Category Archives: Ethanol

Rivers And Lakes Destroyed By Corn Ethanol Producers

 Issue 123 -Lake Erie Polluted From Farm Nitrate Runoff

Introduction… Iowa, largest corn producer, 2nd largest nitrate polluter In Mississippi River Basin. The downside to producing 15,909,400 gallons of Ethanol In 2015-2016 is the increase in nitrate pollution in the Mississipi River basin, Lake Eirie, and Midwest drinking water supplies.  This past summer, the Gulf of Mexico has its largest “dead zone” in modern history.

Why is Ethanol contributing to nitrate pollution?… Here’s the simple math.   In 2015-2016 the U.S. produced 14,586,000 bushels of corn of which 5,468,000 were used to produce Ethanol.  Out of the 78,000,000 acres of harvested corn, 29,337,000 or 38% was used to produce Ethanol.

It would be reasonable to assume that 38% of the nitrate pollution that comes from corn production is nitrate pollution that comes from corn production for Ethanol.

Conclusion…When the American people discovered that burning corn-based Ethanol had no net production of energy as sold during the 1973 Energy Crisis…we were then told that Ethanol would reduce air pollution.  But, the unintended consequence is our water supplies, rivers, lakes, and the Gulf of Mexico are getting destroyed by the related increase in nitrate pollution.

Sources: Geoff Copper, “How Much Ethanol Comes From Corn?” National Corn Growers Associaton; Elizabeth Royte, “The Simple River-Cleaning Tactics That Big Farms Ignore,” National Geographic, 7 Dec 2017; Bill Moist, “What Researchers Say About Ethanol CO2,, Bill Moist, “Time To Cut Ethanol?

Corn Producers Pressure EPA To Rule Against Environment

  Issue 116 – Corn Producers Win Ruling

Introduction...”The closest thing to earthly eternal life is a government program,” President Ronald Reagan.

EPA Abandons Changes…The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) backed away from series of proposed changes the biofuels policy amid backlash from corn-state lawmakers worried that the movies would reduce demand for biofuels.  This according to a letter from the agency to lawmakers as seen by Reuters.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said in a letter dated October 19 that the agency will keep renewable fuel volume mandates for the next year at or above proposed levels, reversing a previous move to open the door to cuts.

This EPA about-face is a big win for the biofuels industry and lawmakers from corn-states like Iowa, Nebraska, and Illinois.

The White House issued a statement hours after the Pruit letter was delivered to lawmakers expressing support for maintaining the renewable fuel plan.

In conclusion...The justification for this government give away, we’re told is that it would reduce pollution.  However, cars are already 95% cleaner than they were in 1970, so there is no real befit here.  Noting in the EPA change of heart had any consideration for “Environmental Protection.

References: Time To Cut Ethanol? “EPA abandons changes to biofuel program, dealing  a blow to oil refiners and boosting corn states,” REUTERS, 20 October 2017

IPCC…Corn Ethanol Does Not Improve Environment

Corn Bio Fuel In 2013 the U.S. used 4.7 billion bushels of corn (40% of the harvest) to produce over 13 billion gallons of ethanol fuel. Source: YES! Magazine

The Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change (“IPC.”) in its Reports (WGI and WGIII) said, “Biofuels have direct, fuel‐cycle GHG emissions that are typically 30–90% lower than those for gasoline or diesel fuels. However, since for some biofuels indirect emissions—including from land use change—can lead to greater total emissions than when using petroleum products, policy support needs to be considered on a case by case basis” (IPCC 2014 Chapter 8).

Did you get that? Biofuels can lead to greater total emissions than petroleum products.

The summary in the report also states, “Increasing bioenergy crop cultivation poses risks to ecosystems and biodiversity” (WGIII).

“Many potential negative risks of development, such as direct conflicts between land for fuels and land for food, other land-use changes, water scarcity, loss of biodiversity and nitrogen pollution through the excessive use of fertilizers,”   The reports and their short discussion of biofuels have ignited a fierce debate as to whether they’re of any environmental benefit at all.

