The folly of corn ethanol

by Judith Curry

I don’t know whether I can make the environmental argument, or the economic argument” – Tom Vilsack

Associated Press

The AP has an extensive article Push for ethanol had disastrous  outcomes.  Excerpts:

The hills of southern Iowa bear the scars of America’s push for green energy: The brown gashes where rain has washed away the soil. The polluted streams that dump fertilizer into the water supply.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way.

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, Bush predicted that it would make the country “stronger, cleaner and more secure.”

But the ethanol era has proved 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 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 economic benefits to the farming industry.

All energy comes at a cost. The global warming consequences of drilling for oil and natural gas are well-documented. In an effort to reduce those harms, however, Obama’s administration has allowed so-called green energy to do not-so-green things.

The government’s hopeful predictions for ethanol have proved so inaccurate that 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 of the Environmental Working Group, a natural ally of the president that, like others, now finds itself at odds with the White House.

The administration accepts the cost because it believes that supporting corn ethanol will encourage development of cleaner, greener biofuels.

Shortly after Davenport spoke to The Associated Press, he got an email ordering him to stop talking.

“We just want to have a consistent message on the topic,” an Agriculture Department spokesman in Iowa said.

That message was laid out by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, who spoke to ethanol lobbyists on Capitol Hill recently and said ethanol is good for business.

“We are committed to this industry because we understand its benefits,” he said. “We understand it’s about farm income. It’s about stabilizing and maintaining farm income which is at record levels.”

But the numbers behind the policy have become so unworkable that, for the first time, the EPA is soon expected to reduce the amount of ethanol required to be added to the gasoline supply. Meanwhile, an unusual coalition of big oil companies, environmental groups and food companies is pushing the government to go even further and reconsider the entire ethanol program.

Writing the regulations to implement the ethanol mandate was among the administration’s first environmental undertakings. But President Obama’s team at the EPA was sour on it from the start.

As a way to reduce global warming, they knew that corn ethanol was a dubious proposition. Corn demands fertilizer, which is made using natural gas. Ethanol factories typically burn coal or gas, both of which release carbon dioxide.

Plus, digging up grassland releases greenhouse gases.

“I don’t remember anybody having great passion for this,” said Bob Sussman, who served on Obama’s transition team and recently retired as EPA’s senior policy counsel. “I don’t have a lot of personal enthusiasm for the program.”

The EPA’s experts determined that corn ethanol was only modestly better than gasoline when it came to carbon dioxide emissions.

Sixteen percent better, to be exact. And not in the short term. Only by 2022.

By law, though, biofuels were supposed to be at least 20 percent greener than gasoline.

When the Obama administration finalized its policy, corn ethanol scored 21 percent better than gasoline, barely crossing the key threshold.

“You adjust a few numbers to get it where you want it, and then you call it good,” said Adam Liska, assistant professor of biological systems engineering at the University of Nebraska. He supports ethanol, even with its environmental trade-offs.

The Obama administration’s predictions were soon proved wrong. In September 2010, corn passed $4, on its way to about $7, where it has been most of this year.

In 2008, the journal Science published a study with a dire conclusion: Plowing over conservation land releases so much greenhouse gas that it takes 48 years before new plants can break even and start reducing carbon dioxide. 

In his recent speech to ethanol lobbyists, Vilsack was unequivocal about ethanol’s benefits to the air and water:

“There is no question air quality, water quality is benefiting from this industry,” he said.

But the administration never actually conducted air and water studies to determine whether that’s true, even though those studies were required by law.

In the Midwest, meanwhile, scientists and conservationists are sounding alarms.

From 2005 to 2010, corn farmers increased their use of nitrogen fertilizer by more than 1 billion pounds. More recent data aren’t available from the Agriculture Department, but even conservative projections suggest another billion-pound increase since then.

Nitrogen fertilizer, when it seeps into the water, is toxic. Children are especially susceptible to nitrate poisoning, which causes “blue baby” syndrome and can be deadly.

Agriculture Department officials note that the amount of fertilizer used for all crops has remained steady for a decade, suggesting that the ethanol mandate hasn’t caused a fertilizer boom nationally.

But in the Midwest, corn is the dominant crop, and officials say the increase in fertilizer use – driven by the increase in corn planting – is having an effect.

The Des Moines Water Works, for instance, has posted high nitrate levels for many years in the Des Moines and Raccoon rivers, which supply drinking water to 500,000 people. Typically, when pollution is too high in one river, workers draw from the other.

“This year, unfortunately the nitrate levels in both rivers were so high that it created an impossibility for us,” said Bill Stowe, the water service’s general manager.

The nitrates travel down rivers and into the Gulf of Mexico, where they boost the growth of enormous algae fields. When the algae die, the decomposition consumes oxygen, leaving behind a zone where aquatic life cannot survive.

This year, the dead zone covered 5,800 square miles of sea floor, about the size of Connecticut.

Larry McKinney, the executive director of the Harte Institute at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, says the ethanol mandate worsened the dead zone.

“The government is mandating ethanol use,” he said, “and it is unfortunately coming at the expense of the Gulf of Mexico.”

Obama administration officials know that the ethanol mandate hasn’t lived up to its billing.

The next-generation biofuels that were supposed to wean the country off corn haven’t yet materialized. Every day without those cleaner-burning fuels, the ethanol industry stays reliant on corn and the environmental effects mount.

The EPA could revisit its model and see whether ethanol is actually as good for the environment as officials predicted. But the agency says it doesn’t have the money or the manpower.

With the model so far off from reality, independent scientists say it’s hard to make an argument for ethanol as a global warming policy.

And the administration rarely tries to make that argument anymore. What was once billed as an environmental boon has morphed into a government program to help rural America survive.

USDA: 2013 record corn harvest

ABCNews has a story USDA: 3013 Corn Harvest Record 13.9B Bushels.  Excerpts:

This year’s corn crop has soared to a new national record, breaking expectations in many states that received too much rain early on and a summer dry spell that brought back drought concerns.

Exceptional harvests were found around the country, thanks to adequate rain and cooler temperatures at the time corn pollinated. At least 18 states will set records for the amount of corn produced per acre, among them are Alabama, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, and Ohio.

But with great abundance comes lower corn prices.

Corn users, including ethanol manufacturers, see higher profits with lower grain prices.

Improved profit has led some ethanol makers to reopen plants that had been closed because they weren’t making money.

Cargill Inc. announced Monday it had restarted production at a plant in Fort Dodge, Iowa, idled since 2011 and Three Rivers Energy in Coshocton, Ohio, resumed production last month at a plant it bought in receivership that had last operated in 2008.

Livestock producers who buy corn-based feed for cattle, chickens, and hogs also benefit from lower corn prices.

Consumers, though, won’t see food prices significantly affected.

JC comments

The unintended consequences associated with corn ethanol makes this a classic case whereby the ‘cure’ is ineffective and worse than the ‘disease’ at which it is targeted.  The rationale for corn ethanol was to ‘prime the system’ for cellulosic ethanol that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  The Wikipedia sums up the issues:

According to Michael Wang of Argonne National Laboratory, one of the benefits of cellulosic ethanol is it reduces greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) by 85% over reformulated gasoline. By contrast, starch ethanol (e.g., from corn), which most frequently uses natural gas to provide energy for the process, may not reduce GHG emissions at all depending on how the starch-based feedstock is produced. According to the National Academy of Sciences, there is no commercially viable bio-refinery in existence to convert lignocellulosic biomass to fuel. Absence of production of cellulosic ethanol in the quantities required by the regulation was the basis of a United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia decision announced January 25, 2013 voiding a requirement imposed on car and truck fuel producers in the United States by the Environmental Protection Agency requiring addition of cellulosic biofuels to their products. These issues, along with many other difficult production challenges, lead George Washington University policy researchers to state that “in the short term, [cellulosic] ethanol cannot meet the energy security and environmental goals of a gasoline alternative.”

The politics of the situation are aptly described by this para from the AP article:

Congress and the administration could change the ethanol mandate, tweak its goals or demand more safeguards. Going to Congress and rewriting the law would mean picking a fight with agricultural lobbyists, a fight that would put the administration on the side of big oil companies, which despise the ethanol requirement.

So the ethanol policy cruises on autopilot.

Looks like ‘greens’ and oil companies need to join forces to fight against big ag and corn ethanol policies.  And all this in the name of urgent actions needed to reduce carbon emissions.  Lets lose the ‘urgent actions needed’ and take the time to develop a range of policy options and thoroughly investigate the possibilities for unintended consequences.  I’m sure there is a better way to support U.S. agriculture that is beneficial both to the farmers as well as to the world food supply, without unnecessarily raping the environment.

282 responses to “The folly of corn ethanol

  1. We all know that ethanol does not have a good EROEI. Yet we also face a continuing challenge of producing enough liquid fuels, such as high-grade crude oil, to meet global demands.

    This really has nothing to do with AGW. It has everything to do with finite reserves of non-renewable fossil fuel.

    Ethanol is just one of those liquid fuels that appears like a carbon-neutral substitute for crude oil, but it doesn’t really fit the bill.

    • The one caveat in all this is that ethanol is partly produced from corn waste and by-products that is not normally used as food
      http://minnesota.publicradio.org/display/web/2013/08/25/business/ethanol-plant-using-corn-waste-moves-forward

      This actually makes some sense as long as the waste products of this waste are returned to the farmland.

    • Prior to the corn ethanol mandate that was what farming coops were doing. It was a win-win, but the mandate blow it up.

    • Good point WEB.

      There is also the point of including the waste product from ethanol production in any plus/minus calculation. As I understand it, there is significant use of the down stream product.

    • I have seen studies showing corn ethanol from sugar cane grown in tropical áreas (for example in Brazil) does have a positive emissions ratio. One problem USA policy does have is the tendency to emphasize national security or satisfaction of an internal lobby (such as the farm lobby headed by Archer Daniels) rather than say reducing CO2 emissions.

      US aid to other nations could be much simpler, for example they could allow imported ethanol. On the other hand if corn prices drop because its no longer used to make ethanol in the USA, this will cause a huge crisis for corn growers in South America and other nations, this is more so if they are forced to compete with subsidized US growers. Evidently the best solution is to eliminate subsidies and use the money in a wiser fashion.

    • The best thing to do is to remove all market distortions, encourage and alliw freer trade, and get the government and greenies right out of the way.

    • +++
      Thank you, Peter.

    • The only significant merits of corn ethanol are that it has a slightly positive energy return in prime corn territory and that to some extent it replaces energy from petroleum (50% imported) with energy from natural gas (mostly domestic) thereby helping out with the US’ large and perpetual current account deficit.

      But mostly it is a fiasco. We should acknowledge that and learn from it.

      IMHO a better approach to biofuel would be a crop that can be grown without irrigation in wasteland such as the playas of the desert southwest and that yields an oil that does not require distillation or other energy intensive processing. There is, so far as I know, no such crop.

      Whatever we do next, if we do anything, let’s try thinking things through before we act. We have been warned.

    • They are suppossedly having some success with agave. However I have also heard that farmers cannot currently keep up with the demand for agave for distillation purposes.

      Who would you sell your crop to? The guy who wants to produce fuel or the guy who wants to produce tequila? On second thought, I should have posed the question as to who would pay more for it.

  2. Our hostess writes “I’m sure there is a better way to support U.S. agriculture that is beneficial both to the farmers as well as to the world food supply, without unnecessarily raping the environment.”

    Maybe ethanol made from waste agricultural products is the way to go.

    • Jim, That would be the cellulosic ethanol which has been five years away from commercial reality for about 15 years now. As our host states above, ethanol from starch (corn or wheat, as used in the EU) was supposed to be a pump primer for cellulosic ethanol, but has become an end in itself as an agricultural subsidy.

    • Rob, you write ” As our host states above, ethanol from starch (corn or wheat, as used in the EU) was supposed to be a pump primer for cellulosic ethanol, but has become an end in itself as an agricultural subsidy.”

      Not quite. Originally DOE had the wrong approach, by offering free money to anyone who claimed they could produce cellulose ethanol. As Range Fuels showed, this approach did not work. There are several organizations which are on the verge of trying to produced cellulose ethanol in commercial quantities. One of these is Poet, the largest producer of corn ethanol, and Poet may well “win the race”. Poet have used their expertise to develop the technology, and they have the infrastructure to do the distillation and distribution once cellulose ethanol is produced.

      So to a considerable extent, the corn ethanol production HAS been the pump primer for cellulose ethanol.

  3. Something very wrong about putting food into an SUV instead of a human.

    • Nobody eats field corn. We raised crops to feed to livestock. The only exception was wheat.

    • David Springer

      Do you people ever check your assumptions in a frickin encyclopedia?

      Just about everyone in the United States consumes food products made from field corn on a daily basis. Many with every meal, in-between meal snack, and beverage.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Field_corn

      Cereal products including corn flour, corn meal, hominy, grits, nixtamal, tortillas, corn bread, and cold breakfast cereals (such as corn flakes).
      Other processed human-food products including corn starch, corn oil, corn syrup, and high fructose corn syrup.
      Alcohol and corn whiskey

      Write that down.

    • None of that has stopped, and it’s processed. It’s a small percentage of field corn.

      Also, nobody where I grew up raised white field corn, which is commonly used for meal/flour. None of our corn went to human consumption in any direct fashion.

      Suburbanites think those ears of corn going into their tanks are being denied to dinner plates of the poor as ears of corn. Write that down.

    • David Springer

      Moron.

      http://www.americasfarmers.com/about/did-you-know/corn-facts.aspx

      In 2012

      • 38% of the corn supply in the United States (5.5 billion bushels) is used as feed for livestock such as beef, pork or poultry.

      • 29% is used for ethanol production. Besides the ethanol this produces, this corn also will result in approximately 1 billion bushels of distillers grains to be used as livestock feed.

      • 8% is exported to other countries. The top five countries to which the United States exports corn are Japan, Mexico, South Korea, Taiwan and Egypt.

      • 12% of the corn (1.3 billion bushels) goes to other food, seed and industrial uses. Field corn is a source of corn cereal, corn starch, corn oil and corn syrup.

