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Does Ethanol Reduce Petroleum Imports?

One of the main arguments in favor of ethanol production in the U.S. is that it supports the goals of energy independence by getting us off of foreign oil. After all, we could just tell the entire Mideast to take a hike while we grow our own fuel. In fact, there have been some truly grandiose claims made around this theme. Of course if we are making more ethanol, we are importing less oil as a result. Right? Maybe not. Has anyone actually taken a good look?

A couple of years ago, I looked at total gasoline consumption in an essay called The Mythical Ethanol Threat. My conclusion from that was that despite the rapid ramp up of ethanol, there was no apparent drop in gasoline demand. In fact, gasoline demand (which was corrected for ethanol content by backing that out) actually grew at a steady pace even as ethanol was ramping up sharply. But a couple of years have passed, and some comments following my last essay got me curious: Has U.S. ethanol production actually impacted petroleum imports?

From 2002 through 2007, ethanol production in the U.S. more than tripled: From 2.1 billion gallons per year to 6.5 billion gallons per year. (SourceRFA: Historic U.S. Fuel Ethanol Production). Yet total net petroleum imports (oil, gasoline, diesel, etc.) increased over that time period by 2.1 million barrels per day – from 10.2 million bpd in 2002 to 12.3 million bpd in 2007. (SourceEIA: Weekly U.S. Total Crude Oil and Petroleum Products Net Imports). So what does this mean?

I wasn’t going to jump to a hasty conclusion, so I started to dig. I started with several hypotheses. Perhaps U.S. oil production had fallen by 2.1 million barrels per day over that period of time, and the increase in imports were merely to compensate for that. So I checked. No, domestic production did fall over that period of time, but only by 682,000 barrels per day. Domestic production fell from 5.746 million bpd in 2002 to 5.064 million bpd in 2007 (SourceEIA: U.S. Field Production of Crude Oil). But one could allocate that much of the 2.1 million barrel per day import increase to the lower U.S. production.

Had demand growth accounted for the additional 1.4 million barrel per day increase in imports? Yes, in fact petroleum demand did grow (partially rebounding from the 9/11 attacks that reduced demand) from 19.8 million barrels per day in 2002 to 20.7 million barrels per day in 2007. (SourceEIA: U.S. Product Supplied of Crude Oil and Petroleum Products.) So of the remaining 1.4 million barrels per day of the increase in imports, 900,000 could be explained away as being due to an increase in demand. That still leaves a real increase in petroleum imports of 500,000 barrels per day – despite a tripling of ethanol production.

So how to explain this discrepancy? How can petroleum imports rise above and beyond the total increase in demand plus the drop in domestic production? There are two possibilities that I can think of. If the product in storage increased from 2002 to 2007, that can explain part of it. And we did in fact put a lot of oil in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve during those years (but not enough to account for 500,000 barrels per day).

Another portion can be allocated to declining energy returns as oil becomes heavier, and as we switch to lower energy return options like ethanol. For instance, as the quality of crude oil worsens – higher sulfur and lower gravity – it takes more energy inputs to refine it. Likewise as sulfur standards for clean products tighten; energy inputs increase and the net energy falls. This can result in some cannibalization of the oil. In a case with light, sweet crude you may end up with 9 BTUs of net products for 10 BTUs of petroleum inputs. As the crude gets heavier, the net BTUs may drop to 7 because of the need for higher energy inputs for processing. This can explain more of the discrepancy.*

The same is true of ethanol. It does take some liquid petroleum to grow corn and process ethanol, and as ethanol ramps up some of the petroleum imports will now be required in the ethanol industry. This is similar to the case of light, sweet crude gradually becoming heavier, more sour crude. You may have to increase the imports just to net out the same amount of fuel.

But one thing is pretty clear. Our petroleum imports have not fallen as ethanol has ramped up. So it is really hard to make a strong case based on the data that increased ethanol production is reducing our dependence on foreign oil. One reason for this is something I have talked about before, and that is scale. In 2007, our oil demand was 20.7 million barrels per day. When the lower energy content of ethanol is factored in, the 6.5 billion gallons of ethanol produced in 2007 is only worth 0.26 million barrels per day – just over 1% of our total petroleum consumption.** Factor in that some petroleum (and other fossil fuels as well) was used in the manufacture of the ethanol, and the net contribution falls even further.

Factor in all of the fossil fuel inputs that can also be used as fuels (diesel, natural gas, gasoline) and the total net contribution of ethanol toward our petroleum consumption ends up at under 0.5% (and that includes the energy credit from by-products). This relatively low contribution is another likely reason that there is no obvious impact on our imports from ethanol: The contribution may be simply too small to measure.

Conclusions

In closing, this more than anything explains why I often come out against our ethanol policy. It is being presented as a bigger solution than I think it can ever be – and yet we are throwing a lot of taxpayer money at it. That doesn’t mean that I am against ethanol. If you read a post like this, you might come to that conclusion. But I think ethanol is a fine fuel, and if we had a more efficient way to produce large amounts of it, I would happily support that. I strongly support attempts to get the fossil fuel inputs out of ethanol production. In fact, in my current job I keep a very close watch on ethanol developments – ready to jump in if I see one that I think has major long-term potential.

I also believe – as stated in my essay on Biofuel Niches – that corn ethanol may work out well in specific situations. For instance, it may never provide more than around 1% of net U.S. petroleum needs, but it may be able to supply a fair fraction of the needs in the Midwest. But then I also think that a local solution for Iowa – if it must be subsidized – should be subsidized by the taxpayers of Iowa. If the fuel is produced and consumed in Iowa, and the jobs are created in Iowa, then Iowa should support it. Try to scale it across the U.S., and again I think the net contribution will be lost in the noise – and money from taxpayers outside the Midwest won’t be well-utilized. In the latter case you essentially have a transfer of wealth from taxpayers across the nation into the Midwest.

I actually wanted to be wrong about my initial suspicions as I worked through this, because I don’t like the idea that there has been no measurable impact on imports from our massive ethanol ramp-up. But maybe a reader can spot a mistake that will change the overall conclusion.

Methodology

In this exercise, I used data available from the Energy Information Administration website. I used annual averages to dampen out any noise. I looked at net petroleum imports, which includes those destined for the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR). The reason for using net imports is that this subtracts out the imports that simply went into increased exports. For example, our exports of fuel oil have increased over the past few years, so the imports that ended up being fuel oil exports are excluded.

I only considered data from 2002 through 2007 for two reasons. First, the ethanol ramp-up was pretty steep over those years. An impact should be noticeable as ethanol production tripled. Second, the end of 2007 approximately defines the beginning of the current recession. Imports definitely fell during 2008, but overall consumption fell even more. So inclusion of 2008 would make it more difficult to separate out cause and effect, especially considering the speed at which demand fell. But it will be interesting as we come out of the recession – and as ethanol continues to scale up – whether we eventually see a sustained drop in net petroleum imports.

Notes

* While it can explain some of the phenomenon, it can’t explain a whole lot, because most of the energy used to remove the sulfur from oil is derived from natural gas. Some may be cannibalized from fuel gas produced as the oil is refined, and in that case it would show up as an incremental increase in the barrel inputs into a refinery to produce the same amount of net products. That could translate into higher imports in order to keep production steady.

** A barrel of oil contains around 5.8 million BTUs of energy. It takes approximately 500,000 BTUs to process that barrel into finished products, for a net energy content of finished products of 5.3 million BTUs, or 126,000 BTUs per gallon. Ethanol contains 76,000 BTUs per gallon, so one gallon of ethanol is worth 76,000/126,000 = 0.6 gallons of oil.

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September 27, 2009 - Posted by | EIA, Energy Information Administration, ethanol, ethanol subsidies, gasoline imports, oil imports

202 Comments

  1. Well, let's see. 6.5 Billion gallons/42/365 = 424,000 barrel/day. You say that's equivalent to 230,000 barrels of oil. 230,000/424,000 = .5424So, a gallon of ethanol is equal to .5424 gal of oil. Is that about right?

    Comment by rufus | September 27, 2009

  2. So, a gallon of ethanol is equal to .5424 gal of oil. Is that about right?That is correct. A barrel of oil is generally defined as 5.8 million BTUs, which is 138,000 BTUs/gal. 76/138 = 0.55.But, now that I think about it, the ethanol is processed and the oil has to be processed. I know from my refinery days that it takes about 500,000 BTUs to refine a barrel into finished products. So if we adjust the barrel of finished oil to 5.3 million BTUs, we get 126,000 BTUs/gal net. That doesn't change the answer by much, but I will modify it to reflect this.RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | September 27, 2009

  3. Cause, here's the problem with that. You can't burn "Crude Oil" in your car. You have to convert it to gasoline. Now, what I've read says you lose 20% when you convert to gasoline.So, 230,000/.80 = 287,500 divide that by 424,000 = 67.8%. Getting closer. That would work fine if we were boiling water. But, we're running an internal combustion engine. OCTANE Matters. Let's just set it on 75%, and get down to business.424,000 X .75 = 318,000 barrels of petroleum fuel on which you can actually run a spark ICE.

    Comment by rufus | September 27, 2009

  4. Now, what I've read says you lose 20% when you convert to gasoline.That's not correct. You read that from people who have never worked in a refinery. I used to be in charge of our energy model. See my answer above. I also have a literature reference that says exactly the same thing, should you have serious doubts.Correcting for that changed the net from 0.23% of daily demand to 0.26%. You are going to have to try a different angle if you are going to make a dent.But, we're running an internal combustion engine. OCTANE Matters.And a big chunk of the barrel of oil ends up as diesel. So you would probably be on safer ground to penalize ethanol instead of the barrel of oil. Again, you are probing infertile ground here. Further, it does nothing to address the issue that oil imports have gone up as ethanol production has increased.By all means, take your best shot. I would sincerely like to see my argument proven wrong. RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | September 27, 2009

  5. Ethanol is currently only blended with gasoline. So you need to remove any oil that is used for Diesel, jet fuel, chemical production, and heating oil. I believe these account for about 40% of consumption but I am not sure on that. Any increase from non gasoline production from oil should be subtracted out from the increase in imports. Also how much of the gasoline useage change is associated with population increase? How much of the change is associated with MPG change in cars? Without seeing details on how you came up with your answer in this article and how the above was addressed, it is impossible to determine if your answer is correct.

    Comment by Anonymous | September 27, 2009

  6. Also how much of the gasoline useage change is associated with population increase? How much of the change is associated with MPG change in cars?None of that matters, because I actually compensated for the increase in demand. It doesn't matter why demand increased; I factored in that it did increase. Yet oil imports increased on top of that.Without seeing details on how you came up with your answer in this article and how the above was addressed, it is impossible to determine if your answer is correct.I think I was quite explicit in the methodology section, and linked directly to the sources of data.You are of course free to do your own analysis as you see fit and show that oil imports did fall as a result of ethanol when all of the variables you think are important are factored in.RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | September 27, 2009

  7. I see my discrepancy. I was usine 230 instead of 260. I should have looked back. 260/.8 = 325/424 = .76 That's more like it. Same result, math's better.Anyway, it's an exercise in whodunnit. The EIA, and the API can be off by 7, or 8 Million barrels on their inventory numbers on any given Wednesday. We know this: It takes about 5 gallons of diesel to farm an acre of corn. The acre of corn will produce 150 bushels. .4 of those 150 bushels will produce 150 X 2.85 = 427 gallons of ethanol. Divide that by .4 and you get 1068 gallons of ethanol off of your 5 gallons of diesel. We'll just call it .005 gal of diesel to raise a gallon of ethanol.It takes about a gal of diesel to deliver 300 gallons of ethanol 400 miles by train. Figure 1,200 miles on average would be 1 gallon per hundred gallons of ethanol. Aw, let's be a sport and give it another .005 for the tanker truck, and you have .02 gallons of diesel in a gallon of ethanol.So we have embedded in the 424,000 barrels of ethanol 424,000 X .02 = 8,480 barrels of diesel. Not much there is there.

    Comment by rufus | September 27, 2009

  8. Here's your problem, RR. We know the ethanol is there, and that there's very little diesel embedded in it. That's just a fact.We know that in the real world 424,000 barrels of ethanol will replace about 318,000 barrels of gasoline. And we know that our "marginal" barrel of gasoline is Imported. And, that, Son, is "All She Wrote."

    Comment by rufus | September 27, 2009

  9. The EIA, and the API can be off by 7, or 8 Million barrels on their inventory numbers on any given Wednesday.That's why I used annual numbers.Here's your problem, RR.I don't think I have a problem. I am not concocting scenarios to try to estimate how much fossil fuel is embodied in ethanol. You are. I am just showing that oil imports have actually increased as ethanol production has ramped up. That makes it a bit difficult to argue that ethanol is getting us off of foreign oil.We know that in the real world 424,000 barrels of ethanol will replace about 318,000 barrels of gasoline.That's a gross replacement, not a net. I think that's where you get into trouble; you ignore or hand-wave away a lot of inputs. You believe that the embodied inputs into ethanol are lower than they probably are. For instance, in the real world, construction of ethanol plants does have all sorts of other embodied energy inputs – which will be paid for in the real world. (And the USDA studies acknowledged that, but said "We don't know the numbers, so we didn't include them.") You can forget about all kinds of things and cut all kinds of corners when you try to build out the hypothetical model of how ethanol is displacing foreign petroleum. At the end of the day, if it doesn't show up in the data, it isn't real. So far, I don't see it in the data, and all you are saying is "It must be there." Show me.RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | September 27, 2009

  10. That's it. We used 318,000 barrels of oil/day building ethanol refineries.Glad that's settled.

    Comment by rufus | September 27, 2009

  11. Rufus, you are seeming a bit desperate. Just look at the data and tell me we are displacing foreign oil. It should be there, right? And we know it isn't really 318,000 barrels, don't we, because that isn't net? What you are saying is "It should be X." I am saying "Here is the data that shows that it is Y." Now you can argue all day and make all kinds of sarcastic comments that Y should really be X, but it has to show up in the data where the bills actually get paid for the oil that's coming in. Not on paper where you can forget about some of the energy inputs.Actually, I see something in the data worth investigating, but I will save that for tomorrow as it is getting late. During the years 2005-2007, net imports drifted down slightly (although crude imports rose in each of those years). There are some apparent reasons for that; our exports of fuel oil increased by more than the net imports fell. Also, overall demand was slightly down. So, hard to make final conclusions, but still no apparent ethanol impact. It shouldn't be this hard to find, should it? I would think you of all people would have had the talking points ready for this argument. Yet you seem to be searching for the right tactic. Sleep on it.RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | September 27, 2009

  12. Yet you seem to be searching for the right tactic.Uh, no, I've been over at Wattsupwiththat. Roy Spencer has a good post up there.As for this topic, it's gone surreal. 318,000, or, heck, pick a number barrels/oil daily gone to build ethanol plants. I had to call it a day on that one. It's good to end the day with a smile, though.

