While we watch civil unrest around the world over such issues as unemployment and food prices, here in America we burn our food for fuel. The ethanol mandate introduced under the Bush administration and continued and expanded under Obama is a prime example of how fantastically irresponsible an out of control government hell-bent on forcing an agenda can be. I have been a believer in a previous blog I hosted that this mandate was a primary trigger of the recession that started in December of 2007. Bush began his push for the ethanol mandate in his 2006 State of the Union address. He expanded on it the following year and the mandate was born.

Via Health and Energy.com

Ethanol Fuel from Corn Faulted as ‘Unsustainable Subsidized Food Burning’

David Pimental, a leading Cornell University agricultural expert, has calculated that powering the average U.S. automobile for one year on ethanol (blended with gasoline) derived from corn would require 11 acres of farmland, the same space needed to grow a year’s supply of food for seven people. Adding up the energy costs of corn production and its conversion into ethanol, 131,000 BTUs are needed to make one gallon of ethanol. One gallon of ethanol has an energy value of only 77,000 BTUS. Thus, 70 percent more energy is required to produce ethanol than the energy that actually is in it. Every time you make one gallon of ethanol, there is a net energy loss of 54,000 BTUs.

 

Mr. Pimentel concluded that “abusing our precious croplands to grow corn for an energy-inefficient process that yields low-grade automobile fuels amounts to unsustainable subsidized food burning”. 

  


Neither increases in government subsidies to corn-based ethanol fuel nor hikes in the price of petroleum can overcome what Cornell University agricultural scientist, David Pimentel, calls a fundamental input-yield problem: It takes more energy to make ethanol from grain than the combustion of ethanol produces.
At a time when ethanol-gasoline mixtures (gasohol) are touted as the American answer to fossil fuel shortages by corn producers, food processors and some lawmakers, Cornell’s David Pimentel, one of the world’s leading experts in issues relating to energy and agriculture, takes a longer range view. 

  

Among his findings are:

  • An acre of U.S. corn yields about 7,110 pounds of corn for processing into 328 gallons of ethanol. But planting, growing and harvesting that much corn requires about 140 gallons of fossil fuels and costs $347 per acre, according to Pimentel’s analysis. Thus, even before corn is converted to ethanol, the feedstock costs $1.05 per gallon of ethanol.
  • The energy economics get worse at the processing plants, where the grain is crushed and fermented. As many as three distillation steps are needed to separate the 8 percent ethanol from the 92 percent water. Additional treatment and energy are required to produce the 99.8 percent pure ethanol for mixing with gasoline.
  • Adding up the energy costs of corn production and its conversion to ethanol, 131,000 BTUs are needed to make 1 gallon of ethanol. One gallon of ethanol has an energy value of only 77,000 BTU. “Put another way”, Pimentel says, “about 70 percent more energy is required to produce ethanol than the energy that actually is in ethanol. Every time you make 1 gallon of ethanol, there is a net energy loss of 54,000 BTU”.
  • Ethanol from corn costs about $1.74 per gallon to produce, compared with about 95 cents to produce a gallon of gasoline. “That helps explain why fossil fuels-not ethanol-are used to produce ethanol”, Pimentel says. “The growers and processors can’t afford to burn ethanol to make ethanol. U.S. drivers couldn’t afford it, either, if it weren’t for government subsidies to artificially lower the price”.
  • Most economic analyses of corn-to-ethanol production overlook the costs of environmental damages, which Pimentel says should add another 23 cents per gallon. “Corn production in the U.S. erodes soil about 12 times faster than the soil can be reformed, and irrigating corn mines groundwater 25 percent faster than the natural recharge rate of ground water. The environmental system in which corn is being produced is being rapidly degraded. Corn should not be considered a renewable resource for ethanol energy production, especially when human food is being converted into ethanol”.
  • The approximately $1 billion a year in current federal and state subsidies (mainly to large corporations) for ethanol production are not the only costs to consumers, the Cornell scientist observes. Subsidized corn results in higher prices for meat, milk and eggs because about 70 percent of corn grain is fed to livestock and poultry in the United States. Increasing ethanol production would further inflate corn prices, Pimentel says, noting: “In addition to paying tax dollars for ethanol subsidies, consumers would be paying significantly higher food prices in the marketplace”.
  • Nickels and dimes aside, some drivers still would rather see their cars fueled by farms in the Midwest than by oil wells in the Middle East, Pimentel acknowledges, so he calculated the amount of corn needed to power an automobile:
  • The average U.S. automobile, traveling 10,000 miles a year on pure ethanol (not a gasoline-ethanol mix) would need about 852 gallons of the corn-based fuel. This would take 11 acres to grow, based on net ethanol production. This is the same amount of cropland required to feed seven Americans.
  • If all the automobiles in the United States were fueled with 100 percent ethanol, a total of about 97 percent of U.S. land area would be needed to grow the corn feedstock. Corn would cover nearly the total land area of the United States.

 The USDA has issued its report on the supply forecast for agricultural staples including corn. You can read it here. The N.Y. Times reports that our corn reserves are at their lowest point in 15 years. Corn prices have doubled in the last 6 months alone to $7 per bushel. Any issues with this years harvest could easily trigger a price spike that may send the price of a bushel above the all-time high of $7.65. All the ingredients are present for another meltdown. Oil is in the same precarious position as food staples.

