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EPA Delays Ethanol Ruling

In a move that wasn’t really a surprise, today the EPA announced that they are not yet ready to approve ethanol blends above E10 for automobiles:

EPA Notifies Industry Group on Status of Ethanol Waiver Request

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today announced that it expects to make a final determination in mid-2010 regarding whether to increase the allowable ethanol content in fuel.

In a letter sent today to Growth Energy – a bio fuels industry association that had asked EPA to grant a waiver that would allow for the use of up to 15 percent of ethanol in gasoline – the agency said that while not all tests have been completed, the results of two tests indicate that engines in newer cars likely can handle an ethanol blend higher than the current 10-percent limit. The agency will decide whether to raise the blending limit when more testing data is available. EPA also announced that it has begun the process to craft the labeling requirements that will be necessary if the blending limit is raised.

In March 2009, Growth Energy requested a waiver to allow for the use of up to 15 percent ethanol in gasoline, an increase of five percent points. Under the Clean Air Act, EPA was required to respond to the waiver request by December 1, 2009. EPA has been evaluating the group’s request and has received a broad range of public comments as part of the administrative rulemaking process. EPA and the Department of Energy also undertook a number of studies to determine whether cars could handle higher ethanol blends. Testing has been proceeding as quickly as possible given the available testing facilities.

In a letter to Growth Energy, a pro-ethanol organization headed up by POET CEO Jeff Broin and General Wesley Clark, the EPA indicated that testing had only been completed on two vehicles, but testing on an additional 12 vehicles was expected to be completed by May 2010. On the basis of the two completed tests, the EPA said they would “be in a position to approve E15 for 2001 and newer vehicles in the mid-year timeframe.”

That begs the question of whether there is expected to be a potential problem in vehicles older than 2001 models. If so, and E15 is approved for 2001 and newer models, I can imagine a logistical nightmare and a class action lawsuit waiting to happen. Instead of having three grades of gasoline, there would likely need to be five or six grades depending on the age of your car. For gasoline blenders and for station owners, it will be a bit of a headache. For lawyers, a potential windfall as pre-2001 car owners have their engines ruined because they put the wrong fuel in, or someone else messed up in the supply chain.

Instead of going down this path, why don’t we do more to incentivize E85? We aren’t close to saturating the market for E85; the problem is just that the E85 price isn’t low enough relative to gasoline. There are supposedly several million E85 vehicles on the roads today, with automakers ramping up production even more in future years.

Consider for a moment the potential E85 market in the Midwest, where most of the corn is grown and most of the ethanol is produced. Per the EIA, the demand for gasoline in the Midwest in 2008 was 2.5 million barrels per day. Imagine for a moment that this demand was for E85. In that case, because of the lower energy content, demand would rise to around 3.3 million barrels per day. Of that, 85%, or 2.8 million barrels per day, would come from ethanol.

How much is 2.8 million barrels per day? It would be 43 billion gallons per year of ethanol, far greater than the 10 billion or so gallons of ethanol produced in the U.S. in 2010. In fact, even if you could convince only half the people in the Midwest to use E85, there would be absolutely no need to even think about increasing the amount of ethanol in the general gasoline pool. And that’s just in the Midwest!

So why isn’t this strategy being heavily pursued? Primarily I think it comes down to cost. If you can get 15% ethanol into the gasoline pool, any cost penalty is spread out over many consumers and it is further masked because the bulk of the fuel is gasoline. With E85, ethanol is carry the brunt of the costs and the penalty is far more obvious.

As I write this, per this site that promotes E85 fuel, right now the savings from burning E85 instead of regular gasoline is only 11.88% (a national average price of $2.53 for gasoline versus $2.23 for E85). The problem is that the mileage penalty is going to be over 20% in most cases (the energy content of E85 is almost 30% less than gasoline on a per gallon basis), and therefore people are not going to voluntarily buy it.

How to get around that? Well, if you could instead make everyone buy E15, you don’t really have to worry about that cost problem. Consumers will be forced to take the hit, but it will be spread out across all consumers. But if they could make the cost of ethanol more competitive such that the savings from E85 is consistently around 25-30% relative to gasoline, E85 demand would be great enough to consume all of the ethanol we will make for the foreseeable future.

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December 2, 2009 - Posted by | energy policy, EPA, ethanol mandate, ethanol prices, politics

131 Comments

  1. what of the millions of non-auto engines– single to multi-cylinder? two cycle, four cycle.fran

    Comment by Anonymous | December 2, 2009

  2. I'm curious about how General Clark got hooked up with the corn ethanol crowd. He's supposed to be a bright guy and was even a Rhodes scholar.

    Comment by Wendell Mercantile | December 2, 2009

  3. "why don't we do more to incentivize E85?"There we go again. So-called alternate energies with their hands out one more time. It is a little embarrassing, isn't it?

    Comment by Kinuachdrach | December 2, 2009

  4. There we go again. So-called alternate energies with their hands out one more time. It is a little embarrassing, isn't it?My point is that incentives are better for consumers than mandates. If the incentives don't work to stimulate more of what you are incentivizing, then it probably wasn't close to being economical and potentially nothing is lost. But when you mandate, you force it into the market regardless of the economics. I also have a much better handle on what the costs are with incentives than I do when mandates are involved.Imagine for a moment that we offer a $2/gallon incentive for algal fuel. My guess is that you wouldn't see any coming onto the market at that price. Now imagine instead a mandate. It would come on to the market, but the price might be $25/gal. Of course if I could get it mandated as something like a 2% blend in regular diesel, I could mask those costs pretty well…RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | December 2, 2009

  5. You shouldn't compare E85 to regular gasoline,or even premium gas. E85 has a higher octane rating. What's a gallon of racing fuel sell for nowadays?

    Comment by Maury | December 2, 2009

  6. Video of a car and driver catching fire at the Indy 500. They doused him with water and sent him back onto the track. http://tinyurl.com/ygv5wngIt seems the cheapest racing fuel is $8.00 a gallon. A lot of drivers use E85 though. High octane,low cost.

    Comment by Maury | December 2, 2009

  7. Inside a non-flexfuel engine after 100,000 miles on E85.http://tinyurl.com/4ntwyg

    Comment by Maury | December 2, 2009

  8. Would the elimination of transport costs do anything to improve the price difference between E85 and gasoline if ethanol produced in the midwest were to also be consumed there? Even if not, is there a case to be made that the regions benefitting from ethanol mandates should have to shoulder the higher fuel costs too?– An Inquiring Yurp

    Comment by PeteS | December 2, 2009

  9. I would have preferred the EPA to tell big ethanol to pound sand. PeteS brings up an interesting point. Shouldn't ethanol promoting states like Iowa and North Dakota get LESS federal highway funds since ethanol pays less in taxes? Maybe if Iowa roads had a few more potholes residents wouldn't be so quick to sign on for the corn ethanol boondoggle.

    Comment by KingofKaty | December 2, 2009

  10. Robert:What are your thoughts regarding the government study out today stating Ethanol and Biodiesel increase water pollution? Seems like a non issue

    Comment by dclancy | December 2, 2009

  11. I get a headache just from reading this excellent post by RR, on ethanol.Ethanol is just another rural-farm subsidy in drag. Heavily supported by farm lobby and the Republican Party.Indeed, given the energy consumed to make ethanol, and the decreased mpgs that result from its use, the Bush-Republican ethanol push might be termed an anti-energy policy.Obama seems content to stand by and do nothing. Well, I guess that's better the creating real damage. One thing about rural-farm subsidies: They never die. Our great-grandchildren will be subsidizing ethanol. Given that reality, I wonder if pure ethanol PHEVs make sense. Turbines can run on ethanol and power PHEVs. Such a model totally displaces imported oil. Die OPEC, die, die, die!

