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The EPA claims that automakers are lying, and that E15 is perfectly safe for engines.  (Source: Hemmings Blog)

The EPA is trying to sneak E15 -- a blend of 15 percent ethanol and 85 percent gas -- into the pump.  (Source: MPR News)

Corn ethanol gives worse gas mileage and, according to some studies, more air pollution than gasoline. It also raises food prices.  (Source: Dave Reede)
EPA: What could go wrong?

United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officials, testifying to Congress on Wednesday implied that automakers like Ford Motor Company (F) and Toyota Motor Company (TYO:7203) were lying when they said higher ethanol blends could corrode seals, fuel lines, and engine components, voiding warranties.

I. EPA -- We Know Better About These Cars Than the People Who Built Them

The EPA is convinced that it knows about the risks better than the automakers who built and tested the cars.

At issue is the question of whether the EPA can authorize E15 fuel -- a 15 percent ethanol, 85 percent gasoline -- mix to be sold at pumps, with special stickers to warn customers.  E10 fuel, which contains a smaller 10 percent fraction of ethanol, is currently mandated by many states.  Approving E15 would clear the way for states to possibly mandate it as the exclusive fuel.

Margo Oge, director of the agency's Office of Transportation and Air Quality office, claims that her researchers conducted "extensive" tests using E15, which showed, "no unusual damage was found compared to control vehicles tested with normal gasoline."

Thus far General Motors Comp. (GM), who produces E85 (85 percent ethanol) capable FlexFuel vehicles, has been the only automaker to voice enthusiasm about the proposal.  The rest of the major U.S. and foreign automakers have complained that E15 could destroy engines in cars produced in 2001 or later.

Essentially, both sides are calling the others a liar in the dispute.

II. Ethanol Opposition is Solidifying

There are signs that opposition to the proposal is mounting in Congress.  Rep. Andy Harris (R-Maryland) blasted the measure, stating it wasn't a "science-based decision".

Overall, while green technologies like cellulosic ethanol seem promising, the case for the U.S.'s current ethanol supply -- corn ethanol -- isn't particularly compelling.  Corn ethanol has been shown to raise food prices and delivers worse gas mileage (ethanol exclusive engines can deliver better mileage, but mixed engines deliver worse performance when burning ethanol).  

Some studies have also shown that it produces more polluting gases, such as nitrogen and sulfur-containing compounds, than gasoline over its life cycle, thus deteriorating air quality.  Similarly, it produces more carbon emissions than gasoline.

Still, farming states have managed to push corn ethanol onto the nation.  The move paid off for a lucky few -- corn farmers grew wealthy the recipient of billions of dollars in subsidies and the politicians they donated to were reelected. 

However, the good times for corn ethanol proponents appear to be coming to an end in the U.S.  Just weeks ago the U.S. Congress repealed the $5.6B USD in incentives for corn ethanol.



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RE: die corn ethanol diiieeee!!!!!!
By Blight AC on 7/8/2011 11:00:15 AM , Rating: 0
Because we really should pursue and push renewable energy resources instead of just going along with gasoline. Electric Cars and Ethanol aren't currently perfect options, but if we at least work on it as hard as we've worked on Gasoline engines, then they could be better than gas.


RE: die corn ethanol diiieeee!!!!!!
By Motoman on 7/8/2011 11:02:58 AM , Rating: 4
Fuel from dedicated crops will never be a good idea. Never.

Either work on processes that don't require dedicated crops...like processing ditchweed, poultry offal, or maybe algae...or GTFO.


RE: die corn ethanol diiieeee!!!!!!
By MonkeyPaw on 7/8/2011 11:38:52 AM , Rating: 2
Almost all the corn you see growing out there is not suitable for immediate consumption. Instead, its fed to likestock, whllich slowly kills them; its turned to food products that slowly kill you, or its turned into crappy polluting fuel. Sweet corn might be tastey, but high starch corn is useless without lots of irrigation, pesticides, processing, and corporate strong-arming. Its only used because there's already a system to grow and harvest it, and there's a government subsidy encouraging its planting. EPA + FDA = FAIL


RE: die corn ethanol diiieeee!!!!!!
By Motoman on 7/8/2011 11:59:34 AM , Rating: 4
Doesn't matter if the crop is directly for human consumption or not.

The fact of the matter is that any arable land that is used for fuel is land that isn't used for food - whether that's to grow feed for cattle or for peas that humans eat directly is irrelevant.

