Big Corn Muscles Aside Solar, Wind and Geothermal Subsidies

The Environmental Working Group has just issued a report that finds that 75 percent of all renewable fuels tax subsidies in 2007 went to environmentally damaging corn-ethanol production. In addition, the corn ethanol industry, teetering on the edge of collapse despite billions already wasted in subsidies on it, now wants additional billions for a bailout. According to EWG:

A little noticed analysis buried in an April 2008 report from the federal Energy Information Administration (EIA)1 shows that the corn-based ethanol industry received $3 billion in tax credits in 2007, more than four times the $690 million in credits available to companies trying to expand all other forms of renewable energy, including solar, wind and geothermal power.

In the EWG press release, report author and EWG Midwest Vice President Craig Cox says: 

"With America facing an exploding federal deficit and the crisis of climate change, it defies common sense to continue to lavish billions of tax dollars on corn-based ethanol, a fuel that has failed to fulfill its promises at every turn."

"Corn-based ethanol production, spurred by federal subsidies and mandates, is polluting our nation's water, eroding our soil and plowing up precious wildlife habitat -- and worst of all is likely contributing to global warming," Cox said. "As the polluting ethanol industry gets fat at taxpayer expense, proven clean technologies such as solar, wind and geothermal are fighting for support. America needs a truly renewable energy portfolio, and the evidence is mounting that corn-based ethanol will not get us where we need to go."

Of course, Reason.com has been inveighing against ethanol subsidies for years. But right on EWG! Hmmm. I wonder how EWG knows that the renewable energy sources its wants to subsidize won't have similar unintended consequences. Oh, never mind.

Whole EWG report here. Reason TV's video "Silly Senator, Corn is for Food," can be found here

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  • No Name Guy||

    On my way into work this morning in uber-liberal Seattle, I saw a SUV (ha!) with a tire cover that said: "Bio-diesel, no war required"

    I wanted to say to the driver: Yeah, perhaps no war, but how many millions in the third world are going to starve needlessly for your 'food into fuel' pipe dreams?

    Misanthropes......

  • LurkerBold||

    The corporate farm ruined farming. If farms were still like the farms of the 1940s I would be more supportive.

    Yet another target to nationalize.

  • Tyler||

    This is why it's entirely counterproductive for a government to try to subsidize innovation. If they really wanted to do it, a better way would to have a cash reward for any team who could create x technology at y efficency first.

    Of course, that's only after justifying the use of public funds for such a purpose. You could easily argue that the market already has such rewards built into it!

  • ||

    On my way into work this morning in uber-liberal Seattle, I saw a SUV (ha!) with a tire cover that said: "Bio-diesel, no war required"

    I wanted to say to the driver: Yeah, perhaps no war, but how many millions in the third world are going to starve needlessly for your 'food into fuel' pipe dreams?


    Or they might be supporting algal bio-diesel which doesn't use, or really compete with, food crops. Of course I've yet to see a good publication on a pilot scale study.

  • LurkerBold||

    Tyler,

    Sometimes the corporatist approach works by accident in unanticipated ways. Like when Rockwell, Boeing and others created the Apollo program in a childish attempt to make the Soviets look bad. We got fancy calculators worn on geek belts from that "programme".

    The Soviets realized that people could be killed playign in that circus so they used robotic exploration instead.

  • BakedPenguin||

    dbcooper - or use waste oil, which has already been used for food.

  • Naga Sadow||

    LurkerBold you pessimistic fool! Tang and velcro came out of the Apollo program. Clearly, the dividends were mighty indeed.

  • LurkerBold||

    Naga Shadow, I think you are off on that velcro thing by about 20 years.

  • ||

    Boeing flew a plane yesterday using algal biofuel.

  • LurkerBold||

    Boeing flew a plane yesterday using algal biofuel.

    Was it using stolen Soviet technology or was it stolen German technology?

  • Naga Sadow||

    LurkerBold,

    Did you know why the Soviets never created any stealth planes? Cuz they didn't know how to use transistors or computers for that matter. I read somewhere, the a MIG 29 use to use vacuum tubes!

  • LurkerBold||

    More Right Wing War Machine nonsense. Domo arigato.

  • LurkerBold||

    Unions for all! We shall grab control of the means of production! All hail the glorious revolution!

  • Naga Sadow||

    OHHH!!!! Can I be Che in that revolution? I always wanted to be part of a cheesy marketing campaign after I die.

  • Orangutang||

    MMMmmmm Tang...

  • LurkerBold||

    Faker of me, almost all of the Apollo programme was union.