    Comment by Benny BND Cole | December 2, 2009

  12. Interesting, Wendell — that opinion piece is pretty damning!

    Comment by PeteS | December 2, 2009

  13. Brazil doesn't seem to have had any problem with their older cars adapting to a 26% Ethanol Blend.

    Comment by rufus | December 2, 2009

  14. Rufus~This is perhaps the most damning statement in Mr. Harding's Op-Ed column:"Second, if ethanol use was really helping the environment, it might be worth putting up with higher costs. But many environmental groups dropped their support for corn-based ethanol after two studies published by the journal Science last February concluded that ethanol production actually increases the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere."

    Comment by Wendell Mercantile | December 2, 2009

  15. I didn't notice who "wrote" the article, Wendell; but it was rife with inaccuracies. ex. Whoever it was couldn't even get the tariff amount right (it's, now, $0.46, not $0.54 per gallon.)The Science article did Not Conclude that ethanol increased the CO2 accumulation. The article used a bunch of "might be's," "Could be's," "Maybes," and conflated as much as they were able ethanol with "palm oil" in a messy hodge-podge of conjecture, and misinformation.An ex.: "IF," as a result of ethanol demand, more corn was planted, "And" less beans were planted, and "IF" this led the Brazilians to cut down Rainforest to make way for Grazing, That was Supplanted for "Growing Soybeans" THEN Ethanol might be CO2 Positive.However, Brazil planted 5 Million Acres LESS Soybeans in 2008 than they did in 2003 (53 Million Acres, as opposed to 58 Million Acres.)Also, Brazil has 150 Million Acres of prime "bean-land lying Fallow in the Cerrado.The author of the most quoted article, Tim Searching, is a "Lawyer," not a "scientist." They, also, didn't, accurately, account for the DDGS, and had the yields, fertilizer usage, and several other things wrong. It was just a silly, anti-ethanol hit-piece.

    Comment by rufus | December 2, 2009

  16. A Good operator, like Poet, can probably turn out ethanol, profitably, for about $1.60 right now. It's selling for a pretty good price (about $2.15, wholesale,,) due to pretty good demand. *After collecting the $0.46 blenders' credit, the blender is buying the ethanol for about $1.70/gal. This is about $0.30 less than unleaded, so many blenders are blending right up to the 10% limit.Also, with Brazilian Cane Ethanol selling for about $1.00 more, there is, perhaps, some corn ethanol being accumulated for "Export."Several more refineries will be coming online in the next couple of months, and that might help to moderate the price. But, maybe not.

    Comment by rufus | December 2, 2009

  17. Yikes, Mea Culpa. I'm the one that got the Tariff wrong. It is $0.54. I was confusing it with the Blender's credit.

    Comment by rufus | December 2, 2009

  18. Actually, it's $0.51, and change plus the primary tariff of $0.2 and change.BTW, a 55 Million Gallon/Yr ethanol refinery uses about the same amount of water as an 18 hole municipal golf course. Last I looked we had about 5,000 of those in the U.S.

    Comment by rufus | December 2, 2009

  19. “the Bush-Republican ethanol push might be termed an anti-energy policy.”Let look factually at Benny claim:The amount of biofuel require under republican control was 6.1 billion gallons by 2009 and under House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was 11.1 billion gallons by 2009. As we are now seeing there are unintended consequences for increasing the mandate too fast. The following is cut and paste from publicly available documents. Energy Policy Act of 2005“Increases the amount of biofuel (usually ethanol) that must be mixed with gasoline sold in the United States to 4 billion gallons by 2006, 6.1 billion gallons by 2009 and 7.5 billion gallons by 2012” SEC. 1501. RENEWABLE CONTENT OF GASOLINE.The requirement in billions of gallons are: 2006 — 4.02007 – 4.72008 .– 5.42009 — 6.12010 — 6.82011 — 7.42012 — 7.5.Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007“House Speaker Nancy Pelosi promoted the Act as a way of lowering energy costs to consumers.”“Taxpayer funding for increased production of biofuels. The total amount of biofuels added to gasoline is required to increase to 36 billion gallons by 2022, from 4.7 billion gallons in 2007. The Energy Act further specifies that 21 billion gallons of the 2022 total must be derived from non-cornstarch products (e.g. sugar or cellulose).” Section 201-202- Renewable Fuel Standard The requirement in billions of gallons are: 2006 –4.02007 –4.72008 –9.02009 –11.12010 -12.95

    Comment by Kit P | December 2, 2009

  20. Nitrogen fertilizer is often a product of stranded NG that might be flared other wise. I can find many studies that show US produced ethanol is a better environmental choice. I would also like to point out that there is nothing in 2005 Energy Bill that favors corn ethanol from the Midwest. Washington State was very proactive in supporting biofuels. Judging from the location of of facilitates, it was more about the California market that the local market.

    Comment by Kit P | December 2, 2009

  21. We are, currently, using about 11,930,000,000 gal/yr (778,000 bbl/day.) Like I said, there are several more refineries coming online fairly soon. Two or three in the next month.We're getting more flexfuel cars on the road, but for E85 to really take off you need gas prices in the $3.25 + range.

    Comment by rufus | December 2, 2009

  22. What's got the corn ethanol boys all abuzz is everyone was expecting the market for gasoline to be, at least, 14.5 Billion Gallons/yr. So, they started build-outs that would equal 14.5 Billion Gallons.Now, it seems like we might not get back to 14.5 B gallons. If we don't, and if the blenders are only allowed a 10% max blend, there is going to be some spare capacity.The EPA, though, is going to do something by Summer. They've, already, dropped all the hints, necessary, to assuage the jitters of the E Crowd.

    Comment by rufus | December 2, 2009

  23. That should have been 145 Billion Gallons for "Gas."

    Comment by rufus | December 2, 2009

  24. OxyMaven said… “I did not object to the original ethanol mandates that called for 7.5 bil gallons by 2012.”Did not see your post in a previous tread before I started my research today and I agree with most of what OxyMaven wrote. It is worth the effort for all to read. Where I live I have no trouble finding ethanol free gasoline but I would buy a higher blend like E-20.Does anyone know a way to kill an 89' Ford Ranger? It is no longer faded red but know growing black mold. I consider the Energy Policy Act of 2005 the Kit P full employment act and maybe I should help the economy by buying a truck that I need help getting into.

    Comment by Kit P | December 2, 2009

  25. OT but ran across this today from a story about Sierra Club taking the project to court to block this\e projecthttp://www.powerholdingsllc.com/index.asp?page=3 “The Southern Illinois Coal-to-Synthetic Natural Gas (SNG) Facility (Facility) will manufacture pipeline-quality natural gas using abundant Illinois coal. It represents the breakthrough use of current commercially-proven, environmentally-friendly gasification technology.”

    Comment by Kit P | December 2, 2009

  26. Oh, lest anyone misunderstand me, I definitely think doubling the CO2 content of the atmosphere would be a Feature, not a Bug.

