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Religion, Politics and World Events They make great dinner conversation, don't you think? plus Political Film

View Poll Results: Should the government subsidize ethanol?
Yes. 1 7.14%
Maybe. I'm not sure. 3 21.43%
No. 8 57.14%
I don't care. I just like to vote in polls. 2 14.29%
Other. 0 0%
Voters: 14. You may not vote on this poll

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Old 06-17-06, 03:34 PM   #1
grundle
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"it takes more than a gallon of fossil fuel to make one gallon of ethanol--29% more"

I think government subsidies of ethanol are a bad idea.


http://www.opinionjournal.com/weeken.../?id=110008530

An Energy Field of Dreams

Ethanol is fine--if it competes in the market with other fuels.

Saturday, June 17, 2006 12:01 a.m. EDT

"Be like Brazil" have never been words to live by except perhaps in soccer or samba. But suddenly Americans are being told we should imitate Brazil in its expensive devotion to driving cars that run on ethanol. VeraSun Energy, the second-largest U.S. ethanol producer, was the talk of Wall Street this week with its IPO. Wal-Mart wants to install pumps to cater to cars that run on a largely ethanol blend. Even Rudy Giuliani was plumping for the stuff this week, a sign that an Iowa campaign stop may be in his future.

We'd say the world had gone mad, except that this is a fairly typical case study in how political meddling distorts energy markets. Weary of high gas prices, drivers can be forgiven for desiring a "miracle" fuel that is allegedly cheap and clean. But the corn farmers, ethanol producers, politicians and environmentalists who have promoted the new ethanol mania have no excuse for peddling misinformation.

We have nothing against corn-based ethanol per se, assuming it competes in the market on the same basis as other fuels. Ethanol's problem is that it is expensive to make and provides far fewer miles per gallon than gasoline. So its supporters have worked the political system to subsidize ethanol, and more recently to force Americans to buy it.

U.S. taxpayers today pay twice for ethanol: once in crop subsidies to corn farmers and again in a 51-cent subsidy for every gallon of ethanol. Without such a subsidy, ethanol simply wouldn't be cost competitive with gasoline. Then last year, Congress went further and passed a new ethanol mandate, requiring drivers to use at least 7.5 billion gallons annually by 2012.

The immediate consequence of this new mandate was higher gasoline prices this spring, since the ethanol industry was ill-equipped to meet the new demand. Ethanol must also be carried by truck or rail, rather than through pipelines, and it requires special blending facilities. All this has both raised prices and created gas shortages around the country. But rather than blame their new mandate for the higher prices, the Members of Congress blamed, of course, Big Oil.

Ah, but what about the other alleged virtues of ethanol? One favorite is that every gallon of ethanol will supplant a gallon of gasoline imported from tyrannical Mideast oil regimes. Thus, a la Brazil, ethanol can help the U.S. achieve the miracle of "energy independence."

Sorry. The most widely cited research on this subject comes from Cornell's David Pimental and Berkeley's Ted Patzek. They've found that it takes more than a gallon of fossil fuel to make one gallon of ethanol--29% more. That's because it takes enormous amounts of fossil-fuel energy to grow corn (using fertilizer and irrigation), to transport the crops and then to turn that corn into ethanol. The Saudis ought to love the stuff.

As for Brazil, few in ethanol's cheering section admit that the country's ethanol infrastructure required huge taxpayer subsidies over decades. And the U.S. already produces more ethanol than Brazil because the American automobile market is about 23 times larger. To produce enough ethanol for the entire U.S. car market would mean planting over much more of the country than Iowa.

Ethanol is also said to be vital for reducing smog. This fiction is even written into the Clean Air Act, which mandates the use of "oxygenates"--of which ethanol is the leading type. But studies from the National Academy of Sciences and the Environmental Protection Agency's own Blue Ribbon Panel have shown that oxygenates don't do much to clear up hazy air. That's especially the case now with ever more clean-burning engines.