Ok, if you are still not convinced…

The International Institute for Sustainable Development was not so diplomatic, and estimates that the CO2 and climate benefits from replacing petroleum fuels with biofuels like ethanol are basically zero (IISD). They claim that it would be almost 100 times more effective, and much less costly, to significantly reduce vehicle emissions through more stringent standards, and to increase CAFE standards on all cars and light trucks to over 40 miles per gallon as was done in Japan just a few years ago.

With more than 60 nations having biofuel mandates, the competition between ethanol and food has become a moral issue. Groups like Oxfam and the Environmental Working Group oppose biofuels because they push up food prices and disproportionately affect the poor.

In summary…Most importantly, the new IPCC report is a complete about-face for the UN’s Panel. Its 2007 report was broadly condemned by some environmentalists for giving the green light to large-scale biofuel production, resulting in environmental and food supply problems.

Sources: “It’s Final — Corn Ethanol Is Of No Use,” by James Conca, Forbes, March 16, 2016

Ethanol…Increase Or Decrease Emissions

SciCheck Dueling TV ads are running heavily in Washington, D.C. Those against claim the federal ethanol mandate “doubles greenhouse gas emissions.” At the same time, the ethanol lobby says that “the oil industry is lying” and the mandate will lead to lower emissions.

 A 2011 report by the National Research Council, part of U.S. National Academies, found the matter is under review by the Environmental Protection Agency’s internal watchdog.

In fact, the ethanol lobby misleads viewers by suggesting that only “big oil” is apposed to the mandate when several environmental groups oppose it as well.  Other coalition owners include restaurant owners concerned with the upward pressure on food prices and boat manufacturers are upset about the problem ethanol causes marine engines.

The heavy lobbying is taking place in advance of the November 30 deadline for the EPA to finalize requirements fo total volume of ethanol to put into gasoline.

National Research Council: [A]ccording to EPA’s own estimates, corn-grain ethanol produced in 2011, which is almost exclusively made in bio refineries using natural gas as a heat source, is a higher emitter of GHG than gasoline.

Former Vice President Al Gore has called the federal requirement for adding corn-based ethanol to gasoline “a mistake.” In a 2010 address in Athens, Greece, Gore said he had come to conclude that burning ethanol had helped increase food prices, and that he had erred in backing the requirement as a presidential candidate in 2000.

Is the EPA’s new regulations to increase, decrease, or keep the Ethanol mandate requirement as it has in the past?  Chcek in a few days to see if we will have a footnote to this report.

Source: Ethanol: Higher Emissions or Lower?, by Brooks Jackson, November 23, 2015

The Problem With Feel Good Legislation

Train Derailed Leaked Ethanol Into Mississppi RiverThe Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 requires 36 billion gallons of renewable fuel be used by the year 2022.  This feel good legislation, while born out of good desire to be energy independent, was based on bad science.

The success of the Brazil’s experiment with sugarcane ethanol was one of the case studies used to validate the U.S. to mandate corn-based ethanol.  The problem for the U.S. is that sugarcane ethanol has an energy balance of seven times greater than corn.

E.P.A. studies have also shown that ethanol has increased smog in many U.S. cities and the net production of energy greater than the energy to grow, harvest, and convert corn into ethanol is a breakeven, maybe.

One study from several years ago said if the entire world converted to just one-half the U.S. standard of 10% ethanol, the world would have to double its agriculture production.

On November 7, 2015 five tanker cars of a BNSF Railway freight train derailed in Alma, Wisconsin and is now  leaking ethanol into the Mississippi River.   I’ve been to Alma many times and it is one of the most spectacular views along the Mississippi River.

In conclusion…Renewable energy is a wonderful goal, but let’s use good science and common sense.  And finally, ethanol is toxic and can cause poisoning if enough is ingested.  Maybe the idea of burning corn should be repealed and sounder solutions found.