    Comment by rufus | December 2, 2009

  27. You shouldn't compare E85 to regular gasoline,or even premium gas. E85 has a higher octane rating. What's a gallon of racing fuel sell for nowadays?If it was valued like racing fuel, you couldn't get it for $2.23/gal. The octane bit is a red herring. In what way does the higher octane of E85 benefit the person fueling their car with it? They may benefit from not having as severe a mileage penalty if the car's compression ratio is higher. Other than that, why would anyone value E85 at anything higher than it is currently being valued? The fact is, you can compare it to gasoline. For E85 vehicles, it competes directly with gasoline for consumer dollars.RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | December 3, 2009

  28. "The octane bit is a red herring"87 octane goes for $2.48 a gallon around here. 93 octane is about $2.79 . That's about 25% more than the $2.23 E85 sells for. Super Premium(98 octane) is being sold for less than Premium,even with the energy penalty accounted for. "it competes directly with gasoline for consumer dollars."Porsche competes directly with Ford for consumer dollars. That doesn't mean a 911 has to be priced like a Taurus.

    Comment by Maury | December 3, 2009

  29. Porsche competes directly with Ford for consumer dollars. That doesn't mean a 911 has to be priced like a Taurus.You are getting mixed up here. If a 911 was priced like a Taurus, there would be no way to keep up with a demand. But E85 is cheaper than gasoline already, thus the value is not what you would assign to it. If it were like the Taurus/911 example, there would be no way to keep up with demand for E85.RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | December 3, 2009

  30. It's all about perception Robert. Some of us recognize ethanol as a bargain. Others would complain if it were free. We can't afford to sit around and do nothing about energy security. If you have something better than ethanol,bring it to market. I'm looking forward to an E15 standard. Then E25,E40….and eventually E98. You guys can just kick back and watch the world pass you by.

    Comment by Maury | December 3, 2009

  31. Kit P-The ethanol mandates are going up, but due to pressure from corn and farm states. I have no love for the D-Party, or Pelosi. But most likely she is horse trading to get an energy bill passed.I prefer to see price signals and markets work, where they do. I stand by my statement: The USA ethanol program gives me a headache, it is so badly designed, and it is the vile excretum of our farm lobby at work. The R-Party does the farm lobby's bidding.The D-Party is just as bad, in other ways,

    Comment by Benny BND Cole | December 3, 2009

  32. Benny,we can subsidise one PHEV or 150,000 gallons of E10 for the same $7500. Yet,you see ethanol as a boondoggle and PHEV's as a solution. Makes no sense.

    Comment by Maury | December 3, 2009

  33. How best to spend $7500?17,500 gallons of E85 would last the average driver 15 years,and reduce his reliance on oil by 85% or so.A PHEV would reduce the average drivers reliance on oil by 70%. But,it would increase his reliance on natural gas and coal by a like amount. And,it's doubtful the PHEV would last 15 years.Which would you call a boondoggle again Benny?

    Comment by Maury | December 3, 2009

  34. If ethanol worked the way ethanol supporters say it does ethanol producers would not have to have congress force consumers to buy it.All the hand waving in the world from ethanol supporters can't hide that inconvenient truth.Duracomm

    Comment by Anonymous | December 3, 2009

  35. Benny,Last time I checked democrats had the presidency, a strong majority in the house, and a strong majority in the senate.If the democrats wanted to end ethanol mandates and subsidies they could.Duracomm

    Comment by Anonymous | December 3, 2009

  36. “But most likely she is horse trading to get an energy bill passed.”Benny do you bother to do any research before forming an opinion? Even after I break it down for you in tiny bits you do not get it.I will make it simple just look at the titles;Energy Policy Act of 2005Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007The first being about a thousand pages of well thought out energy legislation form A to Z My opinion based on reading above half of it. Horse trading was involved and many of Bush agenda was not included. Much needed reforms. “I prefer to see price signals and markets work, where they do.”No, you do not! First, if you did you would be advocating coal power plants in down town LA.Energy policy is designed to promote a common good for society. Incentives are provided to alternatives that may be more expense in the short term but tern out to benefit society in the long run. What is the cost of pollution, what is the cost of foreign supplies of energy?Second, modest mandates are designed to allow the lowest cost alternative to come to market fastest. Noting in the legislation specifies corn ethanol or wind would dominate other than market signals. Other incentives are provided to technologies that are farther away like gasification. We need to demonstrate applications that are less commercially viable gasification.

    Comment by Kit P | December 3, 2009

  37. "If ethanol worked the way ethanol supporters say it does ethanol producers would not have to have congress force consumers to buy it."It's more like congress forced oil companies to sell it. Imagine for a moment that E100 could supply all our needs. Do you think Shell and BP would be on board with that?

    Comment by Maury | December 3, 2009

  38. Duracomm, every gallon of ethanol sold costs the oil companies money; and they control the distribution system.Mandates are the ONLY way you're going to get ethanol distributed. It doesn't take a genius to figure that out.

    Comment by rufus | December 3, 2009

  39. Some of you guys worry about the strangest things. I saw the other day where China has increased its petroleum consumption by 1.7 Million bpd in the last year, and a half.Demand is steadily rising, also, in India, Africa, and the Middle East.And, with unemployment at 10.2%, and rising, oil is at $77.00 barrel (up about 700% from ten years, ago.)Doesn't it ever occur to some of you (you know who you are) that we might be getting ready to run into a buzzsaw?

    Comment by rufus | December 3, 2009

  40. A PHEV would reduce the average drivers reliance on oil by 70%. But,it would increase his reliance on natural gas and coal by a like amount.My gosh, Maury! Where do you think most of corn ethanol's BTUs come from? The BTU fairy?RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | December 3, 2009

  41. Rufus said, every gallon of ethanol sold costs the oil companies money; Do you have a cite for that assertion?Mandates are the ONLY way you're going to get ethanol distributed. It doesn't take a genius to figure that out.Producing ethanol would take an utterly trivial amount of effort on the part of the oil companies. Furthermore if ethanol was the wonder substance ethanol proponents say it is there would be zero downside for the oil companies to produce it. It would be a government supported sure thing with no risk and great public relations benefits. And ethanol possesses none of the political risks working in countries like Russia and Venezuela provide. The fact that the oil companies don't make ethanol is additional gold standard evidence that ethanol is rather complicated chemical that serves only one purpose.Take money from taxpayers pockets and give it to the corn farmers and ethanol producers.Duracomm

    Comment by Anonymous | December 3, 2009

  42. Exactly Robert. Corn will be harvested,whether we turn any of it into ethanol or not. The EROEI of corn used for ethanol is equal to,or better than,oil in my opinion. Both need refining,of course.

    Comment by Maury | December 3, 2009

  43. "Take money from taxpayers pockets and give it to the corn farmers and ethanol producers."Never mind taxpayer money flowing to Japan with hybrid subsidies. Or taxpayer money going to China on widpower subsidies. Oh no….what's especially bothersome is taxpayer money going to taxpayers. You're right Duracomm. We have GOT to do something about that.

    Comment by Maury | December 3, 2009

  44. Maury said,Corn will be harvested,whether we turn any of it into ethanol or not.The corn has to be planted first and absent the market distorting ethanol mandates a lot less of it would get planted.Once it is planted the corn will be liberally hosed down with petroleum fertilizer, pesticides, and herbicides. The corn will then be harvested, transported, and refined into ethanol. Each of these steps will consume varying amounts of petroleum. Boiling off the ethanol from the water is a btu pig and large amounts of natural gas or coal will be consumed in this step.As Robert noted apparently the BTU liberally sprinkles magic BTU powder over every step of the ethanol production process.Because these BTUs never seem to get accounted for by ethanol supporters.Duracomm

    Comment by Anonymous | December 3, 2009

  45. "The corn will then be harvested, transported, and refined into ethanol. Each of these steps will consume varying amounts of petroleum." Ditto for oil. Except,when the oil well is dry….it stays dry. Corn can be grown again next year."and large amounts of natural gas or coal will be consumed in this step"Foreign or domestic? Is that what really bothers you Duracomm? Jobs and subsidies going to Americans instead of foreignors? Get over it man.

