Friday, January 18, 2013

BREAKING NEWS: No Hostages Taken at Ethanol Plants...Again

All is peaceful at America's ethanol plants.
AUTO CENTRAL - January 16, 2013: The Auto Channel was able to confirm this morning that no hostages have been taken at any ethanol plant in America. And while we're still awaiting confirmation that no hostages have been taken at any ethanol plants throughout the world, TACH's management is confident that once reports are finalized that it will be confirmed.

Counting today, it appears, unofficially at least, that this is the 14,312th consecutive day since the October 1973 oil crisis that no hostages have been abducted by any militant group from any ethanol plant. There was a report in May 2003 that Mary Bruener, a sales clerk at an Iowa-based ethanol plant was taken hostage, but it turned out it was just friends of hers who were taking her to the local Applebee's for a birthday celebration.

Today's report means that, once again, no lives were lost, no U.S. combat troops were dispatched, no naval assets were deployed, no Tomahawk missiles were fired, no helicopters were shot down, and no drones were needed to go behind enemy lines in order to protect any ethanol production facilities or the flow of ethanol to American service stations.

In a related story, televised reports are showing that service stations around America are not reporting any long waits for motorists to fill up on any fuel.

This story comes in the wake of the latest news from Algeria that Al Qaeda militants raided a BP gas field and abducted 41 hostages from nine or ten different nations, including seven from America. Meanwhile American troops and military assets continue to be deployed around the world, at tax payer expense, to protect the global oil industry.

- Originally published at The Auto Channel here.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Fact check on NYT’s Ethanol Story

The following is a reprint of an article by Geoff Cooper, Vice President of Research and Analysis for the Renewable Fuels Association, responding to an article in the New York Times:

“Don’t believe everything you read.” Never have truer words been spoken. Here is a fact check of the January 6th New York Times article “As Biofuel Demand Grows, So Do Guatemala’s Hunger Pangs” by Elisabeth Rosenthal:

NYT: In the tiny tortillerias of this city, people complain ceaselessly about the high price of corn. Just three years ago, one quetzal — about 15 cents — bought eight tortillas; today it buys only four. And eggs have tripled in price because chickens eat corn feed.

Tortillas in Guatemala are made from white corn, while U.S. ethanol is produced from No. 2 yellow corn. Very little white corn is grown in the U.S., but acres dedicated to white corn have not been reduced since passage of the RFS. These two types of corn have distinctly different global markets, demand drivers, and price pressures. It is entirely disingenuous to suggest stronger demand and tighter supplies of No. 2 yellow corn in the U.S. are significantly influencing local white corn prices in Guatemala.

According to U.N. FAO, food prices in Guatemala increased more slowly than normal in 2012. The Guatemalan consumer food price index increased an average of 0.5% per month in 2012, compared with 0.8% in 2011 and 0.6% in 2010. Average food price inflation was 1.0% per month or higher in 2008, 2004 and 2001 and has averaged 0.7% per month since January 2000.

NYT: Meanwhile, in rural areas, subsistence farmers struggle to find a place to sow their seeds.

Guatemalan farmers are harvesting more corn than in the past. Guatemala harvested 850,000 hectares of corn in 2012, the second-highest level in history, according to USDA. Over the past five years, harvested corn acres have been 32% higher, on average, than in the preceding 10 years.

NYT: Recent laws in the United States and Europe that mandate the increasing use of biofuel in cars have had far-flung ripple effects, economists say, as land once devoted to growing food for humans is now sometimes more profitably used for churning out vehicle fuel.

Corn acreage (presumably for white corn) has increased significantly in Guatemala since 2000, according to USDA.

NYT: With its corn-based diet and proximity to the United States, Central America has long been vulnerable to economic riptides related to the United States’ corn policy. Now that the United States is using 40 percent of its crop to make biofuel, it is not surprising that tortilla prices have doubled in Guatemala, which imports nearly half of its corn.

Guatemala is part of CAFTA (Central American Free Trade Agreement), and many of the participating countries put high tariffs on imported corn. Guatemala’s current tariff rate on corn and other grains is near 10%, which significantly discourages imports. According to the non-profit agricultural organization Semilla Nueva, “…for the most part Guatemala’s corn is from Guatemala.”

NYT: At the same time, Guatemala’s lush land, owned by a handful of families, has proved ideal for producing raw materials for biofuels. Suchitepéquez Province, a major corn-producing region five years ago, is now carpeted with sugar cane and African palm. The field Mr. Alvarado used to rent for his personal corn crop now grows sugar cane for a company that exports bioethanol to Europe.

USDA data shows that while sugarcane area planted increased an average of 3.7% per year from 2007 to 2011, sugarcane area (241,000 Ha) is still far smaller than corn area (850,000 Ha) and there is no statistical evidence that farmers are switching away from planting corn to sugar on a large scale.

NYT: In a country where most families must spend about two thirds of their income on food, “the average Guatemalan is now hungrier because of biofuel development,” said Katja Winkler, a researcher at Idear, a Guatemalan nonprofit organization that studies rural issues. Roughly 50 percent of the nation’s children are chronically malnourished, the fourth-highest rate in the world, according to the United Nations.

NYT: But many worry that Guatemala’s poor are already suffering from the diversion of food to fuel. “There are pros and cons to biofuel, but not here,” said Misael Gonzáles of C.U.C., a labor union for Guatemala’s farmers. “These people don’t have enough to eat. They need food. They need land. They can’t eat biofuel, and they don’t drive cars.”

USDA data show consumption of white corn in Guatemala has grown in recent years and set a new record in 2012. U.N. FAO data shows “maize food supply” grew 20% between 2000 and 2009 (the latest data available). Per capita maize consumption increased 3% from 2004 to 2009, according to the same data.

NYT: In 2011, corn prices would have been 17 percent lower if the United States did not subsidize and give incentives for biofuel production with its renewable fuel policies, according to an analysis by Bruce A. Babcock, an agricultural economist at Iowa State University. The World Bank has suggested that biofuel mandates in the developed world should be adjusted when food is short or prices are inordinately high.

Prof. Babcock’s analysis examined the impacts of U.S. biofuel policies on No. 2 yellow corn—the type used for ethanol production—not white corn used for tortillas. In any case, Babcock’s analysis showed that corn prices wouldn’t have been a bit different in 2010 with or without U.S. biofuels policies in place, and only 2-7% lower in 2005-2009. The analysis also shows prices for several basic consumer food items, including eggs, wouldn’t have been any different with or without the RFS in place from 2005 to 2010.

NYT: Once nearly self-sufficient in corn production, Guatemala became more dependent on imports in the 1990s as a surplus of subsidized American corn flowed south. Guatemalan farmers could not compete, and corn production dropped roughly 30 percent per capita from 1995 to 2005, Mr. Wise said.

USDA data shows that the percentage of Guatemalan maize consumption comprised by imports has been relatively steady since 2000. In fact, the share of consumption comprised by imports was smaller in 2012 than in each year from 1999 to 2006.

