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Much of the ethanol produced from the corn was exported overseas

When it comes to removing our dependence on foreign oil there are other options than using electricity or hydrogen to power cars. One of the options is using ethanol and other biofuels to replace some of the petroleum used in our gasoline. The big downside is that most of the ethanol produced in the U.S. today is made from corn.
Corn is an important food crop that is consumed by humans and used as feed for livestock and other animals. Scientific America reports that for every ten ears of corn grown in the U.S. today, only two are consumed by humans as food. The other ears are used for animal feed and ethanol production.
The numbers show that for the year spanning August 2010 to August 2011 the biofuel industry used more corn than farmers used for animal feed and residual demand. This is the first time more corn has been used for ethanol and shows a shifting balance that could spell trouble in the future. Over that year span, farmers used 5 billion bushels of corn and ethanol production used 5.05 billion bushels. Some of that corn did return to the food supply as animal feed and corn oil.
The fear is that the shift from food being the largest use for corn and fuel taking the top spot is a concern that could have significant impact on the world grain market. One of the reasons for the shift to ethanol use for corn is the government subsidies and the import tariffs on foreign ethanol. 
Steven Rattner said in a piece written for the NYT, “Because of the subsidy, ethanol became cheaper than gasoline, and so we sent 397 million gallons of ethanol overseas last year. America is simultaneously importing costly foreign oil and subsidizing the export of its equivalent.” 
That means much of the corn being used for fuel isn't making it into American fuel tanks so we still have to import more foreign oil to meet our fuel needs. Some in Congress are working hard to get the subsidies repealed and to lift the import tariff so that cheaper biofuels made from sugarcane can be imported from Brazil. There is also a lot of research going into making ethanol from other crops like switchgrass.
Rattner also wrote, "Even farm advocates like former Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman agree that the [ethanol] situation must be fixed. Reports filtering out of the budget talks currently under way suggest that agriculture subsidies sit prominently on the chopping block. The time is ripe."

Source: Scientific American

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RE: What the ****?
By Reclaimer77 on 10/13/2011 3:25:09 PM , Rating: 1
Ethanol itself isn't a sham.

It burns dirtier than gasoline and releases toxic chemicals into the air, is less efficient, and is harmful to most car engines. Also ethanol plants are far more harmful to the environment than oil refineries. That's not a sham?

Also just a footnote, we're not exactly using food for fuel. The type of corn used in ethanol production is unfit for consumption. Food prices are rising because of inflation and other factors mainly. Look how much milk has gone up in the past year for example, that's not made with corn obviously.

RE: What the ****?
By Reclaimer77 on 10/13/2011 3:29:42 PM , Rating: 2
Oh yeah silly me, the BIG one being transportation costs. Food has to be delivered to the stores obviously. When diesel fuel hit $4/gal food prices jumped up big time. And have never really gone back down.

RE: What the ****?
By TSS on 10/13/2011 8:43:57 PM , Rating: 3
Considering the economic outlook i'd worry more about inflation then gas prices. Inflation has been rising since december 2010. It's now as high as it was was in october 2007 (as well as octrober 2008, high point was in july 2008) and rising.

The big difference being the benchmark interest rate then was 5%, now it's been <0,25% for a long time. That interest rate controls other things, like the amount it costs to service the national debt. How much difference does that 5% make? Thanks to the US government it's easy to show:

In fiscal 2008, the amount of interest paid on the national debt was $451 billion
In fiscal 2011, the amount of interest paid on the national debt was $454 billion

In fiscal 2008, the national debt amounted to $10 trillion
In fiscal 2011, the national debt amounted to $14,8 trillion

So there are 2 options: raise interest rates to combat inflation again, and watch that $454 billion turn into a trillion at 5% interest rates (which still isn't enough because before the crisis it was still rising at those rates and your not printing less money),or don't raise the interest and watch inflation raise prices. Guess what will happen.

...well it's that or the trillion in national debt interest causes so much layoffs that prices will have to decrease which causes a deflationary spiral.

At this point it's dealer's choice really. Do you prefer massive inflation or massive deflation?

RE: What the ****?
By RU482 on 10/13/2011 3:37:27 PM , Rating: 2
just curious, how are ethanol plants more environmentally harmful than oil refineries?

RE: What the ****?
By inperfectdarkness on 10/13/2011 3:52:48 PM , Rating: 3
ok, now this is pretty much all bunk. all forms of combustion release "harmful chemicals" into the air. your current engine produces heaps of carbon monoxide. if you don't believe me, i'll invite you to leave your engine running in an enclosed garage while you sit inside.

less efficient is because there are no ethanol-only engines being produced. if you don't follow motorsports, you wouldn't have a clue about anything other than BS "testing" people do with flex-fuel vehicles.

