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Corn Ethanol is Just a Very Bad Deal, Claims a New Anti-Farm Lobby Advertising Campaign

More scientific testing is needed to explore possible safety and environmental dangers of biofuels, advocacy groups charge.

by on Jul.23, 2010

At stake here is not only the fuel economy, operating cost, and performance of your vehicle, but also potentially huge negative effects on all small engines.

Politics might make strange bedfellows, but when environmental and industry advocacy groups hop into the sack together it gets our attention.

This is precisely what’s happening with a newly launched advertising campaign that challenges the pork-driven, pay-to-play U.S. Congress to put aside the influence – critics say bribes – of the huge contributions from agribusiness and stipulate that “objective” scientific testing be conducted before allowing an increase in the amount of ethanol in gasoline. (See How a Bad Bush Administration Energy Policy Begets More Bad Policy?)

At stake here is not only the fuel economy, operating cost, and performance of your vehicle, but also potentially huge negative effects on all small engines, powering everything from lawn mowers, to outboard motors, to weed whackers, to chain saws – to name but a few.

Taxpayers currently subsidize corn ethanol at the rate of 45 cents a gallon, or roughly $6 billion last year.

From an automotive perspective there are two clear central issues:

  • The first is how to decrease emissions and our dependence on imports of foreign oil from terrorist supporting countries.
  • The second is a subset of the first: what if the biofuels we are using — ethanol, biodiesel, natural gas — really cause more emissions than they save?

That’s why how the EPA calculates the “life cycle emissions effects” is of such concern to the currently subsidized businesses, the agricultural lobby and various clean air special interest groups.

Anti Lobbies!

The U.S. is under Congressional mandate to use increasing amounts of renewable fuels because of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. EPA is responsible for revising and implementing regulations to ensure that gasoline sold in the United States contains a minimum volume of renewable fuels. The Renewable Fuel Standard program will increase the volume of renewable fuel required to be blended into gasoline from 9 billion gallons in 2008 to 36 billion gallons by 2022. At one point, the goal under President Bush was 35 billion/2017.


President Takes Steps to Boost Biofuels, Coal Use

More taxpayer subsidies are apparently underway as Administration recasts rhetoric toward job creation.

by on Feb.03, 2010

Energy independence or more pandering to big business lobbyists?

President Barack Obama today announced a series of steps his Administration is taking as part of its strategy to “enhance American energy independence while building a foundation for a new clean energy economy, and its promise of new industries and millions of jobs.”

The announcement comes as the Administration is under attack for its failure to create jobs despite promises to do so, and with unemployment at levels not seen since the Great Depression.

At a meeting of Republican and Democratic governors, the President proposed three measures would boost biofuels production and reduce dependence on foreign oil – all of them now cloaked as job creating.

The measures at first glance will be controversial, as they seem to require vast new taxpayer subsidies to special interest groups in the agriculture and energy industries. The administration is also under attack for growing deficits, of course, by the Republican party, which turned a budget surplus into a breathtaking deficit after eight years of rule, one that is only getting worse since the collapse of the financial markets in the fall of 2008 and the ensuing and ongoing great recession.

Perhaps the most controversial item as details emerge will be the President’s call for five to ten commercial demonstration projects to be up and running by 2016 of so-called “clean coal” projects, particularly carbon capture and storage (CCS).

Fuelishness or News?

The President in a memorandum established an Interagency Task Force on Carbon Capture and Storage to develop a “comprehensive and coordinated federal strategy to speed the development and deployment of clean coal technologies.”


Government Waste Paper Fueled Car Debuts

Novozymes claims improved technology for advanced biofuels.

by on Jan.26, 2010

The elusive pursuit of a viable

The elusive pursuit of a commercially viable cellulose-derived fuel continues.

In a publicity stunt that attempts to prove a point about biofuels made from waste, a Chevy fueled with the byproducts of government office paper and cardboard will appear on the streets of Washington D.C. today.

A small company called Novozymes has collaborated with Maryland-based Fiberight to provide the demonstration fuel.

Taxpayers, who also underwrite the production of government paper, funded the research. Novozymes received two contracts from the Department of Energy for its research efforts to bring down the cost of enzymes and improve their efficiency in converting cellulose to biofuels. The first contract for $2.2 million was given in 2002, and the second for $12.3 million was given in 2008.

Automakers are given fuel economy credits for producing ethanol-compatible vehicles even though few of them are ever operated on ethanol, which is not cost competitive with gasoline with current production methods.

It is thought that using biomass – inexpensive farm waste – could radically alter the economics of ethanol. For example, making ethanol from the cellulose of plants is less costly than using corn grain. Switch grass, a crop that grows readily in the U.S. east of the Rocky Mountains, and corn leaves and stalks or other crop wastes are cheap to acquire and potentially solve the starvation issue, which arises from using corn for fuel instead of feed.


The lower cost could also end the huge taxpayer subsidies, although the farm lobby holds powerful sway in the “pay to play” Washington scene and  has successful defended against reformers its taxpayer supplied pork for decades.    (more…)