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  (Source: Center for Environment and Commerce)
Vote is cheered by environmentalists, jeered by corn coalition

Don't like the price of your shopping cart at The Kroger Comp. (KG)?  Blame corn ethanol.

I. Corn Ethanol is Rolled Back

That's what a government sponsored study says [PDF].  The 2008 study found corn ethanol demand was responsible for jacking up food prices on some corn heavy items an estimated 20 percent or more.  What's more, automakers say that the use of higher ethanol blends will shorten the life of engines, causing hundreds of millions in warranty claims.  And several studies have even indicated that ethanol increases atmospheric carbon emissions, when one of the key goals of alternative fuels is to go "carbon neutral".

Yet the alternative fuel's proponents claim that it’s tantamount to defending the nation.  They point to instability in top U.S. oil supplying regions like the Middle East and Venezuela, and hoist corn ethanol as the U.S. sole alternative to trade with these dangerous parties.  They also say that ethanol is boosting a core sector of the U.S. economy -- the farming industry.

But as public support for the fuel wanes, for better or worse it appears the critics are winning.  A key vote (H.R. 3199; PDF) in the House has silence a bid by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to put more ethanol at the pump -- for now.

Corn ethanol handouts
The federal handouts are finally ending for corn ethanol. [Image Source: AP]

The recent rollbacks began with a back and forth game of political theater; the House and Senate finally killed the multi-billion dollar ethanol subsidy [1][2][3].  That left only the EPA's fuel-blending mandates, which have promoted ethanol by mandating that gasoline at the pump be blended with a certain level of ethanol.

The EPA hoped to roll out E15 this year, a blend of 15 percent ethanol and 85 percent gasoline.  This is the highest ethanol blend that has ever been pushed out on the mass market.  Today most of the fuel sold in the U.S. is E10 -- a lower ethanol blend of 10 percent ethanol, 90 percent gas.  The EPA claims that it knows more about cars that the companies that designs them, insisting that the automakers don't know what they're talking about and the high-ethanol blend would be harmless to engines.

II. House Vote Derails E15

But the House Science Committee on Wed. passed a proposal by Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc.) to defund the EPA's push for E15, leaving it essentially dead.

The resolution was supported by(19: 0 Dem., 19 Repub.):
Rep. Ralph Hall (R-Tex.) [contact]           Rep. James Sensenbrenner [contact]
Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Tex.) [contact]       Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) [contact]
Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-Mary.) [contact]    Rep. Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) [contact]
Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-Tex.) [contact] Rep. Michael McCaul, Sr. (R-Tex.) [contact]
Rep. Paul Broun, M.D. (R-Geor.) [contact]   Rep. Sandy Adams (R-Flor.) [contact]
Rep. Ben Quayle (R-Ariz.) [contact]         Rep. Chuck Fleischmann (R-Tenn.) [contact]
Rep. Scott Rigell (R-Virg.) [contact]         Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Alab.) [contact]
Rep. Andy Harris, M.D. (R-Mary.) [contact]    Rep. Randy Hultrgren (Ill.) [contact]
Rep. Chip Cravaack (R-Minn.) [contact]   Rep. Larry Bucshon (R-Ind.) [contact]
Rep. Dan Benishek (R-Mich.) [contact]

And opposed by (7: 6 Dem., 1 Repub.):
Rep. Sam Johnson (R-Tex.) [contact]
Rep. Jerry Costello (D-Ill.) [contact]
Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) [contact]
Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Mary.) [contact]
Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio) [contact]
Rep. Ben Luján (D-N.M.) [contact]
Rep. Hansen Clarke (D-Mich.) [contact]

[source -- votes]

While the bill shoots down the E15 blending, it does leave the door open to ongoing research by the National Academy of Sciences.  It orders evaluating ethanol's benefits versus risks as a priority for the government research funder.

III. Passage Earns Praise, Condemnation

Rep. Sensenbrenner cheers the passage, stating:

I am pleased that the Committee voted today to put science before politics.  When it comes to a decision of this magnitude that would impact every American who owns a car, boat, or lawnmower, we must base our decisions on sound science, not political expediency.  The Administration has fast tracked E15 without considering that increasing the percentage of ethanol in our gasoline will cause premature engine failure, lower fuel efficiency, and void vehicle warranties.  In small engines, E15 is downright dangerous and the EPA has no credible plan to stop mis-fueling.  If ethanol is going to be the ‘fuel of the future,’ then there should be no problem conducting independent, comprehensive scientific analysis of its effect on American drivers.

