Fuel Ethanol Cannot Alleviate U.S. Dependence on Petroleum /

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"In the United States, reliance on ethanol to fuel the automobile fleet would require enormous, unachievable areas of corn agriculture, and the environmental impacts would outweigh its benefits."

Science Daily
American Institute of Biological Sciences
July 4, 2005
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"Biodiesel is a domestically produced, renewable fuel that can be manufactured from vegetable oils, animal fats, or recycled restaurant grease. It is a cleaner-burning replacement for petroleum diesel fuel. It is nontoxic and biodegradable."

"Dwindling foreign oil, rising prices at the gas pump, and hype from politically well-connected U.S. agribusiness have combined to create a frenzied rush to convert food grains into ethanol fuel. The move is badly conceived and ill advised. Corporate spin and pork barrel legislation aside, here, by the numbers, are the scientific reasons why corn won't provide our energy needs:"

"The world has come full circle. A century ago our first transportation biofuels -- the hay and oats fed to our horses -- were replaced by gasoline. Today, ethanol from corn and biodiesel from soybeans have begun edging out gasoline and diesel.

This has been hailed as an overwhelmingly positive development that will help us reduce the threat of climate change and ease our dependence on...

Williams argues ethanol is "not only costing us a lot of money, it's also wiping out fish and wildlife habitat, and polluting our air, soil, and water." Williams goes on to address several issues surrounding the ethanol debate, such as the politics surrounding the 1990 amendments to the Clean Air Act.

This brief research paper analyzes and compares the merits of biodiesel versus ethanol and concludes, "Transportation biofuels such as synfuel hydrocarbons or cellulosic ethanol, if produced from low-input biomass grown on agriculturally marginal land or from waste biomass, could provide much greater supplies and environmental benefits than food-based biofuels."

Brown provides some concrete facts about the convergence of the food and energy markets, and the implications of such a convergence. He demonstrates that E85 is raising the price for grains - the greatest impact of which is felt by the world's poor.  He calls for "less costly alternatives" such as increasing our utilization of wind power.

This article summarizes some of the key findings of Cornell University agricultural scientist David Pimentel, who concludes that E85 is not a sustainable fuel source.

"The United Nations Climate Conference in Bali, Indonesia, wrapped up on December 14. During the conference, debate intensified over whether to include in any climate change agreement greenhouse gas emission targets for developed countries. While most alternative sources of energy are not economically viable at this point, environmentalists and policymakers are hopeful for technological...

Istook combines the findings from multiple distinguished authors to show how ethanol is harming not only U.S. consumers, but also consumers abroad (especially those in third world countries). He argues that the U.S. must end the subsidy of ethanol, but acknowledges the difficulty involved in such a move.

"Alistair Wood used to know exactly where his crops would end up. For the last 30 years on his 8,000 acre arable farm in Northern Kenya he's only found one market at harvest: The local population or their animals. Now his wheat and corn could just as easily be sold onto the world's biofuels market to satisfy the growing demand for energy."

This article explains that E85, as it is currently manufactured in the U.S., does not present a viable alternative to petroleum use. According to this article, the process of making ethanol yields a net gain of only 10% in energy when it is completed (subtracting energy required to produce E85). However, the article does cite a few situations in which ethanol may be of use.

"The federal government has done much to boost the U.S. ethanol industry and is largely responsible for the growing use of this costly fuel additive. Now, Congress should do something for America's drivers by ending tariffs that limit imports of cheaper ethanol that could help lower pump prices. Even by the standards of special-interest-driven Washington, the ethanol industry gets an unusually...

UC Berkeley geoengineering professor Tad W. Patzek explains that the costs involved in producing E85 far outweigh its benefits. He goes on to describe the effect that ethanol production has on land use (or, rather, overuse) and concludes with a few suggestions for pursuing other ("alternative") sources of energy.

After discussing and dismissing four major myths associated with biofuels, Holt-Gimenez concludes, "A global moratorium on the expansion of biofuels is needed to develop regulatory structures and foster conservation and development alternatives to the transition. We need the time to make a better transition to food and fuel sovereignty."

This article succinctly dispels the myth that Brazil's sugarcane ethanol success could ever be replicated in the U.S. by pointing to fundamental differences between the two countries.

"A trading company ensnared in the fallout from massive fraud uncovered in the U.S. renewable fuel mandate has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. government for its handling of the scandal."

"The biofuels revolution that promised to reduce America's dependence on foreign oil is fizzling out."

"The unmanned drones used by the US Navy to bomb its enemies without risking its pilots have been tested using a 50-50 mix of biofuel and regular jet fuel. The use of drones has become increasingly controversial, but that's a debate for another place."

"There are two prominent justifications for biofuel subsidies—to reduce gasoline consumption and carbon dioxide emissions. But how much does it cost to achieve these goals? According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) ..., subsidies for biofuels are costly to consumers and have high abatement costs for mitigating carbon dioxide emissions."

"We are witnessing the beginning of one of the great tragedies of history. The United States, in a misguided effort to reduce its oil insecurity by converting grain into fuel for cars, is generating global food insecurity on a scale never seen before."

