Ethanol and other biofuel mandates and subsidies got started when politicians bought into claims that we are rapidly depleting our petroleum, and fossil-fuel-driven global warming is boiling the planet.
Hydraulic fracturing destroyed the depletion myth. It also reminds us that “peak oil” applies only if we wrongly assume that resource needs and technologies never change. The 18-year “hiatus” in planetary warming has forced alarmists to change their terminology to climate change, climate disruption and extreme weather mantras – which allow them to continue demanding that we stop using the hydrocarbons that provide 82% of the energy that makes our economy, jobs and living standards possible.
In recent years, people have discovered that ethanol harms lawn mowers and other small engines. The fuel additive also drives up gasoline prices, reduces automotive mileage and corrodes engine parts.
Corn-for-ethanol growers make a lot of money. But meat, egg and fish producers pay more for feed, driving up family food bills. Biofuel mandates also mean aid agencies pay more for corn and wheat, so more malnourished people go hungry longer. This is not what most would call “environmental justice.”
The 10% blends are bad enough. 15 percent ethanol is much worse, and truckers say a highly corrosive 20 percent blend will be needed to meet California’s looming low carbon fuel standards.
US law mandates that ethanol production must triple between 2007 and 2020 – even though motorists are driving less and thus using less gasoline, which then means refiners need less ethanol to produce 10 percent blends. That “blend wall” (between what’s needed and what’s produced) is driving the push to allow 15 percent ethanol blends, which would void most car engine warranties.
The subsidies and guaranteed income incentivize farmers to take land out of conservation easements, pasture land and wildlife habitat, and grow corn instead. Just to meet current ethanol quotas, US farmers are now growing corn on an area the size of Iowa. Growing and harvesting this corn and turning it into ethanol also requires massive quantities of pesticides, fertilizers, fossil fuels and water.
Corn-based ethanol requires 2,500 to 29,000 gallons of fresh water per million Btu of energy – compared to at most 6.0 gallons of fresh or brackish water per million Btu of energy produced via fracking. Across its life cycle, ethanol production and use also releases more carbon dioxide per gallon than gasoline.
Now we learn that ethanol is bad for the environment in another way. It kills marine life.
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