NYT: Production of sugar cane, long a mainstay Guatemalan crop, has also skyrocketed as biofuels opened new market opportunities. Pantaleon Sugar Holdings, which once exported only food products, now uses 13 percent of its production for fuel. Local sugar prices have doubled.

According to USDA-FAS, Guatemalan sugarcane production has increased just 6.6% between 2007 and 2011.

Maintaining the Monopoly

The oil industry has actively blocked our access to competing fuel. We have 160,000 stations today with gasoline pumps and only 2,900 stations with at least one E85 pump (85% ethanol, 15% gasoline), and not one station selling M85 (85% methanol, 15% gasoline).

Most of the 2,900 E85 pumps are at independent stations because oil companies have tried to block E85 being sold at their stations. They’ve used several tactics according to a report by the Consumer Federation of America. One is a requirement that the franchise owners must buy all their fuel from the oil company. Another is requiring franchise owners to sign a contract that limits how much they can advertise E85. Some contracts dictate that if a station owner puts in an E85 pump, it must be on a separate island and not under the main canopy.

Loren Beard, senior manager for energy planning and policy for Chrysler put it succinctly: “Big Oil is at the top of the list for blocking the spread of ethanol acceptance by consumers and the marketplace.”

- Excerpted from the book, Fill Your Tank With Freedom.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Ethanol is Better than Gasoline

The following is an article by Robert Sanders, originally published in UC Berkeley News:

Putting ethanol instead of gasoline in your tank saves oil and is probably no worse for the environment than burning gasoline, according to a new analysis by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley.

The researchers note, however, that new technologies now in development promise to make ethanol a truly "green" fuel with significantly less environmental impact than gasoline.

The analysis, appearing in this week's issue of Science, attempts to settle the ongoing debate over whether ethanol is a good substitute for gasoline and thus can help lessen the country's reliance on foreign oil and support farmers in the bargain. The UC Berkeley study weighs these arguments against other studies claiming that it takes more energy to grow the corn to make ethanol than we get out of ethanol when we burn it.

Dan Kammen and Alex Farrell of the Energy and Resources Group at UC Berkeley, with their students Rich Plevin, Brian Turner and Andy Jones along with Michael O'Hare, a professor in the Goldman School of Public Policy, deconstructed six separate high-profile studies of ethanol. They assessed the studies' assumptions and then reanalyzed each after correcting errors, inconsistencies and outdated information regarding the amount of energy used to grow corn and make ethanol, and the energy output in the form of fuel and corn byproducts.

Once these changes were made in the six studies, each yielded the same conclusion about energy: Producing ethanol from corn uses much less petroleum than producing gasoline. However, the UC Berkeley researchers point out that there is still great uncertainty about greenhouse gas emissions and that other environmental effects like soil erosion are not yet quantified.

The UC Berkeley team has made its model, the Energy and Resources Group Biofuels Meta Model (EBAMM), available to the public on its Web site.

"It is better to use various inputs to grow corn and make ethanol and use that in your cars than it is to use the gasoline and fossil fuels directly," said Kammen, who is co-director of the Berkeley Institute of the Environment and UC Berkeley's Class of 1935 Distinguished Chair of Energy.

Despite the uncertainty, it appears that ethanol made from corn is a little better - maybe 10 or 15 percent - than gasoline in terms of greenhouse gas production, he said.

"The people who are saying ethanol is bad are just plain wrong," he said. "But it isn't a huge victory - you wouldn't go out and rebuild our economy around corn-based ethanol."

The transition would be worth it, the authors point out, if the ethanol is produced not from corn but from woody, fibrous plants: cellulose.

"Ethanol can be, if it's made the right way with cellulosic technology, a really good fuel for the United States," said Farrell, an assistant professor of energy and resources. "At the moment, cellulosic technology is just too expensive. If that changes - and the technology is developing rapidly - then we might see cellulosic technology enter the commercial market within five years."

Cellulosic technology refers to the use of bacteria to convert the hard, fibrous content of plants - cellulose and lignin - into starches that can be fermented by other bacteria to produce ethanol. Farrell said that two good sources of fibrous plant material are switchgrass and willow trees, though any material, from farm waste to specially grown crops or trees, would work. One estimate is that there are a billion tons of currently unused waste available for ethanol production in the United States.

"There is a lot for potential for this technology to really help meet national energy goals," he said. "However, there are still unknowns associated with the long-term sustainability of ethanol as a fuel, especially at the global scale. Making smart land use choices will be key."

Farrell, Kammen and their colleagues will publish their study in the Jan. 27 issue of Science. In addition, Kammen will discuss the report on Jan. 26 at 11 a.m. EST at the 6th National Conference on Science, Policy and the Environment, which is being held at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, D.C. Farrell also will discuss the study at a 4 p.m. seminar on Feb. 3 at UC Berkeley's Institute of Transportation Studies.

In 2004, ethanol blended into gasoline comprised only 2 percent of all fuel sold in the United States. But auto manufacturers are able to make cars that run on 85 percent ethanol, and nearly 5 million such "flex-fuel" vehicles are now on the road. Kammen noted that almost all light trucks now sold have flex-fuel capability, though frequently unadvertised. Converting a car into a flex-fuel vehicle able to burn E85, as the 85/15 ethanol/gas mix is called, costs about $100. More flex-fuel vehicles than diesel vehicles are on the road today in California.

"Converting to fuel ethanol will not require a big change in the economy. We are already ethanol-ready. If ethanol were available on the supply side, the demand is there," Kammen said.

Californians may be voting this November on a state proposition requiring that all new cars sold in California be flex-fuel ready. Kammen said that once this happens, California is poised to move toward the situation in Brazil, where many cars burn pure ethanol and ethanol made from sugar cane supplies half the fuel needs for cars and trucks.

Knowledgeable venture capitalists already are putting money behind ethanol and cellulosic technology, as witnessed by recent investments by Microsoft Corp. chairman Bill Gates and strong interest by Sun Microsystems co-founder Vinod Khosla.

"The investment by Gates is an example of the excitement and seriousness the venture capital community sees in cellulosic technology, which they see as now ready to go prime time," he said. "Our assessment in the paper is that it is a very strong winner and that the effort needed to go the last 10 percent of the way to get cellulosic on board is actually very small."

Kammen estimates that ethanol could replace 20 to 30 percent of fuel usage in this country with little effort in just a few years. In the long term, the United States may be able to match Sweden, which recently committed to an oil-free future based on ethanol from forests and solar energy. Kammen last year published a paper, also in Science, arguing that even Africa could exploit its biomass to build a biofuel industry that could meet energy needs for the poor and develop a sustainable local fuel supply, a future much better than using fossil fuels.

The goal of the UC Berkeley analysis was to understand how six studies of fuel ethanol could come to such different conclusions about the overall energy balance in its production and use. Farrell, Kammen and their UC Berkeley colleagues dissected each study and recreated its analysis in a spreadsheet where they could be compared side-by-side. The team said it found numerous "errors, inconsistencies and omissions" among the studies, such as not considering the value of co-products of ethanol production - dried distillers grains, corn gluten feed and corn oil - that boost the net energy gain from ethanol production. Other studies overestimated the energy used by farm machinery.