Chart or Graph

"The CBO calculated the costs to taxpayers of using ethanol to reduce gasoline consumption by one gallon to be $1.78 for ethanol made from corn and $3.00 for cellulosic ethanol."

Figure 1 illustrates the crucial idea that biofuel production affects many different markets, including markets for inputs (e.g., land and water) as well as markets for agricultural products and biofuel coproducts (e.g., food and animal feed). For this reason, many factors can affect the costs of producing biofuels and the prices at which they can be sold.

The chart describes the Ethanol subsidies provided under various legislation.

Perhaps the most significant factor in preventing E85 consumption is its high cost at the pump when compared to E10 gasoline. E85 has been more expensive at the pump on a GGE basis since 2000 according to DOE data shown in Figure 4.

The high profitability of ethanol has attracted significant new investment in the industry, as shown in Figure 3. Ethanol production grew 1 billion gallons in 2006 and is expected to grow 3 billion gallons in 2007, a doubling in two years. Because of this current and expected future growth in ethanol production, corn prices skyrocketed in fall 2006.

Analysis Report White Paper

"The environmental impacts of biofuels are devastating. Rapid expansion of fuel-related crop cultivation has accelerated deforestation, biodiversity loss, and global warming pollution. Increased water pollution from agricultural chemicals, and depletion of soil and water resources are additional problems."

This report concludes that "it is neither moral nor constructive to shift major amounts of the world's food supply to fuel production when significant elements of the world's people remain ill-fed."

This analysis is quite lengthy, but Koplow essentially concludes, "The picture that emerges from our analysis on biofuels markets illustrates not only that subsidies to ethanol and biodiesel are pervasive and large, but that they are not a particularly efficient means to achieve many of the policy objectives for which they have been justified."

This report acknowledges that the growing ethanol market has broad policy failures. It states that "without appropriate information, incentives, and rules, the biofuels industry is likely to expand production in environmentally harmful ways." This report proposes an index to track the environmental effects of biofuels.

This study examines the cancer risks and ozone-related health consequences of ethanol use in vehicle fuel. Jacobson states, "due to its ozone effects, future E85 may be a greater overall public health risk than gasoline."

"This publication reviews the history of U.S. ethanol policy, explains the economics of ethanol production in today's market environment, and outlines some policy alternatives that could be considered for the future."

The authors found: "Energy outputs from ethanol produced using corn, switchgrass, and wood biomass were each less than the respective fossil energy inputs. The same was true for producing biodiesel using soybeans and sunflower, however, the energy cost for producing soybean biodiesel was only slightly negative compared with ethanol production."

"The Federal government provides a range of subsidies, tax incentives, and regulatory mandates to promote the use of ethanol and other renewable fuels into the national gasoline pool. ..."

"This booklet was written for busy state elected officials who need to stay well-informed about the energy debate. It covers 10 of the most important energy issues facing the country, with each section ending with recommended actions and suggested readings. A thorough bibliography appears at the end of the booklet."

Taylor and Van Doren equate corn ethanol to a religion, arguing that it, "...is more a religion than a reasoned proposition." They go on to explain how production of corn ethanol really only benefits corn farmers and investors in ethanol plants. They also argue that ethanol will in no way help prevent terrorism or increase our national security.

As the title suggests, this piece traces the roots of the sustainability movement and details the various areas that the sustainability mindset especially affects.


"Mark Jacobson is a leading expert in wind energy and the atmosphere. He hears some of the claims being made on behalf of E85 - that it's supposed to be cleaner, that it will reduce ozone-forming pollution and the release of harmful compounds like benzene, toluene and xylene. Mark's research...

Podcast: Mark Jacobson: The Truth About Ethanol
Mark Jacobson
April 6, 2007

"Mark Jacobson is a leading expert in wind energy and the atmosphere. He hears some of the claims being made on behalf of E85 - that it's supposed to be cleaner, that...

"Agriculture is easily the most distorted sector, with high tariffs and, in developed countries at least, large amounts of government subsidies through price supports and direct payments. On the other hand, developing countries, who have a comparative advantage in these products, cannot afford to subsidize their agriculture sector and face prohibitive tariffs for their products abroad. The...

The EPA's role is to develop regulations based on science from laws passed by Congress to protect human health and the environment.

"New research indicates that corn-based ethanol is more costly to human health and the environment than gasoline. The research also indicates that biofuels from non-food crops may be less costly."

Primary Document

"Any worthy idea can withstand and even be improved by naysayers; scolds and skeptics play the useful role of pointing out obvious flaws. The biofuels industry has no more persistent, articulate, and scathing critic than David Pimentel, professor emeritus of entomology at Cornell University."

Pimentel defends his findings that state that ethanol uses more energy than it produces. He...

To move the United States toward greater energy independence and security....

The Energy Policy Act of 1992 (EPACT) provided for two additional gasoline blends (7.7% and 5.7% ethanol).

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, "The Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPAct 2005) established a number of energy management goals for Federal facilities and fleets. It also amended portions of the National Energy Conservation Policy Act (NECPA)."

This site explains the fundamental portions of a bill which apportions large amounts of funding to ethanol producers.

In the 2007 State of the Union address, President George Bush asked Congress and America to "join him in pursuing the goal of reducing U.S. gasoline usage by 20 percent in the next ten years - twenty in ten."




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