When Corporate Welfare Programs Collide

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Timothy Carney tries to sort out just how the feds feel about ethanol.

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  1. How does the EROI of ethanol compare?

    is EROI a good measurement?

    thanks,
    VM

  2. One problem with ethanol is that it is based on corn, and there is no reason it should be so, unless as a subsidy to farmers who could very well switch to other crops

    Ethanol can be distilled from waste, as the Brazilians have been doing.

    One good point about ethanol is that the more cars convert to ethanol the less likely you are going to get a panic when the gas goes up to $3.00 again.

  3. And this does not even address how the incentives to produce corn and corn syrup, along with domestic sugar quotas, have fucked up the sweetener market. Ah what a tangled pile of bullshit the federal government weaves. And Dr. Pepper tastes a lot better with cane or beet sugar than it does with corn syrup.

  4. I think the important thing is that ethanol producers never, ever be held liable for any “unexpected” harms occasioned by their product after their product is widely adopted. That could slow progress!

  5. Dave, you’re a moron.

    Cheers,
    mediageek

  6. Dave W

    That’s a pretty stupid post in a thread criticizing ethanol subsidies. Wy to be irrelevant

    But to address your point (sucha as it is) nobody here thinks that anybody should “never, ever be held liable for any “unexpected” harms…”

    They just, for the most part don’t think that new products should be blocked because nobody can prove that they won’t cause harm.

  7. They just, for the most part don’t think that new products should be blocked because nobody can prove that they won’t cause harm.

    Forcing a company to accept responsibility for harms flowing from a potentially dangerous new product is the exact same thing as blocking the new product. That was my point.

  8. The perhaps you ought to go live in a padded room and where a straight jacket, only to be fed liquidfied food.

    No forks for you!

  9. Then perhaps you ought to go live in a padded room and where a straight jacket, only to be fed liquidfied food.

    No forks for you!

  10. The = then

    where = wear

    Preview is my friend.
    Preview is my friend.
    Preview is my friend…

  11. media:
    don’t feed the troll. his imaginary friend will call him back to jerk him off some more.

    🙂

  12. One problem with ethanol is that it is based on corn, and there is no reason it should be so, unless as a subsidy to farmers who could very well switch to other crops

    Ethanol can come from sugar beets, corn, sugarcane, wood chips, many stalky grasses….the list doesn’t stop at corn.

    If global warming continues, the praries of Canada are going to be a vast sugar beet plantation producing nothing but ethanol…

  13. Has anyone considered what the widespread production and use of ethanol would do to the price of food? Land use? Pollution?

    Ethanol is a pipe dream of the bread belt agro-conglomerates. It’s a fool’s game for everyone else.

    JMJ

  14. Oh, yes, more global warming.

  15. Has anyone considered what the widespread production and use of ethanol would do . . . Pollution?

    Geez, Jerz, what do you think I am on about. Like I said, the uncertain and perhaps unknowable risk of increased pollution is and shall remain socialized. Privatize profits, socialize risks. Whatever you do, don’t chill the lobbying. That is the free markets way! How much simpler can we make it 4 u?

  16. LOL!

    JMJ

  17. If there was absolutely no chance of developing ethanol as a profitable fuel source, I don’t think people would be dumping mind-boggling amounts of money into making it happen.

    Ethanol is only one possible form of renewable energy, and just because it isn’t profitable now doesn’t mean we should continue to assume it will remain so.

    Also, just a friendly note to Jersey, I wouldn’t hitch my star to Dave if I were you.

  18. Has anyone considered what the widespread production and use of ethanol would do to the price of food? Land use? Pollution?

    Of course, it has been studied extensively.
    A snippet examining the claims by the leading critic of ethanol.
    “Pimentel argues that corn should be used for food, not energy. In fact, ethanol plants produce food and energy. In ethanol production, only starch is removed from the corn. The corn is converted to 1/3 each by mass of ethanol, food and carbon dioxide. All of the protein, fiber, corn oil and trace nutrients in the corn are recovered as high-quality products for human and animal consumption.”

