Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Ethanol Hurts Worse Than It Helps

I recently noticed a drop in my gas mileage. I'm always very aware of what my gas mileage is all the time, and having an on-board computer to monitor it helps. A drop in gas mileage can indicate a problem with your vehicle before anything else, in some cases.

I drive Buick LeSabre, just for reference here. Last summer on a road trip to Michigan, I averaged 34 mpg. In March, on a trip down to the Dallas-Ft. Worth area, I got 35 mpg, probably because I wasn't using the air conditioner.

Recently, however, I've noticed my gas mileage dropping. I took it in for an oil change, air filter, tire pressures, etc, but not much changed. Only then did I realize that for the past several weeks I've been using gasoline that contains 10 percent ethanol. My mileage on the highway is down about 4 mpg. So I then examined my wife's truck, a Dodge RAM 1500 with a big hemi V8, and her mileage is down too, from about 15.8 to 14.5 mpg average.

So an 8 to 11 percent drop in gas mileage is not helping, is it? I guess inflating our tires for a 3 percent gain is a moot point now.

For those of you who support ethanol use as a replacement for gasoline, consider what the Houston Chronicle says about it, and then do your own independent research. I think you'll come to the same conclusion.

As for lessening dependence on foreign oil and cleaning the air, ethanol does little for either. It takes almost as much energy from power plants, diesel fuel and fertilizer to grow the corn, refine it and distribute it to gasoline blenders as ethanol gives out when it is burned. The fertilizer runoff creates a dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico. If the electricity used to refine the corn comes from a coal-fired plant, ethanol hikes pollution and carbon emissions.

Why is ethanol so popular with politicians, including Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama? (Sen. John McCain opposes ethanol subsidies.) Presidential candidates want to win the Iowa caucuses. In Congress, like-minded farm-state legislators represent a significant voting block.

Perhaps one day the United States will have a rational policy on energy and environmental protection. But not before it ends the destructive and disruptive rules designed to please farmers and corn refiners regardless of the consequences to the rest of the world.

The forced-use of ethanol has been one of the worst edicts from our government in recent memory, and is just another example of how government meddling hurts us.


Bruce Barnes said...

This is another fine mess those Republican voters have gotten us into. Do they really want four more years of failed policies? Republicans have created an irrational policy of ethanol requirements. When the summer is over, we will have increased our debt to China, increased our transfer of wealth to Saudi Arabia and increased our contribution to global warming for our kids to inherit.

First, the EPA requested that congress require gasoline to be oxygenated to reduce smog, which they did. Refiners selected MBTE, which polluted the environment causing medical problems. When the cost of cleaning up the environment and lawsuits were added in, ethanol became cheaper. So refiners switched to ethanol. Ethanol is a natural non-pollutant that comes from the plant animal cycle not fossil fuels. . Democrats do not want to burn any more fossil fuels than is necessary.

It has taken nature two thousand million years to sequester enough carbon dioxide and release enough oxygen to make this planet livable and in the last 100 years we have burned enough fossil fuels to increase the carbon dioxide level by 36 percent. Carbon dioxide increases global warming. Carbon dioxide concentrations in ice-core samples closely mimic average temperature variations of the planet. Many naysayers point to the fact that if the North Pole sea ice melts, it will not raise the sea level. What they do not tell you is it takes 64 times as much energy to melt ice than it does to raise the temperature of water 1-degree. That the open sea absorbs 90 percent of the solar energy and ice reflects 90 percent. So when the ice is gone the North Pole will heat up much faster. Also as the land heats up and melts the permafrost and bogs, methane is released. Methane is 20 times more effective as a greenhouse gas as is carbon dioxide. It will not take 50 or 100 years for global warming to change our way of life. For the last million years the average temperature of the planet has not varied over 10 degrees C. However the local seasonal variations is very wide. A planet wide 1-degree average increase could mean a 10 to 20 degree summertime increase. This could force people to live underground or a migration to cooler climates. Can you imagine 100 million Central American people migrating to Canada?

The solution is to remove the 54-cent-a-gallon tariff on foreign ethanol and put the tariff of 54-cent-a-gallon on foreign oil or at least on Middle East oil. It is better to transfer our wealth to Brazil than to Saudi Arabia. Our car companies can make flex fuel cars for Brazil, so they can make them for America. The distribution infrastructure is already in place to switch to ethanol.

The problem is that the Republican Party represents big business and the super wealthy. The 54-cent-a-gallon tariff on foreign ethanol protects big business and adding a the tariff of 54-cent-a-gallon on foreign oil would violate their pledge to Grover G. Norquist and “Americans for Tax Reform” to reduce taxes. Their solution is to drill anywhere even thou it will take ten years for any effect.

Steve said...

Bruce, you missed some very important points. First, blaming the Republicans for "failed" policies over the last four years is a bit of a narrow focus. The Dems have been in charge in Congress for the last 2, so they can share some of the blame as well. In fact, many of our problems come from the Democrat policies over the last 30 years.

However, it's time to stop pointing fingers. Our government in general is to blame for much of the mess we're in. While you seem to be a global warming advocate, remember that producing ethanol uses almost as much -- sometimes more -- energy to produce the final product as it is supposed to replace. And why put food in our gas tanks?

A lot of your other arguments are just liberal talking points. The big one is that drilling won't have any affect for 10 years, so why do it? But if we'd done it 10 years ago, we wouldn't be saying that.


Do you see the failure in your logic?

Bruce Barnes said...

Steve, you missed my point. Do they really want Senator McCain to carry on four more years of Republican failed policies? As you know the Democratic Party has been in charge in Congress for the last 2 years, but they have not controlled Congress. On July 30, the senate voted for the eighth time in the past year on a broad, vitally important bill, S. 3335, that would have extended the investment tax credits for installing solar energy and the production tax credits for building wind turbines and other energy-efficiency systems.