On the other side, some studies ignored the use of crushed limestone on corn fields, which can be a significant energy input because of the need to pulverize the rock. Farrell noted that some numbers needed for the analysis, such as the amount of limestone applied, are just not known reliably. On the other hand, some of the studies used outdated data when more recent numbers were available, making ethanol look worse.

"The assumptions made by some of the authors were not based on the best data, or were just a little bit too convenient, and had a strong impact on the results," Kammen said.

Farrell, Kammen and their colleagues considered not only the energy balance of corn ethanol production, but also the effect on the environment through production of greenhouse gases. While corn ethanol came out marginally better than gasoline in terms of greenhouse gas production, Farrell noted that corn production has other negative environmental impacts associated with fertilizer, pesticide and herbicide use. These need to be taken into account when considering the balance between corn ethanol and gasoline, though emerging cellulosic technologies using waste would push the equation more toward ethanol.

"Two things are going to push the commercialization of cellulosic technology," Farrell said. "One is driving the cost down, which is mainly research and development; the other is that environmental concerns are increasingly entering into commercial calculations about biofuels."

The work was supported by the Energy Foundation, the National Science Foundation's Climate Decision Making Center at Carnegie Mellon University and the Karsten Family Foundation.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

A Brilliant Use of Two By-Products of Ethanol Production

White stakes mark out where a tomato
greenhouse will be built. The ethanol plant is
shown in the background.
Across the street from an ethanol plant in Chatham (in Ontario, Canada) a greenhouse farm company is building greenhouses. They're going to grow tomatos year round. Many greenhouse farming operations do this, but one of their biggest expenses is heat. But by building next to an ethanol facility, Truly Green (the greenhouse company) is buying two waste products of the ethanol plant and utilizing them to make a higher profit.

The two waste products are hot water and CO2. Both are going to be pumped across the street. The CO2 will increase the growth rate of the tomatoes, and the heat from the water will help keep the greenhouse warm in the winter. The water will then be pumped back to the ethanol facility (cooled off) and reused.

Quoting from an article in Ethanol Producer Magazine:

When complete, tomato greenhouses will cover a total of 90 acres sitting on 120 acres of land located across the street from the ethanol plant. The first phase, construction of a 22.5 acre greenhouse, is under way now, with an expected completion date in July...

The idea of building a greenhouse next to the Chatham ethanol plant is one the two companies have been working on for a while. Greenhouses require year-round heat, which adds up to 40 percent of the cost of operation. Natural gas boilers are used to produce hot water and CO2 is captured from boiler exhaust to help increase plant health and yield. A big challenge, however, is that the largest demand for CO2 is in the summer, which is also the time of the lowest demand for heat, DeVriers said (Greg DeVriers is part owner of Truly Green). That problem is solved with working with the ethanol plant, which can supply the greenhouse with all the heat and CO2 it needs all year long.

Another neat part of the story is that the farming operation produces corn and also includes a feedlot, he said. This means the company could deliver a load of corn to the ethanol plant, leave with distillers grains for its feedlot — all at the same time that heat and CO2 is being used to grow tomatoes in the greenhouse. “It’s an amazing story,” he said, adding that it’s beneficial for the local economy, the farming operation, the greenhouse and the ethanol plant. “I get goose bumps thinking about it,” he said. Once the project is proved out, DeVriers sees it as something that could develop into partnerships between other ethanol plants and greenhouse operations.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Brazil's Ethanol Exports Shoot Up 55% in 2012

Sugarcane, Brazil's main feedstock for ethanol.
Platts in London reports that Brazil exported 804 million gallons of ethanol in 2012, which was 55% higher than their exports in 2011, bringing money into their country and boosting their economy. The main buyers of the ethanol were the United States, Jamaica, South Korea and Japan.

Brazil the second largest ethanol producer in the world. The United States is the largest.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

What Should the President Do? Kill the Monopoly!

Foreign Policy Magazine put it to ten experts: What should President Obama try to accomplish with his second term? Gal Luft of the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security, was one of the experts. His suggestion: Kill the oil monopoly. Here's an excerpt from the article:

Most cars sold in the United States — roughly 14 million annually — are allowed under their warranties to run on nothing but oil: gasoline and, in some cases, diesel. Due to this virtual monopoly, oil has taken on inordinate strategic importance, and oil prices have a significant economic impact. Oil-price spikes have the power to reduce consumer confidence, trigger recessions, and inflate the country's trade deficit. Were drivers able to respond to high oil prices by switching from gasoline to less costly fuels, oil's importance would be greatly diminished. But they can't...

Obama, who pointed out during his campaign that America is "the Saudi Arabia of natural gas," can break oil's stranglehold over America's transportation sector by sending Congress a simple, no-subsidy, open-fuel-standard bill that would ensure that new vehicles sold in the United States are open to some sort of fuel competition. The law would allow automakers to choose whether they want to go the least costly route — liquid-fuel choice — or some other pathway. The new vehicles would then create the demand that would spur increases in the production capacity of competing fuels...

Best of all, from the perspective of the president's political advisors, support for such a move would be genuinely bipartisan. Co-sponsors for an open-fuel-standard bill in 2011 ran the gamut from liberals like California's Rep. Brad Sherman to Tea Party favorites like Iowa's Rep. Steve King. With backing from the increasingly powerful alternative-fuels lobby, as well as national security hawks like former CIA Director James Woolsey and former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, this could be one energy proposal that Republicans who would never touch a carbon tax or cap and trade would be willing to sign on to.

Read the whole article here: Kill the Oil Monopoly.
More by Gal Luft: Will Gas Prices Ever Return to Normal?

Friday, January 4, 2013

Drilling More Oil is an Incomplete Solution at Best

The fundamental flaw in the assumption that drilling more will help is that oil companies are not “ours.” They are not owned by the government. So they charge American consumers the same price they would charge anyone else in the world, and the world oil price is set by OPEC. So no matter how much “we” drill, what we pay at American gas stations remains unaffected.

Although it’s true if we drilled more oil in America and it was sold to Americans, OPEC would not make any money from Americans (except where OPEC nations have invested in American oil companies), OPEC nations would still sell their oil to everyone else in the world, still reap unbelievable windfalls week after week, still have money to influence our government, Saudi Arabia would still have plenty of money to spread Wahhabism, OPEC would still control the price of oil, and the American economy would still be vulnerable to the capricious and hostile whims of OPEC nations.

Oil’s worldwide monopoly on transportation fuel would remain unchanged.

Drilling “our own” oil would improve America’s trade deficit, and it would generate American jobs. But if it doesn’t lower gas prices, if it keeps us stuck as a one-fuel economy, if it keeps our economy stuck riding the ups and downs of OPEC’s whims, and if it keeps the money flowing to OPEC from the rest of the world, drilling more is only a partial solution at best.

Fuel competition, however, is a complete solution. It will solve all those problems and more.

Read more: Drill Baby Drill.