      • 5% of the total corn supply (currently 1.8 billion bushels) is carried over as a surplus for the next year. The rest of the corn (about 8%) is corn displaced by distillers grains. (Source NCGA)

      Since we don’t keep livestock much for pets all the corn used as livestock feed is going to produce food for humans. Practically all the corn diverted for ethanol production could instead go into food production. Write that down.

    • ‘nobody eats field corn.’

      But farmers can and DO scrap other crops to grow corn for biofuels, thereby raising prices.
      And farmers can and DO scrap human-consumable corn to raise field corn for biofuels, thereby raising prices.

      Care to make the Slightest effort to take that into account?

    • The first person to tell members of this website that distillers grain was being fed to livestock was me. And it was way over a year ago. And I didn’t look that up on wikipedia you one click away from being freakin’ know-it-all prick. I don’t have to look at wikipedia to tell you the percentages. LMAO. Write that down.

    • There used to be a great article on the web from the Christian Science Monitor discussing the increase in world-wide food prices because of Ethanol subsidies in the US. They highlighted the increased popularity of “mud-cakes” in Haiti, literally: “Mud Cakes.

      The CSM article pointed a finger at gasahol. But, the article disappeared. You can find the concerns in the India Times, however:

      If US takes a formal decision to suspend ethanol production or blending criteria called Renewable Fuel Standards (RFS) that is uneconomical anyway, around 110 million tonnes – 30% of US corn production – can be spared. It is better to feed corn to humans and animals than to let cars consume them. Consequently, it may be appropriate for USDA to reduce tonnage assigned to ethanol. Corn prices will moderate and restore some balance in agro complex.

    • edbarbar, most of the fallout was perceived food shortage instead of real. Mexico bought corn futures like crazy after the policy was announced which started the ball rolling. Then as the prices shot up due to speculative trading it bled into other grain crops. More often that not a politician that can keep his mouth shut is a prize. Mandates just mean you are stuck with stupid.

    • edbarbar, If corn pays better plant corn. The fallout still started with speculation driving up corn prices and that speculation started because of US federal gubmit “mandate”.

      The greenies wanted to stop coal use so they planned all sorts of “global” regulations which inspired China to build coal plants like crazy and use imported coal. The Greens got their “Asian Brown Cloud”

      Most of the problems are knee jerk responses to sub-optimal politicization of “Science”.

    • Speculation may have driven the prices up. Bubbles pop, but government subsidies go on forever. In this case, causing world food prices to increase.

      I read recently that Global Warming is causing 150K deaths per year or so due to malnutrition. I wonder how much of that is on account of high oil prices (the US could bring them down by drilling in the Monterey county Shale deposit, which is estimated to have 3 years of oil for the US at current US oil consumption rates), ANWR, off-shore, etc.

      Meanwhile, I wonder how many of those 150K deaths would not have occurred if the US had not subsidized corn.

    • David Springer

      JCH | November 18, 2013 at 8:38 am | Reply

      “And I didn’t look that up on wikipedia you one click away from being freakin’ know-it-all prick. I don’t have to look at wikipedia to tell you the percentages.”

      If you’d click once in a while you be wrong nearly as much of the time and pricks like me wouldn’t have to constantly correct your dumb ash.

    • David Springer

      Otter | November 18, 2013 at 6:20 am |

      ‘nobody eats field corn.’

      But farmers can and DO scrap other crops to grow corn for biofuels, thereby raising prices.
      And farmers can and DO scrap human-consumable corn to raise field corn for biofuels, thereby raising prices.

      Care to make the Slightest effort to take that into account?

      Of course he won’t. JCH, whoever that anonymous coward is, thinks because he was raised on a farm he knows all there is to know about farming. Pigs are raised on farms too and probably know as much as JCH does as well as having better personal hygiene.

      Speaking of pigs and other livestock the largest single fraction of field corn goes to livestock feed. Let’s put it in words JCH might understand.

      1. Farmer John grows field corn.
      2. Farmer John feeds field corn to Ethel the cow.
      3. Ethel the cow produces milk.
      4. Farmer John sells milk to grocery store.
      5. Mothers buy milk to feed their children.

      Let’s see if he can follow all five steps. We shouldn’t blame him if he cannot he might have ADHD or some other brain impairment that isn’t his fault.

  4. Ethanol, DDT, forcing bank to lower underwriting requirements for home loans, public “education”, “If you like your policy you can keep your policy. Period”, massive tax increases as “austerity” – the list is endless of the number of central planning’s failures due to “unintended consequences.”

    What was that popular definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

  5. Adding corn Ethanol to gasoline reduces gas mileage, increases the price of food and transportation, is unprofitable without government subsidies, creates more greenhouse gases in its manufacture than unadulterated gasoline, and can damage older engines. Just a terrible idea, all around, except for farmers. Note: I am not criticizing farmers, they are doing the rational thing and taking care of their families but I agree with our hostess: “I’m sure there is a better way to support U.S. agriculture that is beneficial both to the farmers as well as to the world food supply, without unnecessarily raping the environment.”

  6. “The EPA could revisit its model and see whether ethanol is actually as good for the environment as officials predicted. But the agency says it doesn’t have the money or the manpower.”
    And so it very likely, almost certainly, did not have the manpower to fully investigate at the time when it was enacted either.

    • But they still keep pumping out 6,000 (on avg) regulations every month. They have the manpower for new regulations, but none to investigate/research how destructive/disruptive their old regs were…

      The Fed Govt is really over the top and out of control.

  7. Judith -

    The rationale for corn ethanol was to ‘prime the system’ for cellulosic ethanol that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

    Do you really not know that the rationale behind policies mandating ethanol was not as simple as you state? Why would you write a post on this topic without doing basic research on the topic?

    • “Why would you write a post on this topic without doing basic research on the topic?”

      Josh, That’s a very good question. I wrote a massive tome on the topic of oil depletion and I barely scratched the surface on ethanol.

      http://www.ag.ndsu.edu/energy/biofuels/energy-briefs/history-of-ethanol-production-and-policy
      “Today’s ethanol industry began in the 1970s when petroleum-based fuel became expensive and environmental concerns involving leaded gasoline created a need for an octane. Corn became the predominant feedstock for ethanol production because of its abundance and ease of transformation into alcohol. Federal and state subsidies for ethanol helped keep the fuel in production when ethanol prices fell with crude oil and gasoline prices in the early 1980s. This also helped spawn the “Minnesota Model” for ethanol production, in which farmers began producing ethanol to add value to their corn (Bevill, 2008). The Minnesota Model was an agreement between local public and private parties who work to keep profits in the community by providing jobs (and the economic benefits associated with population) and adding value to agricultural products while strengthening rural communities. Ethanol’s use as an oxygenate to control carbon monoxide emissions, encouraged increased production of the fuel through the decade and into the 1990s.”

      Ethanol got its start not from AGW but from concerns over where we were going to get our future liquid fuels from and also from concerns that we don’t continue to poison our children’s brains with high concentrations of lead.

      Both of these were valid concerns at the time and both of these are still valid. Fortunately we have stopped the lead madness.

    • http://www.leadfreewheels.org/

      yes we are stopping the lead madness wherever it pops up

      http://www.epa.gov/osw/hazard/wastemin/nlfwwi.htm

      How were supposed to guess beforehand that lead wheel weights would fall off on to the road and get ground to dust?

    • “Why would you write a post on this topic without doing basic research on the topic?”

      Because as we all know she’s the devil incarnate. Since we all know and accept that now thanks to you and your endless pummeling of the woman, you can now give it a rest.

    • Not woman, lady. Without doubt better mannered than some commenters here.

    • “lady”

      You’re right, John. Far better word choice.
      Write in haste, repent at leisure.

    • I’m sure Judith has her big-boy-pants on.

    • “big boy pants”

      I’m pretty certain Joshua’s endless personal bashing don’t affect Judith in the least, no matter how gratuitously nasty. The one who needs another item of apparel is Joshua. I suggest a straightjacket.

    • The question “What are we going to do with all this corn?”

      Might help in understanding the corn to ethanol debate.

      Farmers whose land will grow corn, will grow corn.

      I haven’t been to the corner of Staley road and Bloomington road in Champaign county Illinois in a while, but I bet the corn isn’t piled up on the ground anymore. And you can thank corn to ethanol for that. The corn storage facility is one of the largest in the world, and if I recall correctly it can hold 25 million bushels of corn, or thereabouts.

      It is about manufacturing demand for corn as much as any other factors.

    • On this blog there’s a troll. He’s called Josh.
      He spends his time serving up tosh.
      He thinks he’s a wizard,
      He’s more like a like a lizard,
      Resembling a gecko, by gosh!

      Live well and prosper,

      Mike Flynn.

    • Amen, brother.

    • There is one rationale behind ethanol not yet mentioned – it buys votes from the mid-west. Democrats will enable farmers to grow all the corn possible, no matter the environmental damage. That much is obvious to even the most casual observer. I dare say not even Republicans would cut off the ethanol mandate.

    • Corn-belt senators of both parties opposed ending corn subsidies. Currently, the core group opposing ethanol mandates is full of democrats. In the corn belt, republicans have more to lose than democrats.

    • So, which two Democrats are in favor of eliminating mandates?

    • I dare say not even Republicans would cut off the ethanol mandate.

      Please. The “rationale” for ethanol is completely bipartisan.
      Has been for a long time. Your rhetoric of “not even Republicans…” reflects a false narrative, as it fails to reflect the leading role of Republicans in ethanol policy development and implementation.

      Judith’s post fails to recognize that Bush’s primary stated rationale was energy independence. This is a simple matter of historical record,. If Judith had bothered to take the time to look it up before offering up a yet another same ol same ol simplistic red meat post she might not have made such an obvious error.

      This kind of tribalistic treatment of a complex problem cannot conceivably promote learning from the “suboptimal” so as to foster the development of better future policies.

    • There is one rationale behind ethanol not yet mentioned – it buys votes from the mid-west.

      Of course that is a rationale. An unstated but obvious rationale.

      That Judith would ignore that rationale (and the fact that it is bi-partisan and has absolutely nothing to do with what she stated as “the” rationale), shows how when she’s not focusing on the science of climate change she fails to uphold the principles of valid scientific inquiry.

      Which is why she’s an “activist,” whether she wants to admit it or not. Nothing wrong with activism, IMO, although her “stealth” form of activism is suboptimal.

    • Some history.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_Independence_and_Security_Act_of_2007

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twenty_in_Ten

      What Joshua misses.

      “The rationale for corn ethanol was to ‘prime the system’ for cellulosic ethanol that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

      Bushes rational was to increase energy independence via renewables.
      The rational for CORN ethanol was to prime the pump for Cellosic
      ethanol. That’s pretty clear.

      The two really are not in conflict but joshua has to see them as being in conflict. its his bias.

    • So, you agree with raping the land. Cool.

    • Yeah. Raping the land. Starving children (preferably poor children), And stealing from “producers.”

      Yup. That is exactly what I “agree with.”

    • Joshua,

      I agree with on at least one thing. If you are going to indulge in a spot of child starving, it’s so much easier with poor children.

      Those rich kids just keep eating. They positively refuse to starve, the rotten little swines!

      Live well and prosper,

      Mike Flynn

    • Perhaps she was not referring to the ancient history (1970′s and 80′s) of ethanol but to the more recent federal mandates that have caused the problem the article is discussing??

    • Was this article about the rationale for subsidization of corn ethanol production or the irrationality of continuing it?

      It’s my understanding neither ethanol nor MTBE were necessary replacements for tetraethyl lead. ‘Super’ grade gasoline can be produced in the refining process, but Congress mandated an oxygenate additive. It was state mandates against MTBE that gave the big push for ethanol production.

  8. I’m sure there is a better way to support U.S. agriculture that is beneficial both to the farmers as well as to the world food supply

    Remove the subsidies.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agricultural_subsidy

    http://www.worldenergyoutlook.org/resources/energysubsidies/

    • A little birdie told me 30 years ago that ethanol for fuel would never make it without subsidies. He didn’t imagine that it would need mandates, too.
      =========

    • Not only do you have subsidies but the billionaires have ensured the legislature now provides subsidies in secret.

      http://go.bloomberg.com/political-capital/2013-11-07/billionaires-getting-farm-payments-maybe/

    • Tomas Milanovic

      The subsidy argument is actually irrelevant. All is just a matter of timing.
      If one agrees that the trend in crude oil prices is strictly positive (but with unknown slope) then there is necessarily a point in the future where the curve of the price of classical gazoline cuts the curve of the price of EtOH fuel.

      At this point ETOH will start to substitute the classical gazoline irreversibly and spontaneously. No subsidies needed.

  9. While ground transportation can be moved to batteries or perhaps natural gas or even hydrogen, the future need for liquid fuels would still persist for aircraft as far as I know. They consume a small percentage of total liquid fuels, but I think their post-oil future will have to be biofuels, and perhaps that will become a smaller specialized market in a future world with no fossil fuels.

    • Jim D, you don’t need aircraft, as a socialist, you can fly on a Persian carpet or a broomstick

    • Aussie rules are in order, StefanFromOz making up for Chief’s absence.

    • Telescope, you are now an honorary Australian, congratulation!

    • “While ground transportation can be moved to batteries or perhaps natural gas or even hydrogen, the future need for liquid fuels would still persist for aircraft as far as I know. They consume a small percentage of total liquid fuels, but I think their post-oil future will have to be biofuels, and perhaps that will become a smaller specialized market in a future world with no fossil fuels.”

      Ground transportation can move to natural gas and there is no shortage of natural gas. No shortage natural gas for transportation, though shortage conceivable shortage of natural gas if it is sole source of all human energy needs.
      Since we probably don’t want nuclear ground transportation, best to use nuclear energy for electrical power plants.

      “Worldwide, there were 14.8 million natural gas vehicles by 2011, led by Iran with 2.86 million, Pakistan (2.85 million), Argentina (2.07 million), Brazil (1.7 million) and India (1.1 million) with the Asia-Pacific region leading with 5.7 million NGVs, followed by Latin America with almost four million vehicles”
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compressed_natural_gas
      Hybrid cars in world:
      United States 2,180,000
      Japan 1,500,000
      Europe 450,000
      World Wide Sales 4,500,000

      Who smarter, Latin America or US?
      Latin America will not have footballs fields filled with dead batteries..