There's a finite amount of arable soil. Use it for the food system, not the fuel system.


RE: die corn ethanol diiieeee!!!!!!
By Samus on 7/8/11, Rating: 0
By ebakke on 7/8/2011 1:33:24 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
If you have so much surplus corn that we are going to turn it into a crappy fuel substitute, its a no brainer that it is a crap crop.
We're not turning it into fuel because we have tons of it lying around that we don't know what to do with. We're turning it into fuel because there's money and power to be made in doing so.


RE: die corn ethanol diiieeee!!!!!!
By Reclaimer77 on 7/9/2011 12:54:59 AM , Rating: 1
We don't need the food. We have TOO MUCH farmland. We have so much farmland and farmers, we stupidly pay people to NOT grow food.

I hate to sound cruel, but times change. It's 2011, and there are lots of farmers who need to find some other way to use their land to make money besides trying to farm.

But hey, why do that when you can form a huge lobby, bribe politicians, and pretend you're still relevant.


RE: die corn ethanol diiieeee!!!!!!
By superstition on 7/9/2011 5:56:04 PM , Rating: 1
"We have TOO MUCH farmland."

hahaha

Best joke I've heard in ages.


RE: die corn ethanol diiieeee!!!!!!
By Reclaimer77 on 7/9/2011 6:00:07 PM , Rating: 1
Oh let me guess, you're one of those people who assume because there are starving people, we don't have enough food production.

Again, we actually pay people to NOT farm because we have such high yearly surpluses of foodstuffs. We have too much farmland, simple logic.


RE: die corn ethanol diiieeee!!!!!!
By animekenji on 7/9/2011 8:02:58 PM , Rating: 2
Ummm isn't the cause of starvation a lack of food? Grow more food and you feed more people. Even a 5 year old gets that, why don't you?


By Reclaimer77 on 7/9/2011 9:51:18 PM , Rating: 2
No, that's retarded. If a kid is living on the street and starving, is there a lack of food? NO! He just doesn't have the means to GET the food.

Starvation does not mean there isn't an abundance of food. There's no food shortage in America and other industrialized nations. Starvation is a social and economic condition.


By MartyLK on 7/9/2011 8:05:33 PM , Rating: 2
Maybe, but consider all the other non-consumable crops being farmed. Cotton is a major non-consumable. I think they can, and actually already do, farm non-consumable crops alongside the the consumables without degrading the consumables.


By Bad-Karma on 7/8/2011 5:39:35 PM , Rating: 5
The corn your talking about is termed "Dent Corn", you can identify it by the dimple at the top of the kernel. And yes, if you eat it raw it will kill you though the 3 "D"s. Disentary, Diarea, Death.

However you happen to eat it all the time. Corn meals and most Mexican applications (think Masa which used in just about everything) process the ground corn using a lye soak to remove the toxins. After processing it is perfectly safe. You not going to die from binging on Doritoes.

Sweet corn is usually sold directly on the cob or canned. But is a very small percentage of the US corn harvest.

Secondly, it doesn't "slowly" kill cattle. Corn fed beef is fed straight unprocesed dent corn. Most cattle are harvested at 18-22 months of age. They die perfectly healthy, its the slaughter house that gets death going for the cow.

We've got 20 year old corn fed breeding bulls on my brothers farm in Colorado that are pefectly healthy.


RE: die corn ethanol diiieeee!!!!!!
By hanmen on 7/10/11, Rating: 0
RE: die corn ethanol diiieeee!!!!!!
By MrBungle123 on 7/8/2011 11:27:06 AM , Rating: 2
Given our current methods of producing ethanol no matter how good the ethanol cars become it will always be a bad idea. We just don't net enough energy from the ethanol to make up for what goes into making the stuff. Electrics could be a viable option but we need more power plants faster charging batteries.


RE: die corn ethanol diiieeee!!!!!!
By titanmiller on 7/8/2011 8:54:19 PM , Rating: 2
I hear this argument over and over again and I am not convinced that it is true at all. You can get about 2.77 gallons of ethanol per bushel of corn. If one acre produces 200 bushels then you can get up to 554 gallons of pure ethanol per acre of land. Are you trying to tell me that it takes 554 gallons of petroleum based fuel to grow, harvest, and transport the corn grown on one measly acre? Yes, I also realize that the ethanol production process uses energy, but there is no way that 500 gallons worth of energy is used.