    More details are easy to find. Here some on the efficiency question

    http://www.ethanol.org/documents/ScienceJournalJanuary2006_000.pdf

  19. Hmmm….Jesse Walker starts a thread about an article that pretty much says “ethanol subsidies suck, I mean really really suck”.

    H&R chorus: Amen, brother, amen. If it can’t be produced without subsidies let it go.

    Dave W: All you guys want more ethanol subsidies and you don’t want ethanol producers to take any resposibility for their product.

    JMJ: Yeah these conservatives hear are just shills for big agro.

    Do you guys ever RTFA. Do you read anything anyone else posts here.

    Paging amazingdrx. By comparison you might actually make sense.

    Jesse how does it feel to be part of the EVILBUSHMACHINE?

  20. ROFLCOPTER!

    I will, once again, point out that I’m not a corporate shill, but if anyone knows where I can apply for such an evidently lucrative job, I’d be more than happy to forward my resum?.

  21. I don’t think subsudies should be given to the ethanol industry. Neither the direct subsidies complained of in the article, nor the indirect subsidies that can arise from socialization of environmental / health risks that should remain with the private profit-seekers. In case that wasn’t clear somehow.

  22. Dave W,

    One huge difference between the “unexpected harms” you seem to be referring to in the case of widely used fuels and the case of drugs is that the “environmental/health risks” occasioned by fuels are occasioned on those not directly involved in the transactions, making them fall into the category of our good old loveable externalities. People who use a drug can make the best decision possible based on the available information, and so they should be free to choose from suppliers who should be free to provide (in lieu of deliberately falsifying information to the point of fraud). Pollution presents a different set of issues. Now, not everyone here is going to agree with you or with me about that either, but that makes it a very different issue from one in which all the risks are assumed by those directly involved in the decision making (unless you count the effect on relations and friends, but if you count that, then there are no individual rights).

  23. From the Article:
    However, some scientists argue that ethanol, on the whole, is worse for the planet: it leads farmers to plant only corn, thus degrading the soil; the fuel needed to grow, distill, and ship the ethanol is more than the end product yields; and it evaporates more easily, leading to more hydrocarbons in the air. But the federal government doesn’t give these claims or studies much weight.

    This entire paragraph is bunk. As TPG pointed out Ethanol can be derived from any number of sugar/starch sources. In the early days of ethanol production (single batch distillation) the energy input exceeded the energy output but with continuous distillation plants that is not the case. Ethanol does evaporate more easily than some formulations of Gasoline but that is because Gasoline is not a homogoneous substance but a blend of volitile hydrocarbons and the chief volitility regulator used is butane. I am sure there is a way to formulate an “ethanol based fuel” that is less volitile.

    One of the chief legitimate complaints about Ethanol is that due to it’s lower energy output you use approximately 17% more fuel for a given mile of driving on an engine designed for Gasoline. However, due to the higher octane rating of Ethanol it can withstand a higher compression engine that will allow for very similar mileage. The problem with this is you will be unable to use Gasoline in this engine unless you add an ‘Octane Booster’ of some sort to prevent pre-detonation.

    See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gasoline

  24. Now, regarding subsidies, I am really appalled that the author blissfully skipped over the fact that we subsidise the entire agricultural industry, in particular corn. It is really hard to argue against Ethanol subsidies without arguing against both Agricultural subsidies and Petroleum Fuel subsidies.

    While I don’t agree with all of Pollan’s views, he has some good points:
    http://www.csmonitor.com/2002/1031/p17s01-lihc.html

    1998 report on Subsidies of Petroleum and Ethanol from the GAO (I know, not the best source):
    http://www.ethanol.org/pdfs/oil_incentive_study.pdf

  25. I seem to recall another wise poster, whom I regularly read and admire, once suggesting a way that pollution harms could be privatized.

