy to turn into ethanol. Ethanol from sugar cane should have no problem producing more energy than is consumed.

        Corn is just fairly crap all around when it comes to ethanol production.

        • Ah. It's just that I'd seen it quoted so often that ethanol in general is net energy negative (which clearly can't be the case) that I didn't notice he specified from corn.

          I guess most of the USA has the wrong climate for sugar cane, but how about beets? They grow in England so I suppose they're fairly cold tolerant.

          • by amorsen (7485)

            Sugar from beets is completely economically unviable. The only reason it is still grown is stupid protectionism.

    • by amiga3D (567632)

      I don't know but I'm having a hard time believing it costs more to harvest than the energy it will produce. Maybe you could provide a reference for that?

    • by gl4ss (559668)

      it's an employment program..

    • by Jmc23 (2353706)
      Isn't corn a legitimate byproduct of corn subsidies?
  • by Bananatree3 (872975) on Sunday February 10, 2013 @04:46PM (#42852489)
    Kill the corn subsidies, period. They prop up the house of cards that hold the corth ethanol and HFCS industries that would otherwise not exist because they can't survive in a real capital market.

    The sooner these tax-payer-subsidized industries get the rug pulled from under them, the sooner things like cellulosic ethanol and other *real* technological innovations can come to fruition.
  • by trdtaylor (2664195) on Sunday February 10, 2013 @04:46PM (#42852493)

    It never should have happened in the first place. Ethanol uses absurd amounts of energy to produce because you have to boil water from it
    (http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/03/050329132436.htm)

    This is not something we can tech out of. It's always going to be wasteful and one of the worst possible fuel choices for vehicles.

    • Ethanol uses absurd amounts of energy to produce because you have to boil water from it

      You're doing it wrong.

      In Scotland and Ireland they boil the ethanol from the water.

      • by cnaumann (466328) on Sunday February 10, 2013 @06:05PM (#42853209)

        In the olden days, if you wanted nearly pure ethanol, you would first use simple distillation it to remove most of the water. Arguably, this is boiling the ethanol from the water. This gets you to about 96% purity, but it is impossible to remove the last 4% of the water with simple distillation. To get to nearly pure alcohol, you would add benzene or cyclohexane to the 96% pure mixture and continue boiling. The benzene from a three-way azeotrope and removes the last of the water by boiling. In this procedure, the pure alcohol is what is left over after the water, benzene and some of the alcohol is boiled away. You literally do "boil the water from it".

        These days, molecular sieves are employed to remove the last of the water.

  • by Xenkar (580240) on Sunday February 10, 2013 @04:47PM (#42852503)

    Corn ethanol is and probably always will be a handout to the farming states. It takes more oil to grow the corn for ethanol than we save from blending ethanol into our engines.

    The rest of us are screwed over by this. It would be better for the economy and the environment to just calculate out how much profit the farmers are getting and just hand out yearly checks for that amount. But that would be socialism and we can't have any of that.

  • by Darkness404 (1287218) on Sunday February 10, 2013 @04:54PM (#42852579)
    Like 99.9% of government laws and regulations, we never should have had a mandate of ethanol in gas. Its bad for cars, makes no economic sense, and is actually less green (you've got to use more oil to make corn-based ethanol than it will save)

    If we are going to use ethanol, it makes sense to use sugar like Brazil. Unfortunately the US has a pretty terrible climate for growing sugar except in a few key areas, and those few key areas have lobbied for massive tariffs on the importation of sugar, making it cost-prohibitive to import sugar from the areas of the world where it makes sense to grow sugar.

    The US farming industry is a mess. Honestly, unless you are a factory farm, you're almost better off to buy an unproductive piece of ground, make a half-assed effort of farming it, take out crop insurance and live off the proceeds of that.
    • by roc97007 (608802)

      > Like 99.9% of government laws and regulations, we never should have had a mandate of ethanol in gas. Its bad for cars, makes no economic sense, and is actually less green (you've got to use more oil to make corn-based ethanol than it will save)

      But it made us all feel good!

    • by shentino (1139071)

      The powers that be know damn well what they are doing.

    • by compro01 (777531) on Sunday February 10, 2013 @07:16PM (#42853833)

      1. Some ethanol (10% or so) makes a lot of sense. It cuts down NOX emissions. But adding more than that doesn't improve that effect.

      2. Corn ethanol has pretty poor returns on input, but it is positive, about 1.2:1.

      3. The USA has a fine climate for growing sugar. Just not in the form of sugar cane. Sugar beets will grow just fine.

  • corn no, hemp yes (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 10, 2013 @04:56PM (#42852615)

    The cost to manufacture corn ethanol is approximately equal to that of gasoline, after all of the subsidies given to the growing of corn. Hemp ethanol is significantly cheaper and does not have subsidies. Hemp ethanol manufacture estimates a cost of $.50 per gallon. There are ethanols that are viable replacements for gasoline. Corn ethanol is not one of them.