    Comment by Maury | December 3, 2009

  46. The EROEI of corn used for ethanol is equal to,or better than,oil in my opinion.All I can tell you is that your opinion is wrong by about an order of magnitude. I don't know where you get your information, but this isn't really a matter of opinion. These things have been measured. It's like you saying that in your opinion Lake Erie contains more water than the Atlantic Ocean. But of course if that is your opinion, it is not a surprise that you express the views that you express.RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | December 3, 2009

  47. Maury said,Never mind taxpayer money flowing to Japan with hybrid subsidies. Or taxpayer money going to China on widpower subsidies. Oh no….what's especially bothersome is taxpayer money going to taxpayers. You're right Duracomm. We have GOT to do something about that.If someone argued that because person A kicked him in the shin he must support getting kicked in the other shin by Person B the guy making that argument would be considered a lunatic.But this is the exact same lunatic argument used by ethanol supporters maintaining that since we subsidize idiot idea 1 we need to subsidize idiot idea 2.I am pretty sure the supply of idiot ideas greatly exceeds the supply of taxpayer money so the correct policy is to stop.subsidizing.idiot.ideasDuracomm

    Comment by Anonymous | December 3, 2009

  48. "If someone argued that because person A kicked"Yeah,except that we never hear about person B,C,or D Duracomm. Congress spreads those energy subsidies around the world. But,all we hear on this site is about corn farmers robbing us blind. American corn farmers.

    Comment by Maury | December 3, 2009

  49. Maury,You know what really bothers me about ethanol.1. The government taking working folks hard earned tax money and giving it to people who are far wealthier than them.2. The technically illiterate folks and political rent seekers who make that entire process possible. 3. The fact that ethanol supporters and rent seekers refuse to see the revoltingly corrupt politics that drive the entire process.Again, if ethanol worked it would not need mandates.Duracomm

    Comment by Anonymous | December 3, 2009

  50. "These things have been measured."They've been measured using different standards Robert. Is EROEI taken into acount when the corn is fed to chickens or cows? Of course not. All we care about in that case is whether our steak is juicy enough. Start using ethanol though,and corn suddenly becomes inefficient. I'm already dreading the arguments you guys will toss out when cellulosic hits the pump. Corn cobs belong in corn fields,not fuel tanks. Our energy dollars should fund jihad,not every Tom,Dick and Harry with a tractor. Sheesh….

    Comment by Maury | December 3, 2009

  51. They've been measured using different standards Robert.Again, that is your opinion, and it is wrong. They have been measured using basic energy balances that are taught in first year chemical engineering classes. You don't like the answer, so you claim the standards are different.RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | December 3, 2009

  52. "They have been measured using basic energy balances"You're missing the point Robert. Those energy balances never mattered when corn was being used for chicken feed. I tell you what. Just pretend all those cars running on E85 are giant chickens. You'll sleep better at night.

    Comment by Maury | December 3, 2009

  53. Maury, that is similar to something someone said at the Pac Rim Summit. They said that it takes 10 calories of energy to put 1 calorie into a Twinkie, but we still do it.I said "Yeah, but if you were using Twinkies as fuel, you would run out of energy very quickly."We also put more energy into making butanol than the BTU content of the butanol, because it is not being used primarily for fuel. If it was, you would just use the primary energy inputs as your fuel.RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | December 3, 2009

  54. I am in fast retreat!First, let me say the D-Party is feckless weaklings also, and yes, they are not relying on market signals, or price signals, to lessen our use of imported oil. I like a stiff gasoline tax.The Dems are like Republicans in this regard. They should argue for scrapping subsidies for the ethanol program, and all farm and rural programs. The last thing we need is lots of people living in the boonies, using up gasoline to get there and back. And then demanding and getting subsidized roads, water and power and phone systems, and postal service and airports and railroad service, none of it justified by price signals.It ain't going to happen.So, yes, Duracomm, the Dems are weenies.Maury-Yes, I like PHEVs, and no, I don't think a special tax break is needed. I see Nissan is talking about a Leaf with double the range in just another year or two. 180 miles on the charge.If we tax gasoline, increasing by 25 cents a every season for four years, the market will propel people into Leafs, Volts and high mpg cars. OPEC would be wrecked, just about.The Dems and the Repubs will not enact this obvious tax, that will save this nation hundreds of billions of dollars in imported oil, and obviate the need to occupy multiple Mideast nations for decades on end. There I said it: The Dem and Repubs are equal partners in weenie-dom. I hope everybody is happy.

    Comment by Anonymous | December 3, 2009

  55. Maury – somehow I don't think the thought of 2,000kg 120km/h giant chickens chasing after me on the motorway would make me sleep better at night!

    Comment by PeteS | December 3, 2009

  56. Amen Anonymous, amen. I only wish you would have signed your name.OptimisticDoomer

    Comment by Anonymous | December 3, 2009

  57. Anon is Benny, he just forgot to sign his name.

    Comment by Robert Rapier | December 3, 2009

  58. Well, I haven't seen the first Leaf on the road, yet. BUT, we're using 11,930,000,000 gallons of ethanol/annually. That will move about 20 Million Cars like mine around for a year (figuring 600 miles/yr.)That's Here, That's Now, and That's Produced By Americans, In America; and the money is recirculated Here, In America.Americans were paid to build the equipment, build the refineries, grow the feedstock, and, transport the product.Those Americans paid sales taxes, income taxes, social security taxes, road use taxes, and property taxes. Their taxes paid for Schools for American Kids, Streets, Water, Police, Food Stamps, Defense, etc.Very few of those Americans purposefully sent money abroad to Terrorists to try and kill Americans, including, me and my family.The farmer that grew the corn made, on average, $26,000.00 last year as a result of providing approx 500 Americans with fuel, and of providing feed for the cattle, and chickens that fed my family.BUT, I realize that Saudi Princes, and terrorists have to have money, too. So, enjoy your gasoline.

    Comment by rufus | December 3, 2009

  59. What's the EROEI on soda pop? Or vodka? It doesn't matter unless I choose to put the vodka in my gas tank does it? The energy is there. We can choose to burn it or import more oil from our wahabbi friends. Corn ethanol is just the first step on a long road. Next,we'll see cellulol from corn cobs. Then,from switchgrass,wood chips,and who knows what else. The worry shouldn't be whether farmers make a buck or two. It should be whether we can keep up with depletion rates of peak oil.

    Comment by Maury | December 3, 2009

  60. Well put Rufus.

    Comment by Maury | December 3, 2009

  61. Here's a new one … offset your CO2 by stopping other people having babies.

    Comment by PeteS | December 3, 2009

  62. Trash to ethanol.http://tinyurl.com/yguvadn

    Comment by Maury | December 3, 2009

  63. Maury said,Is EROEI taken into acount when the corn is fed to chickens or cows? Those energy balances never mattered when corn was being used for chicken feed. EROI is not looked at in that case because1. Corn fed to chickens and cattle produces food not automotive fuel.2. The government does not force consumers to buy beef or chicken the way it forces consumers to buy inferior ethanol supplemented gasoline.3. Ethanol is being promoted as an energetically superior to petroleum gasoline which means EROI has to be looked at to evaluate that claim.Duracomm

    Comment by Anonymous | December 3, 2009

  64. Maury said,The worry shouldn't be whether farmers make a buck or two.Nobody is worried or complaining about the farmers making a buck or two. Lots of people are bothered by taking money from less well of tax payers and giving it to more well off farmers.Duracomm

    Comment by Anonymous | December 3, 2009

  65. If you say so Duracomm. If I had my way,every gallon of fuel sold would be E50 or higher. Cows could eat grass,along with bin Laden. Cokes would have sugar instead of corn syrup. Whatever the EROEI,it would be nice to tell Chavez and Ahwannajihad to shove it where the sun don't shine.