Marc Rauch Answers AAA's Condemnation of E15

In a recent story on Fox News, the EPA's new approval of E15 (15% ethanol blended into gasoline) was condemned by AAA. The story was also carried by the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and others. The Auto Channel's Marc Rauch wrote to Fox News and Lauren Fix (the woman interviewed on the Fox story) about the errors they have perpetuated. Reprinted with permission.

From: Marc J Rauch
Sent: Thursday, January 3, 2013 3:45 PM
Subject: Melissa Francis' Story on E15

I am writing to you concerning the recent video story that Melissa Francis did with Lauren Fix regarding E15: Warnings Not to Use ‘E15’ Gas in Your Car.

I am co-owner of THE AUTO CHANNEL and We are the Internet's largest automotive information resource. We are completely independent and not sponsored by any fuel producer.

The information provided by Lauren Fix about E15 is almost completely untrue. Lauren's explanation of phase-separation and the food-price argument about corn are preposterously puerile. In fact, if you live in a cold climate and your fuel tank and lines have a tendency to collect condensation (water), which would then freeze and cause real damage, the solution is to put Dry Gas in the fuel tank. Dry Gas is alcohol. Alcohol is ethanol. Ethanol "absorbs" the water moisture.

Fuel left in an unused engine for an extended period of time can break down and cause a starting or running problem. This is true of all fuels, including and especially gasoline, which leaves gummy varnish like deposits. Sta-Bil, another product used to stabilize the gasoline left in dormant engines also contains alcohol to help prevent the gummy build up. And again, alcohol is ethanol.

E15 will not damage the engines of vehicles older than 2012. It has been extensively tested. It can be safely used in all modern gasoline-powered vehicles manufactured since the early 1990's, whether they are "flex-fuel" vehicles or not. Incidentally, when the EPA conducted their tests on E15 and gave their "clean bill of health," they also tested E20 and had the same positive conclusions.

I have been test driving vehicles for 25 years and have regularly used various blend levels of gasoline and ethanol with no negative reactions. Furthermore, I own and drive a non-flex fuel 2002 Ford Taurus that I run on high blend levels of gasoline and ethanol. My vehicle suffers from no problems that are not normally associated with all gasoline-powered vehicles.

The misinformation that Lauren Fix quoted is just part of the routine lies circulated by the American Petroleum Institute and other anti-ethanol entities to discredit any viable alternative fuel solution. I would be happy to provide you with, or direct you to correct information.


Marc J. Rauch
Exec. Vice President/Co-Publisher

Marc Rauch also wrote to AAA because it was their original articles (read them here) that sparked the Fox story. He wrote to AAA's public relations manager, Michael Green. Rauch wrote:

Hello Michael -

Yesterday, I was made aware of a video story produced by Melissa Francis and FOX News that was based upon either the above titled AAA editorial written by your organization's CEO, or a very similar earlier AAA editorial that was released on or about November 30, 2012. By the way, please feel free to share this email with Robert Darbelnet and any other AAA staff member.

In the video, Ms. Francis introduced a guest, Lauren Fix, to comment on and explain the "warnings" made in your editorial. Although neither Ms. Francis nor Ms. Fix identified Ms. Fix as an official AAA spokesperson, she seems to have virtually acted in that capacity. You can view the video at: .

I found almost everything that Ms. Fix had to say about ethanol to be either a gross lie or a recitation of typical bad propaganda that has been spread by the oil industry and its lackeys over the past 80+ years. In a separate email, I made my opinion known to both Ms. Fix and Ms. Francis.

I have been test driving vehicles for 25 years and have regularly used various blend levels of gasoline and ethanol with no negative reactions. Furthermore, I own and drive a non-flex fuel 2002 Ford Taurus that I run on high blend levels of gasoline and ethanol. My vehicle suffers from no problems that are not normally associated with all gasoline-powered vehicles.
Michael, I would imagine that unless you can confirm Ms. Fix as an official spokesperson for AAA that you will not have any comments to make regarding her comments, and that's fine since the point of this email is not to get the AAA reaction to her comments. I'm simply including this episode as background for the questions that I do have regarding the above mentioned AAA editorial.

My questions to you are:

1. What oil-industry-independent "research-to-date" was Mr. Darbelnet citing that "...raises serious concerns that E15...could cause accelerated engine wear and failure, (and) fuel system damage...?"

2. What information do you have, other than unsupported oil-industry claims, that the EPA did not conduct tests sufficient to determine the safety of using E15 in gasoline-powered passenger vehicles manufactured in the past two decades?

3. Does AAA not consider that the independent E15 testing conducted by Ricardo (findings released September 2010) to be significant confirmation that E15 is safe for all modern gasoline-powered vehicles?

4. In paragraph 8 of the editorial, Mr. Darbelnet states that "Some of those supporting E15 admit the fuel may cause damage," and you give the example that "...some underground storage tank systems, both new and used, exhibited reduced levels of safety and performance when exposed to E15." Given that all fuel underground storage tank systems routinely experience problems, what information do you have - other than any oil-industry anti-ethanol biased research - that shows that E15 underground storage tanks experience problems that are greater and/or more frequent than underground storage tanks that are used for diesel, E10 gasoline, E85, or gasoline that contains no ethanol?

5. In addition, in regard to paragraph 8, how does this potential problem relate to vehicle engine damage, and wouldn't it be fair to say that combining the two points is just an irrelevant red-herring warning?

6. Does AAA agree with the overall level of warning that FOX News issued - which they based upon the AAA editorial - about E15, or did they overstate your concerns?

I look forward to your reply and any instructive information you can provide.

Thank you for your time.

Very truly yours,

Marc J. Rauch
Exec. Vice President

Michael Green wrote back, but I don't have his permission to reprint his reply, but it wasn't much, and it will become clear what he said from Marc Rauch's response below:

Hi Michael -

Thanks for your quick reply and clarification confirming that Lauren Fix has no official relationship with AAA.

While I look forward to receiving the AAA engineering team's comments, I'm troubled by your response to my question #4 regarding the storage tanks. You wrote, "...the warning regarding storage tanks was made by the Renewable Fuels Association to fuel retailers and was not from research conducted by AAA. They would therefore be in the best position to say why they made that recommendation." However, the AAA story called for the suspension of the sale of E15 because you claim that it damages the engines of most gasoline-powered vehicles, and you offered as part of the proof that the ethanol industry concedes that there are problems. Let's face it, engine damage is the crux of the story; it is, in fact, the salient part of the entire denigration effort by the oil industry and anyone associated with them to stop ethanol: The (false) claim that ethanol damages engines.

RFA didn't issue a warning that consumers shouldn't use ethanol as an engine fuel and then cite a storage tank issue as the reason. The storage issue has absolutely no bearing on ethanol's capability as an engine fuel. AAA took the RFA warning out of context and made a leap that should never have been made. It would be like someone using the warning that's printed on plastic bags (the suffocation warning) to claim that carrying groceries in the bag makes the items being carried dangerous to eat. One thing has absolutely nothing to do with the other. It is entirely possible that a fuel can be the safest, most efficient and economical fuel to use in an engine, but requires some degree of care when storing. Would AAA recommend that people stop drinking milk because if it's not refrigerated it could render a person seriously ill?