    Comment by rufus | September 27, 2009

  13. As for this topic, it's gone surreal. 318,000, or, heck, pick a number barrels/oil daily gone to build ethanol plants.That's what I mean about you getting desperate. You don't normally resort to such straw man tactics. The above is not what I said, but I presume you haven't figured out how to address what I have been saying and so you throw out that straw man.The bottom line is that you have constructed a low-input scenario in your mind that does not mesh with the reality of the oil import claims. The hemming and hawing just makes it more obvious that right now, you have no answer. Sleep on it and maybe you will come up with one.In the mean time, I checked and the flattening of imports from 2005-2007 almost perfectly correlates with the overall drop in demand (which already has ethanol in the numbers; thus the drop was not "because" of ethanol).RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | September 27, 2009

  14. By the way, it's times like this (and there have been a lot of them) that convinced me beyond any reasonable doubt of your ethanol ties.People who sincerely think we should be doing ethanol will argue that it is a good idea. When confronted with data that doesn't seem to fit the story, they are apt to go "Hmm. That's curious. I should find out more about that to see what the truth really is."I have never once seen you do that. When something doesn't fit the narrative – as is the case here – you go immediately into lobbyist mode. You don't address the facts. You throw straw men out there. You insist that your envelope-scratching trumps the data. But what you don't do is reflect, which would be the behavior of a non-lobbyist. You don't ask "Is this true?" You ask "How can I defend against this argument?" The defense attorney defends his client no matter what. The ethanol lobbyist defends ethanol no matter what. Contradictory facts are to be smeared, dismissed, ridiculed, hand-waved, or trumped with your own pet studies. Talking points are ready for all ethanol criticisms. That fits your behavior to a T, and was consistent with all of your ethanol boosterism on The Oil Drum.RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | September 27, 2009

  15. "Has U.S. ethanol production actually reduced petroleum imports?"You're way too smart for this Robert. First of all,we should consider ethanol a success story even if it just reduced the "rate of growth" in oil imports. Secondly,you're using 2002-2007 to prove your point. Air traffic was off something like 20% after 9-11. The whole economy suffered. Of course,oil imports would increase substantially after growth resumed,with or without ethanol. Torture numbers, and they'll confess to anything. ~Gregg Easterbrook

    Comment by Maury | September 27, 2009

  16. Jevons Paradox.QED. >:)Oh, and no ethanol plant has ever been designed to reduce fossil fuel use. They're "integrated" so to speak to support "jubs," the rail lines, the coal mines, the natural gas pipelines, the grain elevators, the established farming markets and every other economic interest that could get a seat at the table.

    Comment by Anonymous | September 27, 2009

  17. 🙂 I'm desperate?Okay, Bubba, we are now producing 11,532,000,000 gallons of ethanol on an annual basis, and it's not replacing a drop of gasoline. Happy?BTW, after I've had some coffee I think I'll try to dig out the distillate sales in the fall of 07'. I remember everyone was stocking up in the face of what was feared to be $20.00 NG.

    Comment by rufus | September 27, 2009

  18. RR said a while ago he hasn't caught RFA's Bob Dinneen in a lie, but RFA routinely 'dis-informs' US policy makers regarding ethanol's contribution to US 'energy security'. According to RFA: "FACT: The production and use of 9 billion gallons of ethanol in 2008 displaced the need for 321.4 million barrels of oil." To them, 214 million bbls of ethanol displace 321 million bbls of crude. This is one of the biggest lies around. RR has whacked them for it more than once, but they still scream it just as loudly, even in Congressional testimony. Can anyone defend that kind of distortion? The only way RFA gets a number like that is to, among other factors, ignore the 'co-products' like distillates and propane etc obtained from a barrel of oil. Their evil twin, Growth Energy, is equally, but differently, deceptive, as they indicate 2008 ethanol production of 9 bil gal displaced 300 million bbls of gasoline . . . . The saddest thing is that these same claims are parroted by senior US politicians on both sides of the aisle. No wonder we can't get decent energy policies out of these guys.

    Comment by OxyMaven | September 27, 2009

  19. Robert, you started out saying that 424,000 barrels of ethanol was the equivalent of 260,000 barrels of oil, which I had to call you on.Then, you stated:This can result in some cannibalization of the oil. In a case with light, sweet crude you may end up with 9 BTUs of net products for 10 BTUs of petroleum inputs. As the crude gets heavier, the net BTUs may drop to 7 because of the need for higher energy inputs for processing. This can explain more of the discrepancy.And, just left it hanging out there, and moved on to something else.The fact is, no one could prepare for this off-the-wall supposition. It just doesn't make sense.We know that during that time, to use your numbers, we were producing 424,000 barrels of ethanol/day. We know that we were using about 8,500 barrels of diesel in the process. And, you're saying we replaced no petroleum. You're saying we get, essentially "0" mpg on ethanol.And, now, I'm supposed to mount an argument? Really?

    Comment by rufus | September 27, 2009

  20. Oxymaven, I agree. Those statements are Idiotic. I didn't realize that Dineen had made them.Of course, you get some stuff from the other side that's just as bad.A pox on all their houses. I read, and try to make the most sense out of it I can.

    Comment by rufus | September 27, 2009

  21. Well, this has been fun. Can we all agree now that ethanol is better in the passenger than in the gas tank?There is a very simple test which can be applied to any "alternate" fuel — Is the Political Class talking about taxing it? If not, then it is not an economically viable "alternate" fuel.

    Comment by Kinuachdrach | September 27, 2009

  22. I suspect that much of the inefficiency is in the use of the ethanol.At 5% blend, it seems that fuel economy suffers beyond that which a simple LHV btu analysis would suggest.For example, if on straight ethanol free gasoline, a car returns 20mpg then it will use 5 gallons to travel 100 miles.On E5 gasoline the car potentially returns 19mpg, meaning it will use 5.26 gallons over 100 miles.Which is 5 gallons of straight gas, and 0.26 gallons of ethanol.So in effect gasoline consumption remains static, at 5 gallons in each case.Why would this occur? Well it could be that poor vaporisation of the ethanol in the fuel supports incomplete combustion (which the catalytic converter then gets left to clean up).Or perhaps the (very) low compression ratios of American engines (designed for regular unleaded gas) isn't well suited to efficently utilising ethanol.I don't know why the thermal efficiency seems to suffer, but the data (from overall oil imports etc) would appear to suggest that ethanol isn't doing much of anything once in a vehicle.For this reason, I'd much rather have one of MIT's proposed compound fuel engines, running a high compression engine on straight gas, and using hydrous ethanol with direct injection to prevent detonation at high throttle loads. Most of my driving is at cruise speed with little load on the engine so a small tank of ethanol would last months, and derive the absolute maximum benefit from the limited ethanol supplies.CheersAndy

    Comment by Andytk | September 27, 2009

  23. Kinuachdrach said:"There is a very simple test which can be applied to any "alternate" fuel — Is the Political Class talking about taxing it? If not, then it is not an economically viable "alternate" fuel."LOL, so true….I'm still trying to work out how our useless political masters here in the EU are planning to tax mobility if part electric vehicles become mainstream rapidly.That lot of tax'n'spend gravy-train-riders would have a freakin heart attack if they thought that as much as 20% of their fuel duty revenue was at risk.Pay-by-the-mile numberplate tracking.You saw it here first…..Andy

    Comment by Andytk | September 27, 2009

  24. To the best of my knowledge no one has ever tested cars and came out with a 5% drop in mileage on 5% ethanol. If you know of such a test post it, please.The worst I've ever seen was that LA92 test that rendered something like 3%+ loss on 10% ethanol.I guess I need to go wash my car, and change the oil. I didn't realize how truly special a ride it is. 21mpg on E85 when I should be getting something like 3.9 mpg. Zoweee. I'm "blessed," I tells ye.

    Comment by rufus | September 27, 2009

  25. RRYou can provide a link to your spreadsheet. That would eliminate math errors and people could just argue about inputs and assumptions.The human mind can pick any reality it wants. You will never sway a debate partner. Debate is for the audience. Keep that in mind when debating Rufus, or a fence post for that matter.Rufus "believes" in corn ethanol. Once you "believe", the means will tend to justify the ends.Witness the birthers, the creationists, the 9/11 conspiracy theorists and on and on.It took a judge and a perjury charge to finally throw water on the creationists PR run.The RFA is well funded by those with political and economic interests. They have found a way to dip into the public larder and get away with it under the guise of energy independence. They spent almost a quarter million on lobbying last quarter.Biodiversivist

    Comment by Russ Finley | September 27, 2009

  26. And, 4 oil companies spent over $40 MILLION. And, your point was?Yep, I Believe my car runs on E85. I Believe I get 346 miles on a fill-up.I "believe" that must be some mighty fine gasoline MFA's mixing with that 0mpg ethanol.

    Comment by rufus | September 27, 2009

  27. First of all,we should consider ethanol a success story even if it just reduced the "rate of growth" in oil imports.But it didn't, Maury. That's the point. If you overlay demand (which has ethanol in that number already) over imports, you see that it is the only thing that has moderated imports. Secondly,you're using 2002-2007 to prove your point. Air traffic was off something like 20% after 9-11.Didn't you see that I subtracted out for increased demand? If demand increased by a million barrels during that time frame – which it approximately did – I presumed that import growth was associated with that. But beyond that, imports still grew. I thought overnight someone would find a big flaw in my thinking, or someone would put up some contradictory numbers. This is quite straightforward, and an easy exercise. I have provided links to all the data. Someone show me that ethanol has decreased oil imports. Or Maury, show me that ethanol has slowed the growth rate of imports.RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | September 27, 2009

  28. RR said a while ago he hasn't caught RFA's Bob Dinneen in a lie, but RFA routinely 'dis-informs' US policy makers regarding ethanol's contribution to US 'energy security'.Correction: It was Rufus who said that. Dinneen's job is to promote ethanol, and if that requires misinformation he has never been beyond that. When I note that it was Rufus who spoke up to defend him.RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | September 27, 2009

  29. Okay, Bubba, we are now producing 11,532,000,000 gallons of ethanol on an annual basis, and it's not replacing a drop of gasoline. Happy?If it's there, you should be able to show me. Right? Instead of continuing to throw barbs and attempt misdirection, just show me the data.RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | September 27, 2009

  30. RR, you've pointed out the obvious here. Nobody (in their right mind) says that ethanol consumption will reduce the absolute amount of petroleum being imported. Rather, the idea is that imports will be less than they would have been in the absence of ethanol. But herein lies the problem that Rufus doesn't want to acknowledge: even with the reduced (compared to the "no ethanol" scenario) level of imports, it was not nearly enough to stop the huge spike in 2008 oil prices. The fact is that ethanol, just like gasoline, is too cheap also.Lets face it, if ethanol could be sustainably produced as cheaply as today's gasoline, AND it could offset a large percentage of gasoline consumption so that it became the dominant fuel, then the price of ethanol would drive the price of oil instead of the other way around. Given that the opposite is the case, ethanol just allows overall fuel consumption to spike a bit higher before recession and demand destruction sets in.If you believe that the markets will signal the appropriate price for oil in a way that allows an orderly transition to alternatives then there is nothing to worry about (other than being wrong). If (like me) you believe the opposite then not only do gasoline taxes need to be raised to give the right signal, but ethanol subsidies have to disappear so that it is forced to compete on a level playing field with other alternatives. Otherwise ethanol is just as misleadingly cheap as gasoline.

    Comment by PeteS | September 27, 2009

  31. The fact is, no one could prepare for this off-the-wall supposition. It just doesn't make sense.Of course it makes sense. As crude gets heavier, and sulfur restrictions tighten, it takes more energy to refine the barrel of oil. Most of the energy comes from natural gas, but some energy from the barrel can be cannibalized. For instance, some units produce fuel gas which can be sold, but if refining energy requirements go up it may go back into refining the barrel. Thus, 1 barrel of imports will produce slightly less products over time. All else being equal, that would make the import needs go up. It is just an explanation for how some disconnect can occur. But not by that much, since most of the energy is coming from natural gas anyway. We know that we were using about 8,500 barrels of diesel in the process. And, you're saying we replaced no petroleum. You're saying we get, essentially "0" mpg on ethanol.I have always maintained that you have problems with your inputs. Your constant use to rosy inputs to spin the ethanol tale might work in your mind, but if they are inaccurate that will show up in the data. And, now, I'm supposed to mount an argument? Really?You have got your lobbyist hat on there. Put your analytical hat back on. Pull the data and see if you can tease it into showing an impact from ethanol. Don't treat this as some point you are trying to win. Try to figure out the truth.RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | September 27, 2009

  32. Rather, the idea is that imports will be less than they would have been in the absence of ethanol.That was the reason for subtracting out the changes in demand. If what you say is true, and I subtract out demand growth (as I did) and add in the drop in U.S. production (which I did) then it should show a drop in imports from the ethanol effect. It's not there.RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | September 27, 2009

  33. You can provide a link to your spreadsheet. That would eliminate math errors and people could just argue about inputs and assumptions.Is there a place I can host it? I would be happy to clean it up and post it.Cheers, RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | September 27, 2009

  34. NO, YOU show the Data. Extraordinary Claims require Extraordinary Proof. And, this claim is Quite "Extraordinary."And, as I stated earlier, I think you should expound a bit more on this:This can result in some cannibalization of the oil. In a case with light, sweet crude you may end up with 9 BTUs of net products for 10 BTUs of petroleum inputs. As the crude gets heavier, the net BTUs may drop to 7 because of the need for higher energy inputs for processing. This can explain more of the discrepancy.I have put up "Numbers" showing it's impossible for what you are claiming to be true. You've just put up statements.RR, no one in their right mind would go dragging around the internet trying to find "Proof" to refute a flat-earther. That's just Bizarre. If there's an elephant in the living room, and you say you don't see the elephant, I'm not going to try to convince you the elephant is there. That would be Madness. I might be Crazy, but I'm not barking, moonbat bonkers (I hope, anyway.)I will say this. Please tell us where that ethanol is going. If it's not decreasing imports, where is it going, and what is it doing?Or, is it really your contention that 8% ethanol is leading to an 8% loss in fuel economy. This is Your Theory, Chum. You "Explain" it.