Alas, none of these facts seem to count for much in the current U.S. energy debate. Ethanol has powerful promoters in the farm states especially, and its lobbyists have skillfully marketed their product as the answer to dirty air, global warming and even military deployments in the Middle East. The share price of America's largest ethanol producer, Archer Daniels Midland, has climbed by 80% in the last year alone, though you won't find anyone in Washington lamenting that windfall profit.

Meanwhile, Congress is discussing the prospect of ginning up a subsidy for sugarcane ethanol as part of its next farm bill--as if U.S. sugar growers need more aid and protection from the government. President Bush, for his part, has been promoting research in "cellulosic" ethanol, produced from things like switch grass or wood chips. A scientific breakthrough is said to be just around the corner, which may or may not be true but is the kind of thing we've been hearing since Jimmy Carter's day.

Perhaps all of this will prove to be the political investment of the century. Perhaps the subsidies and mandates will lead to new private investments, which will lead to new scientific breakthroughs, which will let us produce vast amounts of ethanol cheaply and cleanly from homegrown blades of grass. Perhaps the House of Saud can then go back to the camel trade.

We certainly hope so, given how much all of us are spending in search of the great ethanol grail. But in our experience this isn't how such things usually turn out. In the movie fantasy "Field of Dreams," Shoeless Joe Jackson returns to a baseball diamond cut from a corn field and asks, "Is this heaven?" No, was the reply, "it's Iowa."

Last edited by grundle; 06-17-06 at 03:37 PM.
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Old 06-17-06, 04:11 PM   #2
DVD Polizei
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Why do you think the US government created the new regulations.
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Old 06-17-06, 04:20 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by grundle
I think government subsidies of ethanol are a bad idea.


Sorry. [b]The most widely cited research on this subject comes from Cornell's David Pimental and Berkeley's Ted Patzek. They've found that it takes more than a gallon of fossil fuel to make one gallon of ethanol--29% more.
You might want to understand these guys have consistemntly (since 1992) been in left field relative to other researchers on life cycle analysis of net energy content of ethanol. You might want to look at the work of Dr. Michael Wang at Argonne National Laboratory.

http://www.ethanolrfa.org/resource/papers/view.php?id=4
Quote:
The recent erroneous report prepared by Cornell University's David Pimentel and the University of California at Berkeley's Tad Patzek continue to perpetuate the myth that the production of biofuels such as ethanol and biodiesel has no energy benefit. Mr. Patzek is the director of UC's Oil Consortium, which receives funding from the oil industry including Chevron and Phillips Petroleum. Previous partners have included BP, Mobil USA, Statoil and Unocal. It is clear he has an agenda.
http://www.transportation.anl.gov/pu...ol_expert.html
Quote:
Since 1997, Argonne researchers have been studying the energy and GHG emission impacts of fuel ethanol as part of their overall efforts to evaluate the well-to-wheels energy and emission effects of various advanced vehicle technologies and transportation fuels. They use the Greenhouse gases, Regulated Emissions and Energy use in Transportation (GREET) model, developed by researcher Michael Wang. This peer-reviewed model employs the most current and accurate data to conduct life-cycle analysis for more than 100 vehicle-fuel pathways.

The results of Argonnes ethanol analysis like those of many other recently completed ethanol studies reveal that corn-based ethanol achieves energy and GHG emission-reduction benefits relative to gasoline. In fact, Wang and his colleagues concluded that corn ethanol requires 26% less fossil energy because it contains "free" solar energy that ends up in the corn. The fuels energy and environmental benefits accrue primarily because of (1) improved productivity by U.S. corn farmers in the past 30 years, (2) reduced energy use in ethanol plants over the past 15 years, and (3) appropriate treatment of ethanols co-products in the analysis.
Finally take a look at this pdf. I don't know how to copy the charts. They show the vast majority of researchers who have looked at life cycle have found a net energy content to ethanol, with the exception of Pimenthal and Paztek, who's data is a mile away from everybody else.
http://www.ethanolrfa.org/mint/peppe...of_Argonne.pdf
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Old 06-17-06, 04:39 PM   #4
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And maybe the people who cite that Ethanol is the new Godsend Fuel Source are the ones who will benefit from the US Government's subsidies and research grants.