As I pointed out previously, gasoline also requires care when storing, and is far more dangerous than alcohol. Why not issue a recommendation that all gasoline sales be suspended until the explosion/fire/storage/pollution problems related to gasoline are solved? If AAA or Mr. Darbelnet were so unclear as to the issues regarding ethanol underground storage that you can't respond to my question, then it should never have been included in the story, regardless of whether ethanol damages engines or not. If AAA is objective on the overall issue of ethanol versus gasoline, as is alluded to in the editorial, then a big mistake was made.


Marc J. Rauch
Exec. Vice President

Marc Rauch has written before about his experiences using E85 in gas-only engines. The letter below, for example, is a response to John Kolak's article, On Using Ethanol Fuels In Unmodified Vehicles. The letter was written by Marc Rauch:

Hi John -

I just finished reading your article and I wanted to add my personal experiences to your compendium of information.

For a few years, whenever I would rent a car or get a new vehicle from a manufacturer to test drive and review, I would manually fill the tank with a blend of regular gasoline (e10) and e85, if e85 was available to me. Depending upon how much fuel I needed to fill the tank, sometimes the blend would give me only about 30-40% ethanol, and sometimes I might have 60-80% ethanol. I did this with almost every make and model vehicle you can think of, and almost none of them were "flex-fuel" vehicles. I did this specifically to see what, if anything, would happen.

Other than the "check engine" light illuminating in some instances, I never encountered a starting, driving or acceleration problem. Knowing that the "check engine" light illuminated merely because the cars' sensors detected something different, I knew that there was no problem with the vehicle. Often, if the test drive or rental period was long enough, and I had the need to fill the tank again — and only had access to regular gasoline — the check engine light would go off, confirming that there was no problem with the engine.

Of course, because the test or rental period was of rather short duration, I knew that my experiments were not really conclusive since I wasn't able to witness what ill effects, if any, might occur from longer, more sustained usage.

With this in mind, about a year and a half ago I purchased a used 2002 Ford Taurus non-flex-fuel sedan to be able to go all out on my test of e85. Because I've never had a situation in which my tank was completely empty, I've never had the opportunity to fill the Taurus fully with e85. However, I've run the vehicle on virtually all other blend levels. Similar to the short duration tests, I have run the Taurus on straight e10 gasoline to as high as 65-80%. Keep in mind that because even e85 might contain only about 70% ethanol (according to the label on the pump), it's hard to really get a blend that's much higher than 80%.

When I bought the vehicle, my friend David Blume — perhaps the world's leading expert on ethanol production and use — sent me one of the conversion kits that he endorses and sells for use on non-flex fuel fuel-injector vehicles. The purpose was for me to test the device and to maximize my vehicle's ability to handle e85. To date I have not installed the device. I've been waiting to push the car to the point where it screams "I can't take any more ethanol." That point is nowhere in sight. This isn't to say that the device is not necessary, it's to illustrate just how well an un-modified non-flex fuel vehicle can perform with e85.

Long before I purchased the Taurus, David and his associates alerted me to the need to transition into using a lot of e85, rather than going cold-turkey and make the immediate shift. The reason, they explained, is that the ethanol will loosen (and clean) the deposits left by the gasoline and that the gunk could clog the system. Because of this, I did transition to high ethanol blends through the first 3 or 4 fill-ups. I don't know if I would have experienced any problems if I didn't heed the advice, but I have not had any fuel line clogs.

In the nearly 18 months, I have driven the vehicle a little less than 25,000 miles  —  enough time and enough miles to make a more enlightened evaluation. I can report that the results are what they were in the short-term evaluations: my car runs fine, as good  —  I think  —  as any 10 year-old car should run. And I have noticed no difference in how the vehicle runs regardless of how much ethanol I use.

At an early stage I did have an interesting experience with Meineke. After watching one of their TV commercials about bringing your car in for a free test if the engine light goes on, I brought the Taurus in for the free check-up. After the test was completed the service manager told me that my O2 sensor had gone out and that it needed replacing (for a cost of about $200). I knew the light was on because I was using e85, I just wanted to see if the test system could discern the reason.

I declined the O2 replacement and told the service manager why I thought the engine light was illuminated. He reacted as if I was speaking Martian; not comprehending what I was saying about using ethanol in a gasoline-optimized engine. He argued a bit with me and warned that if I didn't get the O2 sensor replaced that I was driving an illegal vehicle. For the heck of it, I went through a couple of fill-up cycles where I only used e10 gasoline. As expected, the light went off. I brought the vehicle back into the same shop and told them that I had been experiencing an intermittent check-engine light, although the light wasn't on at that moment. They put the test through what I assume was the same computer test and told me that the vehicle was okay (with no mention of an O2 sensor problem).

Incidentally, I have to tell you that I have never experienced the huge mpg reduction that is typically cited by both ethanol critics and advocates. In my experience I lose only 5-10%. Considering that the e85 costs less 15-30% less than regular gasoline I still get a respectable net savings. Earlier today, May 12, 2012, when I drove past one of the Shell stations that I use to get my e85, I noticed that e85 was selling for just under one dollar less than premium gasoline. That represents nearly 25% savings per gallon.

In closing, I will admit that there is one major drawback to using ethanol, but fortunately it's not my problem, it's the oil companies' problem: They make less money!

Thanks for your time. I hope that this case study helps your efforts.

Sincerely yours,

Marc J. Rauch
Exec. Vice President/Co-Publisher

Watch a video on this same subject: E85 Does Not Harm Non-Flex-Fuel Engines. This ten-minute video shows you a test done on a non-flex-fuel car that burned mostly E85 for over a hundred thousand miles. Not only did it not harm the car, it actually harmed it much less than burning gasoline would have.

Here's an excellent 20-page detailed look at how E85 works in gas-only engines: Ethanol and Internal Combustion Engines (PDF document).

I think these two articles by Robert Zubrin are relevant as well. He discovered that cars are already designed for flex fuel cars, including having the software installed in the onboard computer, but the software is disabled. Check it out:

A Fuel-Efficiency Wager
Methanol Wins

The following paper from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory is also interesting: It's about using "intermediate blends" of ethanol. Apparently normal fuel injector computers handle up to half ethanol before the car starts running poorly (if it is going to run poorly at all). What happens is that the injector automatically adds more fuel if the fuel is partly alcohol, and most cars can do up to 50% E85 with no problems. Every little bit makes a difference. Anyway, here's the link to the PDF file: Effects of Intermediate Ethanol Blends.

Adding to this discussion is the president of the Renewable Fuels Association, Bob Dinneen, responding to an op-ed:

Flint, Mich., is known throughout the world as the birthplace of General Motors. When an economist from Flint gets the facts about motor fuels all wrong, it’s time to assign him some remedial homework.