    Comment by rufus | September 27, 2009

  35. Oh, and I, immediately, said that that statement by Dineen/RFA was idiotic.And, I didn't click on the Growth Energy link (I don't like Wesley Clark,) but that statement was idiotic, also. You have Never seen me make a statement like that.

    Comment by rufus | September 27, 2009

  36. Oops, now I guess Dineen, and RFA are going to "Fire" me. Dang it all.And, here I was getting all that "Crazy Blog Money."

    Comment by rufus | September 27, 2009

  37. And, what part of my "Input" scenario is "Rosy?"We know what the farmers tell us. They use 5 gal/diesel/acre. We know what the Corn/Ethanol yields are.We know how much diesel it costs to ship a ton by rail. UP, and CVX run ads about it. We know how much fuel a tanker truck uses. We know people that drive them.What part of my scenario was "Rosy?"

    Comment by rufus | September 27, 2009

  38. NO, YOU show the Data. Extraordinary Claims require Extraordinary Proof. And, this claim is Quite "Extraordinary."Take your lobbyist hat off. I am not hiding any data. I have linked to it. Implications that I am sitting on hidden data is a lobbyist ploy. We measure imports. We measure demand. We measure domestic production. We measure ethanol production. I linked to all of those. Take the growth in imports during the ethanol ramp up, subtract out demand growth which would explain some level of imports, subtract out imports that have to compensate for falling domestic production, and we should see a drop from ethanol. It isn't an extraordinary claim. I am showing you what the numbers say. I have put up "Numbers" showing it's impossible for what you are claiming to be true. You've just put up statements.Your first statement is just nonsensical. What numbers? You are the one making claims. When you say "It takes X BTUs to produce ethanol", that is a claim. You don't know it to be true. When I say "It will take more BTUs to refine heavy crude", that is a fact. RR, no one in their right mind would go dragging around the internet trying to find "Proof" to refute a flat-earther. That's just Bizarre.You are the flat-earther here. I am showing you a picture of a round earth. You are still trying to reconcile that by saying "But it must be flat!" You have brought no data to refute my argument. You are just making claims and casting aspersions.If there's an elephant in the living room, and you say you don't see the elephant, I'm not going to try to convince you the elephant is there.Once again, you have your analogy backwards. The data is not an invisible elephant. It is there for you to refute. You have a picture of the elephant. So far, you have refused to look at it.I will say this. Please tell us where that ethanol is going. If it's not decreasing imports, where is it going, and what is it doing?We don't have to suppose, do we? We have the data. We can measure it. I can speculate all day. You can speculate on how it's just got to decrease imports. Just show me in the data. I have already told you that a good candidate for why we are seeing this is that the overall ethanol energy inputs are about break even. You just have never applied a broad enough measure to take into account everything that involves putting ethanol into your tank.Or, is it really your contention that 8% ethanol is leading to an 8% loss in fuel economy. This is Your Theory, Chum. You "Explain" it. Straw man alert! Can you be anything but a lobbyist for once?RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | September 27, 2009

  39. That's odd – when I used monthly data to chart this I showed a sharp peak in crude imports at Sep 05; using the 4 wk average it looks much more like a plateau. Didn't realize the contrast would be so sharp. I'd construct moving averages for both imports and product supplied to see what's going on.

    Comment by Kevin Rietmann | September 27, 2009

  40. And, here I was getting all that "Crazy Blog Money."Do you deny that lobbyists have been employed to do exactly what you are doing? To go around spreading the good news and trying to cast doubt on those who dispute the good news?RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | September 27, 2009

  41. I showed a sharp peak in crude imports at Sep 05;Hurricane Katrina.RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | September 27, 2009

  42. Pete, I pretty much agree with what you wrote. The ethanol industry as it's constructed, now, surely Won't Save Us. In fact, I can't see it making much of a difference, at all.If we really get "up against it," though, I think the nature of the industry might change. I think we might see a whole lot of small, "local" operations, instead of a few Big ones.I could imagine it starting with small groups of farmers/rural folk building small stills which could lead to larger entities such as towns, and counties grabbing hold.It ALL depends on the price of gasoline.

    Comment by rufus | September 27, 2009

  43. And, what part of my "Input" scenario is "Rosy?"Are you for real? You have consistently, since you first made an appearance on TOD, thrown out the most optimistic studies and used the most optimistic data. You have never tried to be conservative with your numbers, which is a hallmark of most engineers. Far better to underpromise and overdeliver. Thus, if we have a range of estimates, we will generally be conservative. You are always optimistic, and you are always quick to latch on to any study that supports the pro-ethanol point of view. You are fine with a study in the middle of corn country that was paid for by the ethanol lobby – as long as their answer is pro-ethanol. If it was anti-ethanol, you would start telling us about their oil ties. That's just the way it goes with you.Here is one source of error. Energy credit for DDGS. On paper, you can do some creative things and convince yourself that the energy inputs into ethanol are low by allocating them to DDGS. In the real world, what you get is much closer to 1 BTU of ethanol for 1 BTU of fossil fuel inputs. So the DDGS allocation may be the source of some discrepancy.RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | September 27, 2009

  44. I have no idea if RFA, or Growth energy employ bloggers. Or, if Exxon, API, Saudi Arabia, Conoco, or my aunt Matilda does, either. It doesn't concern me. I do suppose, however, that an employer would want the "Blog-Daddy" to spend a lot more time on the NYT, CNN, WaPo, and Fox blogs and not nearly as much as I spend, here, and at Wattsupwiththat.

    Comment by rufus | September 27, 2009

  45. Our population has grown more than 25% since the turn of the century. The economy has grown more than 25%. Domestic production of crude is down over 10%. And yet,we imported fewer petroleum products in June(the latest month for which data is available),than we did in June of 2000. That folks,is the miracle of ethanol.The average human has one breast and one testicle. ~Des McHale

    Comment by Maury | September 27, 2009

  46. Looks like you're changing the subject back to nat gas. But the subject of your post has to do with "Petroleum."I gave you my numbers for "Petroleum" inputs. Give us "Yours."Oh, and if you have any spare time, you might want to put some real numbers to this statement:In the real world, what you get is much closer to 1 BTU of ethanol for 1 BTU of fossil fuel inputs. So the DDGS allocation may be the source of some discrepancy.You know, "Real World" numbers.

    Comment by rufus | September 27, 2009

  47. I do have a couple of questions, though. 1) What about "Exports" of Diesel to Europe, and Gasoline to Mexico – What did They do?2) Oil, and Products in inventory – How much oil, Distillates, and Gasoline did we start with, and end with?3) What were the "Sales" of Distillates (particularly home heating oil) like in the summer/fall of 07' vs 02'?

    Comment by rufus | September 27, 2009

  48. Oh, and inventories/sales of "Jet Fuel?"

    Comment by rufus | September 27, 2009

  49. And yet,we imported fewer petroleum products in June(the latest month for which data is available),than we did in June of 2000.That folks,is the miracle of ethanol.No, that is the miracle of misusing the data. Demand was actually down between those dates you mentioned, due to the recession. That demand number includes ethanol, so it was a real drop in demand between those dates – and not a demand caused by increased ethanol production. Had demand grown – and yet imports dropped – you would have a point worth investigating. As it stands, you are simply confusing one effect for another.RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | September 27, 2009

  50. Another great essay by RR. I wish RR was Secy of Energy.Ethanol was a major plank, and the only plank made effective, President Bush's energy program. It seems to have accomplished nothing. It obviously is not making a major dent in our dependence on oil, and I don't see how it could. Obama may en route to accomplishing even less. What is wrong with much higher mpg cars, the European solution? CNG cars? Mass transit? Scooters?PS I don't think Rufus is employed as an ethanol lobbyist. Lobbyists spend weekends on the Cayman Islands with our elected reps, not in blog-fights. But on the topic, I do wonder who finances The Oil Drum. I have sent e-mails regarding this issue to Kyle L. Saunders, Associate Professor of Political Science at Colorado State University, known as "Professor Goose" of TOD, and he does not respond. Evidently, there is a Center or Institute which helps to fund TOD, but Mr. Saunders has not taken the time to reveal who funds the Center.Of course, funneling money to the editors (let alone posters) on TOD would be easy enough, and undetectable. Unlike real news reporters, the TOD editors do not sign conflict of interest disclosure forms. Even if they did, there are public relations agencies who will hire people to write "white papers," with the silent understanding what they are really hiring is your voice, repeated loudly, in public forums such as TOD. Hell, they can put your wife on payroll. Professor Saunders' behavior was particularly curious during the famous "Hurricane Gonu," a 2007 storm he and others hysterically speculated would wreck major parts of the Mideast oil world. The storm subsided at sea and did little if any damage (like all storms in the region, have you ever heard of a hurricane hitting Saudi Arabia?) –but even after it subsided, "Professor Goose" (Saunders) & Co. were loudly proclaiming imminent doom. It smelled of an action to push the NYMEX. What kind of "professor" uses a stage name in a public forum? RR is right to be concerned that there are posters and bloggers who cloak their agendas. The blogosphere has become powerful in the sense that it leads the news. The MSM is often taking their cues from the blogs. The hysteria over Peak Oil, I contend, is one such example.

    Comment by Benny "Boom, No Doom" Cole | September 27, 2009

  51. I am reminded me of my working days when we would sit in a meeting and the owner plus my boss would start doing back of the envelope type calculations – they would reach the strangest conclusions which would be refuted within an hour after the meeting was over.I fully agree that recorded, conservative engineering calculations with backup are meaningful. Talk is useless.

    Comment by russ | September 27, 2009

  52. Looks like you're changing the subject back to nat gas.How so? Natural gas is a peripheral topic, but definitely not the subject.I gave you my numbers for "Petroleum" inputs. Give us "Yours."That's just the thing. We really don't know. Even the USDA, when they did their energy estimates, said they didn't know. So I would throw out a guess just like you consistently have, and we could overlook all kinds of things. I would much rather look at actual, measured data than to engage in a lot of guesswork. If the guesswork is real, we should see it in the data. Of course I guess someone could just be stealing an awful lot of our petroleum imports.You know, "Real World" numbers.Real world numbers – per the 2004 USDA study – came out to less than 1.1 BTUs of ethanol out for 1 BTU of fossil fuel in. I will have to check and see if they broke that down by the type of input. Then they made an allocation to DDGS. Finally, as I said they admitted that they hadn't included all the inputs, because they just didn't have data for some of them.I do have a couple of questions, though. This is probably the direction you should have gone from the beginning. Makes it look much more like you are simply interested in getting to the bottom of things, rather than simply to win a debate point for your side by throwing all sorts of random things at the question.The answer is "I am looking at all that, and plotting the data." I still have yet to see anything that can be attributed to ethanol. I agree with you that intuitively it should be there, but again it may just be that this is highlighting what a truly tiny contribution we are getting. Too tiny to measure.RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | September 27, 2009

  53. Maybe this means the much maligned Professor Pimentel was right after all.

    Comment by Anonymous | September 27, 2009

  54. "No, that is the miracle of misusing the data."Which is the point I was attempting to belabor. I'm no master fudger. If I were,I'm sure I could blow the socks off your argument with statistics of my own.Statistics are like women; mirrors of purest virtue and truth, or like whores to use as one pleases. ~Theodor Billroth

    Comment by Maury | September 27, 2009

  55. Which is the point I was attempting to belabor. I'm no master fudger. If I were,I'm sure I could blow the socks off your argument with statistics of my own.And if I were a master football player, I would be getting paid to play today. You know what they say about ifs and buts.Anyway, do go on. Are you implying that I am fudging data? Is the EIA in on the the game?Don't look at the numbers then. Tell me how you would determine that ethanol production has had an impact on our oil imports. It is quite easy to say that you could refute my arguments, "if only…." Just walk me through the steps. Show me how you would set up the problem to show the ethanol effect. Which variables would you examine? Why?I want to be wrong about this. Really. But so far I am seeing no indication that I am, and my argument is getting stronger as I plot the data. The idea that ethanol has impacted imports is really hard to make once you put the change in demand on top of the change in imports. They are right on top of one another.RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | September 27, 2009

  56. You have something that could make a difference of approx. 300,000/21,000,000 = 0.0143 or 1.4% spread out over Five Years, and the data is, basically, a hodge-podge of suppositions, and guesses.Sometimes you just have to go with the "logical" assumption.

    Comment by rufus | September 27, 2009

  57. Sometimes you just have to go with the "logical" assumption.When the measured data don't match up to the "logical" assumption, we have to question whether the assumption was logical. Or we have to figure out something that could explain the apparent discrepancy. Just continuing to insist that the assumption is logical is illogical.RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | September 27, 2009

  58. I do suppose, however, that an employer would want the "Blog-Daddy" to spend a lot more time on the NYT, CNN, WaPo, and Fox blogs and not nearly as much as I spend, here, and at Wattsupwiththat.Maybe you got stuck with the more challenging assignment of taking on the engineers. Those comments on NYT are bush league stuff. :-)RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | September 27, 2009

  59. As for "Petroleum" inputs into ethanol, there are really only 3 places you can find them.Farming, Rail, and Truck. The only one of my numbers I would give an inch on would be "truck." I was tired last night, and if someone beat me across the head, and shoulders they could get me, maybe, to raise that to 0.01 gal/diesel per gal of ethanol instead of 0.005.But, that would just raise it to 0.025 to 1.These numbers are just simple. BTW, if I recall that 2004 USDA study, correctly, that number was heavily influenced by the disparate (compared to today) number of Big ADM, and Cargill Wet-Grind Plants. They use a lot of energy, but produce a wide assortment of meals, feeds, oils, etc.They were a big percentage of the installed-base back then. Today, it's all about the Dry-grind plants. They use a lot less energy, and are much more focused in what they produce.

    Comment by rufus | September 27, 2009

  60. When I was selling insurance, I would crack the door open to the engineering dept, throw a couple of brochures in the room, and say, "See you next year."