  • Naga Sadow||

    Keep it down Orangutang. Pro Lib will steal all the tang for Monkey Tuesday.

  • LurkerBold||

    The post at 3:19 was not me, it is just an imposter.

  • LurkerBold||

    The Soviets had the right idea when they used their advanced technology to train gerbils to head straight for my prostate when I shove that little guy up my ass.

  • LurkerBold||

    3:21pm are you the same person who impersonates joe when you don't like what he says?

  • ||

    Corn subsidies reduce agave production, threatening our access to the precious tequila. 'Nuff said.

  • Naga Sadow||

    Word.

  • Seward||

    Wow public choice theory and unintended consequences illustrated in one quick write up! You're great Bailey!

  • ||

    yo, fuck Iowa!

    Seriously, corn is good for sweeteners and that's about it. Fuck farmers, fuck Iowans.

    This corn bullshit is killing my solar and wind power stocks. Corn can pound sand! I don't even like the taste of it. Fuck it, fuck it in it's fucking face.

    Fuck you corn.

    Sincerely,

    phalkor

  • LurkerBold||

    3:21pm are you the same person who impersonates joe when you don't like what he says?

  • Neu Mejican||

    Ron,

    I wonder how EWG knows that the renewable energy sources its wants to subsidize won't have similar unintended consequences.

    There are always unintended consequences, but I do note that they are advocating support for "proven" clean technologies.


    Also, the have this:

    Rebalance the U.S. renewable energy and energy conservation portfolio to favor options that do the most to reduce fossil fuel use, safeguard the environment, spur more widely-shared economic development and increase energy security.



    Which seems to imply that they are not advocating a specific technology, but want favor options that meet specific goals (c.f. Tyler's comment above).

  • Naga Sadow||

    Comin from Mississippi I gotta agree with phalkor. Farming sucks. Ever been to the Delta region of Mississippi? It's like a third world country over there.

  • LurkerBold||

    Neu Mejican,

    Excellent comment.

  • Tsu Dho Nihm||

    Naga Shadow,
    Tang did not come from the Apollo program. It was developed by a food company in the '50s and was later used by NASA (thus boosting Tang's marketing campaign).

  • ||

    If I were Corn Czar, these would be the acceptable uses for corn: corn-on-the-cob, cornbread, hushpuppies, fritters, popcorn, whiskey and bourbon, masa products, grits, polenta, and maybe corn oil. I will accept petitions proposing other uses, but be forewarned that I don't expect to add much to this list.

    The Corn Czar has spoken.

  • LurkerBold||

    Tsu Dho Nihm,

    Forgot about that Tang information.

    Naga, if you don't know anything about the Apollo programme why did you spout off 100% wrong?

    I just goes to prove that Left is right again.

  • ||

    Cornbread, bourbon, and grits are all excellent uses of corn. But when corn production starts hurting tequila production, we have a problem.

  • Turtles||

    This is what you get after 10 years of Farm Aid, John Mellencamps, and the "F$!k Reagan" generation. No one can touch The Farmers.

  • ||

    Nigel,

    Indeed (scroll down a bit for postings on the agave burning crisis).

    Man, I love cornbread. Bourbon, too, though much less frequently.

  • Orangutang||

    TANG. IT'S A FUCKING KICK IN A FUCKING GLASS.

    shit promotes itself.

  • Urkobold™||

    THE URKOBOLD GETS HIS TANG FROM COLUMBIA, WHERE IT'S SOLD AS POONTANG. HE HAD SOME THIS MORNING, IN FACT.

  • ||

    dbcooper - or use waste oil, which has already been used for food.

    There are hobbyist using that currently in US, I think? Quite cool, but I doubt it'd scale.

    There was an article published in Nature Biotechnology today ("Biotech's green gold?") looking into the algal startups and their claims. The gist of it was that near future tech has the potential to yield ~6000 gal/acre/year with an increase to ~10000 theoretically possible (based on solar energy flux). It may be possible to produce oil for $10 to 20 per barrel from open systems, and $20 to 40 in a closed system.

    There is however a lack of pilot scale trial data, and there are lots of potential problems like competition from foreign strains that enter the ponds/reactors, and the longevity of genetic modifications in the algae.

    Taking the total oil consumption of the US as 20x10^6 barrels/day, and assuming you'd actually get 6000gal/acre/year, you'd need ~51x10^3 1000 acre farms, which works out as ~ 210x10^3 sq km. i.e. an area just smaller than that of Utah! If you got 10000gal/acre/year that would reduce to about half the size of Utah.