In an op-ed in The Flint Journal on January 16, Mark J. Perry, an economics professor at University of Michigan-Flint, earned a failing grade in Ethanol 101. Here’s why Professor Perry needs to hit the books about biofuels:

Warning against E15 blends (15 percent ethanol, 85 percent gasoline), Perry claims that ethanol “can damage automobile engines and fuel systems.” In fact, E15 is the most tested fuel in history. Coordinated by the U.S. Department of Energy and its affiliated National Laboratories, the tests have driven the equivalent of six round-trips to the moon and have included vehicle drivability, catalyst durability, fuel pumps and sealing units, outboard diagnostic systems, and automotive fuel system components.

The verdict: The U.S. Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) has approved 15 percent ethanol blends for cars, light-duty trucks and SUVs built in 2001 or later — approximately 62 percent of the light-duty vehicles on the road today.

While Perry writes that “40% of the U.S. corn crop is used to produce ethanol,” that statement is misleading. Ethanol production doesn’t use sweet corn (which is intended for human consumption), and U.S. ethanol production uses only three percent of the total global grain supply.

Moreover, ethanol uses only the starch in the grain, with the protein, fat and fiber made into animal feed for beef and dairy cattle, hogs, poultry, and fish around the world. In fact, the American ethanol industry generated 37 million metric tons of feed in 2012 — enough to produce seven quarter-pound hamburger patties for every person on the planet.

Perry is also wrong when he contends that ethanol “has increased retail food prices and strained family budgets.” In fact, only 14 percent of the average household’s food bill pays for raw agricultural ingredients such as corn. Eighty-six percent of their food bill pays for energy, transportation, processing, packaging, marketing and other supply chain costs.

Nor is it true that “ethanol costs about 70 cents a gallon more than gasoline on an energy-equivalent basis.” In fact, the use of ethanol reduced wholesale gasoline prices by an average of $1.09 per gallon in 2011, according to research by economics professors at the University of Wisconsin and Iowa State University. If ethanol doesn’t pack the punch to power our cars, then why do so many professional racecar drivers fuel their  vehicles with … ethanol?

Meanwhile, Professor Perry makes sophomoric mistakes. He writes about “a 51-cent-per gallon tax credit” for biofuels, even though the credit expired, with the industry’s approval, at the end of 2011. He asks policymakers “to halt the production of E15,” even though E15 is blended, not produced, from ethanol and gasoline. (Would he demand no more “production” of coffee with milk and sugar?) And he seems unaware that, in approving E15, the EPA was offering Americans a choice at the pump, not a mandate.

While he concludes that cellulosic (non-grain) ethanol is “still not viable,” at least eight commercial advanced ethanol plants are under construction or commissioning.

U.S. ethanol, including E15 blends, offers our nation’s motorists a cost-saving, American-made, environmentally-friendly alternative to foreign oil, as well as a pathway to the next generation of biofuels.

As for Professor Perry, he needs to take Ethanol 101 all over again.

The following is an op-ed entitled, Who Are You Going to Believe: Big Oil — Or 10,000 Miles of Truth? by Robert White:

The comedian Richard Pryor used to ask, “Who are you going to believe — me or your lying eyes?”

That question comes to mind whenever I think about the American Petroleum Institute (API)’s study, which claims to prove that 15 percent ethanol blends (E15) will damage your automobile’s engine.

So who are you going to trust — Big Oil or a Kansas motorist who’s driven 10,000 miles on three vehicles fueled by E15?

The oil companies want you to ignore a comprehensive three-year, 88-vehicle, six-million-miles-driven study of E15 conducted by the U.S. Department of Energy using protocols established by the Environmental Protection Agency, and look only at their own American Petroleum Institute-funded study of eight vehicles, some of which had fuel pumps that happened to be under recall.  The only thing one can glean about E15 from the API study is if you test E15 in a vehicle that has been recalled then you just might have some problems.


Now, guess what API and AAA don’t mention when they warn motorists about E15: If you test other aging autos with similar problems — and fuel them with gasoline without any ethanol at all (Call it E-Zero) — you get the same kind of problems. That’s what their study says.

But don’t hold your breath waiting for API to warn motorists against using unblended gasoline — E-Zero. Instead, they want consumers to worry about ever-more-unlikely “hazards,” not only in the long-term but in the short-term, too.

For instance, API and its allies like AAA have warned motorists about the supposed dangers of “residual volumes” of E15 in gas pump hoses. They claim to be concerned that, if you fuel your car with E10, you could really be getting gasoline blended with more than 10 percent ethanol. Why? Because the previous customer fueled up with E15 — and some of that 15 percent blend was left in the hose.

Have they ever tested this theory with a real vehicle and a real gasoline pump?

So what happens when you fuel a working vehicle — not one that’s straight from the showroom, just one that has some miles on it but hasn’t been recalled — with E15?

Since mid-July, I’ve been one of the fortunate customers with E15 available locally — in Eastern Kansas. Once this fuel debuted, I’ve used it exclusively on my three vehicles — a Jeep and two Chevrolets, none of them flex-fuel.

By now, I’ve logged more than 10,000 total miles. Not once has my “check engine” light lit up. Not once have I noticed any drivability or performance issues. Not once have my vehicles acted any differently than they do on E10.

And, despite AAA’s “warnings,” not once did any of my three vehicles break down on the side of the road, leaving me stranded.

Instead, I’ve enjoyed a higher-octane product at a lower cost with lower overall emissions. And I’m proud to be gassing up my vehicles with a fuel that now contains 50 percent more of a locally produced, job-creating, economy-boosting product — American ethanol.

In addition to “warning” motorists about damage to their vehicles, Big Oil has one more scare tactic: If you use E15, it will void your warranty.

In fact, before a claim could be denied, an automaker would have to prove that the fuel caused the damage. That’s provided by federal law — the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act of 1975.

Once again, my experience is instructive. I recently had a warranty claim — not fuel-related — on my personal 2011 Chevrolet. Even though my Chevy runs on E15, the claim was processed without incident — and at no cost to me.

So who are you going to believe? Big Oil? Or a motorist who’s logged 10,000 miles on E15?

The following is an op-ed entitled, Ethanol Industry Questions Validity of CRC E15 Study by Erin Voegele:

The Coordinating Research Council has released a report outlining fuel test results that show E15 fuel can damage fuel system components. Representatives of the ethanol industry, however, are questioning the testing methods, noting that the CRC seems to be displaying a bias against ethanol. The report is titled “Durability of Fuel Pumps and Fuel Level Senders in Neat and Aggressive E15". The American Petroleum Institute is a “sustaining member” of the group.

The analysis looked at two types of E15—a regular E15 blend and an “aggressive E15”—in addition to E10 and regular gasoline. According to the report, the aggressive E15 blend was formulated refereeing the SAE specification J1681 to represent the worst case blends of gasoline and 15 volume percent ethanol that might be found in the field.

However, Kristi Moore, vice president for technical services at the Renewable Fuels Association, questions the validity of testing the aggressive E15 blend. She said that the test fuel formulation has zero real world relevance in today’s marketplace as it is representative of fuel dating back to the 1990s. “Fuel properties have significantly changed in the three decades since the original aggressive test formula,” Moore continued. She also specified that the CRC seems to have ignored its own 2009 finding that the primary fatal effects to fuel systems can be attributed to the sulfur content of fuels. 