  10. ethanol is for drinking, not for fuel; jerrycan for the drivers. The regular commentators must be consuming too much ethanol, reason they behave as zombies – keep repeating lots of crap

  11. I couldn’t agree with your comments more Judith. Whilst I would not be surprised at all if corn based ethanol was more of a problem than a solution, there seem to be a lot of assertions in this that need the acid test of proper studies. For example is the “dead zone” really increasing due to the extra pollution form corn based ethanol.

    Many many years ago, I coined the phrase ” there’s no such thing as an environmental free lunch” and everything I have seen since that time proves the point.

    There are no quick fixes to these problems beyond the obvious low hanging fruit (walk more, cycle more, find ways to use electricity less etc). Everything else that has been tried ends up creating new problems.

    Urgent, ill-considered action is precisely what we could without.

  12. Does anybody know what they mean “conservation” land? Conserved by what?

    Conservation easements are usually in perpetuity, so it cannot be that.

    • Part of the farm subsidy program was to pay for fallow land in order to conserve that private land. With corn prices farmers could make more than the subsidy. It was called the conservation reserve program.

    • Okay, we have land in CRP. It’s not Yellowstone. In the past we have been given permission to cut it for hay and to pasture it. CRP is periodic. It’s not conserved forever, which is sort of implied by the article. Through the years there have been a lots of those programs. When I was a kid they called it soil bank.

      We also have land in a conservation easement. They allow selective tree cutting, but crop harvesting and grazing are strictly prohibited by the agreement. Motorized vehicles are prohibited.

    • JCH right, so it is “conservation” land but the article is a little misleading, but not crazy.

    • David Springer

      You know very little about farming in the US if you don’t know about the Conservation Reserve Program which is a federal program signed into law by President Reagan almost 30 years ago. It currently pays farmers to leave about 30 million acres fallow which is the lowest it’s ever been except for the first few years of the program. Enrollment contracts are generally 10-15 years. Federal law places a cap on total acres that can be enrolled. The point made here is the federal government reducing how much land the conservation program can set aside.


  13. Nitrogen fertilizer, when it seeps into the water, is toxic. Children are especially susceptible to nitrate poisoning, which causes “blue baby” syndrome and can be deadly.
    [ ... ]
    The Des Moines Water Works, for instance, has posted high nitrate levels for many years in the Des Moines and Raccoon rivers, which supply drinking water to 500,000 people. Typically, when pollution is too high in one river, workers draw from the other.

    “This year, unfortunately the nitrate levels in both rivers were so high that it created an impossibility for us,” said Bill Stowe, the water service’s general manager.

    A bit of a scare here. In fact, the water supplied by the Des Moines Water Works is fine.

    Through extensive and expensive water treatment, Des Moines Water Works’ finished drinking water is currently under the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) maximum contaminant level (MCL) of 10 milligrams per liter (mg/l) and is safe for drinking.

    http://www.dmww.com/about-us/announcements/historic-nitrate-levels-in-des-moines-water-works-source-water.aspx

    High levels of Nitrogen in the source water is expensive to remove but is not a current health risk to babies or anyone else. But it is another cost that triggered by the central planners and paid by us.

  14. JC wrote, “The unintended consequences associated with corn ethanol makes this a classic case whereby the ‘cure’ is ineffective and worse than the ‘disease’ at which it is targeted.”

    Unintended perhaps. Unpredicted, no.

  15. I think I mentioned before that gasohol ruined my weed eater.

    But moving on, I’m sure there are many ironies to found under this steaming pile of socialist unintended consequences.

    One I find particularly poignant is the damage to the Gulf of Mexico by nitrates due to ethanol production. This has been studied for years. Contrast that to the British Petroleum Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The damages from that were determined by much hand waving with a goodly dash of hand wringing. In spite of the scanty evidence of damage to sea life, BP have ponied up billions to help out affected communities.

    How much money will Big Ag and the farmers donate to help out the Gulf? Will the socialists pitch in to help? (And yes, there have been initiatives from both sides of the isle that would make Marx proud.)

    Not holding my breath.

  16. Corn ethanol – another Bush boondoggle. Economists are still working out the cost of 15% ethanol on marine engines. Some estimates indicate the damage to O2 sensors in outboard motors to be in excess of a billion dollars. Warranties have been shortened and even safety has been compromised because many of boater has been caught offshore with malfunctioning engines due to the extreme hydroscopic nature of ethanol.

    • Don’t worry about that, methanol is going to be far worse and when large quantities of hydrogen gas are released into the upper atmosphere there is going to be all sorts of fun with ozone, hydroxyl radical and NOx levels.
      But ethanol, methanol and hydrogen are all ‘Green fuels’.

  17. Corn ethanol is an example, though certainly not the only one, of the power that environmentalism and politics has over logic and technical knowledge.

    As Speed said, this was predictable and predicted.

  18. Ethanol from waste is a chimera. The only processes breaking even are the ones using the highest quality feedstocks, sugar and starch.

    • We don’t know whether the making of cellulose ethanol is profitable or not. We wont know until next year.

    • David Springer

      True. But biofuel from genetically engineered organisms is doing better than break-even due to high cost of crude oil. Genetic engineering (a.k.a. synthetic biology) is in its infancy with vast room from improvement. Arable land and potable water are not needed for synthetic organisms. They need sunlight, air, brackish water and land that is amenable getting transport vehicle lanes to and through it. The Texas panhandle for instance is ideal and just a tenth of it can produce all the liquid fuel the United States currently consumes at yield/acre currently achieved in pilot plants. Undoubtedly this is the future for transportation fuel production unless there’s some huge breakthrough that makes cheap fusion power plants the size of an auto-engine possible and I wouldn’t hold my breath for that. Otherwise biofuel from synthetic organisms is only a matter of time. The more expensive fossil fuels become the greater the impetus to displace them with renewables like these:

      http://joulefuels.com/

      Watch the video. Check out the industry and academic heavyweights on the board. World class. It’s privately held. Audi is a big financial partner in it.

  19. Put corn ethanol aside for a while. Palm oil production, not global warming, in Indonesia and Malaysia is going to make large mammals extinct
    The amount of loss of habitat is asonishing

    http://news.mongabay.com/2011/0307-koh_palm_oil.html

    Among the species who will become extinct in their natural environment are

    The Sumatran Tiger
    http://world.time.com/2013/10/31/palm-oil-is-killing-the-sumatran-tiger/

    The Orangutan
    http://www.orangutans-sos.org/campaigns/palm_oil_and_biofuels

    The people responsible for the destruction of these unique habitats, and these species they contain, should be charged with ecocide and hung.

  20. Tsk! The dead hand of guvuhmint Jest when we
    were gettin’ somewhere. See Matt Ridley’s
    ‘The Rational Optimist’ concernin’ the mad, mad
    world of biofuels in a world where species are
    vanishing and more than a billion people do not
    have enough to eat. He goes through the numbers
    in Chapter 7. Tsk again!
    ( Ch 6 is entitled ‘Escaping Malthus’s Trap.)

    Bts

  21. Let’s beat our ethanol plants into small nuclear plants!

  22. justsomeguy31167

    Judith-

    Simplistic and wrong. Below your standard. Are you getting big oil money now?

    Corn ethanol is no longer subsidized, nor is it primary, sugarcane ethanol is the future and the current and the economics and ecological implications are different. They are much different for the nascent cellulosic industry which this may kill. Why not make ethanol from corn stover?

    Corn seed ethanol is local, and not imported, and that is a real driver. More foreign oil or a bit more corn ethanol.

    Finally, the “scars” in the article are simply not scars they are old cropland that was taken out of production in the CRP program because the government PAID farmers to take it out of production, not for any other reason. Free market to put it back into production when it helps keeps us from foreign oil, and allows greater farm incomes, and lower tax spend.

    Facts, try them sometime.

    • Recently retired Maryland Republican Congressman Roscoe Bartlett, PhD is a good example of being pragmatic when it comes to dealing with fossil fuel issues — http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2013/11/07/2862781/tea-party-gore/ reports:


      As he sees it, there are three groups with a common cause in the debate over fossil fuels and they are wasting time arguing unnecessarily with one another.

      First are the “climate-change-global-warming-Al-Gore” types that maintain drastic greenhouse gas reductions are necessary in order to prevent human-caused climate change and all the associated negative impacts.

      Second is the group that believes fossil fuels are finite and that we need to move to alternatives before it’s too late and the transition becomes more costly and painful.

      And third is the group that is concerned with national security and the fact that being a huge importer of oil puts America at the mercy of oil-producing countries.

      Ethanol plus all the other alternative liquid fuels represent our experiments with how we will deal with the enduring problem of depleting finite and non-renewable fossil fuels. None of these approaches has been completely successful because they are all being compared to the cheapest, most easily processed, and most energy dense liquid fuel known in the history of mankind — high-grade crude oil. Nothing compares to the remarkable properties of that fuel … and that remains our challenge.

  23. As a retired and skeptic Australian farmer, the American corn ethanol project was lunacy at it’s best as originally promoted by the warmists.

    There have been numerous studies done that show that when the entire system of fertilizer and chemical manufacture, transport, machinery building and infrastructure construction and processing, everything that goes to making up an agricultural industry are taken into account, the so called reduced CO2 emissions of Corn ethanol are actually negative.
    There are more emissions from the total Corn Ethanol production sequence and use as an alternative and additive to fossil fuels than if ordinary fossil originated fuels were just used to do the job.
    And thats without the environmental damage and extra cost of foods to the consumer

    All exacerbated by the fact that ethanol can’t be shipped in bulk carriers from one nation to another or for any length of time as it is very hygroscopic and takes up water like there is no tomorrow.
    So when bulk shipped it has to be re-refined at it’s destination to again make it a useable product, hence little or no international trade in ethanol.

    The Americans have found that like so many of these renewable energy schemes as the Europeans are now realising, create entire new industries based entirely on the assumptions that massive public money subsidies will continue ad infinitum to underpin their gross inefficiencies, inherent inefficiencies that will never enable those industries to make a profit in a non subsidized market oriented competitive economic environment.
    And those public subsidy relianat industries once established go to great and often very corrupting lengths to see that they remain on the public teat and cannot be down graded or dispensed with.
    To protect their entirely subsidy reliant profits those renewable energy industries are now replete with massive lobbying organisations geared entirely,ie ; corn ethanol as an example, one of many, towards protecting the entirely subsidy reliant profitability of the renewable energy industries.
    And with that goes the corruption of the political establishment on an increasing scale , followed by the increasing reduction in the strictures placed on any industry so as to fill the public interest requirements.
    Such as the allowing of the turning over of conservation areas to, in this case, corn growing for ethanol production.

    Roughly a billion dollars a day are being spent of public money world wide in climate warming research but most of it on subsidies to the renewable energy industries and for what?
    The pauperising of the poor and low paid who can no longer afford the increasingly escalating energy prices, the destruction of industry and employment across Europe and other nations with it’s energy prices three times higher than the USA, which with it’s fracking technology and the consequent immense supplies of cheap fracked oil and gas leading to a world ranking low priced energy regime and a lift in it’s economy.

    No detectable or measurable reduction in CO2 emissions arising from the imposition of the renewable energy industries on the populace and consequently no need at all for any of this gross distortion of economies, of industries, of the political processes and of employment levels and of immense wealth transfers from the poor to the rich as global temperatures are stable for the last 16 years.
    Nor is there is any evidence of any sort that all the suffering and distortion created by the creation and imposition on society by the warmists and it’s running dogs in the political and media industries of the massively subsidised renewable energy industries making the slightest difference what so ever to the trends of the global climate.

    As has been said elsewhere, renewable energy is the fastest way seen of taking wealth from the poor and giving it to the rich.
    Corn ethanol is a classic example of this meme.

    • justsomeguy31167

      ROM-

      Those are studies done by greenies, who hate all energy. The true numbers differ. Do you know how much corn is produced per acre in the United States? 5-6 TONS per acre. Yes, over 10,000 lbs of corn per acre in the best land. Over 4 tons per acre on marginal land.

      Sorry kids, but aint know way the inputs per acre outweigh or are worse for the environment than the outputs.

      http://www.iowacorn.org/en/corn_use_education/faq/

      http://wiki.answers.com/Q/How_many_tons_of_corn_can_you_get_from_an_acre_of_corn#slide1

    • I’m very aware of and have seen for myself the incredible tonnages of corn that American farmers and their plant breeders can and have achieve in corn yields.

      Some years ago a couple of american land grant universities carried out some analysis of energy inputs to the production of a crop. wheat in this case, including the energy required to mine the ores, smelt them and create the farm machinery, The same analysis on chemicals and fertilizers and all other inputs to a wheat crop.
      The outcomes were that the amount of energy that was useable in that crop was about equal to the amount of energy that went into creating the entire sequence required to grow that crop and the inputs required to grow that crop.

      Theoretically mankind could bypass agriculture for our food if we could just convert energy straight into food by some more efficient method and we would use a lot less energy as a consequence.
      .
      But it’s a bit hard to change a couple of hundred thousand or maybe a few million years old year human culture where your food always comes from the land in one way or another.

      And I’ve been an uneducated farmer who has had the privilege of being mixed up in Ag science and state and regional Ag politics for most of my working life of 50 or more years.
      Agriculture has been my life and my passion.

    • ROM,

      +1

  24. justsomeguy31167

    The true driver for this now is the oil companies knowing cellulosic ethanol is a significant business risk for them. It is a win-win for the country as it is local cheap energy, but that scares the crap out of big oil.

    There best path is to kill ethanol before the risk emerges.

    • I do not believe big oil has any fear of cellulosic ethanol. They would just buy it. Like they have fracking.

    • Why not blame the Illuminati or Jews or the Tea Party for a change?

    • justsomeguy31167

      Why not add to the discourse. I do not believe big oil has damaged the planet or is a problem generally, that said, like any good American monopolist they will protect their industry at all costs. It is good business.