    Comment by Maury | December 3, 2009

  66. Rufus said,That's Here, That's Now, and That's Produced By Americans, In America; and the money is recirculated Here, In America.Those Americans paid sales taxes, income taxes, social security taxes, road use taxes, and property taxes. Their taxes paid for Schools for American Kids, Streets, Water, Police, Food Stamps, Defense, etc.Classic example of the broken windows fallacy, the economic equivalent of a perpetual motion machine.If you argument was true all we would have to do is hire lots of Americans to dig a giant hole in the desert and dump truckloads of government money into it. Makes almost as much sense as our ethanol policy.Should The Government Stop Dumping Money Into A Giant Hole?Duracomm

    Comment by Anonymous | December 3, 2009

  67. Maury says,Whatever the EROEI,it would be nice to tell Chavez and Ahwannajihad to shove it where the sun don't shine.Maury your a nice guy and I understand your enthusiasm for ethanol………butA strongly positive EROI is an absolute requirement if you want to tell chavez et-al to go pack sand.If ethanol has a low or negative EROI increasing ethanol usage in the US will in fact send chavez et-al more money not less.Duracomm

    Comment by Anonymous | December 3, 2009

  68. Unfortunately,economics is in perpetual motion Duracomm. Americans are poorer this year. I know that,because the trade gap was $600 billion,while the economy shrank. The only way we can maintain a trade deficit of $600 billion WITHOUT becoming poorer as a nation,is with 5% annual GDP growth. Even then,we would just be treading water. We can cut the trade deficit in half by becoming energy independent. Then,the 3% GDP growth we've been accustomed to in recent decades will do more than ensure our children are poverty stricken beggers. Think about that next time you throw Arab gas into your Japanese car on the way to buy Chinese trinkets at Walmart.

    Comment by Maury | December 3, 2009

  69. "If ethanol has a low or negative EROI increasing ethanol usage in the US will in fact send chavez et-al more money not less."Not if the energy inputs are domestic Duracomm. We need to produce our own energy. Until that happens,our economy is held hostage to the whims of OPEC.

    Comment by Maury | December 3, 2009

  70. Trash to ethanol.Known technology for over 100 years. Besides, I don't trust anything that retains the stench of Xethanol.RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | December 3, 2009

  71. PHEV's have been a known technology for 100 years also Robert. Did you know Henry Ford had an electric car out in 1914? He planned to use Edison's nickel-iron battery. Owners would recharge them with wind turbines. We've come full circle.

    Comment by Maury | December 3, 2009

  72. Did you know Henry Ford had an electric car out in 1914?That would be an electric car, not a PHEV. RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | December 3, 2009

  73. The Woods Dual Power was sold in 1917. It was a full hybrid,with regenerative braking. But,you're right. It didn't have a plug. That technology took another 100 years….LOL.

    Comment by Maury | December 3, 2009

  74. What I find most amazing about these responses to this post is their sole focus on ethanol!? Ethanol's two main downstream drawbacks are this blending / compatibility issue of E10 vs Exx, and its low energy density. Those are problems that don't exist for a number of other biofuels. Do all of you really think that ethanol will be the preferred biofuel in 5 years? It will still be dominant in production volume but I'm doubtful there will be much if any new ethanol production capacity by then. There are so many different pathways to better biofuels than fermentation ethanol it is difficult to believe that none of them will succeed. At the very least it seems pretty likely that BP and DuPont will get their biobutanol approach to be competitive, and that alone would knock ethanol back onto the dust heap of biofuels. Ethanol production process will need to get a lot more efficient to compete with other biofuels. Can't say that won't happen, but I'm guessing higher energy density drop-in biofuels will dominate sooner as opposed to later.

    Comment by OxyMaven | December 3, 2009

  75. Maury said Not if the energy inputs are domestic Duracomm. We need to produce our own energy. If we have enough energy to supply the inputs it makes more sense to use the energy directly. That avoids all of the energy losses that occur during ethanol production. Duracomm

    Comment by Anonymous | December 3, 2009

  76. OxyMaven said,What I find most amazing about these responses to this post is their sole focus on ethanol!? Do all of you really think that ethanol will be the preferred biofuel in 5 years? There are so many different pathways to better biofuels than fermentation ethanol it is difficult to believe that none of them will succeed. I saw a good point made somewhere that the real risk to the development of alternative energy technology is political.The risk is that some non-performing technology will be locked in by statute effectively killing the development of newer and better technology. We see that with ethanol right now and we have seen alternative biofuels (the fat based diesel tyson foods was going to produce in partnership with an oil company)killed by existing market players producing traditional bio diesel.Producers of other types of biofuels need to recognize that one of the main risks they face is political closure of markets. This closure would be driven by existing ethanol producers in order to protect their market.Duracomm

    Comment by Anonymous | December 3, 2009

  77. I'll take the EROEI of an ethanol refinery running on corn cobs, Municipal solid waste, and landfill gas over Oil from Tar Sands any day of the week.

    Comment by rufus | December 3, 2009

  78. An Oil Lover's Prayer

    Comment by rufus | December 3, 2009

  79. Maury said,Unfortunately,economics is in perpetual motion Duracomm. Americans are poorer this year. I know that,because the trade gap was $600 billion,while the economy shrank. Mostly Americans are poorer this year because of the housing market melt down and the associated destruction it rained down across the economy. The size of the meltdown was massively increased by stupid government policy decisions over the past several years. The housing meltdown illustrates just how dangerous government action can be. It is a very clear argument that the best way to increase US economic well being is to decrease government involvement in the economy not increase it.Obsessive Housing Disorder Nearly a century of Washington’s efforts to promote homeownership has produced one calamity after another. Time to stop.As Washington grapples with the current mortgage crisis, advocates from both parties are already warning the feds not to relax their commitment to expanding homeownership—even if that means reviving the very kinds of programs and institutions that got us into trouble. Not even the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression can cure us of our obsessive housing disorder.Duracomm

    Comment by Anonymous | December 3, 2009

  80. Back to Robert's post.Brazil has shown us the way. They woke up one fine morning, and gave the car companies one year to make most of their cars, "Flexfuel."The second part I haven't researched, but they, obviously, did something similar with the fuel "retailers." As a result, when the sugar cane harvest is good, and ethanol is cheap, people use a lot of ethanol. Years like this one, they use more gasoline.It costs the auto manufacturers less than $100.00 (some say a lot less) to make a vehicle "flexfuel." Last year, the Brazilians used more ethanol for private transportation than they did gasoline. They send NO money to Saudi Arabia.

