The Law Of Unintended Consequences At Work

Hot Air posted an article today about the environmental impact of ethanol. Remember that using ethanol (and even increasing the percentage of ethanol in gasoline) was supposed to have a positive impact on the environment. Well, not so fast.

The article reports:

One of the chief claims of the corn lobby is that ethanol is a more “green” type of energy because it’s renewable. From there, the argument is extended to claim that it’s better for the environment all the way around. But the conclusions of a study underlying the latest EPA report on the environmental impact of ethanol (seven years in the making, dating back well into the Obama administration) concludes that the opposite is true. Ethanol produces significant negative impacts on the environment, in some cases worse than the gasoline it’s supposed to be replacing. (Public News Service)

The article explains:

A long-delayed report from the Environmental Protection Agency finds that requiring ethanol made from corn and soybeans to be part of the nation’s gas supply is causing serious environmental harm.

Federal law requires the EPA to assess the environmental impact of the fuel standard every three years, but the new report, issued in July, was four years overdue. According to David DeGennaro with the National Wildlife Federation, the report documents millions of acres of wildlife habitat lost to ethanol crop production, increased nutrient pollution in waterways and air emissions and side effects worse than the gasoline the ethanol is replacing.

“In finding that the Renewable Fuel Standard is having negative consequences to a whole suite of environmental indicators,” DeGennaro said, “the report is a red flag warning us that we need to reconsider the mandate’s scope and its focus on first-generation fuels made from food crops.”

…The bigger surprise is the fact that ethanol production and combustion significantly increases the production of nitrous oxides (Nox). This combines with oxygen in the atmosphere when exposed to sunlight, producing ozone.

The article concludes:

The Renewable Fuel Standard needs to be scaled back (preferably eliminated), not expanded. And if basic considerations of the damage it does to marine equipment and small engines, on top of burning too hot and producing less energy by volume than gas isn’t a good enough reason, perhaps the damage to the environment will convince you.

The corn lobby is not going to like this report. This is what happens when you jump on the environmental bandwagon before you completely understand the consequences of what you are doing.

 

I’m From The Government And I’m Here To Help

“I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.” Those words should strike fear in the hearts of every American. As Milton Friedman one stated, “If you put the federal government in charge of the Sahara Desert, in 5 years there’d be a shortage of sand.” Someone equally knowledgeable in the ways of government amended that statement slightly–“Yes, but if you put Congress in charge from the start, they would start a federal sand reserve to store up most of the sand from the very beginning. Then the sand shortage would start in one year, but when glassmakers needed more, they could dole out the stored sand to their political contributors and claim they did it to ‘keep prices down’.”

Obviously, either way there is a problem. Where am I going with this? The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has just declared war on most of the cars in America. On Tuesday, Investor’s Business Daily posted an editorial about the latest move by the EPA.

The editorial explains:

The EPA’s proposal to increase the amount of ethanol that must be blended into gasoline is a trifecta of regulatory abuse. It will do nothing for the environment, it will do nothing for energy security, and it could wreck millions of car engines.

…The EPA’s proposal would require refineries to blend in almost 19 billion gallons of ethanol and other “biofuels” by 2017, which is 700,000 gallons more than they do now.

But there’s a problem. Americans aren’t consuming enough gasoline. In fact, consumption this year is well below the 2007 forecast, both because cars are more efficient and because people are driving less than expected.

So, if oil refiners are to pump 19 billion gallons of ethanol into their gasoline supplies, they won’t be able to keep ethanol ratio below 10%.

 Why does that matter? Because ethanol is corrosive and can degrade plastic, rubber and metal parts. And the more ethanol in gasoline, the most likely this damage will occur. So going above 10% can wreak havoc with car engines — as well as those in motorcycles, lawnmowers, power boats, you name it — that aren’t built to handle the higher ethanol levels.

The first thing to consider here is that the EPA is not legally entitled to make laws–only Congress can do that. The EPA is not elected and is therefore not accountable to the voters–therefore they do not have the right to enact laws.

The article also points out that increased use of ethanol drives up food prices, which actually hurts the poor. So why in the world isn’t Congress fighting back? If you were running for office in a farm state, would you want to tell the farmers in that state that the price of corn will be going down because ethanol has not been the wonderful thing you thought it was?

The editorial concludes:

So why is the EPA pushing ethanol? Does it help fight global warming? Does it help cities fight smog? Does it help the U.S. become more energy independent?

The answer is: None of the above.

A 2011 study by the National Research Council found that ethanol use could boost overall CO2 emissions. An earlier study published in Science also found that, when you consider the impact of converting forests and grasslands to cornfields, ethanol sharply increases carbon emissions.

Meanwhile, a 2007 study by a Stanford University environmental engineer found that increasing ethanol levels in gasoline can lead to more smog.

The idea that we need ethanol to become energy independent might have made sense in 2007. But the fracking boom since then has unleashed massive new domestic supplies of oil and natural gas, rendering this argument entirely moot.

Here’s an idea. Rather than requiring oil refiners to pump more of this dirty and expensive fuel into gasoline supplies, the federal government should abandon the ethanol requirement altogether.

Big Corn might not like it, but millions of car owners will be grateful.

When the government gets involved in what should be the free market, bad things happen.

When The Science Doesn’t Agree With The Politics

Associated Press posted a story today about a recent government study about the use of biofuels made from the leftovers of harvested corn plants. The study showed that these biofuels release 7 percent more greenhouse gases in the early years compared with gasoline.

The article reports:

While biofuels are better in the long run, the study says they won’t meet a standard set in a 2007 energy law to qualify as renewable fuel.