      Poor assumptions on your part, apology accepte.

    • If current coal-fired generating technology could be converted to use carbonized bio-waste, I doubt cellulosic ethanol would be viable. I haven’t done the analysis, but depending on the impact of EPA regulations wrt CO2 emissions from coal, the addition of carbon originally taken from the atmosphere might be able to keep some power plants going. If so, I suspect this would be a more cost-effective use of cellulosic bio-waste than a second conversion step to ethanlol.

      Does anybody happen to know whether the EPA regulations take account of the source of carbon for coal-fired power? And if they don’t, has anybody asked the Obama administration why not? If not, why not?

    • AK, “If current coal-fired generating technology could be converted to use carbonized bio-waste, I doubt cellulosic ethanol would be viable. ”

      They generally just call it “liquid” fuels since you can get about whatever you like. The new EPA regulations don’t kill coal in any gasification process, but the stigma of “COAL” does.

      Who in their right mind is going to invest in any project that involves coal with an idiot president who says, “they can build coal, but we will bankrupt them” Sometimes you just let the idiots get their come comeuppance and then always remember to keep it handy to rub in their noses.

    • @captdallas…

      I was talking about using current coal-fired plants burning carbonized bio-waste, or a mix of carbonized bio-waste and coal. If you don’t count the carbon in the bio-waste as contributing to the emissions, which is perfectly fair since it came from the air in the first place, the net emissions (that do count) can be reduced as much as necessary according to the mixture.

    • AK sorry, that is kind of a weird situation. The UK is importing wood pellets to reduce the carbon footprint of their coal plants which is ridiculous in my opinion, but not using Municipal Solid Waste because the temperature of “normal” coal firing isn’t supposedly high enough to completely sanitize the bio-waste. Then the coal plant has to have very efficient scrubbers to compensate. There are quite a few smaller mixed fuel/biomass power plants mainly for steam, which fall under another regulatory category.

      Total Mercury appears to be the current real limit which stops the use of mixed coal/biomass in the US since biomass Mercury levels can be just as high as coal. Oddly, dedicated biomass operations could end up putting out more Mercury per kW than coal, though on a much smaller scale. The whole thing is what I consider a cluster pluck.

    • There are also cases where mixed coal and solid waste is not allowed because coal does not satisfy the more stringent limits set for burning solid waste.

    • Pekka, “There are also cases where mixed coal and solid waste is not allowed because coal does not satisfy the more stringent limits set for burning solid waste.”

      Right and that might be the reason plasma gasification hasn’t taken off even though it appears to meet just about every requirement. I looks like a no brainer to me for larger cities that are paying to have their trash shipped hundreds of miles to landfills in other states. NYC actually ships part of their garbage by rail to South Carolina.

    • Well, in that case, since biomass is one of the key “renewable” sources of energy, perhaps somebody should be concentrating on developing cheap mercury scrubbers.

      For the record, I checked on accumulation of mercury and other toxic metals by Azolla (one of my hobbyhorses). It appears to be so good at mercury uptake as to be potentially useful for bioremediation (see also here). Of course, it might be pretty cheap to grow it in low-mercury water.

    • 10 or 15 years ago, the city of Tacoma was running a small power plant that had been converted to burn a mixture of pulverized coal, hog fuel (lumber waste that was too low quality to make paper from) and RDF (refuse derived fuel, basically the lightweight plastic and paper shreds from garbage that would rise up and over in an air separator) in a fluidized bed combustor. Eventually, they had to shut it down due to a lawsuit based on some group (Greenpeace?) remotely analyzing stack gas with some sort of IR analyzer, and finding unburnt hydrocarbons.

      I have no idea where this fluidized bed combustion technology is now, but it’s possible that with the right combination of dry fuels, this might be a way to get a biosolids stream into a power plant.

      The primary objective of the Tacoma plant wasn’t to burn biowaste or coal, it was to reduce the landfilling of refuse. The coal was added not for cost reasons, but because you needed a certain energy density to keep the temperature up. It’s possible that this could be repurposed for biowaste combustion, but again, I don’t know what’s going on with the technology. The company that provided the technology might not even be in business anymore.

    • Harold, yeah, the fluidized bed is a nice basic incinerator application which requires selective (non-human) biomass sources. Coal or natgas provide a more reliable control. Plasma gasification is a few rungs up the ladder with temperatures in 5500C range where non-organics are actually reduced to vitrified glass.

      The tricky part with all gasification is when it is used to produce liquid fuels. That is commonly a Fischer-Trope process which works but has a lower than desired efficiency. Now there is a new “nano-cataylist” that may make F-T highly efficient. http://www.nanowerk.com/news2/newsid=29439.php

      Who knows what will win, but it is fun to watch.

  25. Can’t push on a rope.

  26. Just scrap agricultural subsidies. I’m astonished that Americans, who generally understand how markets work, seem to have this blind spot when it comes to applying the principle to agriculture.

    Agricultural subsidies are an addiction – and just like a drug addiction you need more and more to have an effect. The first thing that happens when you add an extra agricultural subsidy is that the price of land immediately rises to reflect the increased potential profitability of farming. Those holding land make out liike bandits and the sensible ones cash up and go buy a boat leaving the next generation of farmers sadled with much higher debt. Before you know it you are back where you started with farming being no more profitable than it was before. In the meantime the distorting effect of the subsidies has really ugly side effects as the real signals that markets try to send to farmers get completely obliterated by the subsidy.

    Get rid of the subsidies and the price of agricultural land will fall to a level reflrecting the actual profitability of farming. Market processes start to work properly and you end up with a much more efficient and responsive agricultural sector.

    Just like withdrawing from drugs, cutting subsidies hurts in the short term. Go cold turkey and some farmers and agribusinesses are likely to go to the wall as the value of their land falls and they cannot make mortgage repayments. Taking it slow really just stretches out the pain. The problem is that the subsidy saddles the sector with debt for the money used to buy those boats for retired farmers. That money cannot be recovered into the sector.

    Once you navigate the pain however there is no doubt that cutting subsidies works. Look at the New Zealand experience for a real example. You end up with an efficient profitable and healthy agricultural sector and you don’t have to keep draining money out of the rest of the economy to prop it up.

    • justsomeguy31167

      Posts by a bunch of folks who do not live in farm country in America.

      Land prices are driven by grain prices which determine profitability. The “base” price that the government guarantees is well below the current price. Farm land prices are down this year as grain prices are down by about 30%.

      So what subsidies are out there? Stuff like the article does not understand – things like paying farmers not to produce on CRP land. So the article wants these subsidies kept and this land not used for production, or do the posters want this land brought back into production?

      Seems most of you folks dont even know which side of the argument you are on.

    • Pretty much hit it on the head. One of the problems I do have though is some of the bigger land trusts. They get so complicated it is hard to tell what the heck they are doing other than getting subsidies.

    • ++ & -
      Subsidies as policy make little sense.
      Protecting natural resources – agronomicly marginal soils, for example – deserves support and close scrutiny.

    • “Just scrap agricultural subsidies. I’m astonished that Americans, who generally understand how markets work, seem to have this blind spot when it comes to applying the principle to agriculture.”

      Not surprising if you understand the sequence of American national elections.

    • justsomeguy31167

      Actually, farm subsidies and the ag bill are not widely discussed in Iowa primaries as folks understand Iowa is less significant in the general and thus promises are unlikely to be kept.

      I have seen almost every candidate come give a very general stump speech – which is about all handlers allow them to say.

    • Btw, you don’t have to get rid of the subsidy, just get rid of the Federal subsidy- if individual States think it’s good idea, then the individual State pay the subsidy.

    • justsomeguy31167

      Food security is at least as important as energy security to our exsistence as a nation.

    • +
      Federalism at work.

  27. justsomeguy31167

    More facts:

    One rationale for ethanol production in the U.S. is increased energy security, from shifting supply from oil imports to domestic sources.[31][65] Ethanol production requires significant energy, and current U.S. production derives most of that energy from domestic coal, natural gas and other non-oil sources.[66] Because in 2006, 66% of U.S. oil consumption was imported, compared to a net surplus of coal and just 16% of natural gas (2006 figures),[67] the displacement of oil-based fuels to ethanol produced a net shift from foreign to domestic U.S. energy sources.

    According to a 2008 analysis by Iowa State University, the growth in U.S. ethanol fuel production caused retail gasoline prices to be 29–40 cents per gallon lower than would otherwise have been the case.[68] The U.S. consumed 138.2×109 US gal (523×106 m3) of gasoline in 2008, blended with about 9.6×109 US gal (36×106 m3) of ethanol, representing a market share of almost 7% of supply by volume. Given its lower energy content, ethanol fuel displaced about 6.4×109 US gal (24×106 m3) of gasoline, representing 4.6 percent in equivalent energy units.[15]

  28. Judith Curry

    The US corn ethanol project has been a loser to date, as pointed out.

    You comment:

    The unintended consequences associated with corn ethanol makes this a classic case whereby the ‘cure’ is ineffective and worse than the ‘disease’ at which it is targeted.

    But there is another aspect: the amount of total arable crop land available to feed a growing human population.

    The record shows that this has not been a constraining factor in the past:

    Overall yield of major food crops increased 2.4x from 1970 to 2010, while population increased 1.9x.

    A part of this has arguably been the result of higher CO2 concentrations (some studies have estimated that plant growth has increased by 15% as a result of the 20% increase in atmospheric CO2 since 1970).

    But, as the failed US experience with the mandated and highly subsidized corn ethanol program has shown, this has negative side effects on overall farmland utilization and corn prices worldwide.

    In the USA today, ethanol is mandated to up to 10% of gasoline motor fuel; 13 billion gallons/year ethanol are replacing 10 billon gallons/year octane equivalent gasoline (out of a total consumption of around 140 billion gallons/year).

    Let’s assume that US motor fuel demand will grow with population to 260 billion gallons/year by 2100.
    140*570/315 ~ 260

    And let’s assume that 30% of this is covered by ethanol. This would require around 100 billion gallons/year of ethanol, replacing 83 billion gallons of octane equivalent and resulting in a net cumulative reduction of around 13 Gt octane equivalent, which generate 40 GtCO2, by 2100. Assuming half of this “stays” in the atmosphere this would result in a net reduction in atmospheric CO2 of around 3 ppmv.

    Using IPCC’s mean (2xCO2) ECS of 3°C, this would result in a theoretical reduction in global temperature by 2100 of around 0.03°C.

    So ethanol as a bio-fuel is not going to save the day.

    But how much crop land would be needed to supply the ethanol required by 2100 just in the USA?

    Corn yield is around 150 bushels/acre. This equals around 1.3 tons ethanol per acre, which replaces 1.0 tons octane equivalent gasoline. So the ethanol required to replace 30% of the 2100 gasoline demand would require around 224 million acres of farmland.

    The total agricultural crop land surface area in the US is around 430 million acres, so this would require over half of all the crop land (assuming corn could be grown everywhere).

    So if we use up half of the US crop land we can achieve a theoretical temperature reduction of around 0.03°C.

    Sounds like a bummer to me.

    Max

    PS Sugar cane ethanol yields per acre are around twice as high as those from corn (but sugar cane does not grow in most of the US).

    • justsomeguy31167

      wE ACTUALLY COULD HAVE A PRETTY SIGNIFICANT SUGARCANE AG ECONOMY, BUT IT WOULD REQUIRE USING fLORIDA AND SOUTHERN WETLANDS WHICH THE GOVERNMENT WILL NEVER ALLOW.

    • Texas used to raise a large amount of sugarcane. That’s why they call it Sugar Land.

    • Manacker,

      Wow. Your simple but clear analysis shows that ethanol (and by extension all biofuels) can make a negligible contribution to replacing fossil fuels and negligible contribution to cutting global GHG emissions.

      This makes it really clear:

      So the ethanol required to replace 30% of the 2100 gasoline demand would require around 224 million acres (1 km^2) of farmland.

      The total agricultural crop land surface area in the US is around 430 million acres, so this would require over half of all the crop land (assuming corn could be grown everywhere).

      So half USA’s crop land to produce 30% of its fuel in 2100. Wow! Surely that should get through to anyone who isn’t obstinately innumerate.

      To understand the alternative that is being deferred by all the muddleheaded thinking about renewables, bio fuels, energy efficiency etc., nuclear power could provide almost all the world’s energy in 2100, 2200,2300, 2400, 2500, …. (use including transport fuels). It could do so no matter what the population grows to and no matter what the energy intensity. It could do so with no GHG emissions, no, black carbon, little mining, little transport of the nuclear fuels, environmentally benign and far safer than any other alternative.

  29. justsomeguy31167

    ETHANOL FROM CORN SEED PRODUCES BETWEEN 321-434 GALLONS OF ETHANOL PER ACRE OF CORN SEED (NOT INCLUDING CELULOSIC FROM STOVER).

  30. President Carter’s crisis of confidence speach:
    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/primary-resources/carter-crisis/
    He talked about getting energy. One source was from gasohol. In the current context his speech is worth looking at. He was also was promoting coal. He was dealing with the energy crisis.

    • One of the problems is Hansen’s “Synfuels” on his first “projection”. Celulose ethanol can be a “synfuel” or a “alternate” fuel depending on the production and feed stock. Some of the viable “synfuel” processes use a variety of feed stocks including general garbage to make the process cost effective. They get paid to pick up part of their fuel, trash. Since “synfuels” have a bad reputation, they try to create nifty names like “engineered” fuels.

      Then when a plant tries to start up, they can get pigeonholed by the EPA into some death by regulation category. So some of the cellulose ethanol plants actually built and functional can’t afford to go into production. The way that the EPA shooting from the hip apparently on any political whim has most folks just sitting back waiting for someone to get fired, whoever that might be :)

    • There was a solar company named Nanosolar that I thought held great promise. They literally printed solar panel material from large rolls. Much to my surprise, they weren’t viable even though they sold some plants. They ended up selling off plant and equipment.

      Then there is Coskata. Backed by GM, these guys have a process in which they can burn old tires and municipal garbage, feed the gasses thus produced to a bioreactor to make ethanol and supposedly other liquid fuels and chemicals.