Bob Reynolds, president of Downstream Alternatives, also stressed the results for CRC’s aggressive E15 formulation are not representative of fuels on the market today. In addition, he noted that the report does not specify whether or not the CRC completed the testing with fuel containing the corrosion inhibitors his industry typically adds to ethanol.

The Fuels America Coalition has also spoken out, questioning the validity of the report. “Today’s report from oil-lobby backed research group Coordinating Research Council displays clear bias and ignores millions of miles and years of testing that went into EPA’s approval of E15,” said the coalition in a statement. “CRC’s bias is clear—API is a “sustaining member” of the group—and so it’s no surprise that the CRC is negative about E15. They’re playing right in to API’s misguided ploy to overturn the renewable fuel standard (RFS).”

Ron Lamberty, senior vice president for the American Coalition for Ethanol, said that the test results should not scare consumers away from using E15. “This is just another ghost story, told by people who stand to lose market share when consumers finally have access to E15. We shouldn’t be surprised at Big Oil’s latest attempt to scare consumers—they’ve shown no shame in twisting test results to protect their market share. There is a reason that the oil companies don’t want E15 and it has everything to do with protecting the bottom line and nothing to do with protecting consumers,” he continued.

The RFA has also called the study flawed and misleading. “API has absolutely no credibility when it comes to talking about E15,” said Bob Dinneen, RFA president and CEO. “That point has never been more clear than in this new study in which they ‘cooked the books’ by using an aggressive fuel mix to try and force engine damage.  This isn’t real testing and this certainly isn’t real life.  Enough already with the scare tactics.  E15 is rolling forward and API needs to get out the way of progress that will result in a stronger country, a stronger economy, and stronger, cleaner environment.  E15 will not be stopped by feet dragging and forecasts of fictional faults.”

“Today’s study is no surprise,” said Tom Buis, Growth Energy CEO. “This is a classic example of ‘he, who pays the piper, calls the tune.’ Oil companies are desperate to prevent the use of higher blends of renewable fuels. They have erected every regulatory and legal roadblock imaginable to prevent our nation from reducing our dependence on oil. For Big Oil, this is about market share. To see what’s driving them, ‘follow the money,’ as every gallon of renewable fuel that enters the market reduces Big Oil’s market share. Obviously they have deep pockets in which to fund studies that can at best be described as incomplete and cherry picking.”

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Turning Waste Into Fuel and Money

An article in the Kansas City Star details a long-term project by the Kansas City government that changed the way they deal with their sewer sludge. Here's an excerpt:

Kansas City
Every city produces tons of it (sewer sludge), and every city tries to figure out what to do with it.

Kansas City’s solution: Use it as fertilizer on 1,340 acres it owns along the Missouri River next to the Birmingham wastewater treatment plant.

Corn and soybeans are the main crops, and when harvested they are sold to the expanding fuel-production industry to make biofuel — the crops are not intended for human consumption.

The ingenious part of the equation is that Kansas City has made $2.1 million in net income over the past six years doing something that used to cost it money.

“That is fantastic,” said Tammy Zborel, who works with a sustainability program for the National League of Cities. “That is not a common practice for cities to engage in that level of farming.”

The city used to burn all its waste in incinerators.

“That is an expensive process that takes a lot of water, takes a lot of gas, takes a lot of electricity, and it leaves us with a fairly inert ash,” said Kurt Bordewick, manager of the Water Services’ wastewater treatment division.

Aside from the savings, the farm also makes the city greener — fertilizer is more environmentally friendly than incineration, Bordewick said.

Waste into fuel. The more people who are driving flex fuel vehicles, the more financial incentives cities will have to put solutions like this into effect. You can help make this happen. Click here to start.

Read the article here: Kansas City-Owned Farm Turns Human Waste Into Revenue.

Books, Articles, and Videos on Fuel Competition

The better informed you are, the more persuasive you will be when talking to others about it. The most important task we have right now is to educate as many people as possible about the value and power of fuel competition in the United States. Here are our recommended books, articles, and online videos:


Fill Your Tank With Freedom

Homegrown Defense

Energy Victory

Turning Oil Into Salt

Sustainable Ethanol

The Forbidden Fuel

Alcohol Can Be a Gas


Energy Independence Myths and Solutions

Achieving Energy Victory

What Fuel Competition Has to do With National Security

America's Economic Recovery

American Energy Review

How to End America's Addiction to Oil

The Oil Industry's Campaign to Discredit Ethanol

Economic Impact of the Open Fuel Standard Factsheet

Environmental Benefits of the Open Fuel Standard

The Methanol Story by Roberta J. Nichols

How to Break Oil's Monopoly and OPEC's Cartel

Rising Oil Prices, Declining National Security

Oil and the New Economic Order

Testimony by Gal Luft

The Hidden Cost of Oil

The Alcohol Standard

Economic Impact of Methanol Economy

The Food Industry's Campaign Against Ethanol

Huge Variety of Sources for Methanol

What Fuel Competition Has to do With National Security

Why Support an Open Fuel Standard?

What OPEC Does is Illegal

Where Does America Get Its Oil?

The Four Different Kinds of Alcohol Fuels

What is Cellulosic Ethanol?

Interesting Facts About Alcohol Fuels

Busting the Ethanol Myths

Technological Solutions for Energy Security and Sustainability

The Real Price of Gasoline


Fuel Choice in America and the End of Oil Addiction

Robert Zubrin's Keynote Address on Energy Victory

How to Achieve Oil Independence

Anne Korin: Why the Open Fuel Standard is Urgent

Robert Zubrin: Why the Open Fuel Standard Act is Urgent

Anne Korin Answers Questions at ACE Conference

The Model T Was a Flex Fuel Car

Clips From the June 2nd OFS News Conference

Zubrin: Flex Fuel for the World

Marc Rauch at the ACE Conference

Reducing oil dependency with flex fuel vehicles



Who Killed the Electric Car?

Contact Us

You can reach us here:

The Famous Food Versus Fuel Debate

Have you ever wondered why you've never heard a "food versus flowers debate?" After all, we have an enormous amount of farmland devoted to raising flowers around the world. I've stood in places where as far as you can see in any direction are endless fields of flowers growing on prime farmland.

How many giant greenhouses are devoted to growing flowers around the world?

Shouldn't all these resources be used for food? Are all these fields and greenhouses causing worldwide starvation? Is the massive flower industry raising the price of food? Certainly if all those fields were used for growing food crops, the price of food would drop.

But we don't hear anything about a "food versus flowers" debate. But we frequently hear about a "food versus fuel" debate, don't we? Are flowers more important than food? Are flowers more important than fuel? No, and that's not the issue anyway. The source of the "food versus fuel" debate is fuel alcohol's most dangerous competitor — the oil industry. Those who have the most to lose from the rising popularity of alcohol fuels created the "debate" and inserted it into the public dialog. The petroleum industry coined the phrase in 1979. And because the alcohol fuel industry is dwarfed by the immense wealth of the oil industry, the myth-busting facts have not reached nearly the number of people who have heard the food versus fuel idea, and millions of people have bought the phony "debate" hook, line, and sinker.