    Comment by rufus | December 3, 2009

  81. They, also, blend 26% ethanol into their standard gasoline. Their "Older" cars seem to do fine.

    Comment by rufus | December 3, 2009

  82. Duracomm wrote: "Producers of other types of biofuels need to recognize that one of the main risks they face is political closure of markets."Excellent point — but this is exactly how the Political Class (and that includes your Democrats, Benny) intend the system to run. The producers of other types of bifuels will have to pony up with big enough 'contributions' if they want politicians to remove some of the barriers that those same politicans built.To speak in Benny's defense for a moment, his recurrent theme is right — we are on the verge of technological nirvanah. The bad news is we may have seen the Promised Land, but we are not going to get there.The world is 90% dependent on finite fossil fuels — most of the rest is nuclear fission & hydropower. 'Green' renewable energies are a travesty. The US, like the EU, has unemployment, under-employment, and disguised unemployment approaching 20%. The US has an unsustainable balance of trade deficit – while Germany & China have unsustainable balance of trade surpluses. The US, like Japan and most of the EU, has an unsustainable government spending budget deficit and an increasingly threatening national debt.The US is supposed to rely on Barack Obama, Nancy Peolosi, and Harry Reid to solve these problems? Ain't going to happen!While I am optimistic about technology, I am becoming increasingly pessimistic about the growing probability of politically-driven economic failure. Collapse is now almost inevitable — and it will result in the deaths of millions of human beings around the world.The silver lining is that, after the collapse, the survivors will dust themselves off and carry on. In that future world, the only forms of power that will matter are those which are self suppporting — no political mandates, no political subsidies, only what really works.Today, we should forget Political Correctness and junk science; instead, we should be concentrating on those power sources which will stand on their own feet. Which, to return to the topic of our host's post, does not include ethanol.

    Comment by Kinuachdrach | December 3, 2009

  83. Anybody with $100.00 can build a still.

    Comment by rufus | December 3, 2009

  84. But, THAT'S what hacks you "oil guys" off, isn't it?

    Comment by rufus | December 3, 2009

  85. But, THAT'S what hacks you "oil guys" off, isn't it?Are you purposely being dense, or just having a bad day. You seem to be completely clueless about what hacks off the oil guys – and for that matter a lot of guys who loathe oil.RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | December 3, 2009

  86. Rufus said: I'll take the EROEI of an ethanol refinery running on corn cobs, Municipal solid waste, and landfill gas over Oil from Tar Sands any day of the week.That's a bizarre statement. An ethanol still can't run on the ethanol it makes, it must use energy from an outside source such as fossil fuels. A facility that makes oil from tar sands can use its own fuel to power itself.Your confusing EROEI with process efficiency.

    Comment by Wendell Mercantile | December 3, 2009

  87. That's dumb, Wendell. Of course you could run an ethanol refinery on ethanol – just like you could run an oil refinery on gasoline.But, why in the world would you want to?

    Comment by rufus | December 3, 2009

  88. Robert, I am absolutely certain that the same thing that hacks ME off it the same thing that hacks the "Oil Guys" off. In my case, it's an assault on my wallet. I am positive it's no different with the "oil guys."

    Comment by rufus | December 3, 2009

  89. Off Topic, but relevant to some other common threads of discussion in this neighborhood:BMW’s Electric Mini Rollout Yields ‘Painful’ Lessons http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601109&sid=aeQwon7TV3Fo"Customers groused about uninformed dealers, connection problems, cold weather affecting recharging and a range limited to 100 miles. The back seat was taken up by the battery and recharging could take almost a day.""While some customers using regular electricity lines cite all-day charging times, those who install special hookups can keep it to three to five hours and the wait is as short as two hours at commercial stations, according to BMW."Hey, don't know about you, but my goal in life is to cut the time I spend at the fueling station to only two (2) hours. Oops! That assumes I am first in line, and don't have to wait for someone else to finish recharging first. Oh well, maybe I'll be first in line when I get to do it again, after another 100 miles.

    Comment by Kinuachdrach | December 3, 2009

  90. Let's see. I could buy a Tata Nano with air conditioning for what? About $3,000.00? Take two minutes to fill it with ethanol, at $2.00/gal, and drive it 300 miles; orpay $30,000.00 for the EV, spend somewhere between Two, and Ten hours charging it, and drive, maybe, 100 miles.Hmmm

    Comment by rufus | December 3, 2009

  91. Kinu:The Dems are equally bad, and sometimes worse.

    Comment by Benny BND Cole | December 3, 2009

  92. Ben,Lithium … the third element in the perodic table. Only hydrogen and helium are lighter in atomic weight than the metal lithium. Huge upside potential….The NiMh battery was invented in the late 70's, early 80's by Ovshinsky (nearly 30 years ago).Consider this….. I bought a digital camera about a year ago and purchased some re-chargeable NiMh bartteries from Sanyo rated at 1100 Ma/Hrs. There are now double AA NiMh batteries rated at twice that. The NiMh technology was supposedly "mature" yet an English electric motor scooter manufacturer recently revealed an Nimh battery pack that was about 1/3 the weight of the previous metal hydride pack with yet offers appx twice the range……And we are still talking about metal hydride batteries. If this is what's happening with a supposedly mature technology, you can begin to understand what is fixing to happen with Lithium technology, which is just in it's adolescence.Lithium, the 3rd element in the periodic table.John

    Comment by Anonymous | December 3, 2009

  93. Rufus: Of course you could run an ethanol refinery on ethanol – just like you could run an oil refinery on gasoline. But, why in the world would you want to?Rufus~For one thing, to demonstrate that making ethanol doesn't really need any fossil fuel inputs. That ethanol really is capable of breaking our dependence on fossil fuels.Big Ethanol could have done themselves a huge favor long ago had they built an ethanol production system that runs only on ethanol with no fossil fuel inputs. That would have instantly silenced and preempted all the critics.They would have been a really clever move. But they never have done that. Do you know why?Because they can't. I once asked an ethanol plant operator near me why he didn't use ethanol to power his plant instead of natural gas. His reply was pretty short. he said, "It wouldn't work. There would be no ethanol left for me to sell."

    Comment by Wendell Mercantile | December 3, 2009

  94. Wendell, I'm assuming it was a wet-mill operation – ADM, or Cargill, perhaps?Corn Plus (a Dry-Grind Mill – as 95%, are) uses about 17,000 btus of nat gas per gallon of ethanol (76,000 btus.) BUT, the whole idea is bizarre. Those are Businesses. In business if you screw up you go bankrupt, as many have found out.Any refinery that used ethanol ($0.30/10,000 btu instead of nat gas $0.05/10,000 btus would find themselves in front of the bankruptcy judge before supper.The same, of course, would apply to an oil refiner that powered his operation with gasoline. It's just silly.

    Comment by rufus | December 3, 2009

  95. Any refinery that used ethanol ($0.30/10,000 btu instead of nat gas $0.05/10,000 btus would find themselves in front of the bankruptcy judge before supper.You've just made a powerful argument for using natural gas as a transportation fuel.The same, of course, would apply to an oil refiner that powered his operation with gasoline. It's just silly.Gasoline is final refined product and has had value added during the refinery process. But they do power refineries with fossil fuels — the same fossil fuels they use to make gasoline.

    Comment by Wendell Mercantile | December 3, 2009

  96. And, that Corn Plus plant uses biomass from the process (syrup) to provide part of the btus to power their plant.

    Comment by rufus | December 3, 2009

  97. As for nat gas as a transportation fuel? Go for it.

    Comment by rufus | December 3, 2009

  98. You may want to keep one thing in mind, though. Cars don't run on "natural gas." They run on Compressed natural gas.

    Comment by rufus | December 3, 2009

  99. Poet uses an anaeroboc digester to make methane from liquid waste it gets turning corn cobs into ethanol. The methane will replace nat gas at the ethanol plant and grain mill.