      I thought this sounded great. Finally, something good to do with old tires and garbage. But then, out of the blue, they say they’ve decided to use nat gas as a feedstock! WUWT???

      http://www.biofuelsdigest.com/bdigest/2013/07/16/coskata-shelves-ipo-for-second-time/

      So, I’m sceptical of most of these “alternative” energy companies.

    • Jim2, Yeah, NanoSolar looked like they had a good niche until they got sucked into the “:utility: scale products.

      http://www.waste-management-world.com/articles/print/volume-10/issue-4/features/plasma-gasification-clean-renewable-fuel-through-vaporization-of-waste.html

      That is not sexy but it has so many co benefits it is something that will find a home once some sanity comes to regulation. That can combine with kraft process black liquor ethanol to remove sulfur btw.

    • Y’know, it might be cost-effective to use concentrated solar power instead of electrically heated plasma for high-temp gasification. Aluminized plastic for the concentrators would be very cheap, compared to PV. It would depend on availability of materials for transferring the heat to the gasification process. Maybe a thermocouple system?

    • AK, You are probably right. You can use just about any form of energy/feedstock which might be the problem getting approval, since there are taboo sources even though the process removes most of the taboo elements.

    • Capn, synfuels have a bad rap since the Nazis.

      #Godwin!

    • bill_c, I thought it was the SIN fuels :)

    • Capn, synfuels have a bad rap since the Nazis.

      AFAIK synfuels, containing carbon monoxide, were piped to homes and small businesses at one time for light and heat. Given the tendency of small-scale distribution to spring leaks, it’s no wonder it had a bad rap.

    • you guys are smart enough i guess you’re just being silly ;)

      see wiki entry for Synfuels: History. I swear part of the reason we don’t have more is the Nazi association.

      AK you mean “town gas” right?
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coal_gas

      Here in Pittsburgh we don’t use it for the towns any more but still used in steelmaking since it’s a byproduct of coke-making and I imagine this is done in lots of other places.

    • @bill_c…

      I was actually talking about syngas. According to my father, who was a chemist and chemical engineer (and therefore probably knew), a good deal of gas for heating and light was once water gas, produced by “passing steam over a red-hot carbon fuel such as coke”. I guess I wasn’t distinguishing between syngas and water gas.

    • Synthesis gas is a H2/CO mixture produced by steam reforming either from coal or methane and steam. It can be used as an intermediate product to produce gasoline, naphtha or Diesel (Fischer-Tropsch/SASOL), methanol (catalytic conversion) or higher alcohols (Oxo process).

      Town gas is a mixture of H2, methane, CO and ethylene/ethane. It is produced by destructive distillation of coal (coking process). It was once piped to households primarily for lighting, but has since been replaced by natural gas and electrical power.

  31. We’ll see how Joule Fuels works out. They have already built and run demonstration plants. First up: Ethanol.

    From the article:
    The company has also raised new money to advance its commercial vision. In a statement, Afeyan said Joule is entering “a new phase of demonstration and deployment bolstered by $50 million in newly committed capital” and that the company is starting to move “from late-stage development to global production of renewable fuels and chemicals.”

    Joule, which was founded by Flagship, has developed a system that mimics photosynthesis and uses genetically engineered organisms—fed with sunlight, carbon dioxide, non-potable water, and nutrients—to produce diesel fuel, ethanol, and commodity chemicals. Unlike other biofuel approaches, the process doesn’t require the use of fresh water, food crops, or fermentation, according to the company. If the technology works on a large scale and is economical—yes, some very big ifs—it could make for a viable alternative to fossil fuels.

    That’s the vision, anyway. Joule has been testing its system at sunny facilities in Hobbs, NM, and Leander, TX. It has also opened a subsidiary in the Netherlands called Joule Fuels to focus on production and expects to start building commercial plants next year; the first available product will be ethanol, slated for early 2015.

    http://www.xconomy.com/boston/2013/08/20/joule-raises-50m-more-for-renewable-fuels-gets-new-leadership/

    • expects to start building commercial plants next year

      What does “commercial” mean in this context? Does it mean it can produce fuel that is cost competitive with other fuels without subsidies?

    • Yes. According to the information supplied by the company; the process can produce gasoline and diesel cheaper that those made from petroleum. They use a bio-engineered cyanobacterium. The organism can be configured for ethanol, gasoline, diesel, and other organic compounds.

      The plan is to site the plant near a cement plant or fossil fuel power plant which will supply concentrated CO2. The process is continuous and for the hydrophobic compounds, the product can be centrifuged off continuously. I’m not sure how they separate ethanol in the process loop.

      This has been demonstrated in small plants already. It should scale smoothly.

    • Jim2,

      Thanks. Interesting. Have you seen any authiritative critiques and debate about it?

    • Also, consider that the bulk inputs are CO2, sea or waster water, and sunlight. Of course, there have to be some other nutrients in the mix.

    • Enables industrial CO2 emitters to profit from applying waste streams for lucrative fuel markets

      Advanced Biofuels Leadership Conference – Washington DC – April 15, 2013 – Joule today announced another industry first in renewable fuel production: the direct conversion of waste CO2 into the essential components of gasoline and jet fuel. The breakthrough gives Joule the opportunity to expand its Sunflow™ product line and help address global demand for true hydrocarbon fuel replacements. In addition, the process uses waste CO2 as a feedstock, allowing industrial emitters to produce valuable fuels rather than discard emissions or employ costly measures for capture and sequestration.

      To date, renewable hydrocarbon-based fuel substitutes have required the complex, multi-step conversion of algal or other agricultural biomass feedstocks into fuel pre-cursors, and subsequent chemical upgrading. In contrast, Joule has engineered photosynthetic biocatalysts that convert waste CO2 into hydrocarbons through a patented, continuous process. Joule has been successfully scaling its process for making ethanol (Sunflow-E) while also developing long-chain hydrocarbons for diesel (Sunflow-D). With its latest breakthrough, Joule becomes the first company able to directly produce medium-chain hydrocarbons which are substantial components of gasoline (Sunflow-G) and jet fuel (Sunflow-J).

      “Though many technological paths are being pursued to help supplant fossil fuels, the majority have followed the same direction – beginning with biomass feedstocks and facing the well-known challenges of cost and scale along the way. Joule’s solar technology is bypassing these challenges while converting a waste stream into cost-competitive hydrocarbon fuels, which will have far greater and faster impact than low-percentage blendstocks or transportation alternatives that require major infrastructure overhaul,” said William J. Sims, President and CEO of Joule. “Today’s news marks another significant accomplishment in this regard, enabling production of renewable fuels that can supplant meaningful amounts – not small fractions – of fossil-derived gasoline and jet fuel.”

      Joule’s hydrocarbon fuels have the additional benefit of being inherently sulfur-free. For the diesel and gasoline markets, this gives refiners the ability to meet sulfur content requirements without raising production costs or fuel prices. As just announced on March 29, 2013, the US Environmental Protection Agency is seeking to further reduce the sulfur content of gasoline by more than 60% beginning in 2017, requiring significant capital cost of $10 billion and additional annual operating cost of $2.4 billion for refiners, according to the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM). Instead, Joule Sunflow-G would seamlessly cut sulfur content by comprising a substantial portion of the final product.

      http://www.jouleunlimited.com/news/2013/joule-extends-solar-co2-conversion-platform-produce-renewable-gasoline-and-jet-fuel

    • Jim2,

      Very interesting, but I wonder if the process wouldn’t be cheaper with nuclear power and hydrogen supply instead of photosynthetic.

      the direct conversion of waste CO2 into the essential components of gasoline and jet fuel.

      In addition, the process uses waste CO2 as a feedstock, allowing industrial emitters to produce valuable fuels rather than discard emissions or employ costly measures for capture and sequestration.

      Excellent!

      But, I wonder …

      In contrast, Joule has engineered photosynthetic biocatalysts that convert waste CO2 into hydrocarbons

      Why not use nuclear to provide the energy and supply the hydrogen?

      Would that be far cheaper, run 24 yours a day and have the potential to reduce cost much more and much faster?

      Zero emissions synfuel from seawater:
      http://bravenewclimate.com/2013/01/16/zero-emission-synfuel-from-seawater/

      Video interview with US Navy researcher:
      http://newpapyrusmagazine.blogspot.com.au/2012/10/nuclear-navys-synfuel-from-seawater.html

      http://scitation.aip.org/content/aip/journal/jrse/4/3/10.1063/1.4719723

      The results suggest that jet fuel could be produced at sea for $3 to $6/gal.

      http://defensetech.org/2012/10/02/converting-sea-water-to-navy-jet-fuel/

  32. “We oppose ethanol subsidies because they distort economic signals about price and demand and create inefficiencies that divert resources from productive activities to politically favored ones. We have also opposed subsidies for natural gas vehicles and other biofuels for these same reasons,” the Koch letter reads. “Still, our company now produces and blends ethanol, because while we would prefer that there be no government mandates or subsidies, once such laws are in place we will comply with them. We will not place our company or our employees at a competitive disadvantage in the mixed-market economy in which we compete.” – http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/06/13/koch-brothers-ethanol-subsidies-grover-norquist_n_876430.html

    Koch Brothers has an interesting position here. I agree they must take the subsidies or put their company at greater risk. It seems to be in Koch’s interest to have lower corn prices which would translate into lower ethanol costs. It is my understanding they own and operate some ethanol plants.

    As mentioned in the article with all the formerly idle land being placed in service, that may have peaked. Corn prices moved from the high $6 range at the beginning of this year to bit above $4 now. The current news will probably keep them low, but who knows? It has been a nice 2 to 3 year run for some corn farmers.

  33. I checked the ethanol law in wiki. The law calls for 16 billion gallons in 2013 rising year by year to 24 billion gallons in a few years. A reduction of 3 billion gallons is a step in the right direction, but there’s a lot left to do to get rid of this wrong-headed fuel requirement.

  34. P.L. asks: ” Have you seen any authiritative critiques and debate about it?”

    If by that you mean debated by outside scientists, no. The technology is proprietary, as you might guess. AFAIK, though, there has been no government money for this.

    • Jim2,

      Thanks. I am most interested in the economics and the quantity that could be produced per year and what plant size and would be needed to operate a given rate of production. But, if it’s not available, we must wait and see how it goes. Private sector competition is the best way to progress, so I am all for this. But I am wondering if it wouldn’t be cheaper with nuclear power to provide the hydrogen and power rather than photosynthesis. I’ve posted another comment but it is held in moderation.

    • If you go to their web sites, there are videos and other information containing, among other stuff, the acres necessary to produce x quantity of product.

    • From one of the web sites:

      “SunSprings plant operations will begin with production of Joule Sunflow™-E to compete in the ethanol market, valued at approximately $64 billion. Because Sunflow-E is derived from sunlight and industrial waste CO2, Joule can uniquely meet market demand with no depletion of natural resources or impact on global food supply and pricing. Joule has already achieved productivity rates of 15,000 and 8,000 gallons/acre/year in the lab and outdoor production, respectively, well above the maximum productivities that biomass-dependent processes can achieve. Following demonstration, Joule will be equipped to deploy its modular platform across multiple sites around the world, targeting initial productivities of 10,000 gallons/acre/year. This includes an opportunity to build a commercial facility in Hobbs, where the company has access to 1,200 additional acres and the inputs that drive its process. As the technology continues to advance, Joule ultimately targets productivity of up to 25,000 gallons of Sunflow-E per acre annually, at costs as low as $1.28/gallon without subsidies. ”

      http://joulefuels.com/press/joule-commissions-first-sunsprings%E2%84%A2-plant-demonstrate-commercial-readiness-launches-subsidiary

    • Jim2,

      Thank you for this:

      Joule ultimately targets productivity of up to 25,000 gallons of Sunflow-E per acre annually, at costs as low as $1.28/gallon without subsidies.

      The US Navy is targeting 100,000 gallons per day on board nuclear powered aircraft carriers for initially $3 – $6 per gallon. So nearly 1500 times more production per year with no land use.

      The plant could be put on shore with minimal land area required. The hydrogen could be supplied by high temperature nuclear reactors instead of extracting it from sea water. This would avoid more than half the energy and possibly halve the fuel cost per gallon.

    • My comment is held in moderation so I’ll repost with two links deleted:

      Jim2,

      Very interesting, but I wonder if the process wouldn’t be cheaper with nuclear power and hydrogen supply instead of photosynthetic.

      the direct conversion of waste CO2 into the essential components of gasoline and jet fuel.

      In addition, the process uses waste CO2 as a feedstock, allowing industrial emitters to produce valuable fuels rather than discard emissions or employ costly measures for capture and sequestration.

      Excellent!

      But, I wonder …

      In contrast, Joule has engineered photosynthetic biocatalysts that convert waste CO2 into hydrocarbons

      Why not use nuclear to provide the energy and supply the hydrogen?

      Would that be far cheaper, run 24 yours a day and have the potential to reduce cost much more and much faster?

      Zero emissions synfuel from seawater:
      http://bravenewclimate.com/2013/01/16/zero-emission-synfuel-from-seawater/

      http://newpapyrusmagazine.blogspot.com.au/2012/10/nuclear-navys-synfuel-from-seawater.html

      http://scitation.aip.org/content/aip/journal/jrse/4/3/10.1063/1.4719723

      Included in this analysis are the capital cost, operation and maintenance, and electrical generation cost for synthesizing jet fuel at sea using either ocean thermal energy conversion or nuclear power processes as the energy source. The results suggest that jet fuel could be produced at sea for $3 to $6/gal.

  35. Ethanol, wind turbines, solar panels – blah, blah, blah.

    All industrial grade stupid, all extraordinary wastes of public money all a hijacking of public policy and all done to appease the environmental industry and the green propaganda machine.

    Such a sad period in history, the reversal of human progress in pursuit of blessings from their pagan god called Gaia.

  36. Not much logic here !

    Humans always set aside some part of agriculture for transportation. In the past it was for horses and oxes pulling plows, today it is for fuel, but the percentages are less today than in the past.