    Comment by rufus | September 27, 2009

  61. "The idea that ethanol has impacted imports is really hard to make once you put the change in demand on top of the change in imports."The devil is in the details Robert. We have the changes in demand,and we have the changes in imports. What we don't have is what those changes would have been in the absence of ethanol. Common sense says demand for crude oil would have grown more from 2002-2007 if we didn't have X amount of ethanol to blend with it. You're going to say the numbers don't prove that. I'm going to say the numbers don't disprove that. We can go back and forth till the cows come home.Do not put your faith in what statistics say until you have carefully considered what they do not say. ~William W. Watt

    Comment by Maury | September 27, 2009

  62. What we don't have is what those changes would have been in the absence of ethanol.What we have is even better: The actual overall increase in petroleum products demand – which includes ethanol. So unless you have some compelling reason that overall demand growth would have been greater in the absence of ethanol, then there really is nothing to latch on to there. You're going to say the numbers don't prove that. I'm going to say the numbers don't disprove that. We can go back and forth till the cows come home.Not really, because your argument is based on hope and belief. Mine is based on measurable data. You believe that petroleum imports would have grown faster in the absence of ethanol, but you have made no attempt to justify why you think total "Crude Oil and Petroleum Products" – which includes ethanol – would have been greater without ethanol.RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | September 27, 2009

  63. Ho hum. Rufus, retain your dignity & move on. RR has put forward a solid case that the "signal" from increased ethanol is about the same magnitude as the "noise" in the data. From a purely practical point of view, ethanol (as currently practiced) is not scaling up to become a significant net contributor to transportation fuel. Done!RR – congratulations, you have made a solid case, one which has not been seriously challenged. Time to move on.The real elephant in the corner of this room is what it tells us about the current politically-driven approach to alternative energy. The rent-seekers are wasting the planet's finite resources. Whether it is ethanol or wind power or solar cells, careful analysis shows the politically correct alternate energy sources are not self-supporting; they are not making a signficant net energy contribution; and their growth is driven by unsustainable subsidies.We don't have much time people, and we are wasting it.

    Comment by Kinuachdrach | September 27, 2009

  64. Common sense says demand for crude oil would have grown more from 2002-2007 if we didn't have X amount of ethanol to blend with it.One thing I used to say a lot when I was arguing with Creationists is that you have to beware of what your "common sense" tells you. For many people, for many years, common sense said the world was flat. After all, just look at it. It looks flat. But over time people began to speculate and to devise experiments that eventually proved that it wasn't flat. And now it is just silly to talk about a flat earth, and yet for a great period of time it was common sense.Specifically, here is where your common sense argument breaks down. If I put an energy source into the fuel supply, and it contains X BTUs, but it takes X BTUs of the same energy that was imported in order to facilitate entry of that energy source into the fuel supply – then in fact you could put it in and never see it since it didn't displace any net energy. In that case, X BTUs may have been displaced on a gross basis, but X more BTUs had to be imported to do the displacing. Thus, no impact.I am not suggesting that this is exactly what we are seeing, but there is an element of that in there. I really think what this shows is just that the net impact from ethanol on our energy supplies is so negligible that it doesn't leave a measurable footprint.RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | September 27, 2009

  65. Yep, I'm gonna take my tattered dignity outta here, and go wash my car. I didn't realize what a unique automobile ol' Betsy is.The only car in America that gets positive mileage on ethanol.Whoodathunkit.

    Comment by rufus | September 27, 2009

  66. The defense attorney defends his client no matter what. The ethanol lobbyist defends ethanol no matter what.Good point Robert. There are lots of "hired guns" in the corn and ethanol business — as well as Corn Belt politicians in their pockets.

    Comment by Wendell Mercantile | September 27, 2009

  67. As for "Petroleum" inputs into ethanol, there are really only 3 places you can find them. Farming, Rail, and Truck.Rufus~You sort of left out the energy used at ethyl alcohol stills didn't you? As far as I know, about 99% of stills use NG*. (An ethanol company even abandoned plans to build a still near me when they discovered the NG pipeline into this area was too small a diameter to meet their energy demands.)And what about the seed corn input to farming? Did you include that? More and more seed corn is now grown in Hawaii, which adds an extra increment of transportation cost to get it to the mainland and to the Midwest.Growing seed corn is even more energy intensive than growing No. 2 field corn for ethanol and HFCS. And as we all know, in this era of hybrid corn, farmers must buy new seed corn for each year's crop. (No saving a percentage of this year's crop to plant next year.)___________________* Clearly a fossil fuel.

    Comment by Wendell Mercantile | September 27, 2009

  68. Robert, great post. I am wondering why refinery shrinkage of the gasoline pool, due to the need to remove butanes and pentanes (-3.5% NGL’s for summer RFG) to accomadate splash blending 10% ethanol, is never mentioned? fuelguru

    Comment by jimr146 | September 27, 2009

  69. Kinu-Why all the hysteria? "Running out of time?"For what?The world is glutted in oil and gas, and there is no sign demand will recover following spike/scare of 2004-2007. Global demand was a long time recovering from the 1978-80 price spike, as in 10 years.The world looks to be glutted with fossil fuels for years and years. As alternatives get better and better.I think we are on the cusp of a 20 year boom in global GDP. A lot like the last 20 years, except better.I will hoist a drink–ethanol–to that!

    Comment by Benny "Boom, No Doom" Cole | September 27, 2009

  70. RRJust click on my name and send an email attachment. I can upload it to the Comcast server and post a link to it in a comment here for anyone to download.

    Comment by Russ Finley | September 27, 2009

  71. ""Running out of time?"For what? … The world looks to be glutted with fossil fuels for years and years. … I think we are on the cusp of a 20 year boom in global GDP."Agreed, if one has the short attention span of the typical politician, there is lots of time. But in reality, we are running out of time for a seamless transition in the utterly huge amounts of power supply the human race needs to replace as we dig down towards the bottom of the fossil fuel barrel. That transition will occur, and the choices are either seamless or violent.I once got into an extended debate with a fairly well known cornucopian, who espoused essentially the same point of view as you. After a lot of civilized discussion & listening to what each other was saying, it became clear that his cornucopian view was that fossil fuels would last about another 80 years, during which time "something" would come up.If the difference between peak oil alarmists & cornucopians is less than 80 years, then for most practical purposes we are all on the same page — given the length of time it takes to build a vast new power infrastructure.Human beings have been wasting time since the first oil shock in the 1970s. Our leaders have focused on politically correct alternatives that just don't add up — ethanol, wind, tides, photovoltaics, conservation. We need to add TeraWatts of new power supply from somewhere. That will take decades. We don't have time to waste.

    Comment by Kinuachdrach | September 27, 2009

  72. I noticed that this blog entry has 71 posts.Twenty-five came from someone called Rufus. (25 of 71 posts) on ……."Does Ethanol Reduce Petroleum Imports ?"The previous post "CNG in your beer" also had 71 entries. Twenty six of them were also from Rufus.I "sure hope this guy knows what he's talking about."

    Comment by Anonymous | September 28, 2009

  73. RR: "Is there a place I can host it? I would be happy to clean it up and post it."http://docs.google.com/ — free docs and spreadsheet hosting, works pretty well"That was the reason for subtracting out the changes in demand. If what you say is true, and I subtract out demand growth (as I did) and add in the drop in U.S. production (which I did) then it should show a drop in imports from the ethanol effect. It's not there."Whoa! I'm clearly missing something here. Your quotes about demand growth are accompanied by a link to an EIA graph of "Annual U.S. Product Supplied of Crude Oil and Petroleum Products". How does that allow you to net out demand? You seem to be suggesting that demand exists entirely independently of availability and price. All that graph shows me is that consumption reached a plateau in 2005 and later dropped off. That's what I'd expect in the face of spiking prices. It's possible that if ethanol production provided some net energy that the peak consumption is higher than it otherwise would have been. Your figures can't be used to prove or disprove that. (I admit my earlier comment was premised on the unsubstantiated notion that ethanol did produce net energy over its fossil fuel inputs. That's neither proved nor disproved here either).

    Comment by PeteS | September 28, 2009

  74. Benny: "But on the topic, I do wonder who finances The Oil Drum."I don't think The Oil Drum needs dubious funding. It's run by a doomsday cult. Certainly more than half the people commenting there sound like they need serious counselling. To be honest I'd prefer to be an early victim of their crash-and-burn die-off scenario than to have to face sharing a world with those sickos.:-)

    Comment by PeteS | September 28, 2009

  75. I showed a sharp peak in crude imports at Sep 05;Hurricane Katrina.RRYeah, quite sharp; there was a much more minor response post-Ike; also, as you state, we're exporting more, but that was much more the case last year, distorting the picture yet again.Here's a chart of Production/Imports/Product Supplied, with 12 month moving averages for each: http://img268.imageshack.us/img268/8315/productionimportsproduc.pngProduct supplied began its decline in '05, so it's quite hard to make a case either way; confusingly enough, that was when ethanol production began to pick up. It reminds me of the attempts to correlate recessions and crude price spikes, there's always additional factors like banks deregulating or housing bubbles to foul up the picture. But I agree that ethanol is a marginal contributor, even on a volumetric basis. We probably gained as much from additional refinery complexity. For ethanol production the gain for 2003-2008 was this in kb/d:43.7139.1432.8862.04107.31163.08Oil fields yielding production of this size hardly warrant discussion, possibly barring the figure for 2008. Subtracting the lower btu content, they amount to even less. Definitely a silver BB. I'm more for the tire pressure lobby, where's their presence on K Street?

    Comment by Kevin Rietmann | September 28, 2009

  76. Google Docs is where Morgan Downey cooked up his amazing Historical Oil Demand interactive chart. I was monkeying around with a bit, you can create some really slick graphs with deceptive ease.

    Comment by Kevin Rietmann | September 28, 2009

  77. That's cool — I'd seen those types of charts elsewhere but didn't realise Google Docs could do them!

    Comment by PeteS | September 28, 2009

  78. O/T (about as off-topic as its possible to get in fact ;-)RR: "One thing I used to say a lot when I was arguing with Creationists is that you have to beware of what your "common sense" tells you. For many people, for many years, common sense said the world was flat. After all, just look at it. It looks flat. But over time people began to speculate and to devise experiments that eventually proved that it wasn't flat. And now it is just silly to talk about a flat earth, and yet for a great period of time it was common sense."A more fruitful line with Creationists (in my experience) is to argue with their literalist exegesis. A Creationist is not going to be moved by common sense arguments that appear to defy Scripture. You must first point out that the Creationist's interpretation of Scripture is utterly ahistorical, a total novelty dating back no more than 150 years (to a clergyman from up my way, I am sorry to say).Your flat earth story is ahistorical too, a favourite of Galileo fans, but unfounded nonetheless. The round earth idea has existed since the very beginning of Greek science (6th c. BC) and every century since, starting with Thales and his pupil Anaximander, proceeding with Eratosthenes and Archimedes and Posidonius. All of the round earth proponents realised that the movement of the sky must be due to the rotation of the round earth. And therein lay the problem, as expounded by Aristotle: the earth could not possibly be rotating because the clouds in the sky would obviously be left behind by such a movement. So it was not that common sense said the earth was flat, but that serious scientists such as Aristotle — in the absence of a theory of inertia — could not reconcile the different observations to form a definite conclusion. An accident of history — the wholesale adoption of the recently rediscovered Aristotelian metaphysics by the 13th century Scholastics (contra the anti-Averroist condemnations) led to Aristotle's ideas being favoured for a couple of centuries, leading to the well-known problems for Galileo.

    Comment by PeteS | September 28, 2009

  79. Whoa! I'm clearly missing something here. Your quotes about demand growth are accompanied by a link to an EIA graph of "Annual U.S. Product Supplied of Crude Oil and Petroleum Products". How does that allow you to net out demand? You seem to be suggesting that demand exists entirely independently of availability and price.It doesn't matter why demand increased – or even if demand increased. The EIA is measuring what was actually sold. What I have done is to allow for imports to increase to compensate for demand. To illustrate, in year 1, let's say demand is 20 and imports are 5. If in year 5 demand is 25 and yet imports are 11, I have 1 to account for elsewhere because I allowed 5 to go to increased demand. If in year 5 demand is 25 and imports are 9, then it looks like we are getting a contribution from somewhere else. This is where I would expect to see the ethanol contribution come into play. And since the total demand number contains ethanol, it doesn't matter whether it increased, decreased, or stayed the same. We just measure the change, look at what happened with imports and domestic production, and see if imports rose or fell when those things are taken into account.RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | September 28, 2009

  80. The round earth idea has existed since the very beginning of Greek science (6th c. BC) and every century since, starting with Thales and his pupil Anaximander, proceeding with Eratosthenes and Archimedes and Posidonius.I am aware of that, but it certainly wasn't universal. Without a doubt there have always been people/societies who thought the earth was flat. In fact, as of just a few years ago there was still a Flat Earth Society in the U.S. It may still exist.RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | September 28, 2009

  81. Product supplied began its decline in '05, so it's quite hard to make a case either way; confusingly enough, that was when ethanol production began to pick up.The cool thing about product supplied, though, is that it contains ethanol. So it doesn't matter if it went up, down, or sideways. You can look at the change, look at the imports and domestic decline, and then see whether there is a delta. If ethanol is contributing, then imports should fall more than product supplied falls when demand is down, and if demand is rising imports should rise less than demand is rising.RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | September 28, 2009

  82. "We just measure the change, look at what happened with imports and domestic production, and see if imports rose or fell when those things are taken into account."I'm still not getting it. You said yourself that there are factors pushing up imports — the greater energy costs of refining heavier oil for instance. If ethanol is making a contribution in the opposite direction, all that the numbers show is that it is not great enough to offset those other factors. Now, I realise that you were arguing against the thesis that "[ethanol] supports the goals of energy independence by getting us off of foreign oil", and to the extent that ethanol — if it makes a contribution at all — is not sufficient to offset other factors that lead to increased imports, you are right. But that's not to say ethanol has zero effect.(I've forgotten why I'm arguing this — I'm of the opinion that ethanol subsidies are a fiasco too).

    Comment by PeteS | September 28, 2009

  83. "Without a doubt there have always been people/societies who thought the earth was flat. In fact, as of just a few years ago there was still a Flat Earth Society in the U.S. It may still exist."True, but their positions have rarely been the result of the application of common sense.