And does it really matter if we use Ethanol or not. It certainly won't be cheaper. So forget that consumer benefit. And most pollution of vehicles is due to inferior parts, failure to keep the vehicle on a routine maintenance, etc.

Another factor is companies will continue to purchase the regular fuel vehicles due to the obvious financial and logistical benefitis.


Oh, and Wang is sponsored (i.e., funded) by the National Corn Grower's Association.

So, just from a common sense perspective I'd say Ethanol is yet another scam on the American Public which will benefit only those who invested in corn and have similar companies associated with it.
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Old 06-17-06, 04:55 PM   #5
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Actually, Wang is an Argonne employee, but I am sure there are "cooperative" ties between Argonne and the Corn Growers. All the national labs have a charter to seek out ties with industrial partners who support their work to make sure the scientists are working on something somebody considers useful. They were always looking for project backing from us, but we didn't like the (lack of) confidentiality terms.
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Old 06-17-06, 05:01 PM   #6
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Well, do we have "independent" scientific research firms anymore? Or do we just have a bunch of lobbyist firms with political ties. The stench of biased reports in anything these days is just amazingly pathetic.

So for me as a consumer, I just don't give a fuck about Ethanol.

Get me some unbiased reports and I might give a damn. Either way, the US Government and their own circle of corporate pals determine policy so the typical American citizen is screwed regardless.
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Old 06-17-06, 06:33 PM   #7
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Shouldn't the question be, "Should we do further research to confirm the hypothesis published by a conservative rag?"
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Old 06-17-06, 08:07 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by DVD Polizei
Why do you think the US government created the new regulations.
the farm states are always looking for ways to siphon off money from the northeast and west coast
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Old 06-17-06, 08:37 PM   #9
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Just let the market decide.

Naaah, that would make too much sense in a world of special interests.
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Old 06-17-06, 08:46 PM   #10
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Just let Bush decide.

Ooops. I leaked the new RNC motto.
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Old 06-17-06, 09:54 PM   #11
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I think in this case, the current government subsidies are not working out well. The corn lobby is so strong, that it's preventing alternative forms of energy from getting more exposure.

The interesting thing about Brazil's ethanol is that it's made from sugarcane, which yields more energy than corn. Too bad we can't grow sugar here in the states. I'd like to see what switch grass can yield. I also like the idea of building more nuclear plants to provide the energy required to make the ethanol. I voted no, but I think that's a no for the current way the government subsidizes ethanol. If it's reworked, it might be more viable to subsidize.
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Old 06-17-06, 10:11 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by VinVega
I think in this case, the current government subsidies are not working out well. The corn lobby is so strong, that it's preventing alternative forms of energy from getting more exposure.

The interesting thing about Brazil's ethanol is that it's made from sugarcane, which yields more energy than corn. Too bad we can't grow sugar here in the states. I'd like to see what switch grass can yield. I also like the idea of building more nuclear plants to provide the energy required to make the ethanol. I voted no, but I think that's a no for the current way the government subsidizes ethanol. If it's reworked, it might be more viable to subsidize.


and especially to nuclear
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Old 06-17-06, 11:29 PM   #13
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The problem we as consumers face today is even though cleaner, less expensive forms of energy are introduced, we have such a greedy corporate climate that the consumer may never see the price decrease. The change has to start within the company infrastructure.
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Old 06-18-06, 08:09 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DVD Polizei
The problem we as consumers face today is even though cleaner, less expensive forms of energy are introduced, we have such a greedy corporate climate that the consumer may never see the price decrease. The change has to start within the company infrastructure.
Corporations can't charge whatever they want especially if there is a reasonably free market without government obstacles to competition.