    I think they are also less than food for pets.

    Having a fraction of agriculture set aside from human consumption also generates a reserve.

    If there will be a food shortage in the future this reserve can and will be redirected to human consumption. Without such a reserve, we are living from hand to mouth, going with probability 1 into chaos, when unexpected happens. If that requires the use of conservation land, this is, idf anything,

    an issue of overpopulation.

    How dense can the US grow ?

  37. If I remember correctly, “ethanol fuel from corn” was cast into policy by the Bush administration not the environmentalists (surprise?).
    And they did that to please big agro not to protect the environment (surprise?)
    Things aren’t always what they appear to be …

    • You’re ignoring how a political coalition is formed, in this case against common sense.

    • Your unspoken assumption is that GW Bush is not an ervironmentalist. Perhaps not in the Lovelock or Carson mold, but he does love his ranch, and as stated, several of these policies started during his presidency.

    • Your unspoken assumption is that GW Bush implemented ethanol policies based (at least primarily) on an environmentalist’s rationale. Such an assumption would be proven mistaken by a cursory attempt to look at the available evidence.

    • Is doing the right thing for the wrong reason worse than doing the wrong thing for the right reason?

      This one turned out to be the worst of all – doing the wrong thing for the wrong reason.

    • Pete Bonk

      The real lesson to be learned IMO is to keep the government out of the energy supply loop if you want to keep it from getting screwed up.

      Max

  38. I hope this link works, it opens as a pdf file.

    http://bit.ly/HV1aHS

    “A new Associated Press (AP) story on the environmental impacts of corn ethanol uses disproven myths, skewed data, and outright fabrications to suggest biofuels and the Renewable Fuel Standard have not lived up to their promise. The lead reporter responsible for the story interviewed RFA staff on multiple occasions. RFA provided indisputable facts, peer-reviewed studies, and government data documenting ethanol’s positive impacts. Yet, the AP consciously chose to ignore this material…”

    Also available here: https://mnbiofuels.org/
    The first story as of now.

    Notice above the similar approach.

    More:

    “According to USDA data, 33.7 million acres were enrolled in CRP in 2009, the year President Obama began his first term. As a consequence of the 2008 Farm Bill, the cap on CRP acreage was dropped from 39.2 million acres to 32 m. acres beginning in 2010. Accordingly, CRP acreage fell to 31.3 m. acres in 2010, 31.1 m. acres in 2011 and 29.5 m. acres in 2012.”

    “Farmers and landowners are not “filling in wetlands.” Acreage enrolled in the Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) hit a record high of 2.65 million acres in 2012. The program has been so successful that the cap on enrollments was raised from 2.28 m. acres to 3.04 m. acres in the 2008 Farm Bill.”

    Worth a read I suppose.

    I’ll mention again the corn belt representatives in Congress. And in Minnesota most people have a past connection to a farm, though that is changing. Rural change can be seen in Minnesota. Small towns can struggle economically. School districts do consolidate. There are smaller families. Farming. How much does that cost to get started in? A half million easy.

    • A few more snippets from the linked article:

      There are plenty of independent scientists who have found ethanol significantly reduces GHG emissions relative to gasoline. Other scientists have looked at the full range of ethanol’s impacts on air, land, and water compared to gasoline and concluded that ethanol is superior. In just the last few years, scientists from Argonne National Laboratory, Purdue University, University of Nebraska, Michigan State University, Oak Ridge National Laboratory/Duke University, and University of Illinois-Chicago have published work documenting the GHG and environmental benefits of using ethanol. Even Richard Plevin of U.C. Berkeley, who is quoted in the article, was co-author of a paper entitled “Ethanol Can Contribute to Energy and Environmental Goals.”

      Farmers are using less fertilizer today than in the past, both in aggregate terms and in terms of fertilizer use per bushel produced. In 2010 (latest USDA data available), corn farmers used 1% less nitrogen, 10% less phosphate, and 28% less potash than in 1985. Yet, the 2010 corn crop was 40% larger than the 1985 crop! The nitrogen required to produce a bushel of corn has fallen 43% since 1980, while phosphate requirements are down 58% and potash requirements are down 64%.

  39. “The unintended consequences …”

    A truly pussy phrase, meant as a way out, like saying “Oops !!”

    In truth, such consequences were easily and often predicted. The instigators simply didn’t care about harmful effects – not even incompetent, but simply deliberately negligent … and completely contemptible

  40. The supposed benefit of ethanol is that it is not a fossil fuel. .In fact it actually removes CO2 from the atmosphere as corn or any other plant grows. Bit when it is burnt it returns CO2 to the atmosphere. So it is a low emission fuel and farmers benefit from a new source of income.

    It may force up the price of food a little. t may need regulating but it is up to individual states to decide if that is necessary. In general, a farmer can grow what he likes on his property, so long as it is not illegal drugs

  41. Using corn ethanol to reduce CO2 emission is a hoax.

    “corn requires 29 percent more fossil energy than the fuel produced”

    “Ethanol production in the United States does not benefit the nation’s energy security, its agriculture, economy or the environment,” says Pimentel. “Ethanol production requires large fossil energy input, and therefore, it is contributing to oil and natural gas imports and U.S. deficits.”

    This is known since 2005. But the hoax continues to this day.

    http://www.news.cornell.edu/stories/2005/07/ethanol-biodiesel-corn-and-other-crops-not-worth-energy

    Imitate the Brazilians. They use sugar cane to produce ethanol. Put sugar in the fuel tank not in your belly. Hopefully it will also reduce obesity in the US.

  42. When in – di – viduals seek ter
    solve a problem sit – u -ation
    in witch they have -skin – in – the
    - game, they, I surmise are more likely,
    (bein’ responsive terfeed – back, )
    ter solve the problem sit – u -ation
    than silly ol’ guvuhmint bureaucrats,*
    who have other agendas, bureaucrats
    en – closed in cloud towers whilin’ away
    the tenured hours like April showers,
    musin’ ‘n colludin’ on a DIFFERENT
    problem sit – u – ation ter the troops.

    Kinda’ like the Lady – of Shallot. )

    Dis – claimer!
    *Faustino and Johanna as policy gurus are
    on – the – ground – open – society – problem
    reviewers in the Socratean mould, of a different
    ilk. Sorry, but that’s how it is!
    A -serf – has – spoken.

  43. The sad part of all this is that no one seems to care about how the policy affected food prices. It seems only the “environment” matters. Such people shouldn’t be allowed to advise or make policy that affect people.

  44. …but the good news is that all this waste, expense and environmental damage is sustainable, yes?

    • Thanks Judith. I’ve often thought over the years as I watched the CAGW war wage on, that Lomborg had a real level headed approach to the big picture. But if memory serves, he was almost tarred and feathered early on and his credibility was destroyed by the warmist movement.

    • Teddi

      Lomborg’s credibility was not destroyed, although the AGW consensus crowd tried to do so

      Wiki (who is not always reliable as a source when it comes to AGW) tells us:

      He became internationally known for his best-selling and controversial book The Skeptical Environmentalist (2001).

      Wiki then goes on (bold face by me):

      Accusations of scientific dishonesty

      After the publication of The Skeptical Environmentalist, Lomborg was accused of scientific dishonesty. Several environmental scientists brought a total of three complaints against Lomborg to the Danish Committees on Scientific Dishonesty (DCSD), a body under Denmark’s Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation. The charges claimed that The Skeptical Environmentalist contained deliberately misleading data and flawed conclusions. Due to the similarity of the complaints, the DCSD decided to proceed on the three cases under one investigation.

      DCSD investigation

      On 6 January 2003 the DCSD reached a decision on the complaints. The ruling sent a mixed message, deciding the book to be scientifically dishonest, but Lomborg himself not guilty because of lack of expertise in the fields in question:

      “Objectively speaking, the publication of the work under consideration is deemed to fall within the concept of scientific dishonesty. …In view of the subjective requirements made in terms of intent or gross negligence, however, Bjørn Lomborg’s publication cannot fall within the bounds of this characterization. Conversely, the publication is deemed clearly contrary to the standards of good scientific practice.”

      The DCSD cited The Skeptical Environmentalist for:
      1. Fabrication of data;
      2. Selective discarding of unwanted results (selective citation);
      3. Deliberately misleading use of statistical methods;
      4. Distorted interpretation of conclusions;
      5. Plagiarism;
      6. Deliberate misinterpretation of others’ results.

      MSTI review

      On 13 February 2003, Lomborg filed a complaint against the DCSD’s decision, with the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MSTI), which has oversight over the DCSD. On 17 December 2003, the Ministry annulled the decision made by DCSD

      The rulings of the Danish authorities in 2003-2004 left Lomborg’s critics frustrated. Lomborg claimed vindication as a result of MSTI’s decision to set aside the original finding of DCSD.

      The Lomborg Deception, a book by Howard Friel, claims to offer a “careful analysis” of the ways in which Lomborg has “selectively used (and sometimes distorted) the available evidence”. Lomborg has provided a 27-page argument-by-argument rebuttal. Friel has written a reply to this rebuttal, in which he admits two errors, but otherwise in general rejects Lomborg´s arguments. An attempt to analyse the controverse argument-by-argument is presented on the web site Lomborg-errors.

      A Dutch think tank, HAN, Heidelberg Appeal the Netherlands, published a report in which they claimed 25 out of 27 accusations against Lomborg to be unsubstantiated or not to the point. A group of scientists with relation to this think tank also published an article in 2005 in the Journal of Information Ethics, in which they concluded that most criticism against Lomborg was unjustified, and that the scientific community misused their authority to suppress Lomborg.

      So Lomborg’s credibility was restored, but there definitely appears to have been a coordinated attempt to destroy it.

      Max

  45. We need a smarter approach to tackling climate change. Rather than relying on cutting a few tons of incredibly overpriced CO2 now, we need to invest in research and development aimed at innovating down the cost of green energy in the long run, so that everyone will switch.

    Hear! Hear!

    And we need to keep in mind the usual solution for politicians: throw money at a problem. There are other ways to address the problem of needing R&D, such as rethinking the intellectual property laws. Or, for a concrete example, allowing a company to spend part of its business taxes on R&D of their choice, keeping limited patent rights to the result: more than nothing, but less than if they’d used regular funds to finance research.

  46. “The hills of southern Iowa bear the scars of America’s push for green energy: The brown gashes where rain has washed away the soil. The polluted streams that dump fertilizer into the water supply.”

    I’m sure soil erosion and fertilzer run-off where unknown problems before….

    • It is almost like they are over emphasizing one issue to get political traction. No outright lies, but blurred lines. Odd way of motivation don’t ya think?

    • Exactly. The article is insanely biased, and I did not look that up on wikipedia. CRP land is not a national park. The first time my Dad brought in heavy equipment to repair eroded cornfields was just after he got back from WW2. The Seabees introduced that generation to the wonders of the bulldozer. When I was in grade school the local coop bought trucks to deliver anhydrous ammonia, one of the opening salvos of the green revolution. My friends and I talked about this for weeks. We heard one of the operators had a hose accident and he lost his private parts. We didn’t have stranger danger back then, but we were very afraid of those trucks.

  47. For the anti-ethanol crowd — OK, lets just eliminate the horrible socialism of ethanol and “big government” forcing something down our throats. What do you now propose using for octane and oxygenate gasoline requirements? (that ethanol provides) Want to go back to lead and cancer causing MTBE? The issue is not ethanol, but the “blend wall”.

    http://www.greenenergy.blogspot.com/2013/08/returning-to-roots-of-ethanols.html

    • Yeah, riiiight! If what the linked blog post says is true, then the regulations aren’t required. So get rid of them and see how the market reacts.

    • stephen, using alcohol for oxygenation to boost octane is not the issue. Less than E10 is reliably stable and suited for most engines. The problem is higher E fuels which are less stable and absorb more water plus have a lower energy content. It one of those too much of a good thing issues.

      Then if you go hog wild on corn ethanol which is one of the more energy intensive ethanol feed stocks, you can disrupt food supplies and the perception of that potential disruption can be much worse than it is. People tend to over inflate the potential of their favorite horror stories.

      Hint hint

    • Stephen Segrest

      I agree with you that the issue before us is the ~10% blend wall. But this is not how Judith framed the ethanol discussion on this blog post — nor is it what most people are talking about — its about attacking ethanol. Nobody will address what they propose to replace ethanol with — bring back lead or MTBE?, or what is the higher costs of using fossil fuel derived requirements for octane and oxgenation? Nobody.

    • MTBE was banned in US because it leaked from retailers tanks to groundwater. It was used much longer in countries where such leakages were less common.

      Replacing MTBE by ethanol requires only a percent of ethanol in gasoline. That was the original change also in US. Producing enough ethanol for that is not a problem, producing much more may be.

    • Both MTBE and Eth also have the beneficial effect of keeping water (and various dissolved polar compounds) from accumulating in the fuel tanks, which was a common problem before these substances were added. But again, 1% is adequate to do this.

    • Pekka, I mentioned the oxygenator issue up above, and have mentioned it here at CE before. Are you saying the blend sufficient to oxygenate is 1%? That would mean a need of around 1.3 billion gallons of ethanol per year.

      I believe the lowest available in the US is 10%, or around 13 billion gallons.

      In the 1980s there was an organized campaign in the USA against MTBE on talk radio. People would call in claiming the could smell it on their hands and their clothing. There was an anti-MTBE hysteria. People who opposed MTBE thought they were going to reduce the price of gasoline, which never happened.

    • That should be 1990s.

    • JHC,

      I think more than 1% is typically needed, perhaps about 2%, but it’s really a question of optimizing costs and other benefits as the result depends on the quality of the base fuel.

    • Pekka JCH, “I think more than 1% is typically needed, perhaps about 2%,”

      91-93 octane gas used to be ~10% ethanol where ethanol has an octane of 113 and the base regular had an octane of 87-88. Back then 91-93 was not recommended for small engines. The lowest grade, 87 was around 2% ethanol blended with benzene or some combination of the “anti-knock” formulas different suppliers used.