    Comment by PeteS | September 28, 2009

  84. Me: "…I realise that you were arguing against the thesis that "[ethanol] supports the goals of energy independence by getting us off of foreign oil", and … you are right."Now I get it. 🙂

    Comment by PeteS | September 28, 2009

  85. "If I put an energy source into the fuel supply, and it contains X BTUs, but it takes X BTUs of the same energy that was imported in order to facilitate entry of that energy source into the fuel supply – then in fact you could put it in and never see it since it didn't displace any net energy."We know that didn't happen Robert. Please don't start claiming we use a barrel of imported oil to make a barrel of ethanol. If you do,I'm calling the men with butterfly nets. You say imports rose 2.1M bpd between '02 and '07. I say imports are virtually the same today as they were 10 years ago. Funny thing is…..we're both right. Have you applied these incredibly high hurdles to the 3M bpd of tar sands crude that started making its way into the US during the same time frame? Doesn't a barrel of tar sands crude contain fewer btu's? Isn't it harder to refine?

    Comment by Maury | September 28, 2009

  86. "I'm of the opinion that ethanol subsidies are a fiasco too"I don't think ethanol,or biodiesel,or any other biofuel,should be taxed at the pump Pete. But,it is. At least the government has seen fit to kick that tax back to the refiner. It's not like ethanol is sinking us in red ink. The government is out less than a penny on a gallon of E10 by my calculations.

    Comment by Maury | September 28, 2009

  87. Please don't start claiming we use a barrel of imported oil to make a barrel of ethanol.Since a barrel of oil contains almost twice the energy of a barrel of ethanol, no, I don't think that. What we don't really know in detail is just how much energy it does take, when all things are taken into account. It is certainly more than the numbers thrown about, because there are lots of things they don't take into account. You say imports rose 2.1M bpd between '02 and '07. I say imports are virtually the same today as they were 10 years ago. Funny thing is…..we're both right.The thing is, there isn't much guesswork as to why your point is correct. Demand fell. I don't mean demand for petroleum because of ethanol. I mean total demand including ethanol. If ethanol is making a dent, then we would expect to see that imports fell more than demand did. But they didn't. Have you applied these incredibly high hurdles to the 3M bpd of tar sands crude that started making its way into the US during the same time frame? Doesn't a barrel of tar sands crude contain fewer btu's? Isn't it harder to refine? Have you ever seen me waving a flag for tar sands? Google my blog and look for the tar sands references. RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | September 28, 2009

  88. You said yourself that there are factors pushing up imports — the greater energy costs of refining heavier oil for instance.That's what we are trying to get to the bottom of. The things that I can identify that would push up imports shouldn't push them up much. We should still see ethanol's contribution if there is much of one. I am still looking for it.RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | September 28, 2009

  89. "Have you ever seen me waving a flag for tar sands?"You're missing my point. What if it takes 3M barrels of tar sands to provide the btu's we once got from 2M barrels of crude? Wouldn't that skew the import picture? Sheesh Robert. You seem determined to blame everything but the big bang on ethanol.

    Comment by Maury | September 28, 2009

  90. Kinu-Maybe I am a cornie, but certainly the future looks bright. Technical advances are preceding at a more-rapid rate than at any time in history. Remember, as poor as the US government is, it is not truly bad. Look at Russia, Venezuela, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Mexico etc etc. Bush or Obama? They are only mediocre in comparison. We still have freedom of speech, there is an active VC community, our banking system is recovering. I did note in the LA Times today that average weekly wages are lower now than in 1964, and that gives me pause. The minimum wage is lower too. It seems like working for a living in America is getting tougher and tougher.Pete S.– Yes, the The Oil Drum is getting loonier and loonier, yet it is the biggest energy blog. It helps to create a climate of fear regarding oil and energy–they spread more fear than light, but they have a following. The actively cull posters who do not conform to their conventional wisdom of ruin, doom and gloom. But a bit of manpower goes into that blog. It looks to me like someone is putting 8-12 hours a day into it. Maybe it is all a labor of love. I doubt it. I think they are useful idiots for people who want a climate of fear to surround oil availability.

    Comment by Benny "Boom, No Doom" Cole | September 28, 2009

  91. What if it takes 3M barrels of tar sands to provide the btu's we once got from 2M barrels of crude? Wouldn't that skew the import picture?No, because the processing of the tar sands takes place outside the U.S. If we shipped tar sands in and then had to process them, then yes it would.Sheesh Robert. You seem determined to blame everything but the big bang on ethanol.I am not trying to blame ethanol for anything. I am trying to determine whether a claim I hear a lot is true. You don't seem to be very interested in learning whether it really is true. Had I found the opposite – an effect from ethanol – I would have still written this essay and pointed out that there is a noticeable effect.RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | September 28, 2009

  92. "You don't seem to be very interested in learning whether it really is true."I just don't think all those numbers prove anything,one way or another. How do we know imports wouldn't have risen 3.1M bpd between 2002 and 2007 with the absence of ethanol? We don't. We can't even pretend to glean anything from all those numbers.

    Comment by Maury | September 28, 2009

  93. Well done RR – very interesting despite doubters.I was wondering is Rufus used to be a salesman then he mentioned he was an insurance salesman. No wonder science and engineering are not part of his argument.

    Comment by russ | September 28, 2009

  94. How do we know imports wouldn't have risen 3.1M bpd between 2002 and 2007 with the absence of ethanol? We don't. We can't even pretend to glean anything from all those numbers.You aren't paying attention. We have a total demand number for each year. That number includes ethanol. So if we didn't have ethanol, that total demand number would still change, but imports would rise to compensate for increased demand. With ethanol, we should see imports rise more slowly than total demand as ethanol absorbs some of the increased demand.You are thinking that ethanol may have impacted demand, which may have impacted imports. That is factored in by nature of the total demand number. Because ethanol is in the total demand number, it shouldn't impact the total demand number. But even if it did, it doesn't matter. Let's say that ethanol reduced prices, which increased total demand. The delta between where demand was and where it is must be explained (even if that delta is zero). As far as I can see, we have the bits to put it all together, and imports did not grow more slowly as ethanol ramped up, they grew at a faster pace.Tell you what. Instead of playing "what if", why don't you put together some hypothetical numbers that demonstrate your point. I think when you realize the total demand number includes ethanol, you will realize you are barking up the wrong tree.I have got it all graphed now, and it is a slam dunk: No obvious impact on imports from ethanol.RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | September 28, 2009

  95. Here is a serious question to ask yourself, Maury. If ethanol is having no impact on our oil imports, would you even want to know that? I get the impression that some would simply rather cover their eyes and years and chant "la la la la la, I can't hear you" than to learn that this might be true. Me? The chips fall where they fall. I did not set out to prove anything. I set out to find the answer.RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | September 28, 2009

  96. Maury wrote: Our population has grown more than 25% since the turn of the century.Which population is that? That's such an impressive growth rate, I wanted to see the numbers for myself.According to http://www.census.gov/ current population is 308 million for the USA and 6.8 billion for the world,US population was 280 million in 2000 according tohttp://www.census.gov/main/www/cen2000.htmlThat's an increase of 10% for the US.The world population in 1999 was 6 billion according to http://www.census.gov/ipc/www/idb/worldpopgraph.phpThat's a 13% increase for the world.Or are you making some point about fabricating data out of thin air rather than merely misusing real data?

    Comment by Clee | September 28, 2009

  97. RR, thanks for the post, though it took me a while to understand how or why your method should work.

    Comment by Clee | September 28, 2009

  98. It would be nice if the EIA could take a look at this analysis and provide some critique. They should also provide their own assessment and especially, their methodology for how one can best make an assessment of how ethanol influences US imports of both crude oil and products. This is a key issue for Congressional and Federal Agencies as they work to develop intelligent and effective energy policies and it's very important to get it right. I'm not anyone who knows a lot about this, but it would be interesting I think to look at relative changes in crude oil imports versus products? My guess is that increased domestic ethanol use would mostly be reflected in decreased gasoline imports, not crude oil imports? It would especially be good to look at 2008-2009, since we've seen a huge (3 bil gal) increase in mandated ethanol use in those two years (almost a 40% increase I think). That kind of bump might be more likely to show some kind of response in imports??

    Comment by Anonymous | September 28, 2009

  99. We are at present producing 11,532,000,000 gal of ethanol on an annual basis.That works out to 752,000 bbl/day.Your choices are:1) Ethanol gets "0" miles per gallon, or2) Ethanol reduces ImportsThat's it.

    Comment by rufus | September 28, 2009

  100. Even a retired insurance saleman can figure that out.

    Comment by rufus | September 28, 2009

  101. Unless, you can identify more than the 18,806 barrels of diesel/daily I've identified as being involved in the farming, and transporting of ethanol.

    Comment by rufus | September 28, 2009

  102. “Even a retired insurance saleman can figure that out.” I think RR missed his calling. He sounds more like an attorney than an engineer in the energy production business. When I lived in California, I took a class at UC Davis in environmental law. When opposing a energy project, 25 arguments might be presented. An engineer will look at the arguments and determine that some are mutually exclusive. The validity of the argument does not matter, just getting a judge to accept them.When producing energy, there might be a thousand task that must be preformed successfully deliver a product. One the task is getting your license application so that lawyers do not have any valid objections to take to a judge.One of the task that is not required to produce energy is to answer every question on every blog but is Rufus is doing a good job at that.

    Comment by Kit P | September 28, 2009

  103. Good to hear from you, again, Kit. I was afraid you'd been "banned in Boston." 🙂

    Comment by rufus | September 28, 2009

  104. The question for the day:As a retired insurance salesman who claims he has no dog in this fight, why does Rufus have such an obsession with ethanol? Sigmund Freud — were he alive — would no doubt have field day trying to answer that.

    Comment by Rocket 88 | September 28, 2009

  105. Maybe Ol' Rufus has kid, and grandkids. Maybe he thinks this is a very important topic for his country to address, and "get right."Maybe, he's just a bored, old man with too much time on his hands.Maybe he's "Crazy."Who cares? We got "blog-space" to fill, and sumbody's gotta do it.

    Comment by rufus | September 28, 2009

  106. If Ol' Rufus is "obsessed" because he supports ethanol when he has no "immediate" financia interest in doing so,What does that say about those who show up every day with sketchy knowledge, and insufficient facts, to Bash ethanol?

    Comment by rufus | September 28, 2009

  107. RR, thanks for the post, though it took me a while to understand how or why your method should work.The sequel is coming. I have seen where people have gotten hung up, so I will be a lot more explicit and graphical in the next post. RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | September 28, 2009

  108. I think RR missed his calling. He sounds more like an attorney than an engineer in the energy production business.Funny, Kit. I have always thought you fancied yourself as a "Show me the data" kind of guy. Here I am, showing you the data, and you would rather go with Rufus appeal to sensibilities and patriotism.In fact, you have your example exactly backwards. Rufus is making the subjective argument. You have heard the saying In God we trust. All others bring data. Here's your data. So instead of spinning a yarn about a class you took in prehistoric California, how about addressing the data?Seriously, some of you guys are doing so much hand-waving I am afraid your hands are going to fall off.RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | September 28, 2009

  109. I have yet to see any "Data" on "Exports" to Mexico, Canada, Europe, or elsewhere.I, also, haven't seen any "Data" on sales of Home Heating Oil in 2007.I haven't even seen any "Data" on Inventory levels of Oil, Gasoline, Jet fuel, or Distillates for the period.In Fact: The Only "Data" I've seen has been the Data I have posted on "Petroleum" inputs to Ethanol.

    Comment by rufus | September 28, 2009

  110. The fact remains: 1) Either ethanol gives, essentially, "0" mpg, or2) Ethanol is Reducing Imports.It really is as "simple as that."

    Comment by rufus | September 28, 2009

  111. I have yet to see any "Data" on "Exports" to Mexico, Canada, Europe, or elsewhere.I have yet to see any "Data" on "Exports" to Mexico, Canada, Europe, or elsewhere.These are net imports, so exports are subtracted out. That's the whole point of net imports. If imports increased only to increase exports, obviously that isn't something that would be attributed to ethanol. But that does give an indication about how serious you really aren't about understanding this. You are really trying to throw up smokescreens.In Fact: The Only "Data" I've seen has been the Data I have posted on "Petroleum" inputs to Ethanol.No, that is the only thing you recognize. I have linked to everything. I have provided numbers that can be cross-checked at the links. You have posted numbers that are essentially guesstimates. I have presented actual data. There is a big difference that you seem not to understand. But if you are going to close your eyes and say "la la la, I can't see it" there really isn't much I can do about it.It is the way I would expect a lobbyist to behave though. Don't search for the truth; defend the position. Handwave. Throw out straw men and smokescreens. 1) Either ethanol gives, essentially, "0" mpg, or2) Ethanol is Reducing Imports.As much as you have been corrected on this, you could be accused of lying about it at this point. There are other possibilities. One is that the net energy of ethanol is zero when everything is taken into account. Another is that the contribution is simply so small that it is undetectable. Neither would be very palatable to a lobbyist, so they are sure to throw out straw man objections such as you continue to do. One thing we do know though. If ethanol is reducing exports, it should show up in the data. At this point I think you have given up on that, so you are trying other tactics.Robert

    Comment by Robert Rapier | September 28, 2009

  112. One is that the net energy of ethanol is zero when everything is taken into account. You're changing the subject, again. The discussion isn't about "Everything;" it's about "Petroleum Inputs."I've shown that we are producing 752,000 Barrels of ethanol, daily, and that the best guess for "petroleum" inputs is approx. 18,800 bbl/day.