The fact is our options are quickly running out. Our government is fast-tracking us on the road to ruin. Justice for all will result in injustice for America. Social justice. Economic justice. Environmental justice. What are most of us doing about it? Zip. Just look at the debate over the debt limit. The mere fact that we are even debating raising it speaks to the utter ignorance of the masses. How can anyone justify even considering accruing more debt when we already have over $14 trillion? Suckers who believe in the fear tactics spewed forth by big government proponents from both sides of the aisle, that’s how. There is zero chance of a default on our debt if we don’t raise the limit. A whole smorgasboard of options are available to us to prevent any such occurrence.

Look at the entire “green” movement. Without question, the biggest farce ever. Global warming? A sad joke. When a single volcanic eruption exceeds the entire cumulative amount of carbon dioxide the human race has ever contributed to the atmosphere, why are we even discussing it? We continually speak of the need to free ourselves of our foreign oil dependence at the same time our country possesses massive reserves of natural resources that we purposely leave untouched is unthinkable. We propose cap-and-tax schemes which is the best example of crony capitalism ever. We participate in such collusion as the Kyoto Accords which has a stated goal of global GDP reduction in the double-digit range. Just look at the destruction that occurred in our country from the modest recession of 2007-09 in which GDP only dropped by 1-2 percent. Permanent double-digit GDP reductions would literally destroy our way of life as we know it.

What just transpired in Egypt over 18 days was mesmerizing. Putting aside the debate over the merits and the origins of the protests, to see a dictator simply step aside after 30 years in such a short time period is astounding. I’ll take the entirely politically incorrect stance of wishing we had a similar level of public protest over what our government is doing to this country. Do I wish for violence, injuries and death? Absolutely not, nor do I think it’s necessary. I’m not calling for a coup to physically remove Obama, but one to force immediate and substantive actions. Do I wish massive amounts of people would take to the streets over and over again until our government stands down and takes immediate steps to reverse our road to ruin? Hell yes, I do. If you believe the ballot box is sufficient to stem the tide of our statist, big government loving establishment, you’re being naive to say the least.

Look what happened after the mid-terms. The left went on an unadulterated orgy of initiatives during the lame duck session that was jaw-dropping. And for the bulk of it, the right either stood by or participated as well. Then we had to stand by and listen to them marvel over their “accomplishments”. It makes me physically ill. Now we have just token promises of a few billion in spending cuts to hash over. Is $50 to $100 billion insignificant money? Of course not, but remember, it takes 1,000 of those billions just to make one trillion and we are over $14 trillion in debt with unfunded liabilities in the tens upon tens of trillions. The time for symbolic gestures is over.

I really don’t think the public sees the gravity of the problems that confront us. In fact, I foresee the opposite taking place this year. People are desperate for positive news and they are going to get a healthy dose of it this year. The stock market is booming. Is it justified? Yes, it is. Companies are profitable. It will make its future crash just that much more spectacular. We are witnessing firsthand the failure of Keynesian economics. The Fed is sending us over the cliff with its policies. Bubbles are inflating again. Consumer credit was up over Christmas. You will see this inexplicable mix of signals continue. Unemployment claims up and down. Commodity prices exploding. Home prices crashing. Unemployment stubbornly high, yet companies making record profits. The average guy on the street can’t make heads or tails from it and just hopes for the best and that the worst has passed us by.

It’s so sad that it’s all unnecessary. It’s preventable, in fact easily so. Yet, we need far greater public awareness to ever do it. Instead, we are going to inflate an ever-growing collection of bubbles in certain segments of our economy due to ignorance. When does it crash? I don’t know, you don’t know, nobody knows. Enjoy the mini-boom if you’re lucky enough to be on the right side of it. Times will be very good for some until it all blows up. Like I said before, give me some massive protests never before seen in this country. It’s the only way to break free from a statist machine so ingrained in our daily lives, most of can’t even see it happening.

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7 thoughts on “Forced justice

  1. Well written. I have a tweak to your conclusion, though, that a crash is unnecessary. For me, it’s just so sad because a crash may be completely necessary. It’s necessary b/c so many simply will not wake up unless and until they suffer undue hardship personally.

    Folks generally don’t want to do difficult and uncomfortable things until they have to. You and I are among the outliers who realize what must be done before the bulk of the people do. Or who are more willing to do the difficult things.

    I hope that enough folks wake up in time to set things right. Time will tell. Interesting times, innit?

  2. Won’t argue with you on that point at all. I generally toss in those disclaimers in my posts probably just to sound like I have some hope because I am VERY cynical by nature. But at the end of the day I think like you. Our country will have to do it the hard way if we do it at all.

  3. Well written post. The ethanol scam needs to end. It’s costing us money by taking our tax dollars, raising food prices, and lowering gas mileage in cars. My car used to average about 19 mpg in city traffic, which is where I normally drive. Now that every gas station has 10% ethanol fuel and I have no choice but to use it, I average about 16.5 mpg, so I have to pay more at the pump now. And ethanol blended fuel increases the wear and tear on engines not specifically designed for it. It frustrates me to no end.

  4. A drop of over 12% in mpg is huge in anybody’s book. If you drive only an average of 12,000 miles annually, you’re going to have to buy another 100 gallons of gas, or roughly $300 out of pocket at $3 a gallon. Just nuts.

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