    • So unless a cheaper alternative oxygenator exists, and I don’t think one does, it sounds like 2.6 billion to 13 billion gallons of ethanol is needed, under current law, for domestic gasoline alone.

    • JCH, “So unless a cheaper alternative oxygenator exists,”
      methanol

    • Pekka

      Producing enough ethanol for that [one percent] is not a problem, producing much more may be.

      Indeed.

      Mandating 10% ethanol is already absurd, and if this should increase to 30% it would put a real strain on US agricultural capacity if the ethanol is to come from corn, as it now does.

      And, Pekka, the really dumb thing about this all is that it will not change our planet’s climate by 2100 by one iota, even using IPCC’s arguably exaggerated estimate for 2xCO2 climate sensitivity.

      The whole thing is truly a hare-brained boondoggle.

      Max

      .

    • Captain has a point. Without lead, Eth is one of the few additives that can boost octane. They may not be able to make enough 92 octane without it. You can only catalytically reform so much.

    • Modern engine technology negates the need for oxygen enhancers and allows for traditional non-oxygenate octane enhancers. It’s all about ADM and their ownership of the senate.

      Putting ether in gasoline was insane and the oil companies new it in advance. MTBE was approved by EPA as an additive back in the 1960′s and was used in test markets all over the country prior to the 1990 mandate. They then were able to accurately calculate the profits generated for a relatively short lifetime minus the environmental cleanup costs and determined that it was a winner.

  48. Lets lose the ‘urgent actions needed’ …

    Indeed. Since some reasonably influential friends in north London quoted the 97% of scientists line to me on indicating their continued support of the green agenda I’ve been thinking about the simplest way to describe the reasoning process as I see it so far. How does this sound?

    97% of scientists agree that we may have a problem, perhaps a tiny one in over half a century. We must therefore do something right now, however stupid.

    Biofuel subsidies were that urgent green stupidity beyond any other so far. Happily though we’ve never met a single person that’s died as a result, because they tend not to be on the north London dinner party circuit.

  49. The EPA could revisit its model and see whether ethanol is actually as good for the environment as officials predicted. But the agency says it doesn’t have the money or the manpower.

    Funny how it did have the money and manpower to create the model though.

  50. Web: This really has nothing to do with AGW. It has everything to do with finite reserves of non-renewable fossil fuel.

    Was that one of the EPA’s concerns?

    But yes, some say as little as 300 years left now.

  51. Corn vs. switchgrass…? Really? Oh! The EPA is involved. No wonder it’s situation normal–i.e., AFU.

  52. Gasoline is going – alcohol is coming. It’s coming to stay, too, for it’s in unlimited supply. And we might as well get ready for it now. All the world is waiting for a substitute to gasoline. When that is gone, there will be no more gasoline, and long before that time, the price of gasoline will have risen to a point where it will be too expensive to burn as a motor fuel. The day is not far distant when, for every one of those barrels of gasoline, a barrel of alcohol must be substituted. ~Henry Ford (1916)

    • Wagathon

      Good ol’ Henry Ford was a visionary before his time.

      But “the day is not far distant when…” (gasoline is replaced by ethanol) hasn’t happened in over 100 years, so he definitely missed on that one.

      Max

    • I don’t think ole Henry liked Rockefeller…

  53. As near as I can figure, using farm land to produce ethanol for fuel is simply a very inefficient means of collecting solar energy. It may (according to reports here and elsewhere) even be a net energy loser, requiring more energy to produce than is returned by burning it.

    It does have the ‘feature’ of generating votes from the subsidized constituency.

    Incidentally, how would the net btu’s/acre achieved by ethanol production (if any) compare to the btu’s/acre that could be achieved by using solar cells to electrolyze water during sun hours, then burning the hydrogen and oxygen in a conventional steam plant 24/7 at a rate slightly less than the average rate of O2/H2 production? And yes, I DO understand that the above is almost certainly not the most efficient method of harvesting solar energy, but it would certainly produce SOME net energy/acre, wouldn’t it? And, since this is a real as opposed to rhetorical question, I understand that the answer may be ‘No!’.

    • “Alcohol can be manufactured from corn stalks, and in fact from almost any vegetable matter capable of fermentation. Our growing crops and even weeds can be used. The waste products of our farms are available for this purpose and even the garbage of our cities. We need never fear the exhaustion of our present fuel supplies so long as we can produce an annual crop of alcohol to any extent desired.” ~Alexander Graham Bell (1917)

    • Three years later, prohibition. Kinda ironic :)

    • Funded by Rockefeller?

    • Bob, you write “I DO understand that the above is almost certainly not the most efficient method of harvesting solar energy”

      Hydrogen technology (HT) is very far from being practical on an everyday basis. The hydrogen molecule is very small and hard to contain. HT is simply not practical at the present time. It was supposed to be ready for the Vancouver Winter Olympics, 4 years ago. Whether HT will ever be practical is still an open question. Cellulose ethanol in commercial quantities may be practical as early as next year.

    • Hi Jim,

      I wasn’t referring to ‘hydrogen technology’ as commonly understood, where the hydrogen is piped all over the country like natural gas. I have read that there is multiple problems with that. I am willing to believe it.

      What I was referring to is simply collecting the electrolyzed H2, and maybe even the O2 if it made sense, on site and then using it to run a local generator, which would simply hooked into the grid like any other generator plant. If the generator was sized properly it could easily provide base load power 24/7, unlike traditional solar/wind. Wind farms could use the same principle, by the way. I’m sure that overall efficiency would be lower, but the tradeoff would be that wind farms, which I hate, could also provide base load power. Of course if the overall efficiency was really low, either idea, while sounding nifty, would be impractical.

      As for converting farm scrap to alcohol, if you say it is commercially viable, I certainly can’t argue. GROWING corn for alcohol with the idea that by doing so we are being nice to Mother Gaia and increasing our energy independence has got to be one of the dumbest ideas ever, except for those who are getting rich off of it because its purchase is mandated by law. A great scam, with limited, but happy, beneficiaries.

    • Bob Ludwick – Here’s something along the lines of your suggestion:

      Power-to-gas (P2G)

    • “I was referring to is simply collecting the electrolyzed H2, and maybe even the O2 if it made sense, on site and then using it to run a local generator, which would simply hooked into the grid like any other generator plant”
      So we get hold of a large supply of noble metals, then we have an AC/DC converter and voltage doubler, then we run a DC current through suplhuric acid, which generates a very hot solution saturated with both hydrogen and oxygen, then we stream the two gasses through alkali scrubbers, then we store the hydrogen, using hydrogen seals in all our piping and all the time making sure we don’t have any leaks, because atmospheric hydrogen will screw up the Ozone layers

    • Exactly, Doc. Having worked at an industrial scale chlor-alkali plant, I can tell you that it’s a lot more complicated (and inefficient) than just running some juice through a couple of copper electrodes placed in a cold water tank. Although the water won’t stay cold for long, due to the losses. Even with strong brine, ohmic losses were about half of the electrochemical potential of the reaction. Not trivial. Now try that with water.

    • Bob, you write “What I was referring to is simply collecting the electrolyzed H2, and maybe even the O2 if it made sense, on site and then using it to run a local generator, which would simply hooked into the grid like any other generator plant”

      And that I hoped was what I was answering. The fundamental problem with hydrogen is the small size of the molecule. This makes it very difficult to store safely. If you are NASA or some large corporation , you can afford to expensive equipment needed to keep the hydrogen where you want it. But to do this on a small scale, safely…. The mind boggles.

    • Jim Cripwell

      Hydrogen as a motor fuel sounds good at first glance, especially if combined with harvesting solar energy.

      But, as you know, there are some formidable obstacles.

      Even assuming these could all be resolved, there is one that seems to be insurmountable, as you write The hydrogen molecule is very small and hard to contain.

      In addition, unlike most gases, hydrogen has a negative Joule–Thomson effect, so that it warms rather than cools upon expansion. So any leak of high pressure hydrogen is a potential fire by definition.

      Having worked with high pressure hydrogen in the past, I have a hard time imagining the average guy or housewife “filling up the tank” with hydrogen, so I don’t see it as a potential general motor fuel.

      Bob Ludwick’s idea of using the hydrogen locally for power generation might limit this potential hazard, but I wonder if this could ever be economically viable.

      Max

  54. USDA: 3013 Corn Harvest Record 13.9B Bushels.

    should be 2013?

  55. The 17-year pause in global warming is likely to last into the 2030s and the Arctic sea ice has already started to recover, according to new research.

    A paper in the peer-reviewed journal Climate Dynamics – by Professor Judith Curry of the Georgia Institute of Technology and Dr Marcia Wyatt – amounts to a stunning challenge to climate science orthodoxy.

    Not only does it explain the unexpected pause, it suggests that the scientific majority – whose views are represented by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – have underestimated the role of natural cycles and exaggerated that of greenhouse gases. ~Mail Online

  56. Wow!

    Not only does it explain the unexpected pause, it suggests that the scientific majority …

    Well, now that’s a relief. We now have the “pause” “explained.”

    Well, either that or the article you excerpted is a perfect example of a flat out ridiculous treatment of uncertainty. And surely, if that’s the case, Judith and her denizens will be all over that article – right behind Mr. Uncertain T. Monster who will be leading the charge.

    Yup.

    I’m sure that will happen.

    Any second now.

    • And I gotta say, David Rose continues his string of uniformly well-balanced and scientifically validated articles. Certainly, his stellar treatment of uncertainty and unerring precision and accuracy explain why Judith seems to think he’s so reliable.

      I’m sure.

    • What’s next, Huffington Post coming out with, sinning idn’t all it’s cracked up to be?

    • Joshua

      Which David Rose article are you referencing?
      tonyb

    • tony – the one that Wags excerpted:

      http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2485772/Global-warming-pause-20-years-Arctic-sea-ice-started-recover.html

      :It’s interesting to note Rose’s hyperbole. While the authors notably did not (unfortunately) quantify their certainty about the explanatory power of their hypothesis with much degree of specificity, clearly Rose’s description (by virtue of ignoring any uncertainty in the clause Wags excerpted) is inaccurate – given what the authors did say about the explanatory power of the paper.

      And yet not a peep from the Uncertainty Monster. Cat must have gotten his tongue – eh?

    • Joshua, “Well, now that’s a relief. We now have the “pause” “explained.”

      Do we? When did that happen? Oh, you mean the new and improve global surface and selected troposphere inversion data set :)

      You know there is a funny story about that :)

      http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2006/03/significant-warming-of-the-antarctic-winter-troposphere/
      The Gurus at real climate found proof positive that the Antarctic was warming because the troposphere was warming. There was joy in climateville.

      This was after the gurus at realclimate patiently explained why the stratosphere cools while the lower troposphere warms.

      http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2004/12/why-does-the-stratosphere-cool-when-the-troposphere-warms/

      Then later there was the Antarctic is warming, the antarctic is cooling, the Antarctic is warming, the Antarctic is cooling :)

      So it is nice to know that you the proof you need from the best of the best of climate science :)

    • No wonder the Arctic is coming back so fast. Hell froze over when the Left admitted global warming was no longer happening.

    • @ Joshua – “Well, now that’s a relief. We now have the pause explained.”

      Further explained as the natural ebb and flow of the climate. There, now you can move on to other aspects of your life.

    • Joshua,

      I cannot determine whether you are thick, uncouth or trying to be gratuitously patronising, condescending, and supercilious.

      I find that people who are seemingly addicted to one word throwaways such as Wow, Yup, Huh, and so forth, usually have no facts to present.

      Using terms such as “flat out ridiculous” as an assertion, backed up by precisely nothing, merely shows a degree of intellectual paucity, usually associated with dogmatic Warmists.

      If it writes like a Warmist, attempts bully boy tactics like a Warmist, and shows a clear reluctance to accept facts like a Warmist, then I assume it is, indeed a Warmist.

      You may not care what I think. The Australian Prime Minister and some senior Parliamentarians do. Luckily so, in my view. Your view may be different, but is totally irrelevant in this context.

      Live well and prosper,

      Mike Flynn.

    • Joshua

      “Explaining” the “pause” is a whole lot better than “denying” it.

      Right?

      Max

  57. I grew up in the Northern Illinois cornbelt. Our back yard bordered on cornfields. My aunt and uncle grew corn and practiced crop rotation (no fertilizer) to fix nitrogen back into the soil. Farms had ample hedge rows in which pheasants thrived. Many of the changes for the worse observed by the author started to occur before the ethanol craze but surely have been exacerbated by it. For example, about twenty years ago PBS ran a documentary about a boat that navigated a circular route up the Atlantic seaboard, down the St. Lawrence River, through the Great Lakes, down the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers, and into the Gulf of Mexico. Their boat was bogged down near my hometown on the Illinois River, stuck on a bar of loam that washed off the nearby farms. Illinois soil is among the most fertile in the world, but farmers started turning over the soil earlier in the spring which has led to it washing into the streams and down into the river. No big deal: they could always apply chemicals to compensate for the lost fertile soil. Obscene. And as for the hedge rows, forget it, they’re long gone (no money to be made off of hedgerows). Without places to hide from predators, pheasants have now become scarce near my hometown.

  58. The global cooling hypothesis:

    According to Lawrence Solomon (environmentalist writing in the Financial Post), “the solar activity is decreasing at the fastest rate as anytime in the last 10,000 years.” Is the Earth entering another ice age?

    • Has the “pause” (natural cooling) trend line now surpassed the length of the warming trend line originally used by CAGW movement ?

    • ..and why did the scientific community allow such as short trend line with regard to warming drive global scientific thinking ?

    • It was a madness, a madness of the crowd.
      ============

    • 30 years is enough to read climate change in the tea leaves, well, unless the temperature stops going up. In that case, really, it takes 50 years or more.

    • This decrease in solar activity correlates with the rise in CO2. Therefore, CO2 is causing the decrease. QED.

    • The end of global warming also correlates with the rise is skepticism which is why Freeman Dyson said, “any good scientist ought to be a skeptic.”

  59. Global Correction to MSM’s AGW Stories: News of runaway global warming — caused mostly by CO2 producers like America — may have been overhyped. So, never mind. The latest information, however, indicates that Earth may actually be heading for an ice age (following these last many years of no global warming).