    Comment by Maury | December 3, 2009

  100. …to provide part of the btus to power their plant.Part of the Btus?I want to see an ethanol still and the corn farm that supplies the feedstock, run completely without any fossil fuel inputs, not just "part."If the EROEI of corn ethanol is positive, it should be possible.Why hasn't Big Ethanol done a demonstration project to show it's possible? I realize it may not economically make sense, but if they just showed it was possible, they could immediately silence all the critics.The Big Ethanol people are savvy. Why don't they do that, just to show people it really is possible?There would be so much to gain. On the other hand, if they tried and it failed…I think I know why they've never tried. What's your guess?

    Comment by Wendell Mercantile | December 3, 2009

  101. "The producers of other types of biofuels will have to pony up with big enough 'contributions' if they want politicians to remove some of the barriers that those same politicans built."All biofuels get subsidized Kinuach. Corn ethanol gets less than half the subsidy biodiesel and cellulosic enjoy. I'm not wedded to ethanol,or even to biofuels. ANY domestic energy that reduces our dependence on crude oil suits me just fine. It could be CTL or GTL for all I care. But,we can't just do nothing while we wait for the oil industry to get off its ass.

    Comment by Maury | December 3, 2009

  102. About half, Wendell. The syrup is, basically, waste. For, THEIR plant to use any more biomass they would have to start using the valuable stuff. The DDGs.Oil refineries, also, get most of their energy from Nat Gas. They use some plant liquids.

    Comment by rufus | December 3, 2009

  103. Oil refineries, also, get most of their energy from Nat Gas. They use some plant liquids.And natural gas is what? A fossil fuel — part of the fossil fuel feedstock they use to turn petroleum into refined fuels.

    Comment by Wendell Mercantile | December 3, 2009

  104. What is your solution Wendell? Do we just wait for peak oil to kill off half the world? Or for the trade deficit to bankrupt us? You guys are good at criticizing ethanol. So give us something better already. Bring it to the pump so I can put it in my car.

    Comment by Maury | December 3, 2009

  105. Do we just wait for peak oil to kill off half the world? Or for the trade deficit to bankrupt us? You guys are good at criticizing ethanol.Maury,I dearly wish ethanol was the solution. I'd just like Big Ethanol to build a demonstration project and show us that they really can grow corn and turn it into fuel without using any fossil fuels. Show us that ethanol really is a way to break our dependence on oil. But they won't do that. Instead they rely on lobbyists, propaganda campaigns, and Corn Belt politicians.One solution I wish our politicians would switch their support to is methanol from coal. We have huge resources of coal from which to make methanol, and a methanol-based economy would have many advantages.Unfortunately, Corn Belt politicians and Big Ag have much more clout than the advocates of coal-based methanol.It's too bad we can't disassociate politics from science.

    Comment by Wendell Mercantile | December 3, 2009

  106. Show us that ethanol really is a way to break our dependence on oil.That was my whole point with the series on oil imports versus ethanol production. It isn't clear that ethanol has actually done anything. Maury just couldn't believe it. It did not computer. He kept saying I was doing statistical trickery and such, and kept claiming that he could show the opposite if he was just a bit better at statistics. Classic case of denial. Couple that with his belief that the energy return for ethanol is better than for oil, one starts to understand why he believes as he does.RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | December 3, 2009

  107. You've got 50,000 bushels of corn in your silo,and 50,000 barrels of oil buried 3 miles under the Gulf of Mexico Robert. Which takes less energy to turn into fuel? Never mind the energy it takes to grow the corn. The corn will be grown,whether we turn it into ethanol or soda pop. Was EROI an issue when we fed horses oats to pull our wagons? Of course not. It's only an issue when we do an end run around the mules.

    Comment by Maury | December 3, 2009

  108. You've got 50,000 bushels of corn in your silo,and 50,000 barrels of oil buried 3 miles under the Gulf of Mexico Robert. Which takes less energy to turn into fuel?Maury,I'm not Robert, but I'll take a crack at answering — the oil would take far less energy to convert to fuel.The EROEI of corn to ethanol is ~1.2 to 1. The EROEI of turning oil into gasoline is ~5 to 1.In the early days of oil (when oil came out of the ground under its own pressure, and was easy to find at shallow depths) the EROEI was as high as 100:1.The reason oil has such an advantage is that Mother Nature did most of the work of turning biomass into petroleum with millions of years of FREE heat and pressure. (That's free energy Maury.) When we turn corn into fuel, we have to pay for and provide ALL the energy needed to make the conversion. To convert oil to fuel we only need to break down the heavy, long hydrocarbon molecules into the shorter, lighter hydrocarbons of gasoline, jet fuel, diesel, etc. That is called refining. During refining, we aren't converting biomass to fuel, instead we are using oil Mother Nature already made from biomass and converting that into a more usable form. It's actually pretty easy to see why it takes more energy to convert biomass to ethanol than it takes to convert oil to fuel — we are leveraging what nature did for us FREE of charge. Using free energy that accumulated over millions of years will always be more efficient than needing to supply all the energy needed to transform biomass into fuel. The only problem is that in only a bit more than a century, we've managed to use about half of the oil it took nature more than 300 million years to accumulate.

    Comment by Wendell Mercantile | December 3, 2009

  109. "He kept saying I was doing statistical trickery and such"When the numbers didn't agree with your thesis,you changed the rules Robert. That's statistical trickery. When demand was heading up,it was because ethanol was no good. When it was heading down,it was because the economy sucked. You finessed statistics to meet a foregone conclusion. Facts be damned.

    Comment by Maury | December 3, 2009

  110. "The EROEI of corn to ethanol is ~1.2 to 1. The EROEI of turning oil into gasoline is ~5 to 1."Only if you count the energy inputs needed to grow the corn Wendell. Corn has been grown for 5000 years. It's got 3500 uses. For some odd reason,we only care about EROI for one of those uses.

    Comment by Maury | December 3, 2009

  111. When demand was heading up,it was because ethanol was no good. When it was heading down,it was because the economy sucked.Maury, please revisit that thread to have your memory jogged. I showed explicitly how you could separate out what was from ethanol and what was from total demand falling. Since ethanol is contained within the total demand number, it's pretty easy to see. You called it trickery simply because you didn't like the answer, but you have no basis on which to suggest trickery.By the way, you are comparing apples and oranges over your oil/corn example. Extracting oil takes some energy as does growing corn. If you believe we are growing just as much corn as we would be if we weren't making ethanol, then again all I can tell you is you are once again voicing a completely baseless opinion.RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | December 3, 2009

  112. "If you believe we are growing just as much corn as we would be if we weren't making ethanol"Oh man,this is priceless. It's food for fuel when that's convenient. And it's surplus corn when THAT's convenient. When it comes to ethanol,the rules are always in flux….LOL.

    Comment by Maury | December 3, 2009

  113. Good Point, Maury.

    Comment by rufus | December 4, 2009

  114. Oh man,this is priceless. It's food for fuel when that's convenient. And it's surplus corn when THAT's convenient. When it comes to ethanol,the rules are always in flux….LOL.Maury, you aren't making any sense. You don't see me beating the food versus fuel drum here. I think our ethanol policies have driven food prices up some, but so have higher energy prices. But we can definitely grow more corn. We can't continue to do it forever – and we may be taking acreage out of service that might best be used otherwise. But the fact is, you can't argue "We would grow the corn anyway," as if that immunizes you from having to address energy inputs.RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | December 4, 2009

  115. "as if that immunizes you from having to address energy inputs."I shouldn't have to address it,because it's a specious argument. The idea behind ethanol is to wean us off imported oil. So WHAT if it takes domestic natural gas to make ethanol? You can't move the goalposts just because it suits your fancy Robert.

