Saturday, March 04, 2006

The Last Straw - The Absurdity of Ethanol

Kevin Hassert writes in this morning's, Rocky Mountain News, that, "In a capital city that is full of shameless political scams, ethanol is perhaps the most egregious. There has probably never been a specific topic around which so much disinformation is spread. Ethanol lowers our reliance on fossil fuels! Ethanol helps clean the environment! Ethanol will save the family farm! Such sound bites work wonders when it comes to raising money. And the amount involved is mind-boggling. The federal government subsidizes ethanol producers with a tax credit of 51 cents per gallon of fuel ethanol; those subsidies will total about $1.4 billion this year."

If I were to suggest that I already knew what Hassert reported to be true, that I was not fooled by the hoopla over Ethanol (have you seen the tv commercials where youngsters stand in cornfields and imagine a better world? not to mention Dubya's touting of Ethanol in his SOTU), I would be lying. That hook, line and sinker was beginning to be deeply and securely embedded in my intellectual gut, in spite of my admittedly increasingly sardonic view of the world. We can't even believe in corn. Cynicism abounds.

But, for God's sake, I was not ready for Hassert's revelations that, by the way--if I had given any thought to it at all--are self-evident.

Consider: "If you look at the facts," Hassert continued, "the spending makes no sense whatsoever. Consider how ethanol is produced. Corn is grown, harvested, then delivered to an ethanol plant. There the corn is ground and mixed with water. After fermentation, a mixture that is about 8 percent ethanol must be repeatedly distilled until it is 99.5 percent pure ethanol. Growing and harvesting the corn, and heating and reheating the fermented corn to produce ethanol of a high enough quality to replace some of the gasoline in your car requires an enormous amount of energy.

"How much? A recent study by Cornell University's David Pimentel and the University of California at Berkeley's Tad Patzek added up all the energy consumption that goes into ethanol production. They took account of the energy it takes to build and run tractors. They added in the energy embodied in the other inputs and irrigation. They parsed out how much is used at the ethanol plant. Putting it all together, they found that it takes 29 percent more energy to make ethanol from corn than is contained in the ethanol itself."

"... no matter how expensive fossil fuels become, ethanol will never be economical because it takes so much fossil fuel to produce. It might be possible that someday technological processes will emerge that make production of ethanol less reliant on fossil fuels, but the billions in subsidies to this point have left us with a process that is still a disgrace and an absurd waste of energy and taxpayers' money.

"At least ethanol reduces pollution, right? Maybe the subsidies are worthwhile because they will buy us a cleaner environment. Guess again. First, corn production, according to Pimentel and Patzek, "uses more herbicides and insecticides than any other crop produced in the U.S."
And the Environmental Protection Agency has cited ethanol plants for air pollution. In a letter to the industry's trade group, the EPA noted that pollution was a problem in "most, if not all, ethanol facilities.

"These plants produce large quantities of waste water as well.

"Ethanol contributes to air pollution. Cars emit more air pollution when they run on gasoline containing ethanol than they do when running on gasoline alone. Our environment would be greener if we stopped relying on ethanol."

Hassert goes on to report that the ethanol scam is quite popular with politicians because, well, the corn and ethanol lobbyists are shellin' out the big bucks and, of course, every state in the union that grows substantial quantities of corn sees those generous government subsidies as essential to their well-being in spite of the absurdity of it all.

You know, in spite of everything, in spite of the lies, duplicity, treachery, unabashed ignoramousnous (is that a word?) espoused by this American President which has led this nation to shoulder the greatest deficit in it's history, has sent young, beautiful boys and girls to fight a war that cannot be won where democracy will forever play second fiddle to the calling of Allah; yes, in spite of all of this and many more disgustingly depressing matters which I've really grown weary of posting about, I thought there was at least one pure, God-sent truth out there that I could believe in, support, espouse the benefits of: Corn.

Ain't so, bucko. (Merriam-Webster: Bucko: a person who is domineering and bullying. A SWAGGERER!)

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