The math just doesn't add up unless the utmost care is taken to use the very worst case scenario for every single variable (including producing new farm equipment every season and throwing away last year's model in the junk yard).


RE: die corn ethanol diiieeee!!!!!!
By superstition on 7/8/2011 11:16:37 PM , Rating: 1
You need to take all the negative factors into account, including the very real and too often overlooked problem of water pollution. There is also soil degradation (Law of Conservation of Matter/Energy) due to use of fertilizers and so forth.

In any case, ethanol is not a good molecule for fuel because it's not only corrosive but attracts water. It's also not so efficient because of the -OH group.

It's better to produce biodiesel and blend it. USLD blended with about 1.5% biodiesel has better lubricity. In fact, it enables USLD to meet the standard of engine makers. Our fuel standard fails to meet the 460 wear scar spec.


By Alexstarfire on 7/8/2011 11:46:36 PM , Rating: 2
He also forgot that petrol and ethanol aren't equivalent. It'd take less petrol to equal the 554 or so gallons of ethanol that he's talking about. IDK if the numbers add up either but I've never tried to check the numbers. The idea wasn't all that bad to start with..... they just morphed it into something completely retarded when it was implemented.... like most things that come from DC.


RE: die corn ethanol diiieeee!!!!!!
By Zoomer on 7/9/2011 11:18:52 AM , Rating: 2
Fertilizers? Keep in mind these are usually made from petroleum/NG byproducts nowadays.


By iowafarmer on 7/9/2011 1:52:48 PM , Rating: 2
Correct most of the anhydrous nitrogen fertilizer applied is made from natural gas. In the neighborhood of 1 pound of nitrogen is used for 1 bushel of corn yield. I hope to produce over 200 bu of corn per acre this year. I use a corn soybean crop rotation. Soybeans fix about 1 pound of nitrogen per 1 bushel of yield. So I applied 120 pounds of Nitrogen using anhydrous ammonia, NH3, it's applied with an applicator as a gas. I figure better than 60 lbs of nitrogen was fixed by last years soybean crop and there is a 28 pound nitrogen component in the dry fertilizer, potassium and phosphorus, I apply; 28-60-100 units in pounds per acre. I also apply a half dozen pounds of micro nutrients, mainly zinc and sulfur. So this year I figure my corn has about 208 pounds of usable nitrogen per acre.

My soils are sampled for PH and minerals on a periodic basis because the balance of minerals and the PH of the soil are important to the health of the plants and affect yield. If the PH is out of balance I will apply limestone to bring the soil back into the optimum PH range.

I can not speak for other farmers but I will use 3-4 gal. of diesel per acre on my farm this year. Last year I used no LPG to dry my corn to a moisture suitable for long term storage. But on average 1 gal of LPG will dry 10-15 bushel of corn for long term storage.

BTW the minerals do not disappear, but I feed the crop the minerals that are removed from my farm with the grain. In theory if the grain was not removed from the farm I wouldn't need an outside source of P and K.

Corn breeders are said to be working on corn varieties that "fix" their own nitrogen.


By animekenji on 7/9/2011 8:04:59 PM , Rating: 2
Nope. Wrong again. They just did a study in England where they found out that the energy used and pollution caused in producing an all electric car is equal to the energy and pollution saved in 160,000km of driving said electric car, so even pure electrics are negative sum energy and pollution losers.


By WinstonSmith on 7/9/2011 10:45:18 AM , Rating: 1
"Because we really should pursue and push renewable energy resources instead of just going along with gasoline."

Depending upon what study you read, the production of ethanol from corn can actually consume more energy than it produces. It is also a FACT that it drives up food prices (the price of corn took a nose dive when the ethanol subsidies were repealed).

I can go with any _energy balance positive_ production of ethanol from anything other than human food products, such as production from cellulose, but using food, no way.


RE: die corn ethanol diiieeee!!!!!!
By 91TTZ on 7/11/2011 2:32:01 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Electric Cars and Ethanol aren't currently perfect options, but if we at least work on it as hard as we've worked on Gasoline engines, then they could be better than gas.


Ethanol contains less energy per gallon than gasoline does. Therefore it's not possible to make an engine get better fuel economy on ethanol than gas all other things being equal. If you make a better engine design for ethanol that gets better fuel economy, those same tricks will get you even better fuel economy on gasoline.


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