You Got to Be Kidding Me!

Ethanol – No We Can’t!

Posted in Economics, Environment, Politics by Stacy McMahon on August 22, 2008

In keeping with yesterday’s post on corporate welfare, here’s another of the biggest steaming piles in US energy policy – corn-based ethanol. Like hydrogen, it has a negative rate of return, meaning that it costs more to produce it than you get back by burning it. Unlike hydrogen, corn ethanol has no hope of going positive through technological advancement – corn grows at a certain speed and yields a certain amount per acre, period. There is no benefit for gas mileage, emissions or anything else, and ethanol is a corrosive substance that damages any fuel system it’s introduced into. Your car may be designed to handle a certain amount of ethanol, but how about your lawn tractor? Your boat? The Truth About Cars has an interesting note today:

“Over the first part of 2008, not a single corn-based ethanol plant has started construction, and the biodiesel industry has had only a handful of construction starts.” And then Jay moves quickly on to non-corn ethanol sources. Does this mean U.S. farmers are, you know? Not if their legislators have anything to say about it. And by God, they do.

The entire ethanol industry is an outgrowth of farm subsidies and exists only because of those subsidies, and because the government forces ethanol to be blended into gasoline in certain cities. Let’s hope this boondoggle is actually starting to fall over.


5 Responses

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  1. Clint said, on August 22, 2008 at 11:37 am

    In theory, It can always be genetically engineered to grow faster at the future… But another aspect of the stupidity is — we are in a global food crisis, and we’re using food as fuel instead of as food. People need the food! 🙂

  2. LJ said, on August 22, 2008 at 3:35 pm

    Oh, give me a break. Corn ethanol is WAY MUCH BETTER than any other options right now — would you rather keep relying on oil from the Middle East? Or maybe you just want to fill your tank up with water tomorrow?

    I think you guys are nitpicking way too much on corn ethanol. You focus on the negatives; I’ll focus on the fact that its clean, American energy.

  3. Stacy McMahon said, on August 22, 2008 at 3:43 pm

    You have to think these things all the way through. Like Clint said, the problem with ethanol is that it’s making fuel out of food. There is this thing called an environmental footprint – taking a barrel of oil out of the ground takes much less energy and uses much less farmland than making a barrel of corn ethanol, and the oil gives you back more energy when you burn it. Would you rather a.) eat or b.) drive? I’d rather c.) use technology that doesn’t force me to make that choice.

  4. Clint said, on August 23, 2008 at 2:51 am

    I’d rather half of the population of Haiti not have to eat mud pies due to food prices going up. And cheaper corn would drive those prices (for corn, at least) down.

  5. […] in Economics, Going Green, Politics at 11:27 am by Stacy McMahon For the commenter the other day who wanted to ignore ethanol’s obvious, big problems because it’s a quick […]

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