What Democrat policies over the last 30 years are you blaming? The conservation policies of President Carter that reduced oil consumption by over 20 percent?

You seem to have missed my point again about ethanol. I am not a good writer and sometime I have trouble putting my thoughts down in a clear way to others. I apologize. I am for ethanol because it comes from biomass and can be made in lots of ways. It can also be used as a fuel in our cars now and can be used in flex cars that can use E85. At present we import 14 percent of oil from the Middle East. If we remove the 54-cent-a-gallon tariff on foreign ethanol that is made from sugar cane we could replace most of the Middle East oil. Also if we put the same tariff of 54-cent-a-gallon on foreign oil or at least on Middle East oil, it would discourage importing oil and encourage the use of imported ethanol, alternative fuels, and conservation. The removal of the tariff on foreign ethanol will reduce the need of ethanol from corn but will leave the door open for the industry to grow.

The change in tariffs will be immediate action to lower the price of gasoline and reduce our dependence on foreign oil. I do not see the failure in my logic and you have not shown me the error of my ways. Do you think we can drill our way out of this mess? Do you believe that carbon dioxide is increasing global warming? What is your solution to reduce the demand of foreign oil, lower the price of gasoline, and reduce carbon dioxide from fossil fuels before the end of the year?

Steve said...

Bruce, you start with the premiss that the Republican policies have failed.

That is a hard premiss to overcome, because it means that all Republican policies over the last four years have failed, which is not true. Some have, yes, but now all.

I could make the premiss that Democrat policies have failed. But that would not be true either. Some have, yes, but not all.

The problem with this pointing fingers and one party or the other gets in the way of real solutions. It's our government that gets in the way. The answer to our problems is not more government, but less. Get out of the way and let us Americans do what we do best.

The reason the S. 3335 and othe bills of this nature are having such a tough time is that these bills have many add-ons that don't make any sense. What we need are more "pure" bills that address the issue at hand, and not add other provisions.

Do you really think it was just Carter's conservation policy that reduced oil consumption in this country by 20 percent in 1980-1982, or was the fact that oil went from less than $40 a barrel in 1975 to nearly $70 in 1980. Higher prices create less demand, as we've even seen this year.

I'm not against ethanol per se, but our policies of subsidizing it it wrong. Let the markets handle it. And I don't agree with tariffs, per se, but the farm lobby is powerful. Look at the last farm bill. That was a crime in itself.

I never said that we could drill our way out of this problem. But drilling should be part of it. We need a broad effort to reduce our dependence on import oil and use all the resources we can develop domestically.

Ethanol, or biomass, is only a small part of the equation. But putting corn in our gas tanks is not a long-term solution for a planet that has 6 billion hungry people.

Bruce Barnes said...

I never said that all Republican policies have failed, I asked if they really want Senator McCain to continue the failed policies? If a policy is successful why would anyone want to stop it? I will concede that not all Republican policies have failed. I supported the policy to invade Afghanistan and strike back at the Taliban and Al Qaida. It was the right thing to do. I think the policy to pull most of the troops out of Afghanistan and invade Iraq was a failure (preemptive invasion). If you would like to debate policy failures we need a criteria to measure the failure against. May I suggest the Preamble to the Constitution for the United States of America?

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Does the policy do the most good for the most people? Does it provide fairness to all and equal justice? Does it promote the general Welfare and increase the standard of living for all? Does it defend our freedom, national interest and safety? Does the policy leave this country to our children in a better condition than the way we found it?

You said, “It's our government that gets in the way.” The Constitution for the United States of America defines what the government should do. How would you change the government for the good of the most people? What Americans do is to lie, cheat, steel, and kill. It is government's job to prevent this. When there is no policeman on the beat the greatest beneficiary is not the taxpayer who is relieved of the cost of maintaining that police officer, but the thief.

It seems that your mind is made up about conservation, so I will go on to ethanol. Cows eat grass and convert the grass to sugar, carbohydrates and methane. Sugar and carbohydrates can be converted to ethanol and methane can be used to distill ethanol. If cows can do it, so can we. Any biomass will do. Ethanol is made from biomass. It is a natural non-pollutant that comes from the plant - animal cycle not fossil fuels. Burning biomass returns the carbon dioxide back into the plant - animal cycle with no net increase in carbon dioxide. Burning fossil fuels adds carbon dioxide to the atmosphere and increases the greenhouse effects.

You may not believe in global warning or climate change, but the Republican Party has admitted that climate change is real.

You said, “I'm not against ethanol per se, but our policies of subsidizing it is wrong.” So how is that different from lowering the capital gains tax to subsidize investments?

Steve said...


You have to quit using absolute statements. For example, "What Americans do is to lie, cheat, steel, and kill." I know you don't mean that, but just examine the sentence. Using logic, you would deduce from that statement that I, since I am an American, lie, cheat, steal, and kill. Yet I don't, so the premiss, that Americans lie, etc, is incorrect.

Lower taxes on capital gains doesn't subsidize investment. This is typical liberal thinking, that money earned belongs to the government.

It does not. If I make a capital gain, lowering taxes on it means I get to keep more of my money.

A subsidy is when the government provides money (mine and yours) to help an industry create a product, such as ethanol.

Another example: a tax break for oil producers (what is called the depletion allowance) is not a subsidy. It lowers the tax liablity of the company. If they don't make any money, then the tax deduction is a moot point. It is not a subsidy.

Enough said. I do not even want to confuse the Constitution with the growth of our Federal government. Jefferson is rolling in his grave.