The Ethanol Fuel Hoax

When it comes to U.S. ethanol fuels, we must not forget that we are burning food and taking millions of farm acres out of food production. When livestock is fed ethanol wastes, human pathogen counts go way up in the meat.

And, ethanol fuels are damaging engines, according to Business Week.

I was most overjoyed to see the May 2009 Business Week article The Great Ethanol Scam. That is because I have been against corn ethanol (for use as auto fuels, that is) for nearly 20 years now and have held my views being ostracized by nearly everyone until lately. In fact, last year I wrote a summary of all that is wrong with ethanol fuel which is given below.

Here is an excerpt from The Business Week article.

First, the primary job of the Environmental Protection Agency is, dare it be said, to protect our environment. Yet using ethanol actually creates more smog than using regular gas, and the EPA’s own attorneys had to admit that fact in front of the justices presiding over the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in 1995 (API v. EPA).

Second, truly independent studies on ethanol, such as those written by Tad Patzek of Berkeley and David Pimentel of Cornell, show that ethanol is a net energy loser. Other studies suggest there is a small net energy gain from it.

Third, all fuels laced with ethanol reduce the vehicle’s fuel efficiency, and the E85 blend drops gas mileage between 30% and 40%, depending on whether you use the EPA’s fuel mileage standards (fueleconomy.gov) or those of the Dept. of Energy.

Fourth, forget what biofuels have done to the price of foodstuffs worldwide over the past three years; the science seems to suggest that using ethanol increases global warming emissions over the use of straight gasoline. Just these issues should have kept ethanol from being brought back for its fourth run in American history.

Don’t let anybody mislead you: The new push to get a 15% ethanol mandate out of Washington is simply to restore profitability to a failed industry. Only this time around those promoting more ethanol in our gas say there’s no scientific proof that adding more ethanol will damage vehicles or small gas-powered engines. With that statement they’ve gone from shilling the public to outright falsehoods, because ethanol-laced gasoline is already destroying engines across the country in ever larger numbers.

Now, here is my article from last year:

Guzzling Alcohol in Autos Can Be Deadly

2/22/08

As a 30-year career chemical/environmental engineer, I want to
comment on the corn ethanol fuel racket. Ethanol is chemically the same as
moonshine–corn liquor.

Ethanol production wastes energy, wastes water and causes more air pollution. As an auto fuel it is double the cost of gasoline although this cost is hidden from the consumer. Its production wastes is used by the dairy and beef industry causing more e-coli contamination.
Ethanol may only cost $2.85 at the pump when gasoline is $3. But
ethanol fuel (85 parts ethanol/15 parts gasoline) has only 72% of the
energy content of gasoline, so its cost at the pump is actually $4
per gallon of gasoline equivalent; and you get a reduction in driving
range of 28%.

According to a study by the Cato Institute, for every dollar in
profit a producer makes off ethanol, the costs to taxpayers is $30
after summing the government subsidies on corn. At 15% profit margin,
a sixth grader can calculate the actual cost is about $9 per gallon.
Other hidden costs are the almost doubling (and climbing) of corn
prices resulting in higher prices for meat, milk and eggs. More acres
planted in corn reduce supplies of wheat and soybeans causing these
prices to rise.

It requires more energy to make ethanol than you can get out of it.
Otherwise the ethanol plants would be using it to fuel their plants
rather than our natural gas and coal. Converting all the U.S. corn
crop to ethanol would only reduce gasoline consumption by 1%,
according to Robert Panier, a former ethanol-industry chemical
engineer.

The negative environmental impacts by the use of crop chemicals are
significant. It takes 7 gallons of water to produce one gallon of ethanol. The emission reductions from ethanol-fueled cars are so small that air quality is not improved at all.

Even China is smart enough to know that ethanol fuel is a loser. That
is why they shut down their ethanol plants this year.

But there is more. One-third of the corn feedstock becomes a massive
quantity of waste. This is sold to factory farms to force feed cows,
cattle and pigs along with the chicken manure. We are told that this
is a bonus because they count the calorie content (BTUs) of the slop
toward the energy gain, so it makes it look they are creating more
energy. Milking cows were fed these “grains”, as they call them, pre-
1940s. These cows got sick, the milk became contaminated with harmful
bacteria, people got sick and died, ushering in pasteurization. Last
week, it was announced by two university research departments that
ethanol wastes fed to livestock is related to the surge in recent
meat recalls and e-coli breakouts.

