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Now, Environmentalists Oppose Corn Ethanol

August 16, 2016

In a dramatic reversal, environmentalists now oppose ethanol produced from corn.

Groups such as Friends of the Earth, The Environmental Working Group and the National Wildlife Federation now say that producing ethanol from corn generates more greenhouse gasses than does gasoline, and that it harms the environment.

These same groups are now urging Congress to modify or do away with the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) requiring that ethanol be used in gasoline.

The EPA and this Administration have been urging just the opposite, by endorsing a higher percentage of ethanol for use in gasoline. Currently, ethanol content is limited to 10% because most manufacturers say ethanol in higher amounts will damage automobile engines, unless the vehicle has been specially built for larger amounts of ethanol.

In 2004, The Natural Resources Defense Council used a 96-page report proclaiming boundless biofuel benefits, such as slashed greenhouse gas emissions, improved air quality and more wildlife habitat.

Of course, it’s now clear this was merely typical misinformation from the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Eight states are the largest producers of corn, and these are the states that will be affected by changes to the RFS. Representatives Peter Welch (D) of Vermont, and Bob Goodlatte (R) of Virginia, are cosponsoring such changes.

  • Iowa
  • Illinois
  • Nebraska
  • Minnesota
  • Indiana
  • South Dakota
  • Kansas
  • Ohio

“Collin O’Mara, president of the National Wildlife Federation, told a House committee last month that the RFS program has wreaked severe, unintended consequences, including the loss of prairie land and water-supply damage that threatens wildlife.”

If these environmental groups have been wrong on this issue, why should they be believed about other issues, when there is substantial evidence they are wrong?

PV rooftop solar is a good example of programs promoted by environmental groups, and the Democrat Platform, that actually hurt Americans with higher costs for electricity and more tax payer money used for subsidies.

Only one state, Hawaii, might possibly be able to use PV Rooftop solar economically. Without subsidies, PV Rooftop solar is uneconomic in every other state, with payback periods ranging from 8 to over 20 years.

There are, of course, some proponents of ethanol who want to cling to the use of corn based ethanol, including the Renewable Fuels Association, an organization with an obvious self interest in perpetuating the program.

Corn-based ethanol has been a drain on American pocketbooks, without environmental benefits.

Chart showing required amounts of ethanol by type, by year. Yellow: Corn based, Blue: Cellulosic, Green: Other advanced, Red: biodiesel

Chart showing required amounts of ethanol by type, by year.
Yellow: Corn based, Blue: Cellulosic, Green: Other advanced, Red: biodiesel

Beyond corn, cellulosic ethanol has been a failure, in that volumes have been far below what had been promised, with subsidies harming ordinary tax payers.

The accompanying chart shows how much cellulosic ethanol is required by the existing RFS, where it is now obvious that it is impossible to produce the required amounts of cellulosic ethanol.

The RFS program is intellectually bankrupt. See, False Promise of Biofuels.

Ethanol was promoted to cut CO2 emissions, and cutting CO2 emissions is at the heart of the Democrat platform. See, Energy Platform Comparisons.

* * * * * *

From Chapter 10 of Nothing to Fear:

“The possibility of producing biofuels economically and in required quantities seems remote … if not absurd.”

Nothing to Fear is available from Amazon and some independent book sellers.

Link to Amazon:

Book Cover, Nothing to Fear

Book Cover, Nothing to Fear

* * * * * *


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13 Comments leave one →
  1. permalink
    August 16, 2016 11:03 am

    This has been a subject when we go fishing because of the algae we have on lake Erie. I was going to e-mail you and ask a few questions. So here goes: What was the % reduction in CO2 per gallon when the 10% ethanol was required? What % reduction in mileage with 10% ethanol? In order to produce more corn/acre, more phosphors must be used which leads to more runoff of phosphors which results in more algae and reduced water quality and fish. Corn prices have gone up to the point the Mexicans can’t afford to buy our corn so they can make their tortes. The plants that make the ethanol also contributed to the negative impact on the environment. I have to agree with the “Friends of the Earth”. Rich

  2. August 16, 2016 11:25 am

    As you know, ethanol has about 85% less energy than gasoline, so, depending on the exact proportions. mileage will be reduced proportionately.
    I’m not certain about the percent CO2 reduction when the RFS mandate was established, but it was a motivating factor.
    It’s amazing to have to agree with the environmental organizations now, when they created the problem in the first place.