    Comment by Maury | December 4, 2009

  116. I shouldn't have to address it,because it's a specious argument.No, I am beginning to see that it is simply an argument you don't understand. The idea behind ethanol is to wean us off imported oil.Agree that this is the idea. As I showed in an earlier series of posts, you can see absolutely no impact from ethanol on our oil imports. So WHAT if it takes domestic natural gas to make ethanol? You can't move the goalposts just because it suits your fancy Robert.The goalposts are in the same place they have always been. You have just never understood the argument. Here is a hypothetical that will help you start to understand my position. Would you be willing to expend 2 BTUs of natural gas to produce 1 BTU of ethanol? It's just a hypothetical, but I would like an answer. Why or why not?RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | December 4, 2009

  117. Maury wrote: ?"What is your solution Wendell? Do we just wait for peak oil to kill off half the world? Or for the trade deficit to bankrupt us? You guys are good at criticizing ethanol. So give us something better already."Can't speak for Wendell, but here is a straightforward solution for the post-oil world, doable with existing technology.Build lots & lots of nuclear fission power plants, backing out the use of coal for electricity.Build more nuclear power plants, and use the energy from nuclear fission to convert coal to liquids fuels for transportation.Similarly, use nuclear power to "mine" liquid hydrocarbon transportation fuels from heavy oils & tars, in Canada & elsewhere.Encourage investment in research to see if we can economically use nuclear heat to "mine" liquid hydrocarbon fuels from US (& other) oil shales.At the same time, encourage continued research into long-range replacement power sources such as fusion.There is lots of uranium & thorium in the world to support nuclear power plants — as long as we reprocess used fuel (instead of mis-characterizing it as "nuclear waste").And the CO2 production from another two millenia of using liquid hydrocarbon fuels will have negligible environmental impact. The recent revelations about the scale of the perversion of science by leading alleged anthropogenic global warming alarmists suggests that we don't have to worry about that any more.So why are we wasting precious time & limited resources on subsidising unsustainable unsupportable bio-fuels? There is a better alternative.

    Comment by Kinuachdrach | December 4, 2009

  118. "Would you be willing to expend 2 BTUs of natural gas to produce 1 BTU of ethanol?"Of course. The goal is to get off imported oil. If we can do that using American natural gas,we'd be crazy not to. If we can have E10 available at every pump with 20% of the corn crop,we could have E50 everywhere using all the corn harvested. Unless corn farmers consume half the oil used daily,the EROI is just fine.

    Comment by Maury | December 4, 2009

  119. "Would you be willing to expend 2 BTUs of natural gas to produce 1 BTU of ethanol?"Of course. The goal is to get off imported oil. If we can do that using American natural gas,we'd be crazy not to.Well, I suspected given your other comments that you might say that. Here is the problem. If you did that, you would draw down your natural gas supplies about twice as fast as you would have had you just used the gas in CNG vehicles. That doesn't seem like a very smart thing to do. The reason for our disagreement is very simple: Your analysis is one-dimensional, as evidenced above. There are many side-effects from the big ramp-up in corn ethanol. The question I ask is whether those side-effects are worth it given the alternatives. What if my drinking water is becoming contaminated with Atrazine herbicide and nitrates as a result? Is that something that I should be concerned about? Is that something that you do factor into your equations? (No, you only factor in "Arab sheiks bad, corn farmers good"). Is loss of topsoil something I should worry about?My goal posts have never moved. They have always been about the big picture: What are the alternatives and what are the consequences of each? What is the measurable impact thus far of our grand experiment? I mean, it is great to say that ethanol can get us off of foreign oil, but what do we do when the data don't show that this is taking place?RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | December 4, 2009

  120. "My goal posts have never moved"Problem is,your goal posts aren't the goal posts congress is concerned with. You're looking at it from an engineer's perspective. I'm looking at it from the prespective of a nation with its balls in a vise.Sitting on our hands until the perfect fuel comes along isn't a solution. Kinuachdrach at least suggested an alternate course of action. There's a better chance we'll make wind-up cars,and outsource the work to India than do what he suggests in my opinion. But,anything is better than doing nothing.

    Comment by Maury | December 4, 2009

  121. Maury, who here has suggested that we do nothing? I have made many, many suggestions on what we should be doing. One of those includes moving the car fleet toward CNG.RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | December 4, 2009

  122. My main point has always been that doing the wrong thing can, in the long run, make matters even worse than doing nothing. The example above of using 2 BTUs of natural gas to make 1 BTU of ethanol would absolutely make matters worse in the long run as it would deplete our natural gas twice as quickly.RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | December 4, 2009

  123. And how do we do that without subsidies,which is your #1 gripe with ethanol,Robert? If the free market could accomplish it,we'd all be using CNG today.

    Comment by Maury | December 4, 2009

  124. You honestly believe my gripe about ethanol is subsidies?

    Comment by Robert Rapier | December 4, 2009

  125. First off, the lawsuits that are being filed, right now, have to do with "fraccing" for nat gas. No lawsuits for corn, or ethanol. Nothing really serious, anyway.The 2:1 is a red herring. Most of the ethanol that comes from current ethanol refineries are in the, well to wheel, 2:1 Positive range. As more, and more, refineries go toward the Chippewa Valley/Poet/Corn Plus model of using biomass/waste etc in their energy mix we'll be looking at some very good EROEIs.

    Comment by rufus | December 4, 2009

  126. Maury said,You're looking at it from an engineer's perspective. I'm looking at it from the prespective of a nation with its balls in a vise.Sitting on our hands until the perfect fuel comes along isn't a solution.When it comes to fuels it would be wise to take the doctors motto to heartFirst do no harm Looking at things from an engineering perspective is the best way to do that. You need to seriously step back and realize that making the wrong policy decision will make things worse. If your balls are in a vice the smart thing to do is find out if it has left hand or right hand threads before smacking the vice handle.Duracomm

    Comment by Anonymous | December 4, 2009

  127. Robert Rapier said,You honestly believe my gripe about ethanol is subsidies?In a sense money is another form of energy, you can get a lot of work done with it. And a lot of work is done to generate the taxes that provide the subsidies.Because of that I think it would be reasonable to include the amount of subsidies ethanol receive when doing an energy balance.Calculating the amount of BTUs that could be bought with the subsidy amount and deduct that from ethanol's energy value would be one approach to the problem.Any thoughts?Duracomm

    Comment by Anonymous | December 4, 2009

  128. Whoa, An "Oil Guy" that wants to get into subsidies? Are you sure?

    Comment by rufus | December 4, 2009

  129. The 2:1 is a red herring. Most of the ethanol that comes from current ethanol refineries are in the, well to wheel, 2:1 Positive range.Look up red herring in the dictionary. What I provided was an example to show that "homegrown energy" isn't the only element of the equation. While 2:1 may not be the number, the example showed that Maury doesn't care about all of that other stuff (some of that other stuff being fossil aquifer depletion, ground water pollution, etc.)You have also shown that you don't care about all of that other stuff, preferring to hand wave it away with generic and unreferenced comments like "They are using less fertilizer these days."RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | December 5, 2009

  130. Robert. Nice blog. I just started following it, and the numbers and analysis are nicely put together.The comment thread is quite painful in places (a problem endemic to the blogosphere). Although some of these comments deserve one or two responses, a few of the commenters are endlessly dumping nonsense. Much of it is simple heckling.I'd love to see your time spent on more nice analysis, and less time responding to people who have rich knowledge of things that just aren't so.

    Comment by Dave | December 12, 2009


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