  • by whizbang77045 (1342005) on Sunday February 10, 2013 @05:16PM (#42852825)
    There is finally a local gas station that sells ethanol-free gas. Suddenly, my truck's mileage jumped from 18 mpg to 20 mph. The stuff was actually wasting fuel! It may be a great idea in Iowa, but it sucks out here.
    • by Areyoukiddingme (1289470) on Sunday February 10, 2013 @05:46PM (#42853087)

      It doesn't "waste fuel". Ethanol is less energy-dense than gasoline. Your vehicle was extracting the same percentage of energy from the ethanol as it was from gasoline (more or less, and a piss poor fraction it is, too). There's just less energy to be had per gallon. So yes, you get better mileage from pure gasoline. It has better energy density.

      • by Maxo-Texas (864189) on Sunday February 10, 2013 @07:44PM (#42854031)

        Actually, in my experiece (based on two trials in a 2000 honda element and two trials in a 2008 honda element), fuel with 10% ethanol does literally waste gasoline.

        I need 102% to 103% as much gasoline to go the same distance when up to 10% ethanol is added to it.

        A tankful of 10% ethanol gets me about 265 miles
        A tankful of gasoline gets me about 300 miles.

        35 miles difference.

        I need to use 1.45 more gallons of 10% ethanol fuel to go 300 miles.
        So that's 1.3 more gallons of gasoline to go the same distance when ethanol is added.

        The government says it should be 3-7% worse. And they've tested it. But apparently the fuel does much worse in some cars than others. In theory, you should get some mileage out of the ethanol. In practice, a lot of people seem to report a 10% difference in mileage.

        Perhaps the government driving wasn't normal driving. Maybe they

        a) didn't start and stop as much.
        b) started and stopped more.
        c) didn't idle as much.

        Not sure what the difference but something is off.

    • by anagama (611277)

      There's one gas station in my area that also sells ethanol free gas and its price is basically the same as everywhere else (except for the really sketchy stations that sell gas super cheap, probably from rusty tanks). It's the only place I fill up. If I find myself running low and its inconvenient to go there, I'll pump one or two gallons at a different station, but I won't fill up. This could be a good means of marketing for gas stations to differentiate themselves. Never in my life before have I been

  • by RevDisk (740008) on Sunday February 10, 2013 @05:17PM (#42852827) Journal
    While the overwhelming majority of corn turned into fuel ethanol is not human consumable, it is used as feed for livestock. The economic implications have already hit. Food prices are rising, as producers get squeezed. End consumers don't want more expensive meat. This goes the entire way up the stack, with pricing accordingly.

    Not only that, but every acre of ethanol production corn is one less acre of food for human or animal consumption. So, veggies and starches go up as well. Not as much as livestock feed prices, but quite a bit.

    Gets better. You need to grow the corn in advance of pouring it into a gas tank. Makes sense, right? Which means you'll have a minimum of one year of higher food prices across the board, as that is how far in advance (minimum) that corn production is locked in. It would be more intelligent to scale things back down slowly, but I doubt it'll happen. Worse, the EPA wants to move to 15% ethanol. Which is VERY bad for small engines not built for it. That's a couple billion dollars of motorcycles, lawn mowers, leaf blowers, generators, etc that may be damaged by higher ethanol rates. This sort of thing needs to be planned out a decade in advance, ideally.

    Only the corn lobby, politicians accepting campaign donations and "environmentalists" made out on this one. Yes, some less bright environmentalists pushed for it as increasing "renewable" energy. Just because something is technically renewable doesn't mean we should do it. Burning food in our cars isn't the ideal solution. The environment and everyone in the US buying food took the hit for them. Thanks guys.

    I'd rant about synthetic hydrocarbon fuels pulled from atmospheric carbon and cracked water (to provide hydrogen and oxygen), but I honestly don't feel like it at the moment. Back to programming the firewall.
  • Cellulistic ethanol should be the source, not a food source.
  • by kawabago (551139) on Sunday February 10, 2013 @05:22PM (#42852885)
    neither should our vehicles.
  • Oh, so now it's a problem.
    The fact that we the first world are plundering resources from poor countries.
    Corn here. Palm oil instead of food there.
    Time we start caring.

  • Misleading summary (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Sarusa (104047) on Sunday February 10, 2013 @05:30PM (#42852945)

    Should be 'A nationwide corn shortage brought on by ethanol mandates, as designed by the people who imposed them'.

  • So, we make less net-energy negative fuel... And release less of this energy as heat into the atmosphere. Thanks for letting us know! Is there any downside?

