Ethanol? More like Yuck-anol! Green Policy Turns Brown, Runs In The Red

Written by Nathan Clark on November 21, 2013

Like so many other government measures “meant” to somehow improve our lives and solve perceived bugaboos such as lack of universal healthcare or “global warming/climate change/nomenclature of the week”, the ethanol boondoggle is turning out to be much more than a waste of money and good intentions.

To be honest, I have ceased to believe in any “good intentions” on the part of government whatsoever. Government policies based on such chimeras always turn out to do more harm than good, and we hapless taxpayers get stuck with the bill for the damage and a fat bureaucracy that won‘t ever go away.

News this week has indicated that the United States government’s ethanol policy has finally become so odious that it has actually produced the most unlikely of alliances between the petroleum industry, environmental groups, grocers and global anti-poverty advocates. The environmental impact of subsidized ethanol (bio-diesel) production in the US has led to some consequences that a fifth grader could have foreseen, although they escaped Congress and the White House.

The idea behind ethanol production was to create a “renewable” fuel resource here, in a land awash in some of the world’s greatest oil, natural gas and coal reserves. It was intended to help reduce “greenhouse gases” to forestall “global warming”, which is no longer called “global warming” in much the same way that Obamacare is no longer referred to as such. Ethanol was going to make the US energy independent, clean and able to sleep with a collective clear conscience, or so the enviro-Nazis and their ilk propounded to us as they shoved it down our throats. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Speaking of truth, here are some actual facts on ethanol that caused the unlikely alliance of the aforementioned opponents.

We were told that “renewable” ethanol would help make us energy independent. Ethanol yields less energy per gallon than fossil fuels, substantially less. In fact, you must burn about 50% more of it to get the same energy output. It also yields less energy than it takes to produce, making it a negative-sum product. Oh and by the way, the fuels used to produce it?….Yep, petroleum products. So energy independence was an empty promise.

Ethanol costs more to produce, making it economically unviable. As a result, the US government subsidizes its production at a rate of 45 cents per gallon. That subsidy amounts to $563 million taxpayer dollars every year, to help fund the 12.5 billion gallons produced domestically. How can free markets be bad, if they eliminate products that can only survive by government subsidy?

We were promised that ethanol was a green fuel, less polluting to the environment and atmosphere. That has proved not to be true, either. The extra fossil fuel required to produce it negates any savings in CO2 emissions by ethanol itself when burned. It also requires a lot of clean water to produce, namely 3 gallons of water for every gallon of fuel. In an age where clean water is in increasing demand, is this a responsible use of such a precious resource? Not to mention that ethanol emissions increase the formation of ozone, thereby defeating its purpose of reducing “greenhouse gas” emissions.

So it isn’t a “cleaner”, greener fuel.

It never was going to be a practical alternative to petroleum, by the numbers. In order for ethanol to replace just 5% of all diesel and gasoline used in the US, it would require that 21% of all arable farmland be planted with ethanol corn. However, it does have a very measurable negative impact on food prices nationally and worldwide. As increasing food crop acreage is being diverted instead to ethanol corn, food prices are soaring. Corn prices have tripled in the last two years, and corn is a huge staple of human and livestock diets. This has resulted in greater starvation worldwide, all in the name of global warming.

Iowans and others in the farm belt have seen entire communities lose their bucolic character and become brown scours as millions of acres of conservation land and even wetlands and set-asides have been ploughed into ethanol cornfields to feed the insatiable bio-diesel monster. Erosion runoff from these massive tracts of previously fallow lands has created a plethora of environmental issues, many irreversible now that the landscape has been decimated. All in the name of the Great Corn-oleo, a policy more insipid than anything Beavis or Butthead ever conceived in their wildest adolescent idiocies.

Whatever happened to thermal depolymerization – converting waste into oil, rather than food crops? Changing World Technologies (CWT) and other developing companies have pioneered the conversion of rich organic WASTE material into bio-diesel. Literally, everything from PCs to feces can be converted into fuel oil without having any negative impact on the food supply. On the contrary, this process actually solves the problem of what to do with our trash, garbage and sewage while yielding bountiful fuel oil. Yet there are no government programs promoting such technology, BECAUSE IT DOESN’T FIT THE AGENDA OF THE CROOKS PROFITING FROM ETHANOL. As a result, CWT has had to file Chapter 11 due to lack of available venture capital … while the government spends hundreds of millions of our dollars on agricultural ethanol subsidies. Somebody needs to take a brickbat to this evil sacred cow of Washington, DC.

This year the EPA is thinking about reviewing the bio-fuel mandate, in light of the increasingly negative impact it is having on the American (not to mention global) landscape. Perhaps they will review their own mandate as well, and determine that like ethanol, they too are not serving their intended purpose. Bad policy and bad policymakers need to go. Now. Before we kill ourselves with stupidity.

“Green” policy turning brown and bleeding red will give you the blues. Fade to black…

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Nathan Clark is a conservative commentator who resides with his wife in New Hampshire. He is passionate about preserving the vision of our nation's Founders and advancing those tried and true principles deep into America's future. His interests range broadly from flyfishing, cooking and shooting to pro sports, gardening, live music and fine-scale modeling.