"more harmful manufacturing"? really? care to show some proof of that? cracking plants pollute quite a bit. i'd love to see a shred of proof on this.

the only thing you are correct on is that increasing food prices are due to inflation; not lack of supply.

RE: What the ****?
By Reclaimer77 on 10/13/2011 4:49:03 PM , Rating: 2
Okay whatever lol

your current engine produces heaps of carbon monoxide.

Umm I wouldn't say "heaps" because I have an ultra low emissions vehicle. But the point is ethanol combustion releases even MORE carbon monoxide and other carcinogens than gasoline. At best it's a tie, so again, how is that "better" for the environment. It's neither renewable NOR is it reliable.

less efficient is because there are no ethanol-only engines being produced.

Exactly, so that's not a valid argument. You can't have a comparison against something that does not even exist! Hello?

if you don't follow motorsports

Another stupid point because race cars have no emission requirements and have no mandated emissions control equipment. Plus they are tuned completely different than a street legal road car would be, not to mention weight a boatload less! Apples to oranges completely here.

Are you seriously supporting a fuel that requires 30% more energy to produce than it actually puts out though?

RE: What the ****?
By inperfectdarkness on 10/17/2011 1:39:06 PM , Rating: 2
again, where is ANY proof that ethanol require 30% MORE energy to produce than it generates when consumed? please, i'm all ears. last time i checked, ethanol was 80% efficient (compared to 30% efficient for hydrogen).

ethanol IS renewable. it's an annually renewable derivitive of solar energy (from whence all our energy comes, to be honest). even given a wash between pollutants between energy souces, the one that i can grow every year > the one that has a finite quantity available.

motorsports ARE applicable because that is where innovation is happening. of course you and i don't drive racecars; but a lot of what we do have in passenger cars was pioneered in racecars throughout history. (steering, suspension, valve design, etc).

ethanol ran in a dedicated internal-combustion engine can produce the same amount of HP as a larger displacement gasoline engine; because of its octane and burn capabilities. when you decide to start comparing fuel consumption vs. power output on DEDICATED engines, you'll easily see that the famed "30% less fuel economy" is a gigantic load of bunk.

RE: What the ****?
By idgarad on 10/13/2011 4:02:06 PM , Rating: 2
Look how much milk has gone up in the past year for example, that's not made with corn obviously.

Actually since the subsidy, plenty of farmers switched to sugar corn resulting in lower volumes of a wide variety of other crops. You forget there are only X number of acres of farmland in the USA (which can never increase at this point now). Given Y% of non-ethanol crops at a given cost. The subsidy drew farmers to decrease Y in favor of ethanol crops. This shorts supply and drives up prices on everything that used to be grown in that Y% of farm land. So yes, milk, beets, pumpkins, green beans, soy, water mellon, hell any crop that didn't have a price point that was beating the ethanol subsidy was at risk of a price increase due to farmers choosing to grow a more profitable, due to the subsidy, crop.

RE: What the ****?
By Reclaimer77 on 10/13/2011 5:01:54 PM , Rating: 2
My point wasn't that ethanol hasn't impacted food prices at all. But I maintain that the main factors is fuel costs, inflation, and speculating.

RE: What the ****?
By cjohnson2136 on 10/13/2011 4:54:02 PM , Rating: 2
Not saying I don't agree with you but they feed dairy cows that corn you are talking about. So that corn going up would raise milk prices in theory.

RE: What the ****?
By Reclaimer77 on 10/13/2011 5:35:52 PM , Rating: 2
Not saying I don't agree with you but they feed dairy cows that corn you are talking about. So that corn going up would raise milk prices in theory.

Well I'm reading that only about 1/3 of the corn used in ethanol is "feed grade". The rest would actually kill them because of the high starch grade and the fact that it has virtually no nutritional value.

Again, I'm totally against Ethanol fuel. But I believe it fails on it's own merits. The whole 'food for fuel' thing might grab headlines, but it's not exactly accurate.

RE: What the ****?
By cruisin3style on 10/13/2011 6:47:38 PM , Rating: 2
1/3 of 5.05 billion bushels = insignificant??

RE: What the ****?
By Reclaimer77 on 10/13/2011 6:54:20 PM , Rating: 2
Okay look, what do you want from me? Food prices are expected to continue to rise next year higher than the rate of inflation. How can you attribute that strictly to Ethanol? We have high inflation and high fuel prices. Hello? You should know that markets don't eat higher operating costs, they pass it on to the consumers.

I said Ethanol played a role in it, I'm NOT going to sit here all night and defend a fuel I hate. I'm just being realistic about the root causes of food prices.

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