    Comment by rufus | September 28, 2009

  113. You're changing the subject, again. The discussion isn't about "Everything;" it's about "Petroleum Inputs."Ah, the defense attorney at work. Make accusations that I am changing the subject in order to raise doubt.No, nobody changed the subject. That was your interpretation of "everything." Since we are talking about petroleum imports, "everything" is anything related to producing ethanol that might impact upon that.But then I am the kind of guy that trusts data over arguments. It's like a paternity test. You can concoct the most compelling reasons for why you can't possibly be the father, but if the DNA test shows you are, guess which one I am going to believe?RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | September 28, 2009

  114. Seems to be like of the people who are protesting my conclusion, we have three distinct types.One is the ethanol lobbyist, Rufus. If someone produces a study that says ethanol causes birth defects, the lobbyist produces a study that says ethanol prevents birth defects. In no way are they interested in the truth of the assertions. They simply want to address them and cast doubt on them. There will be a lot of ad hoc arguments, appeals to back of the envelope numbers, appeals to patriotism, and much misdirection. The second is the true believer, Maury. He is the person who – having adopted a belief – constructs rationalizations in order to keep that belief intact. He simply doesn’t believe the assertions. Because he has constructed a world in which ethanol is doing a lot of good. If something contradicts one of the long-held tenets, it simply can’t be believed.The final is the pseudo-engineer, Kit. Having no particular expertise in the area, he still got it in his head that our ethanol policy is resulting in some real contributions. Because he fancies himself a real technical type, he very quickly goes for the ad hominems and red herrings if the doesn’t know how to address the technical argument. He likes to spin folksy yarns when troublesome data presents itself. The real irony is the double-standards he employs. He is always talking about data. Yet here Rufus shows up with appeals to sensibilities, and that suits Kit in this situation. Kit is ignoring the data. He may be capable of seeing the problem, but his pride will not allow him to so he sticks to his guns and ignores the inconvenient data.RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | September 28, 2009

  115. Maybe Ol' Rufus has kid, and grandkids. Maybe he thinks this is a very important topic for his country to address, and "get right."Maybe, he's just a bored, old man with too much time on his hands.The only part that matters is that he seems to pull numbers (It takes about 5 gallons of diesel to farm an acre of corn.) out of his @ss…Maybe he's "Crazy."You said it.I think RR missed his calling. He sounds more like an attorney than an engineer in the energy production business.Somebody missed his calling.Hint: it's not RR!

    Comment by Optimist | September 28, 2009

  116. You're changing the subject, again. The discussion isn't about "Everything;" it's about "Petroleum Inputs."The issue should be "energy inputs." And that includes the natural gas for distilling and the NG needed as both feedstock and thermal energy source for making synthetic nitrogen — the one ingredient without which there would not even be any corn ethanol.And you have not even begun to quantify the damage done to our aquifers, the Mississippi River basin, and the Gulf of Mexico by the runoff from corn fields of nitrogen, phosphorous, herbicides, fungicides, and pesticides.

    Comment by Wendell Mercantile | September 28, 2009

  117. Seems to be like of the people who are protesting my conclusion, we have three distinct types.All I can say is: Hats off to you, RR, for maintaining your sanity when debating these three.Pseudo-engineer: I like that. I'll probably use it soon.I would have called Kit [P] a pseudo-[something else entirely]…

    Comment by Optimist | September 28, 2009

  118. Well, then, Optimist, ol bud, why don't you tell us "how many gallons of diesel are required to produce an acre of corn.

    Comment by rufus | September 28, 2009

  119. Even the WashingtonPost seems to recognize RR's superb analytical skills, evidenced by this headline referencing the passing of William Safire on today's Front Page (but below the fold): "Rapier-witted columnist for NY Times" :)Boy, comparing Safire with Rapier. . . ., high praise indeed.

    Comment by Anonymous | September 28, 2009

  120. RR:You make some good points but there are two things I don't understand.1. Firstly what neither your analysis nor Rufus analysis includes is the quantity of ethanol that is a replacement for MTBE. I don't know what the percentage of ethanol in the fuel supply is needed to replace MTBE, but that is a quantity that would show up in the ethanol production figures, but it would not impact petroleum imports.2. You basic point that it appears that ethanol is not energy positive, doesn't add up either. By far and away the largest energy input into ethanol is natural gas. Even if ethanol were not energy positive, we would simply see a substitution of the energy value in natural gas for the energy value in transportation fuel. So on a simple analysis, the portion of the 742,000 Barrels/day of ethanol production that isn't a replacement for MTBE, corrected for the difference in BTU value/gallon, and the marginal diesel fuel required to harvest the corn should logically be a reduction in our net petroleum demand.Have you tried an energy analysis from this direction to see if your figures align?

    Comment by dupa | September 28, 2009

  121. I don't know what the percentage of ethanol in the fuel supply is needed to replace MTBEThose are the sorts of critical comments I am looking for. That's an interesting point. I will investigate.You basic point that it appears that ethanol is not energy positive, doesn't add up either.That's not my basic point. I think ethanol is energy positive, just not by a large amount.Will look into your comment and address in the sequel.Cheers, Robert

    Comment by Robert Rapier | September 28, 2009

  122. EXCELLENT POINT, DUPA! EXCELLENT POINT!During the time period he's quoting ethanol production only rose to about 424,000 bpd. That would only replace a little over 300,000 bpd of gasoline.But, a goodly chunk of that DID go into replacing MTBE. MTBE, I believe, was, almost, 200,000 bpd. That would leave us looking for a 100,000 bpd needle in a 20,000,000 bbl haystack.

    Comment by rufus | September 28, 2009

  123. Actually, the needle would be Less than 100,000 bpd, because we were producing some ethanol prior to 2002.Great Observation.

    Comment by rufus | September 28, 2009

  124. EXCELLENT POINT, DUPA! EXCELLENT POINT!There goes the lobbyist again. Not "let's dig and see what that impact is." Immediately latch onto something you hope provides some sort of explanation. I will actually wait to do the analysis before jumping to any conclusions.I wouldn't get too carried away just yet, though, because the story gets worse post-MTBE phaseout. MTBE was phased out very quickly, so we should be able to isolate this impact pretty easily.But, a goodly chunk of that DID go into replacing MTBE. MTBE, I believe, was, almost, 200,000 bpd.I have always been amazed at the immediate recall you have of any bit of ethanol-related information, especially pro-ethanol information. Quite amazing for a retired insurance salesman with no financial interest.RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | September 28, 2009

  125. Yes….I was told by (the engineer) Mr. kit p that I was "nuts" when I suggested that DC power transmission is a reality and compares favorably with AC when transmitted over long distances.Since this cat supposedly worked for a nuclear power plant at one time, I would think he would be up on current developments. (which have actually been going on for 25-30 years)Apparently, this is not the caseChina plans to install an additional 10 DC transmission lines over the next few years.(In addition to the Three Gorges/Shanghai line) ABB (the Swiss/Swedish consortium) has the Chinese contract.Another firm, Siemens is also busy in India building DC lines.There is even a DC line running from Bonneville to California.DC power transmission has long been considered as a possible solution to "stranded Midwest wind" and "stranded Southwest solar."If you are not going to de-centralize the grid, then at least send the power the most efficient way.John

    Comment by Anonymous | September 28, 2009

  126. From Wiki:MTBE is manufactured via the chemical reaction of methanol and isobutylene. Methanol is derived from natural gas, and isobutylene is derived from butane obtained from crude oil or natural gas, thus MTBE is a fossil fuel. In the United States, it was produced in very large quantities (more than 200,000 barrels per day in 1999) during its use as a fuel additive.Must have been a "Lucky" guess.

    Comment by rufus | September 28, 2009

  127. However, as the article stated: Some Crude oil is used in the manufacture of MTBE.One of you Chemists will have to tell us how much.

    Comment by rufus | September 28, 2009

  128. This really is about the phase out of MTBE, and how to replace the octane and volume it provided. It is important to point out that a majority of MTBE was produced from NON-CRUDE sources-natural gas. Is clean, domestic natural gas not as patriotic as ethanol? Butane-to-alkylate takes butane from clean domestic natural gas and allows it to be used in the U.S. gasoline pool. Refiners are being paid to use ethanol, which makes a terrible SI motor fuel when splash blended with petroleum gasoline.Once again.. Refinery shrinkage of the gasoline pool, due to the need to remove butanes and pentanes (-3.5% NGL’s for summer RFG) to accommodate splash blending 10% ethanol, is the most probable reason ethanol has not made a real impact on reducing our need for foreign crude oil. fuelguru

    Comment by dalaiclama | September 28, 2009

  129. Digging a bit more over the MTBE issue. The EIA did a study on this in 2006, and estimated 129,000 bbl/day of ethanol to replace MTBE.The EIA on MTBE PhaseoutThere are several factors that argue against this impacting the import question. First, a lot of MTBE was produced from oil. Thus, replacement with ethanol should be expected to replace that and thus lower needed imports.Here is something I just pulled out of this paper:Until the late 1980s isobutylene and other feedstocks could be readily obtained from existing refinery operations. With minor investments, these refineries could add MTBE production with yields in the range of 8,000-20,000 barrels per day. As demand for MTBE increased, large specialized production facilities were built.Second, a chunk of MTBE was imported. The EIA says 440,000 bbls of reformulated gasoline imported in 2004, which contained MTBE.Third – and the real biggie – is that of the dedicated production facilities, isobutylene is used to make the MTBE. That means that 4/5ths of the carbon in the MTBE originated from isobutylene, which originated from oil. So the MTBE was already mostly encapsulated in the imports. Therefore, ethanol would have been expected to have reduced those imports.That's why we dig, Rufus, and don't grasp for any glimmer of hope. Don't get me wrong, it was a great question. But it isn't like we replaced domestic natural gas-derived MTBE with domestic ethanol, and thus that explains the discrepancy. The discrepancy is still there. There is no apparent influence on petroleum imports due to ethanol.RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | September 28, 2009

  130. Well, then, Optimist, ol bud, why don't you tell us "how many gallons of diesel are required to produce an acre of corn.Admitting where your number came from?You can do better than that, Rufus! Especially since you are just a bored, old man with too much time on his hands.

    Comment by Optimist | September 28, 2009

  131. Well, wait a minute Optimist.You wrote: The only part that matters is that he seems to pull numbers (It takes about 5 gallons of diesel to farm an acre of corn.) out of his @ss…So, if My number came out of my a…., where is yours?

    Comment by rufus | September 28, 2009

  132. Okay, so some amount of crude is used to make butane. How much?Some amount of butane is used to make isobutane. How much?Isobutane is reacted with methanol. How much?In other words, if I have a barrel of MTBE how much Crude does that represent; and, perhaps, more importantly is this an "End Product" or a "By-Product" of Fuel Production?

    Comment by rufus | September 28, 2009

  133. 440,000 bbls of reformulated gasoline imported in 2004, which contained MTBE.That would be about 5% of the 9,000,000 bbl/day of gasoline that we were using.

    Comment by rufus | September 28, 2009

  134. RR:You make a good point. I am not a refinery engineer, so I may be incorrect on this one. My understanding of a refinery is that the carbon coming off the distillation column that was used to make MTBE cannot be used to make gasoline.So for every gallon of crude that is refined into gasoline, the same quantity of carbon would be consumed that was consumed when some of it was reformulated into MTBE. The carbon that was previously reformulated into MTBE is either currently a waste product or the refiners have found a new (non-gasoline)market for it. Following my logic, the ethanol used to replace MTBE would still show up as an ethanol production number, but wouldn't reduce the quantity of crude oil consumed to make gasoline. Because ethanol used to replace MTBE production wouldn't reduce the crude oil consumption per gallon of gasoline unless that carbon is reformulated at the refinery into gasoline.Secondly, I looked at the paper that you referenced. While I really don't know how much ethanol is required to replace MTBE, the number you quote appears to greatly understate the real quantity required since the paper discusses how much ethanol is needed to replace MTBE in a few east coast states, and not the overall nation.

    Comment by dupa | September 28, 2009

  135. To make a barrel of MTBE (260 lbs) you need 95 lbs of methanol and 165 lbs of isobutylene.

    Comment by Nick H | September 28, 2009

  136. Robert,Yup. Time to turn the tables on some of these 'self-proclaimed experts" I am surprised you haven't done so long before now,John

    Comment by Anonymous | September 28, 2009

  137. Please keep in mind that as these very important MTBE vs ethanol numbers are crunched,it is important to realize ethanol does NOT replace MTBE on a 1:1 volume basis. This is due to their different blending vapor pressures- 8 psi for MTBE, 18 psi for ethannol. When MTBE is removed from summer RFG and replaced with 10% splash blended ethanol, approximately 3.5% butanes and pentanes need to be removed. There is a net loss of 3.5% in the gasoline pool to accommodate 10% ethanol blending.

    Comment by fuel guru | September 28, 2009

  138. RR:I have found some answers, but I am still missing one critical piece of informationAccording to this (circa: 2000) piece by the EIA:http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/steo/pub/special/mtbe.htmloxygenated gas contains 5.8% ethanol by volume.And according to this link:http://tonto.eia.doe.gov/dnav/pet/pet_cons_wpsup_k_w.htmwe currently consume about 9 MM BPD of gasolineSo, if we knew what percent of the nations fuel supply is oxygenated gasoline, we could make a calculation as to what percent of the current ethanol supply is needed to replace MTBE.

    Comment by dupa | September 28, 2009

  139. Dupa, if I'm not mistaken, MTBE was 1.9% of volume in gasoline. The Feds dropped the requirement for "Oxygenates" in gasoline at the same time it passed the Renewable Fuels Standard. (2007, I believe.) However, a lot of Areas had already quit using MTBE as a result of lawsuits over ground-water.

    Comment by rufus | September 28, 2009

  140. According to a 2004 Downstream Alternatives report on removing MTBE from gasoline, MTBE was added to RFG and CARB gasoline at 11%.

    Comment by fuel guru | September 28, 2009

  141. Robert,All these arguments and all this wrangling…………..Amazing……….———————————-Has any-one ever even considered simply abandoning the internal combustion engine ?99% of the arguments, the consternation and "angst" over the liquid fuels are based on the assumption that the internal combustion engine is the penultimate technology.Continue to waste your time and efforts over which liquid fuel is the best……..All of your arguments are based on the internal combustion engine.That is why we are even discussing oil shortages in the first place.Cut the comedy……………Once you abandon the ICE, the "OIL problem " and the ethanol arguments all go away as if by magic.It's just "too easy" and that's why the oil companies will fight to the death for that last 100 Trillion in oil still in the ground.Tou say" "If electric cars are so great, then why haven't they taken over the roads ?"I'll let you figure that one out..I think it has something to do with 100 Trillion dollars………John

    Comment by Anonymous | September 28, 2009

  142. PSThe summer RFG example given in this report goes like this…if you go from 11% MTBE blended summer RFG gasoline, to 10% ethanol blended gasoline, you need to remove 1% butane and 2.5% pentane- 3.5% volume loss. The example shows, in addition to the 10% ethanol, the blender needs to ADD an additional 4.5% alkylate to make up for the total loss when going to 10% ethanol blended summer RFG. The link Robert supplied is an excellent MTBE phase out paper, written by Joanne Shore of the EIA.