    • August 16, 2016 12:30 pm

      Ethanol is 67% of gasoline in BTU content. Most environmental organizations were not for corn ethanol when Bush sign the mandated forcing it on the US consumer. CO2 reductions were figured showing a reduction but they did not include the fact that the forest and grassland that were sequestering CO2 and had to be removed to plant the corn. Once this is figured in the CO2 is greater than just using plan gasoline.

      • August 16, 2016 1:01 pm

        The BTU content is as you state. However, from the EPA web site:
        “Congress created the renewable fuel standard (RFS) program in an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and expand the nation’s renewable fuels sector while reducing reliance on imported oil.”
        So, there was an effort to cut CO2 emissions, which came from environmental groups. Yes, it was done while GW was President.
        At the time, fracking had not yet demonstrated the US had huge amounts of oil, so ethanol appeared, mistakenly, and rather stupidly due to the small amounts of oil that could be displaced, to provide an alternative to mideast oil.
        The question of whether ethanol from corn reduced CO2 emissions was always an issue. But, ss stated in my article, the Natural Resources Defense Council was all in on establishing RFS to cut CO2 emissions.

  3. August 16, 2016 12:34 pm

    This article seem to go in weird direction with a strange comparison of corn ethanol to solar panels. Solar panels are a good product and have actually reduced CO2, Corn ethanol has increased CO2.

    • August 16, 2016 1:09 pm

      The comparison was used to demonstrate that environmental groups push energy alternatives that harm Americans.
      I doubt whether PV Rooftop solar panels have reduced GHG emissions by very much, when you take into consideration the impact of manufacturing the panels.
      The facts are: PV Rooftop solar has resulted in higher prices for electricity overall, increased the tax load on Americans because of the 30% subsidy for solar, and because they ultimately require storage that’s expensive, and because they harm the economic viability of the grid. Germany is the poster child for how renewables have threatened the grid while increasing the cost of electricity.
      Hope you dig deeper into this issue. My book Nothing to Fear has considerable factual information on this subject.

      • December 16, 2016 7:51 pm

        I looked up PV energy recovery and it appears that the energy used to make a PV panel is about 3 years and a panel lasts at least 30 years and CO2 would follow about the same if no renewal fuel is used so about a 10 fold reduction in CO2 using PV panels. You should look this stuff up before you make statements like (I doubt whether PV rooftop solar panel have reduced GHG reductions.)

    • December 17, 2016 10:46 am

      Thanks for your comment, except I have reviewed the literature on solar and two things seem to stand out versus your comment. First, the manufacturers say there is a 20 year life. If that’s what they warrant, then the life could be somewhat longer. Most of what I have read shows that the manufacturing process, depending on the type of material, i.e crystalline or thin film, produces more CO2 than saved, but that’s up for grabs depending on the materials and how far back into the system one wants to go. Actually, I don’t put much stock in the calculations that include externalities because there are too many variables that can be manipulated.
      Bottom line:
      PV roof top solar is a waste of money in most states, with Hawaii a possible exception.

  4. Neil Jones permalink
    August 16, 2016 12:46 pm


    Looks like the Ferrari dealerships in the midwest will soon be having clearance sales

    • August 16, 2016 1:10 pm

      Could be, but the RFS hasn’t been repealed yet.

  5. catcracking permalink
    August 16, 2016 11:09 pm

    Agree The mandated ethanol in gasoline was established during a difficult time when our dependence on foreign fuel sources was significant If my memory serves me right the fossil fuel haters vigorously advocated ethanol…
    Subsequently It was shown that the CO2 impact took decades to offer any environmental so called benefits although many government agencies along with the corn ethanol lobby tried to convince us otherwise with false studies.

    This brought us to the false promise of cellulosic ethanol where many fooled Bush and others into believing the technology is near. Obama still funds cellulosic ethanol and forces it’s use by the military at extravagant cost. I worked on a number of failed cellulosic projects, like range fuel, etc. Experience has shown they are not viable and funding must be stopped.

    It is good to hear that the environmentalists now recognize the folly of ethanol from corn in our gas tank. It is unlikely that congress can get an honest bill and Obama has strongly supported the corn ethanol Lobby in the past when congress tried to negotiate reductions with the president.

    • August 17, 2016 9:30 am

      Thanks for your comments. I suspect you are correct, that the RFS will be supported by this administration, and won’t be significantly modified now.


  1. Weekly Climate and Energy News Roundup #237 | Watts Up With That?

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