The flower industry is only one of many we could mention. How about booze? How much land is devoted to raising crops just for liquor or beer? Shouldn't that land be devoted to food? How many food crops does it take to make a bottle of bourbon? Why don't we hear of a "food versus booze" debate? Or is booze more important than transportation? It seems to me I need to get to work, but I don't need to get a buzz (or buy flowers, for that matter).

What about Christmas trees? What about dog and cat food? Are these more important than starving people or transportation?

I could go on and on. In fact, I'm going to go on and on (in a minute), but you've gotten the main point of this article already. I'm going to beat this issue to death, though, because I've had enough of the argument. The phony issue shows up in articles and books and interviews, and it is completely taken for granted by most of the people who mention it, even though several impartial researchers have shown that food prices have only risen slightly because of the ethanol industry.

And it has also been shown that by far the largest influence on rising food prices is rising oil prices. Oil prices and food prices are directly and necessarily correlated.

And the slight impact the ethanol industry has had on corn prices has actually been a good thing for the hungry people of the world. The overabundance of cheap U.S. grain around the world has essentially put local farmers in Third World nations out of business. And not just in Third World nations. It is an untenable condition for the world to have American farmers producing so much grain so inexpensively that even the American farmers themselves can't make a living because their abundance has pushed grain prices too low.

So ethanol's small impact on food prices has been a good thing, encouraging small, local farming operations to spring up around the world, which is increasing the world's food supply. And if we can get an Open Fuel Standard in America, those Third World farmers may get a chance to do more than merely grow their own food; they will have an opportunity to turn their surplus crops into ethanol and export it to a fuel-hungry world, which will help lift them out of poverty.

But like I said, I intend to beat this issue to death. Are you ready? Besides the food versus flowers debate and the food versus booze debate, what else can we look at? What other good potential croplands are being "wasted" when there are starving people in the world?

How about wine? Why don't we have a food versus wine debate? There are millions of acres of wine grapes planted worldwide. One single variety, Airén — an undistinguished white grape — is planted on more than one million acres in central Spain. Is wine more important than food?

How many acres are devoted to football fields? Baseball fields? Soccer fields? How about a food versus football debate? A football field, including end zones, is 1.3 acres. Almost every junior high school, high school, and college that plays interscholastic football has their own football field. That would put the number of football fields in America up into the thousands, probably the tens of thousands.

I'm not suggesting we get rid of football fields. Not at all. It is completely unnecessary. As Robert Zubrin points out, we have plenty of farmland to grow both food and fuel, and so does the rest of the world. I'm bringing this up to point out that other perfectly legitimate potential crop land is never mentioned, because the source of the argument is the oil industry, and their target is the ethanol industry.

Sod farming in Salt Lake City.
What about lawns? I'm not even talking about the acres devoted to people's front and back yards, although those should count too, since that alone adds up to 30 million acres. But many farmland acres are devoted to growing sod or turf used for planting lawns and football fields, baseball fields, soccer fields, etc. In the state of Texas alone, 54,000 acres are devoted to growing sod or turf.

Mowed lawns are the largest crop by weight in the U.S. Is all the land devoted to lawns in the U.S. more important than food or fuel? Why don't we have a food versus lawns debate?

We feed nearly all our millions of acres of corn to cows. It takes 17 to 20 pounds of grain to produce one pound of beef. Worried about starving poor? Become a vegetarian. Is the deliciousness of beef more important than transportation? Why not stop feeding cows and feed people instead?  Please don't accuse me of being a vegetarian. I love meat, and I'm going to keep eating it. But more corn is going to feed cows than is going to make ethanol by far, but we hear almost nothing about the "grain versus meat" debate. Even without becoming a vegetarian, we could eat grassfed beef to save that grain for starving people.

What about tobacco? Is it more important than food? What about a "food versus coffee" controversy? How much land is devoted to coffee and tea in the world? Are coffee and tea more important than food? More important than fuel?

And the biggest source of untapped food is waste. According to experts who study it, like the economist Mancur Olson, an astonishing 30 to 50 percent of all the food produced is never eaten! In poorer countries, most of this waste is from the crops rotting in the fields, being eaten by rats, or spoiling in transit. In richer countries, most of the waste is from excess that is thrown away — salad, bread, fruit, vegetables, etc. Read more about this here.

Regardless of what else we do, we definitely need to tackle the food versus waste issue.

I'm sure I'll add to this list of potential "debates" over time as I think of more. But the point is, nobody is having these debates because there's no motivation for them. But oil money buys influence, and the oil industry has decided, and I think quite astutely, that one way to cripple the ethanol industry — one way to undermine popular support for their strongest competitor — is to make people believe that growing crops for ethanol will cause people to starve. It's a clever tactic. Let's hope a growing number of people will see through it.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

OPEC Makes a Trillion Dollars in 2012

Quoting from an article in CNN entitled, OPEC cartel to reap record $1 trillion: "The Opec oil cartel, led by Saudi Arabia, will pocket a record of more than US$1tn in net oil revenues in 2012 as the annual average price for Brent, the benchmark, heads to an all-time high in spite of weak economic growth.

"The windfall will provide fresh capital to some of the world's largest sovereign wealth funds. United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, the most influential members of the cartel, are home to three of the world's 10 largest SWFs by assets under management, according to estimates by the SWF Institute."

The average price per barrel of oil in 2012 was $111.5, an all time record. Saudi Arabia's oil minister says they planned to keep oil prices above a hundred dollars a barrel in 2012. They've achieved their goal, much to the detriment of the rest of the world's economy.

The price of oil is rising steeply, driven by OPEC's desire to bleed the world. Only ten years ago, OPEC made $200 billion. In 2012, they made over a trillion dollars. This greatly helped the Save the King Foundation and the spread of Wahhabism worldwide, but caused economic damage to the rest of the world. The last paragraph of the article makes it clear that our gasoline prices are only going to go up:

"The International Monetary Fund estimates that Riyadh and Abu Dhabi both need oil prices at about $80 a barrel to balance their budgets. Only a decade ago they were able to balance their budgets with oil prices averaging $25." Gal Luft says they will need at least $110 a barrel by 2015.

If we had fuel competition in America, we wouldn't have to worry about this. You can do something about it right now. Start here.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

MIT Professor of Economics Emeritus Says What the Real Problem Is

M.A. Adelman, the MIT professor, wrote:

"The real problem we face over oil dates from after 1970: a strong but clumsy monopoly of mostly Middle Eastern exporters cooperating as OPEC...Price fixing by private companies on the OPEC scale would not be tolerated in any industrial country. In the United States, the officers of firms that engage in such activities go to jail. But the OPEC members are sovereign states, subject to no country's laws."

- Quoted from the book, Petropoly, by Anne Korin and Gal Luft.

This is, in fact, the real problem: We are victims of an illegal fuel monopoly. But the Open Fuel Standard can solve this problem cleanly and efficiently. And it won't cost taxpayers any money. It is not a subsidy or handout. It's a simple change of policy. It is doing what governments are supposed to use their power for: Preventing monopolies from stopping free market forces from doing what they do best.