  60. Received via email from Cal Beisner:

    Judith, it was good to see you post the piece about corn ethanol. I thought
    you might be interested, too, in a very thorough economic analysis, by Indur Goklany, of the impact on the rate of premature deaths in developing
    countries because of the higher grain prices spurred by US ethanol mandates and subsidies: Could Biofuel Policies Increase Death and Disease in Developing Countries? Basic conclusion: Our policies since 2004 resulted in about 192,000 excess
    premature deaths and 6.7 million lost DALYs in 2010 in developing countries.
    Adjusted results apply to all the other years of the policies since 2004.

    • somebody explain externalities to Joshua..

    • Mosh

      I thought Joshua was your project. Don’t ask for help from the rest of us.
      Tonyb

    • How many denizens would it take to change Joshua into a normal person?

      None. He was to want to change himself.

      But look, he’s getting what he craves most. Attention. Without it he’d wither and die. Or at least go away in search of some other admirable woman to insult.

    • Dr. Strangelove

      “Basic conclusion: Our policies since 2004 resulted in about 192,000 excess
      premature deaths”

      Judith, maybe corn ethanol is just a cover-up. Their real intent is to reduce world population.

      Used cooking oil is a better biofuel. It’s a waste product and has 3 times more energy than nitromethane, the explosive fuel used in drag racing.

  61. OT, but The Australian’s editorial is worth reading. Pretty good for the MSM.

    Climate activists rely on too much political science
    The Australian November 19, 2013 12:00AM Editorial

    BY imploring policymakers to “accept the science” many climate change activists are preaching little but hypocrisy. Many pick and choose the science they accept, promoting alarmist scenarios to urge de-industrialisation in developed nations and a redistribution of wealth to prevent development elsewhere. Those who wish to elevate the climate debate should embrace the science – all of it.

    Activists, including Greens MPs, have invoked disasters such as NSW’s October bushfires and this month’s Typhoon Haiyan in Southeast Asia as evidence of catastrophic global warming. Never mind the conditions for wildfire often exist in October and, with ignition provided, have generated tragic losses many times previously. Never mind that the latest IPCC report notes diminishing frequency of tropical storms in the northwest Pacific. Never mind that climate activists gathered in Sydney at the weekend were rugged up under umbrellas on an unseasonally cold and wet November day.

    These activists switch attention to the weather when it suits, and choose those aspects of science that support their political aims; which at present is to argue Australia should reduce its carbon emissions by 5 per cent through a trading scheme rather than achieve the same cut through direct subsidies under the banner of direct action. Never mind our reductions will have no discernible impact on global climate and never mind these same activists previously have supported direct action measures such as renewable energy targets and solar electricity subsidies.

    A rational approach would focus not only on climatology and the political science of protest movements but also on the sciences involved in energy production, the social science of economics, and how the interchange between these affects the health, wealth and lifestyle of people across the planet. As Danish environmental economist Bjorn Lomborg says: “We don’t burn fossil fuels just to annoy Al Gore.” Affordable energy continues to drive improved living standards and longer life spans around the world, including, most importantly, enabling tens of millions of people in developing countries to lift themselves out of poverty. How, for instance, could fair-minded activists decry the contribution of our coal exports to global warming without also noting their crucial role as a catalyst for improved living standards in China, South Korea and India?

    Indeed, without disregarding the ill-effects of climate change now and in the future, Dr Lomborg cites studies which demonstrate the net impact of global warming is positive, for now, and will remain so for decades yet. This is due to the agricultural benefits of increased carbon dioxide on plant growth, as well as the social and economic benefits of reduced extreme cold. None of this is an argument against action but it is an argument for informed debate ensuring we take the right action.

    Once we throw away the shackles of emotionalism and ideology, debate leads to a consideration of nuclear energy. As writer Matt Ridley has documented, for all the hype and investment in wind power, it provides less than 1 per cent of the world’s energy. And solar schemes have done little except drain the public purse and increase the private cost of electricity. To the extent that carbon emissions have been reduced in some nations it has occurred because of reduced economic growth or increased reliance on natural gas, often procured through fracking (another process the activists frown upon).

    Four eminent climate and energy scientists (including NASA climate science pioneer James Hansen and Australia’s Tom Wigley) have advanced this argument eloquently in an open letter to leaders of the world’s environmental groups. “We appreciate your organisation’s concern about global warming and your advocacy of renewable energy,” the letter says. “But continued opposition to nuclear power threatens humanity’s ability to avoid dangerous climate change.” The letter explains there is a role for renewable energy but that it cannot practically provide enough power. “In the real world there is no credible path to climate stabilisation that does not include a substantial role for nuclear power.”

    The Australian might quibble with the apocalyptic overtones of this group’s campaign but it is impossible to deny the logic. Nuclear energy provides the obvious silver bullet of baseload power without carbon emissions. The inability or refusal of most environmental groups (and their Fairfax and ABC barrackers) to even consider the nuclear option exposes their preference for alarmism and anti-industrial activism rather than science-based, sustainable economic progress.

    - See more at: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/opinion/editorials/climate-activists-rely-on-too-much-political-science/story-e6frg71x-1226762824759#sthash.sDoxFCit.dpuf

    • So your back from your trip and straight back into tit. Great.

      What I m finding amusing is that media outlets like the ABC, SBS, ‘The Conversation’, Climate Spectator, all of use every possible excuse to promote dangerous and catastrophic climate change, have gone extremely quiet about the Warsaw UN climate conference. Not a word is being said. But they continue to trash the Abbott government over everything they can. Their selection of material and stories to publish, and the wording they use, demostrates to me that these media organisations are driven entirely by their Left wing ideological beliefs.

      It’s amazing that Joshua, who tries to pretend he is impartial, hasn’t been railing against them and attacking them for years, instead of continually picking on trivial and irrelevant points by Judith in he posts and by rational skeptics in blog comments. There you go Joshua, these loony left organisations should keep you busy pointing out their idelogical bias and motivated reasoning for the rest of your life.

    • I think Josh may be a bit sweet on Judith.

    • So your back from your trip and straight back into tit.

      Too easy.

      Like with most of Peter’s comments, it would be like taking candy from a baby.

    • Faustino yer mention Matt Ridley. In Ch 7 of ‘The Rational
      Optimist’ Matt Ridley observes just how landscape destroying
      renewables are.Supplying the current 300 million inhabitants
      of the US with their current power demand would require

      *solar panels the size of Spain
      *or wind farms the size of Kazakhstan
      *woodland the size of India & Pakistan
      *hay fields the size of Russia and Canada
      * hydro electric dams with catchments one third larger than
      all the continents put together.

      That’s environmentalism fer yer.

      Re bio fuel folley, 5% of the world’s crop land has been taken
      out of food production when food needs are growing, and put
      into growing fuel. And it takes fuel ter grow fuel, tractors truck
      fuel, fertilizors. And water! 1.30 gallons of water ter grow and
      5 gallons of water ter distil a single gallon of ethanol

      bts

  62. Peter Lang posted: “The results suggest that jet fuel could be produced at sea for $3 to $6/gal. ”

    I believe Joule stated they can produce gasoline and jet fuel (and diesel) for substantially less than that made from petroleum.

    • Jim2,

      Yes. But read my comment. The $3 to $6/gal is at sea not on land, and is using electricity to firstly separate fresh water out of sea water and then produce hydrogen using electrolysis. Most of the cost is in the electrolysis. So, if high temperature reactors (like the Russian BN800, BN1200 and the Chinese HTR) are used to produce the hydrogen instead of using electrolysis, the cost would come down by perhaps half. And putting the plant on land would be far cheaper than in a ship at sea. And there is minimal land area required. So, there are many advantages that will inevitably turn into cost reductions.

  63. Germany To Open 10 New Coal-Fired Power Stations

    Steag GmbH started Germany’s first new power plant fueled by hard coal in eight years, allowing the generator and energy trader to take advantage of near record-low coal prices that have widened profit margins. The plant is the first new hard-coal-fired generator in Europe’s biggest power market since 2005. It marks the start of Germany’s biggest new-build program for hard coal stations since its liberalization in 1998. Ten new hard-coal power stations, or 7,985 megawatts, are scheduled to start producing electricity in the next two years, according to information from German grid regulator Bundesnetzagentur and operators.

    –Julia Mengewein, Bloomberg, 15 November 2013

    I thought you’d like to know this. Please tell family, friends and media, and especially all your loony Left/’anti-progress mates. :)

    And don’t forget to make the point that the 10 coal fired power stations are being built to replace the nuclear power plants Germany is being forced to close down by the irrational, extremist, loony greenies :)

    • Coal stocks in the US have been rising for weeks. I think it’s time to buy and so does Dennis Gartman.

      “Dennis Gartman: Coal Is So Bad, It’s Good
      Published: Wednesday, 1 Aug 2012 | 3:33 PM ET
      By: Lee Brodie | Producer

      For months the pros have been saying if there’s one energy trade to avoid it’s coal. That is until now.

      Esteemed commodity pro Dennis Gartman says coal has gotten so bad, it’s actually good.

      “Nobody likes it even slightly – it’s been under pressure from all fronts,” says Gartman.”

      http://www.cnbc.com/id/48447982

    • Where was the pragmatism when the only real consensus of opinion among the Eurocommies was to do everything they possibly could to help bring down America? “What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.” ~Emerson

    • Wagathon,

      I agree with your point. The main reason EU was so keen on Kyoto was they saw it a way to get an enormous economic advantage over the USA. The EU already had a lot of nuclear power and the economy of the Eastern European states was very inefficient and collapsing. So Europe had a massive advantage if they could force the USA to sign up to Kyoto.

      Luckily Bush and Congress were not fools and had no intention of signing up to such a bad policy. Thank heavans for Bush, US Congress and the USA, I say!

      I also thank China and India.

    • Peter Lang,

      You give Euro-progressives credit for far more pragmatism than they deserve. They were and are just as aware that CAGW/decarbonization would result in a massive increase in government control of the economy.

      The British, German and Spanish “alternative energy” fiascoes are just the most obvious examples. It is true that the “state run crony capitalists” of Europe saw a chance to beggar the US as you say, but in my opinion that was only a secondary motive.

      If they were actually worried about competitiveness, they wouldn’t have gone ahead and shackled their countries’ economies to the CAGW agenda, when the US refused to do so (until now).

    • Hansen must have gotten a serious case of indigestion when he first heard about the German coal (=”death”) plants.

      The goofy greeny lobby groups managed to plant so much fear of nuclear power in the Germans that they are now abandoning their nuclear power – when just across the Rhine, the French are supplying over 70% of their demand from nuclear.

      Go figure.

    • I could be mistaken but I believe the French also export electricity from nukes to Germany and Great Britain, at least some of the time.
      =================

    • Manacker,

      Yes. The French actually supplied 79% of their electricity from nuclear in 2011, the most recent IEA figures: http://www.iea.org/statistics/statisticssearch/report/?country=FRANCE&product=electricityandheat&year=2011

    • Kim,

      You are correct. France exports the electricity from equivalent of about seven nuclear power plants to UK, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, Italy and Spain. http://www.iea.org/statistics/statisticssearch/report/?country=FRANCE&product=electricityandheat&year=2011

    • France are planning to reduce their nuclear fraction from 75% to 50% as other forms of renewable energy become more competitive.
      http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/np-nuclear_to_fund_french_energy_transition-2309137.html

    • I’m planning to reduce the fraction/percentage of my budget that goes to bills from 75% to .001%, when I win the lottery.

  64. Retrograde Orbit

    Peter Lang,
    from your rant I gather that you consider the Green movement as being on the “left” (besides being looney …). Why so? Aren’t they actually conservative? More conservative than the Conservatives?
    So they should really be viewed as being on the “right”.

  65. @Peter Lang

    Joule $1.28/gal which includes cost of land

    Navy nuclear $3 to $6/gal

    One of those is competitive with fossil fuel and the other isn’t. I’ll leave it as an exercise to the reader to figure out which is which.

    Quick back of envelope calculation at 50% efficiency converting electricity to jet-a says you need the continuous output from a 500 megawatt reactor and it produces $300,000 per day worth of fuel or about $100 million per year. Current generation land-based nuclear reactors cost $10,000,000 per megawatt capacity or about $5 billion for the power plant not counting the cost of the equipment to convert electricity to fuel.

    At 5% per annum cost of capital the $5 billion in capital equipment costs $250 million per year to own and it only produces $100 million worth of fuel.

    The economics don’t work. No one will fund it. It’s an idea that’s DOA.

  66. I think you are a bit simple minded about this.
    Progress can go into different directions. Similarly conservation can have different focus. Just because somebody looks into a different direction for progress or has a different focus for conservation, doesn’t mean they are left or right – much less loony or reasonable.
    You can’t just unskeptically accept those stereotypes.

    • Only progressives (including those who call themselves “independents” and “moderates”) try so hard to blur the distinction between the modern political terms. Obscurantism, where would the left be without it?

    • Unfortunately, the environmentalism movement has been hijacked by the Left.

      “I don’t blame them for seizing the opportunity. There was a lot of power in our movement and they saw how it could be turned to serve their agendas of revolutionary change and class struggle. But I differed with them because they were extremists who confused the issues and the public about the nature of our environment and our place in it. To this day they use the word industry as if it were a swear word. The same goes for multinational, chemical, genetic, corporate, globalization, and a host of other perfectly useful terms. Their propaganda campaign is aimed at promoting an ideology that I believe would be extremely damaging to both civilization and the environment.” ~Patrick Moore

    • Wagathon

      You forgot to mention that Patrick Moore is a co-founder of Greenpeace, one of the culprits today.

      Max

  67. Not really on topic, but then again, never really off topic.

    The inimitable Victor David Hanson of NRO on “Noble Lying”, aka post-modern truth.

    http://www.nationalreview.com/article/364250/obamas-noble-lies-victor-davis-hanson

  68. Even if the Republicans sweep in, they will not have the cajones, like the Aussies.

  69. Pingback: Weekly Climate and Energy News Roundup | Watts Up With That?

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