Friday, October 15, 2010

Ethanol's Absent Achievements

Supporters of ethanol subsidies, including Barack Obama, insist that increased biofuel production will reduce America's dependence on imported oil. One flaw in this argument is that it ignores the increased costs of energy--in the form of both taxpayer support and higher pump prices. Another error is that the subsidies raise food prices while squandering arable land.

Even ignoring all that, tax-supported ethanol flunks its fans' first premise--of cutting the flow of oil from abroad. As the Manhattan Institute’s Robert Bryce explains:
Despite Billions in Subsidies, Corn Ethanol Has Not Cut U.S. Oil Imports

In the next few weeks, the Environmental Protection Agency is expected to rule on a proposal to increase from 10 percent to 15 percent the amount of ethanol that may be blended into gasoline. If the EPA approves the move, the U.S. motor-fuel market would yet again become the victim of misguided federal intervention.

Since the 1970s, Congress has justified subsidies to the corn ethanol industry with the oft-repeated claim that boosting domestic production of ethanol will increase America’s energy security by reducing U.S. oil imports.

That claim has no basis in fact.

Between 1999 and 2009, U.S. ethanol production increased seven-fold, to more than 700,000 barrels per day (bbl/d). During that period, however, oil imports increased by more than 800,000 bbl/d. . . Data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration show that oil imports closely track domestic oil consumption. Over the past decade, as oil demand grew, so did imports. When consumption fell, imports did as well. Ethanol production levels had no apparent effect on the volume of oil imports or on consumption.

So despite more than three decades of subsidies costing taxpayers tens of billions of dollars, the ethanol industry cannot point to any decline in oil imports during the period when it experienced its most rapid growth.
Read the whole thing to see how subsidized ethanol falls short of the promised benefits.

(via Planet Gore)


OBloodyHell said...

> Read the whole thing to see how subsidized ethanol falls short of the promised benefits.

No need. It's patently obvious that it's a blatantly clotheaded notion on multiple levels. No need to add yet another layer to its clotheadedness.


Bob in LA said...

It would take 97% of the land in the US to grow enough corn to supply the US. Only 18% of the US land is arable. Even if we convert all the arable land in the US to corn production, we would still only produce less than 20% of the US need. Since about 55% of our oil is imported, it would be less than a third. Not to mention that anything approaching even a quarter of that would be an insane amount of corn to be producing. in 2005, about 75 million acres were used for corn production, about half of that going to feed cattle.

Interestingly enough, if we really want to cut our dependence on foreign oil, we should become vegetarians. About 20% of our oil consumption goes to the production of meat, through grain, water, transportation, etc. of the meat industry.

Anonymous said...

Back in the 1970s the government determined that the amount of energy it took to farm an acre of corn for ethanol was 29% higher than the amount of energy that could be produced by that acre.

If we've become 29% more efficient in growing corn in the last 30 years, we'd be at the point where the amount of energy we get from farming an acre of corn for ethanol allows us to farm that acre, and that is ALL. There would be nothing left to sell as a fuel for others to use.

Ethanol will also absorb water, which oil will not do. So oil can be pumped in pipelines, and if water gets in the pipes, the oil (or gasoline, or diesel) just floats over it. Ethanol absorbs it, it gets in to you fuel tank, and screws up your fuel system. So ethanol has to be trucked everywhere, which makes it more expensive to transport than oil products.

Ethanol has about 40% less energy per gallon than oil. Until it can be sold, without subsidies, for at least that much less than gasoline, it has no chance in the market.

Anonymous said...

Business intelligence healthcare
business intelligence healthcare