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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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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.


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