    Comment by fuel guru | September 28, 2009

  143. Robert,Your "assume" the internal combustion engine in all of your discussions…John

    Comment by Anonymous | September 28, 2009

  144. RRYour on-going assumption is the internal combustion engine….John

    Comment by Anonymous | September 29, 2009

  145. Not sure where you all are going with these historic calculations, but need to keep in mind that MTBE was added to RFG gasoline only at 10% vol (or ethanol at ~6%) to meet the requirements of the Clean Air Act (CAA), i.e., that gasoline contain 2%wt oxygen. RFG gasoline was required in most, but not all urban areas, and estimates were that usually about 1/3 of US gasoline was formulated as RFG. Also, in winter months some areas required 'oxyfuel', or gas @ 2.7%wt (15% MTBE vol). And states like MN were E10 only since about 1999, and CA MTBE ban started Jan 1 2004, so they (and NY) went to E6 then. Also, note that US still produces some MTBE, but only for export (mostly to Mexico, I think). Not sure how you do back-calculations on that complex mess.

    Comment by OxyMaven | September 29, 2009

  146. The fact that we are resorting to a microscope to find the effect on imports answers the question.

    Comment by Anonymous | September 29, 2009

  147. The most important thing, anon, probably isn't how "important" it was in the past, but how important can it be in the future.Or, perhaps, it's simply, "Does it Work?"

    Comment by rufus | September 29, 2009

  148. "Has any-one ever even considered simply abandoning the internal combustion engine ?"John, it is quite an achievement to have produced the least sensible comment on this particular thread. Congratulations, I guess, in a kind of a way.Now go back to The Oil Drum. You'll be among friends there.

    Comment by Kinuachdrach | September 29, 2009

  149. "Andytk said… I suspect that much of the inefficiency is in the use of the ethanol.At 5% blend, it seems that fuel economy suffers beyond that which a simple LHV btu analysis would suggest."LOL, another basher just making stuff up because he thinks it sounds right. Might want to brush up on your blendstock knowledge and compare the real number ie reformulated v non-reformulated. Ethanol's btu density kinda beats petroleum gas. >;P

    Comment by Anonymous | September 29, 2009

  150. [Rufus] "The most important thing, anon, probably isn't how "important" it was in the past, but how important can it be in the future."As the saying goes — two nuthin's is nuthin'! Isn't the most important thing to establish that it has a net effect at all, before you worry about what multiple of zero you aim for in future?

    Comment by PeteS | September 29, 2009

  151. “Good to hear from you, again, Kit. I was afraid you'd been "banned in Boston." :)”Too much OT because two in the group are in Germany. Better that I do their work than get stuck in a hotel some place. Twenty years ago it was fun, now I like to come home every night. "Show me the data" No RR, before collecting data I plan the work. Junk in junk out is the result otherwise.

    Comment by Kit P | September 29, 2009

  152. Kinaudrach,"John, it is quite an achievement to have produced the least sensible comment on this particular thread. Congratulations, I guess, in a kind of a way."——————————Not to be contrary, but this is one of the most sensible comments you will ever hear. There is a simple way to avoid pointless arguments about which liquid fuel is the best for a declining technology, and that is to simply adopt a different, more efficirnt technology.=========Said Kinaudrach….."Now go back to The Oil Drum. You'll be among friends there."———I hate to tell you this Kinu but I didn't come from the oil drum. I saw an article Robert published on EV World.Just thought I would hop up and try to ta;k a little sense into people addicted to a dying 1960's energy paradigm ….. making gas from crude oil and cranking out spent nuclear fuel rods that nobody wants in their back yard.Finally, who appointed you "official bouncer" on R Squared Energy Blog ?John

    Comment by Anonymous | September 29, 2009

  153. What "stranded Midwest wind" and "stranded Southwest solar."?Well John you may be a few cards short of a full deck if you do not understand which direction the power is flowing on the DC power lines. Details, details!

    Comment by Kit P | September 29, 2009

  154. "When MTBE is removed from summer RFG and replaced with 10% splash blended ethanol, approximately 3.5% butanes and pentanes need to be removed. There is a net loss of 3.5% in the gasoline pool to accommodate 10% ethanol blending."That may explain it. If ethanol blending backs butane out of the pool, then higher imports may be required to offset the net loss to the gasoline pool. Is that plausible?

    Comment by Dexter | September 29, 2009

  155. Dexter-thanks for hearing my voice in the wilderness. The examples given are generalizations-refiners do have some flexibility in their operations, but the bottom line is the same-loss to the gasoline pool. Ethanol was/is a convenient option to provide the octane lost with the phase out of MTBE. There are other options to the octane that ethanol is now supplying-I had this conversation with an ethanol industry representative last week. In addition to all the other benefits/subsidies the ethanol industry is now enjoying, E10 gasoline in conventional gasoline is allowed a 1 psi vapor pressure wavier. This 1 psi wavier increases evaporative emissions from gasoline, as well as increased emissions from fuel system permeation-the fuel evaporates into thin air at a higher rate-more loss to the gasoline pool. This causes ground level ozone, better known as smog, to increase. The best description I have heard about smog is-sunburn of the lungs. This happens because the 1 psi waiver allows approximately 2% butane to be added back to the gasoline.

    Comment by fuel guru | September 29, 2009

  156. rufus wrote: I have yet to see any "Data" on "Exports" to Mexico, Canada, Europe, or elsewhere.That must be because you didn't bother to follow the link that RR provided for Net Imports. That table shows total imports, exports and (way at the bottom), Net Imports.I don't see why it could matter where the exports are to, whether it's Mexico, Canada, Europe or elsewhere. What does any of it have to do with ethanol reducing or not reducing petroleum imports? I probably shouldn't be an enabler for your (as you said), congenital "lazyasshit", but that data are at http://tonto.eia.doe.gov/dnav/pet/pet_move_expc_a_EP00_EEX_mbblpd_a.htmI, also, haven't seen any "Data" on sales of Home Heating Oil in 2007.That would be classified under Distillate Fuel Oil, http://tonto.eia.doe.gov/dnav/pet/pet_cons_psup_dc_nus_mbblpd_a.htmI haven't even seen any "Data" on Inventory levels of Oil, Gasoline, Jet fuel, or Distillates for the period.That's at http://tonto.eia.doe.gov/dnav/pet/pet_stoc_wstk_dcu_nus_a.htmNow that you have what you seem to think is vital data, what are you going to do with it? Ignore it and demand yet other data that you can't be bothered to look up yourself?

    Comment by Clee | September 29, 2009

  157. No, Clee, I'm going to wait for the answer to Dupa's Sept. 28, 11:30 A.M. comment.I think he's probably on the right track.

    Comment by rufus | September 29, 2009

  158. And, Pete S,it's kind of a "cheap shot" to take another's comment out of context. You cut off the second part where I said, "Or, perhaps, it's simply, "Does it Work?"I believe that's what this thread has, really, been all about.

    Comment by rufus | September 29, 2009

  159. How so, Rufus? You said:"The most important thing… probably isn't how "important" it was in the past, but how important can it be in the future. Or, perhaps, it's simply, "Does it Work?""If you said "I'll probably plant a bomb on the subway. But perhaps I won't" … would you expect me to address the first or the second bit?

    Comment by PeteS | September 29, 2009

  160. Well, yeah.In other words: Maybe imports didn't drop much due to the fact that we were replacing a considerable amount of MTBE during that time period, but will they drop in the period "after" 2007 as we add more, and more ethanol to the supply.

    Comment by rufus | September 29, 2009

  161. Personally, I'd hate to try to prove "anything" using existing data.An example: Anyone, tell us, exactly, how that "floating" storage is accounted for – Now, and when it hits shore.If you can do this there's a BIG job waiting for you on Wall Street, cause those folks sure can't figure it out.

    Comment by rufus | September 29, 2009

  162. Why haven't electric cars taken over the roads?Only now are the batteries becoming adequate (barely) and reducing in price though still impractical (price wise). Not to mention infrastructure – a bit of redoing of the grid will be necessary to replace all those petrol pumps.

    Comment by russ | September 29, 2009

  163. Right now, This is Much More Interesting to me.There is really a lot of optionality,” Lund says. “You can produce ethanol; you can produce biobutanol; and you can take biobutanol and turn it into any of those hydrocarbons — gas, jet, diesel or chemical. So, you really have a lot of opportunity to arbitrage the market depending on what you want to produce, what’s in demand and what’s selling for a good price.”Retrofitting to Do It AllTotal, and ICM are involved. It might work.Thoughts?

    Comment by rufus | September 29, 2009

  164. Personally, I'd hate to try to prove "anything" using existing data.Even all those ethanol studies you throw at us? The ones showing improved fuel efficiency or lower costs brought on by ethanol?I'm going to wait for the answer to Dupa's Sept. 28, 11:30 A.M. comment.I think he's probably on the right track.It was definitely a good observation, and the kind of comment I was hoping this essay would spur. "Fuel Guru" also had some good comments. I spent considerable time looking into both issues last night, and will elaborate in the next essay. The Executive Summary is that the MTBE phaseout had some impact in that some ethanol went to replace some domestic gas production. What I came up with was that if MTBE had been entirely accounted for in "Imports" and "Total Supply", ethanol should have still displaced 115,000 bbl/day of oil based on energy content from the peak of the phaseout. Considering that a portion of it is included in imports, I calculated that is should still have displaced 74,000 bbls of imports based on energy content. So some of the discrepancy is explained, but only a small amount. We need about 10 more MTBE phaseout events to account for it all.I will elaborate on the calculation in the next essay.RRP.S. At > 160 comments, this is now the most commented-upon post of the 849 essays hosted here.

    Comment by Robert Rapier | September 29, 2009

  165. Some Anonymous git said:"LOL, another basher just making stuff up because he thinks it sounds right. Might want to brush up on your blendstock knowledge and compare the real number ie reformulated v non-reformulated. Ethanol's btu density kinda beats petroleum gas. >;P"Eh?Ethanols btu density beats petroleum gas???No it doesn't. (I was talking about gasoline, which I thought was plenty clear, not liquid petroleum gas which is butane and propane liquids).Here in europe, we've never had "oxygenated" gasoline. So we've never had the MTBE fiasco that the US did.But we do have a 5% (volume) biofuels mandate.And I still don't want ethanol in my (european) gasoline.AndyPS, its considered polite to at least put your name at the end of the post if not at the header.

    Comment by Andytk | September 29, 2009

  166. Clee wrote: Now that you have what you seem to think is vital data, what are you going to do with it? Ignore it and demand yet other data that you can't be bothered to look up yourself?rufus replied: No, Clee, I'm going to wait for the answer to Dupa's Sept. 28, 11:30 A.M. comment. That sure looks like a YES to me. So you are ignoring this data that you previously demanded. And now you are demanding other data that dupa's post suggested. So all the data you initially demanded, and I pointed you to, was a meaningless distraction.

    Comment by Clee | September 29, 2009

  167. So all the data you initially demanded, and I pointed you to, was a meaningless distraction.I like to think of it as more of a hand wave. You throw out a bunch of questions that make it look like the issue is far more complex than it is, thus sowing seeds of doubt in the audience. The sort of tactics defense attorneys use, especially when the evidence is stacking up against their client. Also lobbyists, come to think of it.RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | September 29, 2009

  168. Total, and ICM are involved. It might work.Thoughts?IMHO they are making it way to difficult on themselves: To do this, we wanted to develop a technology that could be used as a retrofit in existing ethanol plants.Biofuels are hard enough to do without imposing such a big restriction on yourself.These guys make three big claims:1. Their GM yeast (biocatalyst, eh?) can utilize non-traditional feedstock: We don’t actually convert cellulose into sugar, but we have developed our technology to work with mixed sugars from cellulosic biomass.2. The GM yeast can tolerate high(er) levels of isobutanol.3. They are "pulling" [!?!??] out the product as it is produced: So, we are basically pulling it off as it is produced.They achieved all of that? Impressive. And hard to believe. Add their generous use of buzzwords ("biocatalyst", "GIFT", etc.) and I smell a rat.But, hey, what ever makes them tick. As long as they are spending their own money, they can try whatever they please…

    Comment by Optimist | September 29, 2009

  169. Clee, I spend at least one day a week looking through EIA, and IEA data. It's a Mess. Just look at the huge discrepancies every month/year between the two. ex. IEA says Saudi Arabia had 3 Million Barrels/day "spare capacity" in July of last year. EIA says they had One Million bpd spare capacity. I, honestly, don't believe either one. They're both counting Manifa, right now (I don't know about last July) but they won't have a refinery to process any of that gunk for at least a couple of years.I would NEVER try to win an argument by posting such data. I, also, will not bother trying to win an argument by "refuting" such data. As I said, No one that I know of can tell us for sure if that "floating storage" is being double-counted when it hits the states. I can figure out how much diesel it takes to run a train, or a tractor, but there's NO WAY I can figure out what it means when the API, and the EIA disagree by 8 Million Barrels about how much oil was added to storage, or what it means when Exxon says it has X in storage.If you guys want to pursue this silliness, be my guest.Here's what we do know: 1) We know how much ethanol is being produced.2) We know, within a percentage point, or two, the efficiency of moonshine vs gasoline, and3) We know how much diesel is required to grow the corn, and transport the ethanol.If you all want to argue "the dog ate the homework," have a good'un.I'm going to go read about Mann's hockey-stick getting "busted," . . . . again.

    Comment by rufus | September 29, 2009

  170. You wrote: The only part that matters is that he seems to pull numbers (It takes about 5 gallons of diesel to farm an acre of corn.) out of his @ss…So, if My number came out of my a…., where is yours?You are guy making the claim. Now that your bluff has been called, you have one of two options:1. Produce a link/reference to support your number.2. Admit where the number came and from retract your claim.It's your call.

    Comment by Optimist | September 29, 2009

  171. P.S. At > 160 comments, this is now the most commented-upon post of the 849 essays hosted here.You can thank Rufus, the ruthless ethanol defender for that!