    Might not be the ultimate for "energy independence" then.

  • LurkerBold||

    NPR had a story recently about using waste beer and other alcohol products for ethanol. The Corporatists don't advertise it, they just pour it down the drain unless someone begs them for it.

  • Johnny Nowhere||

    Pro Libertate,

    I humbly request the addition of tamales to your list. They're like portable polenta, so are much more useful to the modern libertarian-on-the-go.

  • Zeb||

    Hemp is a very good oil crop which can be cultivate in much poorer soil than corn or other potential energy crops. Bio-diesel is not going to fill all of our energy needs, but it is silly to expect one thing to cure all. I favor the idea of de-centralized and diverse energy production.

    Of course, the down side to large scale hemp farming is that it would ruin outdoor marijuana crops in the vicinity.

    Realistically, if we want the marvelous technological future that everyone likes to imagine, lots of nuclear seems to be the real option.

  • ||

    coal oil is better than ethanol it burns clean,it has more btu's which means more mpg.coal to liquid start up is expensive but if oil is $40 a barrel it will pay for it's self.the air force used it in their jets and they found that it burned hotter and cleaner than straight jp8.they were using 50/50 mix that is diesel plus coal oil.

  • ||

    Very well, I shall grant your request. Tamales are in.

  • LurkerBold||

    The capitalists don't want you all to know that they can make shoes from agave plants. In my workers paradise, there will be no place for tequila, bourbon, whiskey, etc. Only wholesome mineral water.

  • The Wine Commonsewer||

    Billions More For The Corn Hole.

  • LurkerBold||

    Zeb,

    Have you read or seen any of Willie Nelson's research on hemp? You were on the right track until you got to nuclear.

    And at 4:13 I see my impersonator had to make another visit.

  • ||

    NPR had a story recently about using waste beer and other alcohol products for ethanol.

    Shyeah, right. Like there's such a thing as "waste" beer.

  • LurkerBold||

    I herd it with my own ears. Bad batches of beer and spirits are pretty common from what the inventor of the home ethanol machine said.

  • ||

    Dear EWG, are you clear on who is coming to town and what states he and his Ag-Sec designee represent?Those are corn-based subsidies you were referring to right?

    Can your political affairs folks say "timing"?

    Lurker, what's your problem with noocular?

  • ||

    Shyeah, right. Like there's such a thing as "waste" beer.

    Some call it. . .urine.

  • Other Matt||

    There are hobbyist using that currently in US, I think? Quite cool, but I doubt it'd scale.

    There are, and they're trying like hell to not get caught. Seems that the feds and the state believes that they should pay fuel taxes on that old french fry oil.

    Gotta get your cash somehow, I guess

  • ||

    Dear Corn Czar-

    Please don't ban Corn Chex- they're yummy.

  • damn it all||

    Corn fuel blows. I have a 2001 Chevy S-10 that is "flex" fuel. Meaning I pay a horrible price everytime I have to have my fuel filter changed.

    When i first got my truck I tried using the Ethanol. It gunked up my truck, and I got less gas milage.

    Corn is crap. And should be used for popcorn and tortillas, thats about it.

    Its hard on the soil.
    And the ass.

    Damn it.

  • LurkerBold||

    Lurker, what's your problem with noocular?

    Until the government takes control of it from the corporations it will be too big of a hazard to use on a large scale. It should peobably be a navy project.

  • ||

    Corn Chex? Well, I've been considering allowing a breakfast cereal. However, why should Corn Chex be allowed instead of Corn Flakes? Or even Corn Pops? Each has a powerful lobby that I must contend with.

  • ||

    and I got less gas milage.

    I'm guessing about 25% less, or thereabouts.

  • ||

    Corn Flakes Mush? bah!

    Corn Pops are for sissies, and small, unimportant children.

    Corn Chex are a manly meal.

  • LurkerBold||

    When i first got my truck I tried using the Ethanol. It gunked up my truck, and I got less gas milage.

    By gunking up your truck do you really mean that the superior ethanol cleaned your fuel system of varnish, sludge and impurities much better than any expensive fuel treatment and those impurities were trapped by your fuel filter?

  • ||

    It's not good for the Corn Czar to admit this, but I don't think I'm up on all of the newfangled breakfast cereals. Would like to be Assistant Deputy Corn Czar, Breakfast Cereal Evaluation Division? You'll have a staff of fifty, but it only pays $250,000/year--sorry, that's all I can swing with an unlimited budget.