  • by jddeluxe (965655) on Sunday February 10, 2013 @05:50PM (#42853111)
    I drive one of the most common cars in the U.S., a Honda Accord with with a 2.4 liter 4 cylinder engine. I'm lucky to have a station nearby that sells ethanol-free gasoline, and I originally switched just to test, but over the long term, I'm paying 1-2% more for ethanol-free gas, but have have gotten 5-7% better gas mileage. Adding 10% corn-based ethanol to gas makes it cost more to drive the same distance, and adds to fossil fuel pollution by itself while being used and additionally throughout it's production cycle from corn stalk to your tank....
    • My experimentation shows a break even point of 15 cents. If the difference in price between E10 and E0 gas is less than 15 cents it is more cost effective to burn E0. Guess what the price difference almost always is? There are times that the stations selling E10 go up in price before the stations selling pure gas, but not often.
  • by stox (131684) on Sunday February 10, 2013 @05:52PM (#42853127) Homepage

    The concept was that by establishing a market for ethanol as a fuel, it would then justify investment in other technologies to generate ethanol. The bootstrap would significantly reduce the risk of developing those technologies. Now is the time to cut the subsidies for Corn based ethanol production and to push the alternatives.

  • The only shortage is in intelligence, what is needed is a shortage in greedy bastards trying to squeeze out every penny from the unwitting public. Corn is not the only producer of ethanol. The issue is not the origin of fuel but in the efficient use of it. This administration had the big three auto makers over a barrel (excuse the pun), but instead, paid them off with big fat bonuses all the while the consumers, ie taxpayers got the shaft. We can put man in space, put spacecraft out to the edges of the sola
    • >The only shortage is in intelligence...

      You mean wisdom and understanding of thermodynamics.

      There's lots of intelligence, but it's usually misdirected.

    • by TheSync (5291) on Sunday February 10, 2013 @11:20PM (#42855307) Journal

      Corn is not the only producer of ethanol.

      Yes, but we have significant tariffs [dartmouthb...ournal.com] on imported sugar into the US. Beyond a small quota, imported sugar has a tariff of 150% of the sugar's value. The artificially high sugar prices due to tariffs cost the American economy $1.9 billion of deadweight loss a year, to "protect" about 3600 US jobs.

      Another place where the market should be allowed to work instead of anti-trade protectionist regulation backed by a small number of fat-cat agribusinesses.

  • by brianerst (549609) on Sunday February 10, 2013 @06:24PM (#42853373) Homepage

    It was always a bad idea. Ethanol has a low energy density, binds with water (requiring energy to separate out), can only be blended in low amounts with gasoline without destroying existing engines and the corn variety is probably net energy negative given the energy inputs.

    If you want to drive a bio- or alt-fuel industry, it would be much better to have an ever-rising stored-carbon tax (i.e., a tax on the amount of stored "fossil" carbon release per unit of energy). We could then import untaxed bio-ethanol from places where the economics and fuel cycle makes more sense (like Brazilian ethanol made from sugar cane and bagasse). You could even make the tax rebatable on the few carbon-negative alternatives out there - Cool Planet Fuels [coolplanet.com] supposedly has a carbon-negative fuel cycle that outputs high-octane gasoline and biochar at an unsubsidized $1.50 a gallon that is going into production this year.

  • End the boondoggle (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sdinfoserv (1793266) on Sunday February 10, 2013 @06:54PM (#42853647) Homepage
    Ethanol has become the biggest boondoggle of our century. I live in a corn production State, and I have to say, the federal subsidy has got to go.

    First problem – land prices. High production areas have reached the astounding prices of $15K per acre. That's 3 times higher than just a few years ago. Talk about a balloon waiting to bust.

    Second problem – Game production. As a hunter, I can honestly say that wildlife has taken a dramatic turn for the worst. The farmers lust for corn wealth, former wetlands and game production areas have been slashed, burned and turned into field. There is very little cover or nesting area left.

    Third problem – as more an more corn goes to produce ethanol, other products that rely on corn also compete for that commodity. Corn sweetener, corn feed, all have skyrocketed. So you and I pay huge prices for milk, cheese and meat... all courtesy of ethanol production.

    Forth Problem – Wrecked vehicles. Cars require a minimum of 87 octane for both performance and running correctly. Ethanol is so corrosive, any vehicle not designed to run it will literally have it's internals melt out. The Governor of my state (South Dakota) has APPROVED 85 octane ethanol to increase ethanol consumption and benefit farmers. The problem is that 85 octane voids manufacturer warranties and is not compliant with federal standards. Again, you and I pay higher prices in automotive repair because of ethanol.

    It's quite interesting to drive through corn country. New mansions have erupted from the prairies paid for courtesy of you and I. I have no problem with anyone making a living. I have a problem with subsidizing an occulant standard of living way beyond anything previously seen. Corn previously ran from 2-3 dollars per bushel. This year corn sold for $8 dollars per bushel with an average production of 130 bushels per acre. Considering a typical section 640 acres', that’s $600K + per acre in revenue. That explains all the new shiny vehicles and fancy motor homes beached along side these rural estates.

    I thought the Republicans were against socialism. I can thing of no greater example of socialism than farm subsidies.
  • "Up to 10% ethanol" vs gasoline.

    Do the math... that's about 12% difference in miles per tank.

    I.e. it takes about 2% more gasoline to drive 300 miles.

    I've run the test four times in two different Honda elements (2000 model and 2008 model).

  • by UltraZelda64 (2309504) on Sunday February 10, 2013 @08:44PM (#42854453)

    What does this mean for whiskey and alcoholics?

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