Tuesday, June 29, 2010

New research from the Environmental Working Group (EWG) shows that corn-based ethanol biofuel is wasteful, inefficient, and a misuse of taxpayer money

New research from the Environmental Working Group (EWG) shows that corn-based ethanol biofuel is wasteful, inefficient, and a misuse of taxpayer money. This flies in the face of conventional wisdom in Washington (which we all know means "fat wallet wisdom") but agrees with the research you've already seen presented here on NaturalNews several times.

The study was written by Craig Cox and Andrew Hug this month for the EWG1 and has been presented to members of Congress and others. It details how much money has been spent by U.S. taxpayers to subsidize corn ethanol and how little the payoff for that huge investment has been.

First, an overview of what ethanol is and why corn has become the U.S. market's source of choice for making it.

What is ethanol?

Ethanol is, literally, grain alcohol. Properly called bioethanol,2 it is a clear, colorless liquid that is made from any of a number of plants including corn, hemp seed, etc. Potatoes refined and distilled into vodka are a type of bioethanol.

Why corn?

Corn is the lobbyist's crop of choice in the U.S. for making bioethanol. The reasons boil down to who has the most powerful lobbies in Washington and how much money Congress has been willing to pour into ethanol. Some of the most powerful lobbies in D.C. are the industrial farm industry and the bioengineering industry. Since corn is a big money maker for both Big Ag and is one of the most prolific of Monsanto's genetically modified seeds (GMO or GM food), it's a win-win-win for the lobbyists, Big Ag, and the Congressional leaders they write the checks to.

Why corn ethanol is a loser.

The EWG's report shows that besides the environmental and human problems that come with using corn as a fuel source,3 the dollar figures and fuel efficiency payoffs are infinitesimal. Even the amount of oil supposedly saved is tiny, especially considering the huge sums of money being thrown into corn ethanol production.

Taxpayer subsidies mean that every gallon of corn ethanol adds an additional 0.45 cents (as of 2009-10) to the cost of a gallon of gasoline. That's additional cost over and above the price of a gallon of gas, not instead of it. For this, we get a fuel that is much less efficient than gasoline and thus only minimally adds to the benefits of its addition. E10 (10% ethanol, 90% gasoline) is the most common blend in the U.S. The 10.6 billion gallons produced in 2009, however, replaced only 7.2 billion gallons of gasoline thanks to this mixture.

That's not all, though. Because ethanol is less efficient than gasoline it cuts mileage by about 4%. Yet the proponents of ethanol love to point out that it displaces gasoline. But when you do the math, it's not displacing that much. Increasing fuel mileage nationally by 0.4 miles per gallon would do the same. That could be achieved by just using the recommended grade of motor oil or keeping the vehicle's tires properly inflated. Tuning the engine has double the payoff and driving sensibly would increase it by as much as 6.6%! Heck, just replacing clogged air filters increases economy by up to 1.2% and even if the government bought one for every vehicle in America, it would not likely cost as much as the $5.4 billion they're projected to spend subsidizing ethanol (not to mention corn) this year alone.

With all of the great technologies for improving fuel efficiency, getting us away from foreign oil imports, and replacing our petroleum-based fuels and infrastructure with more natural and sustainable alternatives, why is it that our congress-critters insist on throwing our tax dollars into corn-based ethanol?

1 - Driving Under the Influence: Corn Ethanol & Energy Security by Craig Cox and Andrew Hug, Environmental Working Group
2 - Bioethanol on FutureCars.com
3 - Ethanol burns dirtier than gasoline, study finds by Mike Adams, NaturalNews
4 - Counterthink: Fuel vs. Food by Mike Adams and Dan Berger, NaturalNews

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