The Ethanol Scandal
February 1, 2019 | View PDF
One of the biggest boondoggles ever imposed by our government has been the mandated addition of ethanol to gasoline. It has been done for over a decade, and we are still stuck with it today.
Of course, ethanol can be used to run an engine. Henry Ford used it in his Model T in 1908. During World War II, it substituted for scarce gasoline. Since then, gasoline and diesel have been the widely used fuels of choice.
In 2005, President George W. Bush signed the Renewable Fuels Standard, and then The Energy Independence and Security Act in 2007. These mandated the production of ethanol for fuel and its addition to gasoline.
Ethanol mixed with gasoline has serious downsides. The first is that it damages engines. Ethanol deteriorates rubber and plastic parts in the fuel system. It absorbs water vapor out of the air like a sponge. Over a fairly short time, the ethanol and water mix separates from the gasoline and can foul the engine. On a newer car that is used regularly, that may not be too serious, but in older cars and especially in the small motors of lawn mowers, trimmers, chain saws, boats, and ATV’s, the ethanol gunk can cause serious damage after they have been put away and used the following season.
Because ethanol is a water magnet, it causes water to accumulate in the bottom of a gas tank. In time, it will be enough to reach the fuel pump and stop the engine. It can happen at a most inconvenient time and / or place—like on a vacation hundreds of miles from home or any service one could trust. This is especially serious on newer cars that have no drain plugs on the bottoms of their gas tanks.
Ethanol is also less efficient than gasoline. Gasoline blended with ethanol has up to 20 to 30 percent less energy than pure gasoline. Most consumers are not aware of this.
But the really serious fault with ethanol is its cost of production. Adding ethanol to gasoline does not in any way reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. In fact, it increases it, seriously. Ethanol fuel is not saving the planet; it’s wasting it.
In 2001, Cornell University professor David Pimentel analyzed ethanol production and discovered its tremendous cost: First, the corn has to be planted and harvested. Then a distillation process produces 92 percent ethanol. Up to three additional steps are required to remove the remaining water to obtain the 99.8 percent ethanol that is required to add to gasoline.
In the end, the production of one gallon of ethanol consumes 131,000 BTU of energy. But when that gallon is burned, it yields only 77,000 BTU. We burn 131,000 BTU of fossil fuel to provide 77,000 BTU of “sustainable” ethanol. That’s a net loss of 54,000 BTU per gallon. Even a moron can comprehend that producing fuel in this manner is a no-brainer.
Pimentel said, “Abusing our precious croplands to grow corn for an energy-inefficient process that yields low-grade automobile fuel amounts to unsustainable, subsidized food burning…. Corn production in the U.S. erodes soil about 12 times faster than the soil can be reformed, and irrigating corn mines groundwater 25 percent faster than the natural recharge rate of ground water. The environmental system in which corn is being produced is being rapidly degraded….”
Higher food prices are another downside. Ethanol consumes about 40 percent of the U. S. corn crop. That’s 40 percent less for ourselves, livestock, poultry and export.
For those who argue that we would have a corn surplus, how about planting less corn and using the land for other crops? To save the planet, we could plant industrial hemp and use the cellulose to save millions of trees.
We taxpayers are forced to shell out billions in federal and state subsidies for giant, corporate farms—many of them foreign owned. Small
family farmers get little or nothing.
Every few years, our Congress votes on a farm bill. It is a gigantic corporate welfare package full of programs, regulations and expenses (including the ethanol mandate) that we would be better off without—runaway favors for politicians and cronies that are almost impossible to comprehend. Last year’s (2018) was $867 billion—even bigger than our military budget of $681 billion.
Call, write, e-mail, or tweet your Congressman and both Senators and tell them you have had a bellyful of this outrage.
Pages, Jaime V., Tiberius Kraemer Oct. 9, 2018, Oct. 14, 2018. “Why does the US use ethanol in gasoline for automobiles and should it?” http://www.Quora.com.
Pimentel, David August 6, 2001. “Ethanol fuel from corn faulted as 'unsustainable subsidized food burning' in analysis by Cornell scientist. The Cornell Chronicle, Cornell University.
Bevill, K. 2008. “Building the ‘Minnesota Model.’” Ethanol Producer
Magazine, April, pp. 114-120.