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Obama doubles down on ethanol

The Obama administration proposed a 9 percent increase in the so-called renewable fuels standard from 2012, in line with a 2007 law. Half of the 1.35 billion-gallon increase would go to corn ethanol and half to "advanced" biofuels that produce half the greenhouse gases of first-generation ethanol. ...

Last fall, the administration denied a request from several governors from livestock and oil-producing states for a partial or total waiver of the requirement to use ethanol. Corn prices soared during the drought as ethanol makers, livestock producers, and grain exporters competed for a smaller supply.

So stupid and/or evil, by which I mean so Fucking stupid and/or evil.

To begin with, "modern" agriculture is petroleum-based. So we're essentially processing oil through corn fields to create gasoline. How much sense does that make?

And then there's coupling food supplies (and prices) to our insane automobile economy. What could go wrong?

[bangs head on desk]

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Submitted by Hugh on

Ethanol is welfare for Big Agribusiness. So of course, it is a boondoggle, increases food prices, and will be expanded.

Submitted by Lex on

Of course the political problem with all subsidies is that once established they are very difficult to end. Corn ethanol was a boondoggle from the beginning, which means it must be a beloved program in DC.

The funny thing is that if there was enough ethanol production, which is just alcohol and so doesn't need to be distilled from corn, there might be something to it. In its current mixture, it reduces the combustion and adds water. That means more pollutants from incomplete burn and less power. In pure form, it burns cleaner and has more power. That's why it's used heavily in auto racing. Theoretically, smaller engines could produce equal power, leading to less consumption. (Neglecting that Americans need ever more power. A new Camry can be had with 286 hp. 20 years ago those were high-end sports car numbers, and far more than anyone owning a Camry will ever need or probably be able to safely use.)

Note that we don't see ethanol cars on the road, just cars burning a blend containing up to 15% ethanol. In the BMW, i jump all the way to 91 octane because that's the only blend that doesn't contain ethanol, and for older cars ethanol is very hard on the engine and fuel system.

There is a fundamental disconnect in America on the issue of cars. We want better economy, but also incredibly safe cars - especially from large SUVs. This has led to large vehicles being mandated by safety laws, as well as every more electronic doo-dads in cars, and a quiet horsepower war that puts the 60's to shame. All that's wrapped up in CAFE, which might be the most convoluted and self-defeating piece of environmental legislation ever created.

The answer is simple and it's the same as the Chapman motto on building a race care. "Simplify and add lightness." Current gas engine technology (and certainly diesel) paired with smaller, simpler, lighter cars would easily exceed the mpg of current hybrids. But Americans (who actually hate driving, and prove it by their choice of cars) would not stand for that, and neither would government regulations.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

President Obama has his head in a dark place on this matter. Given his lack of a technical education, he should consult wiser heads. Few, if any, can be found in Congress. Could the national laboratory system (not the DOE) be consulted for an intelligent appraisal?


Submitted by jawbone on

to be getting the hell outta that administration.

What a reputation breaker it can be, being in any administration.

I wonder if the comments that he had minimal impact on curbing carbon emissions, but is getting praise for presiding over making the US more energy independent, all with methods which damage the environment or cost highly in carbon emissions. Wonder if this bothers Chu....