    Comment by Optimist | September 29, 2009

  172. Here With the mulch tiller (disc, chisel) type of cultivation – 4.05 gal/acre

    Comment by rufus | September 29, 2009

  173. • Four gallons of diesel fuel per acre used to cultivate, plant, and harvest crops.From: Here

    Comment by rufus | September 29, 2009

  174. Need any more?

    Comment by rufus | September 29, 2009

  175. Anonymous russ said… Why haven't electric cars taken over the roads? Only now are the batteries becoming adequate (barely) and reducing in price though still impractical (price wise). Not to mention infrastructure – a bit of redoing of the grid will be necessary to replace all those petrol pumps.——————————–Thanks for comment. The short answer to your question is simply that "electric cars suck"Even though I am a fan of electric vehicles, I have to agree with RR on this point that electric cars are not quite ready for prime time.For some city or fleet applications they may work out. The same thing is true for CNG vehicles.The "gas tank" (battery) for EVs is just too expensive. limited range. over-night re-charging, etc.Fine for fleet applications, the USPS and so on.What happens if you drive out the max EV range in a single day, then decide you suddenly need to go to the store for toilet paper at 9 pm. ? " The gas tank is too expensive for EVs."One of the founders of Tesla Motors, Martin Eberhard suggested that Tesla needed to build their Model S electric sedan as a series-hybrid. (a la Chevy Volt)Ian Wright who built the Atom X electric car that can do 0-60 in just a little over three seconds has also said the same thing. He also sees series hybrids as the next logical step.I agree with Robert on this one. "Electric cars are not quite ready for prime time"Who wants to pay 12 or 15 thousand bucks for a "gas tank ?JohnJohn

    Comment by Anonymous | September 29, 2009

  176. rufus wrote: I would NEVER try to win an argument by posting such data. I, also, will not bother trying to win an argument by "refuting" such data So instead you try to win an argument by demanding such data that you consider useless.

    Comment by Clee | September 29, 2009

  177. RR wrote: the end of 2007 approximately defines the beginning of the current recession. Imports definitely fell during 2008, but overall consumption fell even more. So inclusion of 2008 would make it more difficult to separate out cause and effect, especially considering the speed at which demand fell. …It doesn't matter why demand increased; I factored in that it did increase. …And since the total demand number contains ethanol, it doesn't matter whether it increased, decreased, or stayed the same. We just measure the change, look at what happened with imports and domestic production, and see if imports rose or fell when those things are taken into account. …If ethanol is contributing, then imports should fall more than product supplied falls when demand is down,It seems to me that it doesn't matter if the demand decreased in 2008 because your method would factor in that decrease. So why leave out 2008?But I won't demand that someone else find the data and do the math. I'll try it myself.To avoid this MTBE question, I'll start with 2006, since MTBE use increased from 2006 to 2007.http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/alternate/page/atftables/attf_c1.htmlFrom 2006 to 2008 ethanol production in the US increased 4.146 billion gallons per year from 4.855 billion gallons per year to 9 billion gallons per year.Total net petroleum imports (oil, gasoline, diesel, etc) decreased over that time by 0.8 million bpd from 12.4 million bpd to 11.6 million bpd.Domestic production fell 0.228 million bpd from 5.178 million bpd to 4.950 million bpd. If domestic production hadn't fallen, then the imports would have fallen faster at 1.028 million bpd.But demand (including ethanol) dropped even faster 1.189 million bpd from 20.687 million bpd to 19.498 million bpd. So if demand hadn't dropped (and domestic production hadn't fallen), imports would have increased by 0.169 million bpd. When the lower energy content of ethanol is factored in, the increase of 4.146 billion gallons per year of ethanol is worth 0.17 million bpd of oil. But instead of imports (after adjustment for changes in domestic production and demand) didn't decrease by that amount, it increased by that amount.That increase of 0.169 million bpd over 2 years or 731 days, amounts to 123.5 million barrels. Total crude oil and petroleum stocks including the SPR and stuff outside of the SPR increased 17.2 million barrels from 1719.5 million barrels to 1736.7 million barrelsSource: http://tonto.eia.doe.gov/dnav/pet/pet_stoc_wstk_dcu_nus_a.htmSo the increase in imported oil excluding the amount that went into storage was still 106.3 million barrels. 8 million barrels, give or take, won't make much difference.So from 2006 to 2008 when ethanol usage nearly doubled, and MTBE had already been pretty much phased out, there is still no evidence that ethanol caused a decrease in imports.

    Comment by Clee | September 29, 2009

  178. Clee, if someone posts that data, right in front of my face, I'll take a look at it, and see if something "jumps out at me."Look, here's EIA – IEA Consumption/production Data since 2002 Look at the year over year jumps, and dips, and discombobulations, and disagreements. I could make an elephant fly like a hummingbird, and swim like a dolphin with that data. But, it wouldn't mean anything. Some other smart guy would just come along, and use the other side, and I'd have a crashed, and drowned pachyderm.We studied, dissected, and debated the test that Robert put up of cars doing the LA92 mileage cycle. We know within a reasonable range how many miles an average car achieves on an ethanol blend. We know how much we produced, and we know within a whisker how much diesel was used in the farming, and transport of said diesel.We, also, know that after allowing for the switchover from MTBE, we're looking at a fairly small number. I can't for the life of me understand why I should go wallowing around in that miasma just to end up in a "he said/she said." Seems senseless.

    Comment by rufus | September 29, 2009

  179. To avoid this MTBE question, I'll start with 2006, since MTBE use increased from 2006 to 2007.What happened to MTBE in 2008?

    Comment by rufus | September 29, 2009

  180. 4.168 Billion gallons/42/365 = 268,500 bpd X .75 = 201 bpd of ethanol adjusted for mileage vs gasoline.

    Comment by rufus | September 29, 2009

  181. Robert, you are indeed a patient man. I hope that your time elsewhere is spent in more rewarding pursuits than disabusing the types here that you so perceptively identify.All the "lobbyists" require to achieve their aim is to muddy the argument and to distract the more astute among us.My favorite example: CO2isgreen.org.

    Comment by Rate Crimes | September 29, 2009

  182. Well, according to this research from the Univ. of Illinois Elevated CO2 levels led to 13 More Soybeans, and 26% More Corn Yield. Even with less water.

    Comment by rufus | September 29, 2009

  183. Too many instantameous "answers"Ruf, ruf, ruf, Rufus

    Comment by Anonymous | September 29, 2009

  184. It all fits together – Corn, ethanol, CO2It was funny when the ethanol folks jumped on the CO2 thing, not realizing that the "Greenies" didn't like them, either.Maybe, funny's not the right word.

    Comment by rufus | September 29, 2009

  185. Hi, Doug.Tsunami didn't get you, huh?

    Comment by rufus | September 29, 2009

  186. Rufus,Out if the last 185 posts you had 51 of them..Who is paying you ?John

    Comment by Anonymous | September 30, 2009

  187. Same person that's paying you to read them?

    Comment by rufus | September 30, 2009

  188. The wisdom of Chairman John:"The short answer to your question is simply that "electric cars suck""So John — you want everyone to stop, just stop!, using internal combustion engines. And you think that electric cars suck. You don't seem too well disposed towards Benny's favorite CNG either — and anyway, those are just internal combustion engines anyway.Meanwhile, up the road, Mrs. Jones is about to go into labor with a difficult delivery. Before modern times, 1 woman in 7 died in childbirth. Fortunately, Mrs. Jones will get taken to hospital and has an excellent chance of survival.But wait! The ambulance uses an internal combustion engine. Chariman John has shut it down. What's the answer John? What are you going to use to power the ambulances, and the tractors, and the delivery trucks, and ….?

    Comment by Kinuachdrach | September 30, 2009

  189. Kinuachdrach said… "What are you going to use to power the ambulances, and the tractors, and the delivery trucks, and ….?"… and served up red herring for dinner by neglecting to mention factors of scale and better community design.

    Comment by Rate Crimes | September 30, 2009

  190. What happened to MTBE in 2008?Total production is down about 80% from the peak:Oxygenate Production And that went to exports:ExportsIn fact, the exports of MTBE started picking up in 2006, and it had been phased out domestically by mid-2006. I was at the refinery in Montana; I remember it happening clearly. Ethanol couldn't ramp up quickly enough to offset the loss of production, and ethanol prices shot sky high. Ethanol imports spiked in 2006 due to the MTBE phaseout and the much higher prices:Ethanol Imports RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | September 30, 2009

  191. IEA says Saudi Arabia had 3 Million Barrels/day "spare capacity" in July of last year. EIA says they had One Million bpd spare capacity.Saudi data is very opaque, and API data is based on sampling. Those are not good examples to use (unless you are just trying to hand wave away the use of any of this data, which you are actually trying to do).The requirements to the EIA are much more stringent, and while there are discrepancies, you can't have a substantial sustainable discrepancy over a long period of time. If you did, you would find the discrepancies compounding over time. You would find yourself looking for a billion missing barrels of oil. No, we have audits to keep things like that from happening.I can't for the life of me understand why I should go wallowing around in that miasma just to end up in a "he said/she said." Seems senseless.Yet you apparently have more posts in this thread than anyone. Go figure.RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | September 30, 2009

  192. But, you call me out for ONE MORE, eh?Robert, just answer me ONE question. Do you believe that ethanol delivers less than 1 mpg?

    Comment by rufus | September 30, 2009

  193. Do you believe that ethanol delivers less than 1 mpg?Yes, I do. Do you believe lobbyists post anonymously on blogs in support of the products they are being paid to promote?RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | September 30, 2009

  194. It seems to me that it doesn't matter if the demand decreased in 2008 because your method would factor in that decrease. So why leave out 2008?You are correct, the method should compensate for that. The only reason I hesitated is that the change was so large, so fast that it might be misleading. That was a year in which we saw a lot of floating storage, so things may be skewed a bit. But I am going to just graph it so people can see exactly what happened in each year.RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | September 30, 2009

  195. Let me get this straight. I don't want to misunderstand.I asked, "Do you believe that ethanol delivers less than 1 mpg?"And, You answered, "Yes, I do."Did I get that right?About Lobbyists? I really don't know.

    Comment by rufus | September 30, 2009

  196. I asked, "Do you believe that ethanol delivers less than 1 mpg?"And, You answered, "Yes, I do."Did I get that right?No, I read it quickly and thought you said "more." My "yes" was intended to be "Yes, I believe ethanol delivers more than 1 mpg."

    Comment by Robert Rapier | September 30, 2009

  197. Dangit. I was going to have some fun with that. Oh well,Would you say the average car gets 15 mpg on ethanol?

    Comment by rufus | September 30, 2009

  198. Kinu-Actually, my favorite is a huge American-made V8, the kind where you seem have limitless power at the pedal. But, my favorite may no longer be practical, in a world where thugs control ample oil supplies.I hate to agree with Rufus on anything, but…he is right about CO2 being good for plants. Greenhouses have pumped in extra CO2 for years.I imagine crop production is boosted by the extra CO2 (some reasonable scientists say so), and forests are probably benefitting too. Another oddity is that without artificially rising CO2, we might slowly declining CO2 levels, something to do with the towering height of the Himalayas, cutting off water, and carbonized rock. Such a scenario might assure chronic Ice Ages (which in fact have been common, even the norm, for the last 200,000 years).None of this means we should not try to understand climate, or simply say CO2 is good. But it is one complicated topic.

    Comment by Benny "Boom, No Doom" Cole | September 30, 2009

  199. Clee:Your analysis is very interesting. However, there is something wrong with the links, when I use them I am told by EIA that they are broken links.Could you please repost the links?I find your analysis interesting, I wanted to dig into this further than I have up to this point,

    Comment by dupa | September 30, 2009

  200. Yes, there are significant differences between EIA and IEA numbers, though the shapes of the curves are similar. They probably define their numbers a bit differently. That's why when I want to do analyses, I would choose all the numbers for the analysis from one or the other, not taking from both. I'll take RR's word for it that the EIA numbers are more rigorous.But I would agree with a conclusion that the effect of ethanol is so small as to be indiscernible from the noise.rufus wrote: What happened to MTBE in 2008? I have no idea, but I see RR has given you an answer. However by 2007 there was already 7.6 times as much GGE of ethanol oxygenates as GGE of MTBE oxygenate. Not much MTBE left to replace. And I believe that RR has shown above in his 7:24 AM post that the MTBE to ethanol switch does not change his discrepancy numbers more than 10%.rufus wrote: 4.168 Billion gallons/42/365 = 268,500 bpd X .75 = 201 bpd of ethanol adjusted for mileage vs gasoline.I think your calculator is broken, and you lost 3 orders of magnitude in the last step.dupa wrote: there is something wrong with the links, when I use them I am told by EIA that they are broken links.I tried my URLs in a different browser to make sure they worked and weren't cached in memory with some extra info, and it worked… So I don't know what to say.

    Comment by Clee | September 30, 2009

  201. regarding your 6 billion gallons being 1/2 of 1% of the total petroleum usage: ethanol isn't trying to replace diesel fuel, for example – so what's the point of factoring in diesel and other fossil fuels? You're making a strawman argument by doing that, which I don't think is your intention. The market for ethanol is the 200 billion gallons per year of gasoline – and based on current compatibility, it's 10% of that, so 20 billion gallons per year. Due to lower BTU content, that will displace 15 billion gallons of gasoline, or 7% if we get to that point. At 9BBGY today, it's more like 4% of the product it's actually intending to replace.I think this is a case of you overanalyzing to the point where the end number is not very useful. Kind of like saying "if we could only harness all of the sun's energy on earth, we'd have enough every 20 minutes to power the whole world for a year". No offense, cause I love your blog – keep up the good work!

    Comment by Neurot | October 1, 2009

  202. Rufus wrote: Okay, Bubba, we are now producing 11,532,000,000 gallons of ethanol on an annual basis, and it's not replacing a drop of gasoline. Happy? There is another important petroleum input that I have yet to see calculated into the "is ethanol worth it?" debate. This 12 billion gallons of a year of ethanol, most which is produced in the midwest and shipped to distant locations, cannot be shipped via the traditional, cost effective method of choice-pipelines. Because ethanol is non-fungible (cannot be shipped via pipelines) it has to be shipped via barge, rail (100 car unitrains) or truck. There is a tremendous cost in petroleum and other valuable resources that are required to cater to splash blending ethanol at the terminal, right before it is delivered to the gas station. There are also major safety issues related to the current methods of ethanol transportation I have listed, including recent deaths from ethanol train derailments and tank truck accidents – ethanol fires require specialized foam to extinguish, and public safety officials are quite concerned.

    Comment by fuel guru | October 1, 2009


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