  • ||

    I don't have fifty out-of-work relatives; can I ghost half of the staff, and split their salaries with you?

    That's how it's done in Chicago, or so I've been told.

  • ||

    I wonder how EWG knows that the renewable energy sources its wants to subsidize won't have similar unintended consequences.

    They do have unintended consequences of their own, but there's no reason to believe they are of the same magnitude as ethanol's. And it's not like the problems created by ethanol production were unforeseeable.

  • ||

    That's how it works with Big Corn, too. Welcome aboard! I'll send Big Corn One to a nearby airport to collect you and your Corn Harem.

  • ||

    Until the government takes control of it from the corporations it will be too big of a hazard to use on a large scale.

    For light and heavy water reactors, your statement is non-sensical. Millions and millions of operating hours - no fatalities due to reactor accident.

  • Zeb||

    Isn't it about time someone unmasked LurkerBold, as they did with Neil? He is really boring and is becoming rather tiresome.

  • ||

    If I were Corn Czar, these would be the acceptable uses for corn: corn-on-the-cob, cornbread, hushpuppies, fritters, popcorn, whiskey and bourbon, masa products, grits, polenta, and maybe corn oil. I will accept petitions proposing other uses, but be forewarned that I don't expect to add much to this list.

    I propose stalks (with ears attached) for Halloween decorations and bird seed.

    No, I won't kiss your damned ring.

  • ||

    Isn't it about time someone unmasked LurkerBold, as they did with Neil? He is really boring and is becoming rather tiresome.

    Fuck that, who cares who the lame twit is? Just ignore the imbecilic caricature of a leftist and he'll go away after awhile.

  • ||

    No, I won't kiss your damned ring.

    Then your request is refused!

    This appointment has really opened my eyes to the political process. It's somehow even more arbitrary than I used to think.

  • ||

    The flexfuel is so why GM should go out of business. To run on ethanol the engine needs to be modified to have higher compression, not just reprogram the fuel injectors to spray more (costly) fuel into cylinders.

  • Naga Sadow||

    Pro Lib,

    (goes to one knee and bows head) My lord. I humbly beseech you to have all corn used for bourbon only. The price of good bourbon would fall thereby helping your loyal retainers.

    (kisses ring)

  • No Name Guy||

    Re using waste cooking oil, etc as bio-diesel: Talk about one tiny fraction of one percent of energy needs. Not even a drop in the bucket.

    Regarding the back of the envelope calc above on how many square miles it would take to grow non-food based (e.g. algal).

    A few questions for the environment uber alles crowd: Which Utah sized parts of the country are you going to sacrafice to cover them with the bio-reactors to grow all this fuel? How many endagered species live in these areas? How much wilderness will be covered over with endless miles of equipment, access roads and the like? How does that environmental impact of the above compare with some alternatives, like a few dozen drilling pads of a few acres each and a couple hundred foot wide strip of pipeline through ANWAR? How about compared to a few dozen nuke power plants? How about compared to continuing to use coal, oil, nuke, etc?

    Fundamentally, the above back of the envelope calc illustrates the fallacy of most, if not all, of these so called sustainable / renewable energy sources: They're incredibly diffuse and dispersed and take up huge areas of land to capture more than trivial amounts of energy.

    But hey, no surprise there. The enviro whack job left in this country goes to school for social work or journalism or other similarily math deficient 'education'. Perhaps they should try physics or engineering - they might then be able to figure out that their preferred 'solutions' to problems are impractical.

  • ||

    Naga,

    Hmmmm, there is much to what you say. I suppose I could just reserve some corn for myself for cornbread and hushpuppies. Yes, stimulate the economy and numb the senses of the public at the same time. Worked for Stalin. . . .

    I better meet with the President-Elect post haste.

  • BakedPenguin||

    No Name Guy: admittedly, using all of the WVO in the country would only add up to a small portion of diesel used in this country. I never suggested it could replace petro diesel. But there no reason not to use it - a lot of WVO is just getting dumped in landfills.

  • Paul||

    On my way into work this morning in uber-liberal Seattle, I saw a SUV (ha!) with a tire cover that said: "Bio-diesel, no war required"

    No name guy,

    Almost every morning when driving my daughter to school (in your same town), I sit behind a woman in a Chevy Suburban with a bumber sticker that reads "My other car is a hybrid". I'm beginning to wonder if she's making a joke.

  • that is not WVO its people||

    Alternative fuel...