What you are saying is analogous to my saying I have a greedy desire to fly under my own power and my desire alone can overcome the force of gravity.
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Old 06-18-06, 11:12 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jason
Shouldn't the question be, "Should we do further research to confirm the hypothesis published by a conservative rag?"
I was thinking the exact same thing.
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Old 06-18-06, 11:28 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by movielib
Corporations can't charge whatever they want especially if there is a reasonably free market without government obstacles to competition.

What you are saying is analogous to my saying I have a greedy desire to fly under my own power and my desire alone can overcome the force of gravity.
Your analogy is severely flawed.

Corporations DO charge whatever they want. "The market will decide" crap is just that. When corporations OWN and CONTROL most of the market share in that sector, just how the hell does a consumer have any control? Oh wait. Just tell the consumer to not buy that product! Yeah, that works. The "Free Market" you speak of, is disappearing.
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Old 06-18-06, 12:35 PM   #17
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Obviously, US government scientists working at government run national labs can't be trusted. But for anyone who might believe, here is Wang's rebuttal of Pimenthal's analysis. Note that based on studies Wang and other government researchers have conducted, virtually every datapoint used by Pimenthal is obsolete, biased, or wrong-headed thinking. Obviously, some random professor who knows little about farming but hates ethanol is MUCH more believable than various Argonne National Lab, USDA, etc researchers.
http://eerc.ra.utk.edu/etcfc/docs/pr...se~7-19-05.doc

It is a shame that the Pimenthal crap derails the debate which should be held. Ethanol has some net renewable energy, but 30-35% net is nothing to write home about. Biodisel is far better in that regard, 75-80%, about as good as refining crude and bringing it to market. It should receive more (or at least as much) encourage, subbsidy, etc.

More of the actual detailed report publications used to be available on Argonne's website, but they have reorganized it and I can't find them anymore.
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Old 06-18-06, 02:58 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by OldDude
You might want to understand these guys have consistemntly (since 1992) been in left field relative to other researchers on life cycle analysis of net energy content of ethanol. You might want to look at the work of Dr. Michael Wang at Argonne National Laboratory.

http://www.ethanolrfa.org/resource/papers/view.php?id=4


http://www.transportation.anl.gov/pu...ol_expert.html


Finally take a look at this pdf. I don't know how to copy the charts. They show the vast majority of researchers who have looked at life cycle have found a net energy content to ethanol, with the exception of Pimenthal and Paztek, who's data is a mile away from everybody else.
http://www.ethanolrfa.org/mint/peppe...of_Argonne.pdf

Thank you for showing that to me.
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Old 06-18-06, 03:02 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DVD Polizei
The problem we as consumers face today is even though cleaner, less expensive forms of energy are introduced, we have such a greedy corporate climate that the consumer may never see the price decrease. The change has to start within the company infrastructure.

The price of one megabyte of computer memory has fallen by about 99.99% in the past few decades.
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Old 06-18-06, 03:29 PM   #20
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Using the same measurements, how much fossil fuel does it take to make one gallon of regular gasoline?
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Old 06-18-06, 05:19 PM   #21
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Originally Posted by DVD Polizei
Your analogy is severely flawed.

Corporations DO charge whatever they want. "The market will decide" crap is just that. When corporations OWN and CONTROL most of the market share in that sector, just how the hell does a consumer have any control? Oh wait. Just tell the consumer to not buy that product! Yeah, that works. The "Free Market" you speak of, is disappearing.
So you have repealed the Law of Supply and Demand? Corporations compete with each other. And even if a bunch of competitors try to get together and "fix" prices history shows that such schemes fall apart when one or more see they can gain a competitive advantage by lowering prices.

And even if one corporation "corners the market" in, say, aluminum, they still have competition from other companies that deal in other materials that can be used in place of aluminum or other companies that can start up and be competitive if the "monopolist's" prices are too high.

