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Bloomberg news: Ethanol's a Big Scam, and Bush Has Fallen for It

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  FROM  http://www.alcohol4fuel.com/index.html  Topica Forum:

 

 

George has an interesting exchange to share from a news article. He said I

could post it to the forum.

 

 

 

Peggy

 

 

 

Subject: Re: FW: Bloomberg news: Ethanol's a Big Scam, and Bush Has Fallen

for It: Ke...

 

 

 

My comments interspersed below.George

 

 

 

 

Ethanol's a Big Scam, and Bush Has Fallen for It: Kevin Hassett

 

Feb. 13 (Bloomberg) -- In his State of the Union address, George W. Bush

called for an intense effort to develop more efficient alternative fuel

sources.

 

``We will also fund additional research in cutting-edge methods of producing

ethanol, not just from corn but from wood chips and stalks or switch

grass,'' the president said. ``Our goal is to make this new kind of ethanol

practical and competitive within six years.''

 

George: His comment is fairly accurate, but his time schedule is off.

BioFuels Energy Corporation has the technology done, and is going commercial

now with plans that allow a distillery to make ethanol from waste vegetation

or non-traditional crops at a healthy profit without relying on subsidies.

 

Bush should have known better. In a capital city that is full of shameless

political scams, ethanol is perhaps the most egregious. There has probably

never been a specific topic around which so much disinformation is spread.

Ethanol lowers our reliance on fossil fuels! Ethanol helps clean the

environment! Ethanol will save the family farm!

 

George: All three statements are true. Replacing gasoline with up to 85%

ethanol reduces reliance on foreign gasoline sources. Numerous tests have

demonstrated lower NOx, lower CO, and lower VOC emissions, primarily due to

the reduced operating temperatures and increased oxygenation of the fuel.

The family farm profits one of two ways: a cattle operation can convert some

of it's corn feed ration to ethanol without losing any of the feed value,

and use the ethanol produced to make electricity or use it as a direct fuel

to run stationbary engines. The manure from the feeding operation generates

methane to burn for the heat to run the distillery. No dependence on oil.

A traditional rowcrop operation can grow some of the high biomass crops such

as sweet sorghum, sorghum-sudan forages, elephant grass, tall wheatgrass,

switchgrass, Johnson grass, and a host of others (see purdue biomass

electronic file) to sell to a distillery for more than they have ever made

on traditional crops.

 

Such sound bites work wonders when it comes to raising money. And the amount

involved is mind-boggling. The federal government subsidizes ethanol

producers with a tax credit of 51 cents per gallon of fuel ethanol; those

subsidies will total about $1.4 billion this year.

 

George: Our pro-forma sheets show no need for subsidies. We don't need

government money, private capital can do this.

 

Corn Money

 

The Energy Department and the Agriculture Department spend tens of millions

of dollars every year on biomass-based energy research and development. This

is in addition to the billions of dollars -- more than $4 billion in 2004 --

the U.S. provides in subsidies for the production of corn, from which most

domestically produced ethanol is derived.

 

If you look at the facts, the spending makes no sense whatsoever.

 

George: AMEN. As a retired former Ag Researcher with both USDA and Texas

A&M, I have first hand experience that neither the USDA nor the State

Agricultural Research Stations is interested in solutions. What matters is

the research itself, and no one is allowed to sign off on a project until

at least two subsequent studies have been lined up. The research community

learned it's lesson when Jonas Salk cured Polio and killed the careers of a

number of dedicated researchers.

 

Consider how ethanol is produced. Corn is grown, harvested, and delivered to

an ethanol plant. There the corn is finely ground and mixed with water.

After fermentation, a mixture that is about 8 percent ethanol must be

repeatedly distilled until it is 99.5 percent pure ethanol.

 

George: Whoa, that's inaccurate rabble-rousing. The reflux that takes

place in a distilling column does not require additonal heat, it is all

applied a single time in the primary boiler. Reflux is a series of

distillations, but not to the extent that you can define where one stops and

another begins.

 

Growing and harvesting the corn, and heating and reheating the fermented

corn to produce ethanol of a high enough quality to replace some of the

gasoline in your car requires an enormous amount of energy. How much?

 

Adding It Up

 

A recent careful study by Cornell University's David Pimentel and the

University of California at Berkeley's Tad Patzek added up all the energy

consumption that goes into ethanol production. They took account of the

energy it takes to build and run tractors. They added in the energy embodied

in the other inputs and irrigation. They parsed out how much is used at the

ethanol plant.

 

George: Sorry, guy, you picked the wrong pseudo-scientist. Pimentel has

been thoroughly debunked by half a dozen solid, referreed studies. (His

were not referreed) Both USDA and even other scientists at his own

university have discredited his statements. His studies used old, flawed

data to present a case favorable to the people who paid for the research. I

have seen that with many University "Studies".

 

Putting it all together, they found that it takes 29 percent more energy to

make ethanol from corn than is contained in the ethanol itself.

 

It's not that corn is a bad source for ethanol. The other sources mentioned

by the president look even worse. Wood biomass takes 57 percent more energy

to produce than it contains. Switch grass takes about 50 percent more.

 

George: Again, flawed studies based on inaccurate assumptions. If you use

coal or natural gas to heat the process, then it is unattractive. However,

if you use the unreacted lignin as your heat source, not only do you

eliminate a disposal problem while generating a saleable co-product, but you

also get a "free" source of energy.

 

Ethanol is just a highly uneconomical product. Some other authors have

disputed these findings, but they invariably come up with more favorable

calculations by excluding some of the costs.

