novatownhall blog

Where you are held accountable for your convictions and record

Browsing Posts tagged ethanol

If you scrutinize the information provided by the links at the end of the article, you’ll learn there’s no actual energy or environmental crisis in the US or anywhere else in the world. It’s real but there are ways to avoid it that have been ignored, technologies we can still latch onto to solve our energy problems while at the same time changing the health, pollution, and global warming equations dramatically.

These four points are at the core of the most important issues we face today;

1- The weather pattern changes we call global warming are not caused by carbon dioxide (CO2) but rather methane(CH4), low level ozone forming pollutants (VOC’s), low level ozone (O3), and their reactions with sun light and atmospheric water vapor (H2O).

2- Gasoline and diesel fuel can be refined to give 20% more mileage with 70 percent less pollution using polymer additives that are produced in the same kinds of refineries that gasoline is.

3- Anhydrous (water removed) ethanol, the kind of ethanol added to gasoline now, causes high emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOC’s), a low level ozone precursor. It also causes loss of mileage, produces huge amounts of ozone forming pollutants where it’s refined while pumping billions of tons of water vapor into the atmosphere mixed with pollutants, and has to be transported in trucks, trains, or barges because it’s too corrosive for pipelines.

4- Hydrous ethanol (water left in or added) can be used as fuel by itself or mixed with gasoline while causing no mileage loss, no increase in emissions, and can be transported through pipelines. It’s also cheaper to produce greater volumes of it while causing fewer emissions at the refinery.

Four points, it’s just that simple. The story of why we aren’t using them is too politically sensitive and convoluted to explain in a encyclopedia/news format. In reality, Barack Obama can solve most of our problems without reading the rest of this article if he looks into the four facts laid out above. But it would help him understand why this would work if I better explain it.

Politics of Global Warming

The politics of global warming isn’t as complicated as it is made out to be. It was first debated in the 1980’s. There were many theories on what might cause it. Europe liked James Hansen of NASA’s idea that CO2 would change our climate by dramatically warming it. This was because they were already heading in the direction of a more efficient energy and industrial infrastructures which reduced their CO2 emissions.

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This seems significant:

Skeptics have long questioned the value of diverting food crops for fuel, and the grocery and live- stock industries vehemently opposed an energy bill last fall, arguing it was driving up costs.

A fifth of the nation’s corn crop is now used to brew ethanol for motor fuel, and as farmers have planted more corn, they have cut acreage of other crops, particularly soybeans. That, in turn, has contributed to a global shortfall of cooking oil.

Spreading global dissatisfaction in recent months has intensified the food-versus-fuel debate. Last Friday, a European environment advisory panel urged the European Union to suspend its goal of having 10 percent of transportation fuel made from biofuels by 2020. Europe’s well-meaning rush to biofuels, the scientists concluded, had created a variety of harmful ripple effects, including deforestation in Southeast Asia and higher prices for grain.

Even if biofuels are not the primary reason for the increase in food costs, some experts say it is one area where a reversal of government policy could help take pressure off food prices.

Some studies have shown the amount of energy required to create ethanol (i.e., to grow and transport the crops) exceeds the amount of energy ethanol provides. In any case, this seems like as good a time as any to pull the plug on this feel-good experiment.

Kevin Drum, who runs the excellent Washington Monthly blog, is one of those invaluable liberal individuals who by virtue of his intellectual honesty helps to bridge the ideological divide between “liberals” and “conservatives” – much as the General and Kevin, and occasionally others, do here. Much as I humbly suggest I do from the other side of the aisle, a point to which my good buddy Zimzo will undoubtedly attest.

Drum observes that

…corn ethanol subsidies, which looked merely stupid in the past, now look catastrophically idiotic.

The fact that caught my attention in the entire ethanol discussion is that the fuel expenditure (whether “fossil” or other) required to CREATE the crops harvested for ethanol – fueling the machines used for tilling and harvesting – exceeds the supposed savings offered by ethanol. You have to burn a ton of fuel to create that fuel. The other fact is that turning crops into fuel means the land and crops cannot create other things, like food, that we arguably need.

The final fact is that the push for ethanol appears to rely on a romantic quasi-agrarian notion that “plants are good, machines are bad” intended to trump all other arguments. Romantic notions, as a rule, don’t pass the smell test.