  • B||

    After this report, I wonder if Obama will live up to his promise to take politics out of the science decision making process and ditch the ridiculous ethanol subsidies? If Iowa was ever stripped of the absolutely ridicuolous amount of influence it wields because of the Iowa caucuses, these subsidies would end tomorrow.
    I think everyone who can breath knows the answer to the above question, yet I doubt we will hear hand-wringing from scientists the way we did during the Bush Administration. Nor do I think we will see books with titles along the lines of "The Left's War on Science", even though the left's stance on nuclear power, GM foods and ethanol makes them every bit the anti-science luddites the Republican Party supposedly is.

  • B||

    "OHHH!!!! Can I be Che in that revolution? I always wanted to be part of a cheesy marketing campaign after I die."

    You can be Che as long as I am the one who gets to shoot you in some far-off jungle.

  • ||

    the obvious place to grow algae for fuel would be the tropic oceans. Of course, you would prolly end up in a war with China, if you tried to claim vast tracts of ocean for bio-fuels, putting the lie to that no wars required bumper sticker

  • Neu Mejican||

    No Name Guy,

    But hey, no surprise there. The enviro whack job left in this country goes to school for social work or journalism or other similarily math deficient 'education'. Perhaps they should try physics or engineering - they might then be able to figure out that their preferred 'solutions' to problems are impractical.

    You mean like this enviro whack job:
    http://www.rmi.org/images/PDFs/StaffBios/BioALovins_Acorp_vi08.pdf

    Dig into his work.
    You will notice he doesn't use the back of a napkin to calculate.

  • Neu Mejican||

    Another on of those poorly educated enviro whack jobs...

    http://www.fritjofcapra.net/bibliography.html

  • Neu Mejican||

    Enviro whack job number three
    http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/physics/laureates/1969/gell-mann-bio.html

  • joe||

    LurkerBold | January 8, 2009, 3:23pm | #
    3:21pm are you the same person who impersonates joe when you don't like what he says?


    and at

    LurkerBold | January 8, 2009, 3:29pm | #
    3:21pm are you the same person who impersonates joe when you don't like what he says?


    So, why would liberal LurkerBold give a damn if irony troll commie LurkerBold was joe, unless . . . .

    (not joe's regular impersonator, but sense he is being paranoid)

  • Naga Sadow||

    joe,

    Your post was so bizarre my head is spinning. Cut it out.

  • Guy Montag||

    I am all for alternative fuels in the free market. Very opposed to them under coertion from the government.

    If it gives me more horsepower it must be good!

  • ||

    Nothing wrong with back of the envelope calculations. I doubt anyone could refute my one above for example ...

  • ||

    After this report, I wonder if Obama will live up to his promise to take politics out of the science decision making process and ditch the ridiculous ethanol subsidies?

    That's odd. I don't wonder at all if Obama will live up to that promise.

  • No Name Guy||

    See, the thing with back of the envelope calcs, as DB implies, is that they allow one to scope a problem to see if it's even in the realm of possibility.

    Bound the problem with (in engineering terms) conservative and un-conservative (favorable) assumptions as to the various factors and run the numbers in a simplified analysis to see what the results are.

    Doing this, DB illustrates the point that 'renewables' use vast amounts of land.

    I note no one bothered to address the questions I posed in my first post, to wit: Which part of the country is going to be covered by the bio-reactors? What's the environmental cost of doing this? How does that compare to other alternatives?

    Even if algal oil is used for only 10% or 5% of our needs, that still raises the point (based on DB's numbers that it would take an area the size of Utah): Which 10,000 to 20,000 square KM (that's roughly 1/4 to 1/2 the size of Switzerland, by the way) in our country is going to be covered with these things?

    Baked: You're right - no sense in tossing the stuff away with the cavet that if it can be recycled into bio-diesel at a profit. Also right in that it'll never be anything more than a drop in the bucket.

    Well Neu - perhaps the exception proves the rule. The enviro's I run across all too often here in Seattle are 'educated', but couldn't solve the most basic math / science / engineering problems to save their lives. They understand little to nothing of orders of magnitue when looking at problems, 'the dose makes the poison' in their paranoia on chemicals, radiation and Vitamin A, etc.

    They know little to nothing of the fact that science is a process, not a result, and that the only results of said process that matter are being able to accurately, reliabily and repeatably being able to predict the respose of the physical world that we inhabit to a given set of input conditions.

  • Gregor||

  • ||

    Ethanol IS NOT biodiesel!

  • solar panel diy||

    i'm sure I read somewhere that bio fuels - whilst the smug middle classes pat themselves on the back for saving the environment - actually take up valuable crop space and contribute towards people in poor countries starving

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