Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Trouble with Ethanol

What’s the old line about the best laid plans?

Once upon a time all politicians agreed that we could save the planet by fueling our vehicles with more ethanol. This renewable resource had to be cleaner than those dirty fossil fuels.

Many questioned the wisdom of burning food as fuel, but the politicians, including both George W. Bush and Barack Obama forged ahead.

The AP reported on the unintended damage to the environment:

With the Iowa political caucuses on the horizon in 2007, presidential candidate Barack Obama made homegrown corn a centerpiece of his plan to slow global warming. And when President George W. Bush signed a law that year requiring oil companies to add billions of gallons of ethanol to their gasoline each year, Mr. Bush predicted it would make the country "stronger, cleaner and more secure."

But the ethanol era has proven far more damaging to the environment than politicians promised and much worse than the government admits today.

As farmers rushed to find new places to plant corn, they wiped out millions of acres of conservation land, destroyed habitat and polluted water supplies, an Associated Press investigation found.

Five million acres of land set aside for conservation - more than Yellowstone, Everglades and Yosemite National Parks combined - have vanished on Mr. Obama's watch.

Landowners filled in wetlands. They plowed into pristine prairies, releasing carbon dioxide that had been locked in the soil.

Sprayers pumped out billions of pounds of fertilizer, some of which seeped into drinking water, contaminated rivers and worsened the huge dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico where marine life can't survive.

The consequences are so severe that environmentalists and many scientists have now rejected corn-based ethanol as bad environmental policy. But the Obama administration stands by it, highlighting its benefits to the farming industry rather than any negative impact.

Environmentalists are ready to give up on ethanol. The Obama administration soldiers on:

The government's predictions of the benefits have proven so inaccurate that independent scientists question whether it will ever achieve its central environmental goal: reducing greenhouse gases. That makes the hidden costs even more significant.

"This is an ecological disaster," said Craig Cox with the Environmental Working Group, a natural ally of the president that, like others, now finds itself at odds with the White House.

But it's a cost the administration is willing to accept. It believes supporting corn ethanol is the best way to encourage the development of biofuels that will someday be cleaner and greener than today's. Pulling the plug on corn ethanol, officials fear, might mean killing any hope of these next-generation fuels.

Hope dies hard.


Dennis said...

I have often wondered about the mind that could take what is food for people and animals and use it for a fuel additive. For many people corn is the one staple they have and to utilize it otherwise only increases starvation and dependency on governments.
The prices of almost everything that depends on corn goes up and the resultant costs limit the amount of food available for everyone. This is not to even consider the damage that ethanol does to the environment. I have a gas powered trimmer that the feed lines were eaten away by ethanol. I had failed to notice that they sell a product that is put in the gas tank that lessens the damage of ethanol. I will let you ponder the costs of mitigating ethanol's affect in a larger context. Poor science.
Considering that one of the battles is to raise the percentage of ethanol in gasoline and the fact that most engines cannot work or last with what would be new standards. Poor science and progressivism at work.
There are a number of alternatives that could have been utilized that did not entail the use of food stuffs for fuel so it still comes down to the kind of mind that would even consider it given the damage to humanity. One might be forgiven thinking that those who would do this have little or no use for other human beings.
Anything of any real value has a gross preponderance of positive in its favor and ethanol is not one of those things. It is one of the reasons I have little respect for the Left and feminists. No matter how much they talk about caring and the lives of others they do not value it for anyone other than themselves.

Unknown said...

I suspect, but don't know for sure, that if you take into account the fuels that are burned to make the fertilizer and to process the corn into ethanol, that using ethanol does not reduce green house gas emissions. Ethanol just isn't as clean as politicians would like to believe it is. But it keeps the farm lobby happy.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

I suspect as much, too. I recall reading studies that demonstrated your point, but don't recall where I saw them.