In fact, when Alcoa did corner the market, their prices kept getting lower and lower and their products better and better because they knew about the competition that wasn't there but could be and they wanted to retain their almost 100% market share. It took the governments anti-trust geniuses to "break up" Alcoa because of their success, ever higher quality and ever lower prices in one of the stupidest court decisions ever:

http://www.capmag.com/article.asp?ID=347

The "companies can charge whatever they want" crap is just that.
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Old 06-18-06, 07:54 PM   #22
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Using the same measurements, how much fossil fuel does it take to make one gallon of regular gasoline?
Fair question, but you really need to look at the same total energy in your tank as ethanol and gasoline have different content per gallon.
Refer to this paper of Wang's hosted by Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy dept. of the Dept. of Energy:
http://www.eere.energy.gov/vehiclesa...l_brochure.pdf

It gives figues to put 1 million BTU of energy as ethanol or gasoline in a "station near you". That is about 8.7 gallons of gasoline, or 13 gallons of ethanol.

The paper gives the fossil fuel consumed for the ethanol as 0.74 million BTU of fossil fuel, plus a bunch of sunshine (to grow the corn). The figure for gasoline is 1.23 million BTU, that counts the crude itself, plus extraction, refining, and transportation.

Here is a short quotable summary if you don't want to download the pdf (slower than molasses)
http://www1.eere.energy.gov/vehicles...e_ethanol.html
Quote:
DOE Brochure Highlights Ethanol Life-Cycle Results Obtained with GREET
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recently published a brochure highlighting the efficacy of Argonne National Laboratory's GREET model in evaluating the complete energy life cycle for ethanol. Titled Ethanol: The Complete Energy Lifecycle Picture (PDF 4.0 MB) Download Adobe Reader, the brochure explains that in terms of key energy and environmental benefits, cornstarch ethanol clearly outpaces petroleum-based fuels, and tomorrow's cellulosic-based ethanol would do even better.

GREET (Greenhouse gases, Regulated Emissions and Energy use in Transportation) was developed by Dr. Michael Wang of Argonne's Center for Transportation Research with support from DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. Considered the industry "gold standard" for life-cycle analysis of advanced vehicle technologies and new transportation fuels, the GREET model is widely used by government agencies, the automotive industry, the energy industry, research institutions, universities, and public interest groups throughout North America, Europe, and Asia.

Ethanol: The Complete Energy Lifecycle Picture explains that by accounting for energy use of the whole cycle of ethanol production beginning with fertilizer manufacture, GREET determined that producing ethanol from corn requires 0.74 million Btu fossil energy input per million Btu of ethanol delivered to the pump versus the 1.23 million Btu fossil energy cost per million Btu of delivered gasoline produced from petroleum. In addition, GREET showed that producing ethanol from corn reduces fossil energy use, petroleum energy use, and greenhouse gas emissions, whereas cellulosic ethanol can produce much greater fossil energy and greenhouse gas benefits.
Of course, you know those government scientists lie like rugs, right?
(I actually trust them, far more than the Corn Growers)
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Old 06-18-06, 08:09 PM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DVD Polizei
Your analogy is severely flawed.

Corporations DO charge whatever they want. "The market will decide" crap is just that. When corporations OWN and CONTROL most of the market share in that sector, just how the hell does a consumer have any control? Oh wait. Just tell the consumer to not buy that product! Yeah, that works. The "Free Market" you speak of, is disappearing.
Microsoft, which has a monopoly, cannot charge whatever it wants.

Comcast, which has a monopoly on cable TV delivery here, cannot charge whatever it wants.

The government, which has a monopoly on tax revenue creation, cannot tax whatever it wants.

They all may, however, charge more than you want.
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Old 06-18-06, 08:19 PM   #24
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What would happen if a competitor came into your area and underpriced Comcast? Would Comcast still charge the current rate? Hell no. They'd compete. Competition is vital to a Capitalist society. I see less and less competition these days. Corporations are merging in order to bypass competition.
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Old 06-18-06, 08:20 PM   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by grundle
The price of one megabyte of computer memory has fallen by about 99.99% in the past few decades.
Because of COMPETITION in that market sector, Grundle.

When you have no competition, prices remain high.
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