  26. > think the important thing is that ethanol producers never,
    >ever be held liable for any “unexpected” harms occasioned
    >by their product

    You mean like watering eyes and

    I’m always amazed at the environmental lobby’s continued apparent ignorance about petroleum fueled cars. A 2006-era emissions-controlled gasoline-fueled vehicle produces essentially zero emissions once warm; all the emissions are produced during cold start and warmup. Indeed, California is seeking new measurement technology because they want to constrain emissions even more but their instruments can’t detect such low levels of pollutants, basically proving that the goal of cleaning up auto-related pollution has been achieved and only bureaucratic stasis and self-preservation remains. The claim that ethanol “produces less pollution” is true only when talking about vehicles lacking modern emissions control, common in places like Brazil. In the US or Europe ethanol would have no effect on pollution.

  27. I would like to mark this thread as being the one where we can finally, truly say that Dave W. has indeed gone completely Coo-Coo for Cocoa Puffs.

    (But without corn syrup based sweetening.)

  28. Bob Smith,

    Since ethanol comes from recently grown plant matter, it doesn’t increase the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. I think that’s one of the reasons it’s consider less polluting.

  29. Would they include into “unexpected harms” when a frat party decides to pour the fuel down their throats???

  30. Bob Smith

    You bring up an interesting perspective.
    I wonder if our cars would have ever gotten to this state if it weren’t for government regulators (like those in Cali)?

    Truly, I wonder.

  31. >Since ethanol comes from recently grown plant
    >matter, it doesn’t increase the amount of CO2 in
    >the atmosphere. I think that’s one of the reasons
    >it’s consider less polluting.

    Even if true,

    A) CO2 isn’t a pollutant
    B) The fertilizers required to grow all that
    corn *are* pollutants

    >I wonder if our cars would have ever gotten
    >to this state if it weren’t for government
    >regulators (like those in Cali)?

    Probably not, though at this point CARB should be put to pasture and its costs spent on something more pressing. California wants to impose new rules that would “slash vehicle emissions to a fraction of current levels”. The problem is that it’s reducing emissions from 99.95% clean to 99.99% clean. Most people don’t understand this, they just hear the “75% reduction” mantra. One old smoker, of which there are lots in California due to its mild climate, completely swamps such trivial reductions. Worse, CA imposes a large tax on new cars but a small one on old cars, which is a big inducement to avoid replacing your old car. Instead CA should progressively increase its tax as your car gets *older*, which would encourage fleet turnover and do far more to reduce auto-related pollution in CA than further reduction in new car emissions will.

  32. Did someone call for help with reason?

    Ok, ethanol from corn. Does it stop the emmision of greenhouse gases, mainly CO2, that cause global climate disaster? No.

    Does the oil intensive agribizz farming and fossil fuel powered processing used to produce corn/ethanol destroy the soil and groundwater vital to life on planet earth? Yes.

    Is it a cost effective technology that could survive without huge government subsidies? No.

    Is there an alternative source of transportation energy that IS cost effective without subsidies? Yes.

    Case closed. Now wasn’t that easy?

  33. Bob Smith,

    CO2 may or may not be a pollutant; I believe the jury is still out.

    The car tax (or registration fee) system you propose is how it’s done in Germany. It gets the old cars off the road and it gives a nice boost to the auto industry. With pollution down and auto sales up, you get to please the Greens and business interests at the same time (and screw the poor as well).

    (My father-in-law recently sold his trusty, old Mercedes station wagon and bought a Peugeot station wagon because his yearly car tax was over 900 Euros.)

  34. Adriana:
    We’ll do a comparative negligence regime to address the drunken students. Specific risks are best kept with the party in the best position to know and avoid the harms.

    Agribusiness should know the potential harms that Doctor Are Ex laid out for us here. College students are the drinkin’ experts.

  35. Ghost:

    What party do you refer to?

    “Specific risks are best kept with the party in the best position to know and avoid the harms.”

    a keg party?

    On a different note, from the standpoint of CO2 ethanol when it burns only returns the CO2 which had been taken by the growing plant. A zero-sum game.

    But I think it is silly to use corn for ethanol when any agricultural product will do. The brazilians I believe use the sugar cane waste, which makes more sense. Actually any vegetable matter can be converted to alcohol, only some of it is more profitable to sell in bottles with tastefully designed labels…

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