But, there’s more. Since the triangle of government (EPA, USDA, DOE),
industry (ADM) and environmental whackos, in all of their infinite
wisdom, believe so much in ethanol saving us from the planet’s
certain and rapid doom. In fact, they crafted legislation which has
been made into regulations requiring a rapid increase to meet the
crisis head on. According to the Renewable Fuels Association, rules
call for increasing ethanol fuels from the current 5% of
transportation fuels to 36% over the next few years and install tanks
and pumps everywhere– along with a huge fleet of trucks to haul it.

One has to wonder how many will die and suffer because of this money-
making scheme, in part allowed by recycling the profits into election
contributions.

Corn would be better used as food to help feed the hungry and not the
ethanol producers and their lobbyists. After all, ADM is the
supermarket to the world. Auto and oil companies fought for decades
that ethanol is an inferior fuel, but now are embracing it for
profits as the dumb-downed public is green-washed again by government and corporate sponsored commercials and free public relations strategies disguised as news.

Ethanol fuels is a major energy, environmental and economic loser, damages engines and is another threat to food supplies and safety. The true costs are
immeasurable. Corn ethanol is unsustainable. Corn ethanol is a Loser

David M. Augenstein, M.S., P.E.
Automotive Environmental & Safety Engineering

2 responses to “The Ethanol Fuel Hoax

  1. Um.

    Perhaps if you would loosen your grip on your prejudices just a tad bit and take a good look, you might be surprised to learn that quite a few “environmental whackos” are *against* ethanol for the very human rights reasons you cite. Not to mention the environmental devastation involved in industrial crop-growing in the first place. (OK, a lot of them don’t seem to understand that, but the non-vegans generally do.) It’s possible some of them have noted the harm that ethanol does to engines as well; I haven’t delved that deeply into the argument as I’m already against ethanol (yes! another one!), so I really don’t know.

    You’d be equally stunned to learn that quite a few people calling themselves “progressives” or “leftists” are also against overweening government intervention, correctly pointing out that government is made up of fallible human beings with agendas, just like every other human social group is. The anarchists the media loves to demonize as being fond of blowing things up and smashing shop windows sound very like libertarians in their rhetoric. I often wonder why they don’t team up with y’all more often. Or ever, really.

    Why do we keep doing this to one another? We’re not falling apart because the mean ole government’s picking on us, we’re falling apart because no one will LISTEN to anyone else.

    I’m also flabbergasted that conservatives quote book, chapter, and verse of how bad government schools are for the advancement of scientific literacy–again, a lament repeated often by the left, who apparently miss the irony as they also support the idea of government schools!–and then cling to scientific ILliteracy in the name of religious faith when it comes time to put one over on the “damn libruls.” Otherwise they’d understand the concept of the carbon cycle and why it might be bad to dig up carbon that’s been buried for hundreds of thousands of years and then add it to that cycle.

    No, they can’t deal with that. They almost never mention it. It’s like the elephant in the living room, except they notice elephants because so many of them vote Republican.

    The fact that Uncle Sam’s seizing on the environmentalist movement as a pretext for tearing down more of our civil liberties means nothing in terms of the validity of the movement’s claims. (Especially as until the nineties or so, they barely paid attention to the movement at all.) Governments also twist religious teachings to suit their agendas, but I bet you’re not an atheist.

    Still… it’s probably too late to worry much about it anyway. Had anyone been willing to put their pride down for five damn minutes and listen to what was actually being said and have enough compassion to want to do something about the issues then maybe we could have tackled this thirty years ago. The body of scientific knowledge is always changing with new data and we could have worked out the kinks, and probably in an environment of less governmental repression to boot.

    Too late now. But as you think you’re going to heaven forever and ever, it probably doesn’t matter to you. I just hope for your sake you’re right, and that you can cope with knowing you helped sign the death warrants on your children and grandchildren, if any, as well.

    FWIW, as far as altfuels go, I greatly prefer biodiesel–which does not, as far as I know, tear up engines. The worst thing you can say about it is it’s harder to start a cold engine, but some biodiesel users are working around that.

    It’s something, I guess.

  2. I got a little too snippy and forgot what else I was going to say in this vein. Two other values conservatives allegedly cherish are (1) making frugal use of resources rather than squandering them, and (2) not causing deliberate harm to one’s neighbor. And who’s your neighbor? Everybody… remember the Bible?

    So this mystifies me even more when I consider how many conservatives desperately hate the environmentalist movement. Let’s see–so squandering resources IS a good idea, and it IS okay to hurt people with pollution and ecological devastation?

    How’s that work again? How is that even remotely a conservative worldview?

    Again… We should be friends a lot more than we are enemies. Seriously.

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