 

Absurd Waste

 

Indeed, no matter how expensive fossil fuels become, ethanol will never be

economical because it takes so much fossil fuel to produce. It might be

possible that someday technological processes will emerge that make

production of ethanol less reliant on fossil fuels, but the billions in

subsidies to this point have left us with a process that is still a disgrace

and an absurd waste of energy and taxpayers' money.

 

George: If you are talking about the NREL research, you are right. At the

last Fuel Ethanol Workshop, I listened to the NREL representatives and the

guys from Novozyme and Genencor talk about how they were on the track of a

"Super Enzyme" that would be the breakthrough for cheap ethanol from

biomass. B.S., they have carved out a 5-year research "gravy train", and

nothing is supposed to happen until then. Sorry guys, This nation does not

have 5 years to wait. We are going commercial now.

 

At least ethanol reduces pollution, right? Maybe the subsidies are

worthwhile because they will buy us a cleaner environment.

 

Guess again. First, corn production, according to Pimentel and Patzek,

``uses more herbicides and insecticides than any other crop produced in the

U.S.''

 

And the Environmental Protection Agency has cited ethanol plants themselves

for air pollution. In a letter to the industry's trade group, the EPA noted

that pollution was a problem in ``most, if not all, ethanol facilities.''

These plants produce large quantities of waste water as well.

 

George: There you go with more gobbledygook and balderdash from a

discredited pseudo-scientist. There are emission issues with the DDGS from

corn ethanol production, but they are not insurmountable, just increases the

cost of production to make it difficult to compete with biomass ethanol with

no DDGS

 

Ethanol Cash

 

Ethanol itself contributes to air pollution. Cars emit more air pollution

when they run on gasoline containing ethanol than they do when running on

gasoline alone. Our environment would be greener if we stopped relying on

ethanol.

 

George: Is this another Pimentel claim? I have data from a recent EPA

vehicle test in New York on a vehicle with 65,000 miles showing ethanol fuel

running at significant reductions in NOx, CO, VOC, and particulates. Where

does the data for the statement come from?

 

The arguments against ethanol are so persuasive you have to ask yourself:

Why does Congress keep throwing money at it?

 

The answer appears to be that elected officials from corn- growing states

such as Iowa and Illinois see it as a cash cow for their constituents.

 

The ethanol business is a pretty good source of cash for the lawmakers too.

The political action committee of Archer Daniels Midland Co., the world's

largest producer of corn-based ethanol fuel, gave $69,000 to federal

candidates for the 2004 elections, according to the Center for Responsive

Politics.

 

In 2002, before such unlimited ``soft money'' donations were outlawed, ADM

gave $1.8 million to political parties. Its political action committee gave

close to $200,000 to individual campaigns and committees.

 

ADM spread the money around wisely that year, to beneficiaries ranging from

Republican House Speaker Dennis Hastert of Illinois to Democratic Senator

Tom Harkin from Iowa. Beneficiaries in 2004 included Hastert as well as

Democratic Senator Kent Conrad of North Dakota.

 

George: There, in a nutshell, you have the case against ethanol from corn

(and any other food crop, for that matter). When the ethanol cannot stand

on its own merits, the response has been to throw money at it, not solve the

problem. ADM is desperate for additional markets for this nation's food

crops. The export market has softened, so there needs to be another

solution. It is really not a good policy to convert food acres to fuel

acres. The poor can live better if they drive less than they can if they

eat less.

 

Where's the Race?

 

Let's summarize the economics this way. Exxon Mobil Corp. had $36 billion in

net income last year. If an alternative fuel source could be developed that

would compete for that business, the potential rewards would be enormous.

There would be a race to get there first, and firms would be lining up to do

ethanol research. We wouldn't need a subsidy.

 

But even with decades of federal subsidies, private companies still haven't

developed an economical ethanol, and public sector progress is minimal.

 

Bush's speech holds out hope that finally, after all those wasted billions,

we are just six years away from a quality product. But it seems unlikely

that the magic formula will soon be discovered. Folks have been distilling

things for years. How much technical progress could the process possibly

undergo?

 

The fact is, ethanol is a scam that allows farm states to extract resources

from everybody else and pretend to be virtuous while doing so. We would all

be better off if Congress just wrote these states a check with no strings

attached. At least then we wouldn't be wasting all that energy.

 

 

 

 

To contact the writer of this column:

Kevin Hassett at khas-@aei.org.

George: BioFuels Energy Corporation has one of the answers to inexpensive

fuel ethanol:

low temperature, low pressure processing to reduce energy requirements. Add

to that

innovative concepts in separating water from ethanol to further reduce the

heat required,

and use the lignin residue to replace petroleum or coal as the heat source

for the digestion,

fermentation, and distillation. All the biomass is converted to saleable

products.

 

 

 

BioFuels Energy Corporation

Fostering Rural Economic Development

 

George F. Oerther, Jr

President (Chemistry/Biology)

Rt 2 Box 281, Raymondville, TX 78580, (956) 773-8071

oer-@aol.com

 

Peggy Korth

VP Development, CFO, Grantsperson

40 Sun Valley Dr., Spring Branch, TX 78070

rp-@gvtc.com

 

www.biofuelsenergycorp.com <http://www.biofuelsenergycorp.com/>

 

 

 

 

 

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That's all well and good, anybody can be disputed... However OIL is not renewable!!!! And if I had to build a still --it is simple technology-- what I say to all the doubters out there--YA GOTTA START SUMWHARE.---MIKE

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