The conclusions deal a blow to what are known as cellulosic biofuels, which have received more than a billion dollars in federal support but have struggled to meet volume targets mandated by law. About half of the initial market in cellulosics is expected to be derived from corn residue.

Note–the “cellulosic biofuels have received more than a billion dollars in federal support.” That is obscene. America would have a better chance of finding alternative fuels if we allowed private industries to develop them and make a profit from the research.

The article concludes:

Still, corn residue is likely to be a big source early on for cellulosic biofuels, which have struggled to reach commercial scale. Last year, for the fifth time, the EPA proposed reducing the amount required by law. It set a target of 17 million gallons for 2014. The law envisioned 1.75 billion gallons being produced this year.

“The study says it will be very hard to make a biofuel that has a better greenhouse gas impact than gasoline using corn residue,” which puts it in the same boat as corn-based ethanol, said David Tilman, a professor at the University of Minnesota who has done research on biofuels’ emissions from the farm to the tailpipe.

Tilman said it was the best study on the issue he has seen so far.

Alternate fuels are somewhere in our future, but they are not currently ready for prime time. It’s time to get the government out of the energy business, build the Keystone Pipeline and get on with it.

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When Your Lobbyists Just Don’t Do Their Job

Yesterday the Washington Examiner posted an article yesterday about a change in the United States renewable fuel policy.

The article reports:

But the EPA officially proposed cutting the renewable fuel target for 2014 to 15.21 billion gallons — down from 16.65 billion gallons this year and a scheduled 18.21 billion gallons for next year.

…”It clearly caught folks by surprise,” said Michael McAdams, president of the Advanced Biofuels Association.

The biofuel industry felt it didn’t have to worry about the White House, sensing it had several key allies in the Obama administration.

The Obama Administration doesn’t even seem to be consistent in its cronyism. They have alienated their friends and their foes on numerous occasions. The EPA justified the decrease by saying that the demand for gasoline is lower because cars are becoming more efficient.

Ethanol has resulted in higher food prices around the world, damage to boat engines, more expensive gasoline, and higher environmental damage in its refining. This is not a product we want to see more of. Carbon-based fuels do work better, and America is beginning to use its own carbon-based resources.

 

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The Only Thing That Lasts Forever Is A Government Program

The only thing that lasts forever is a government program–whether it works or not. This weekend’s Wall Street Journal (no link–subscribers only) posted an article about the government’s Ethanol policies. The use of Ethanol is raising the price of gasoline at the pump and is partially responsible for the increase in gasoline prices this summer.

The article reports:

In 2007 the Bush Administration and Congress mandated how much ethanol the oil and gas industry must purchase each year to be blended into gasoline. This year it is 13.8 billion gallons. The quotas were established when Washington thought gas consumption would rise year after year, but instead it has fallen.

But even though the program does not fit the current scenario, the program continues. American motorists will not buy gasoline that is more than 10 percent Ethanol because it costs more and can be damaging to engines, but because of the purchase requirements set on the oil and gas industry by the government, we are approaching the point where the required Ethanol would result in more than 10 percent of gasoline consumption. Because of this refiners have to buy energy credits for the Ethanol they don’t use (sounds like Cap and Trade). The credits are called Renewable Identification Numbers (RIN). The cost of an RIN used to be less than 10 cents a gallon. It is now $1.40. This translates into roughly 10 cents a gallon for consumers. As a Senator, President Obama stated that high gasoline prices were not a bad thing. The fact that the government standards on Ethanol have not been adjusted or repealed helps keep those prices high.

The article also mentions:

But even environmentalists (including Al Gore) now concede that Ethanol probably increases carbon emissions.

If we are not helping the environment, why are we doing this?

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When Government Needs Money It Abandons Common Sense

On Friday Hot Air  reported that in 2011 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) fined auto fuel producers $6.8 million in penalties for not blending gasoline with cellulosic ethanol, an environment-friendly distillate of wood chips, corn cobs, and switch grass. Why are the oil companies not blending the gasoline with cellulosic ethanol–because it is not yet commercially available! The oil companies are being fined for not using a fuel that does not yet commercially exist. Obviously these fines add to their costs. The oil companies then pass those extra costs on to the consumer. Simply amazing! 

Please follow the link above to Hot Air and read the story. It is another examply of why we need less government and more common sense. The problem is not the oil companies–it’s the government.

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At Least They Got It Half Right

Investors.com reported yesterday that the Congress has let the ethanol subsidies expire, but has not repealed the mandates requiring the use of ethanol. The money saved will go into the treasury–not to the taxpayers.

The article reminds us that ethanol is NOT good for the environment:

Farmers will do fine, but most taxpayers and consumers will not. The price of corn will remain high, continuing to be pushed higher by the forced use of ethanol in gasoline that has not expired. Food prices driven higher by this mandate will continue to rise, as will gas prices as the added cost to ethanol producers is passed down the line, paid ultimately by the consumer at the gas pump.

Ethanol was supposed to save the earth and pave the way to energy independence. It has done neither. We are more dependent more than ever on foreign sources of petroleum, used in a wide variety of products and processes as well as our cars, and increased biofuel cultivation has hurt the environment through increased use of pesticides, farmland expansion and agricultural runoff polluting our rivers and coastal waters.

It takes 1,700 gallons of water to produce one gallon of ethanol.

Each acre of corn requires 130 pounds of nitrogen and 55 pounds of phosphorous.

Increased acreage means increased agricultural runoff that is creating aquatic dead zones in our rivers, bays and coastal areas.

The article also points out that adding ethanol to gasoline results in poorer gas mileage than gasoline without ethanol. Ethanol is not good for the environment or the economy. We need to end the ethanol mandate as well as the subsidy.

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