The bill earned the Republicans praise from an unlikely ally -- environmentalists.  The group Friends of the Earth opposed the bill, which it saw as pushing a dirty fuel.  The group, which has referred to corn ethanol as a "con" in past press releases, wrote a letter of support [PDF] for the resolution to defund E15 and bump funding for E15 impact research.

Tom Buis, CEO of corn ethanol producer coalition Growth Energy, blasted the bill, though, stating:

This is a waste of time and a waste of taxpayer dollars. No fuel blend has been tested as thoroughly as E15. No fuel blend has undergone the level of scrutiny E15 has – and passed the tests like E15 did. They’ve been looking at E15 for more than three years. Now Rep. Sensenbrenner wants to move the goal posts again – a move that would only add more red tape and regulation. This would do nothing to help the American consumer, but only continues our reliance on the OPEC monopoly.

Domestic ethanol creates American jobs. Foreign oil drains American money out of our economy – and puts it to work in Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi and Caracas. We want jobs in American cities. Only American industries – like U.S. ethanol – will create those jobs. Foreign oil costs American families more money at the pump, hurting the consumers. Let’s not create more hurdles and regulation that prevent those jobs from being created.

Ethanol jobs
Ethanol producers say the fuel creates "green" jobs, and that the new resolution hurts Americans. [Image Source: RFA]

Growth Energy claims that past studies indicating higher net life cycle carbon emissions were flawed.  It claims that the E15 enforcement would have created 136,000 jobs and cut carbon emissions by 8 million metric tons.  The group says the resolution adds "red tape", a slightly ironic phrasing, given that the resolution was a move to strike a piece of government regulation.

Sources: U.S. House, EPA, Growth Energy

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RE: ethanol
By corduroygt on 2/8/2012 6:56:52 PM , Rating: 2
Unscientific anecdotal observations have no verifiability, and therefore hence no weight. For some real scientific analysis of the correlation on IQ and religiousity, you can start by reading this study:

RE: ethanol
By Ringold on 2/8/2012 7:51:42 PM , Rating: 3
correlation on IQ and religiousity

I'm not sure how relevant IQ is to the White House. When I was in school, I saw a great number of slightly less bright kids excel far beyond brighter peers due to sheer force of personality and drive. I see it every day in the work force. It helps, certainly, but more important (as history has shown on occasion) is leadership personality, the ability to get people together, and the ability to have the right group of advisers at ones side. Once the advisers have spoke, they also need the ability to make a firm decision and stick with it.

Sometimes I get the sense there's an IQ elitism of sorts. Guess it's been too long since we've had a Hoover; an otherwise smart president who still manages to bumble from one mishap to the next. Even Obama is extremely intelligent I'd say, just blinded by certain articles of faith.

RE: ethanol
By Reclaimer77 on 2/8/2012 8:57:00 PM , Rating: 4
Anyone saying they can scientifically prove that a religious belief reflects on IQ, as a blanket statement, is a bigot. And by parroting this, so are you.

There were real scientific studies done, not so long ago, that "proved" members of the African race had smaller frontal lobes. Thus, were less intelligent and inferior to other races. Obviously this was racist garbage, but it's no different than what you're trying to do here. It's bigotry plain and simple.

You need to reevaluate your life cord. Big time.

RE: ethanol
By corduroygt on 2/9/2012 9:53:33 AM , Rating: 1
But it correlates according to multiple studies. I said correlation, nothing more. If reputable studies showed that being African correlated with less intelligence, it'd be an uneasy but still correct truth. I doubt that study would go anywhere though since IQ tests mostly depend on upbringing rather than innate abilities.

It's not bigotry to state that the invention of religion has affected humanity negatively overall. In fact, there was a debate about that in the UK between Dawkins/Fry and the Church, where the Church convincingly lost.

With all their other qualities being the same, a religious person is inferior to a non-religious person. Simple as that.

RE: ethanol
By Reclaimer77 on 2/9/2012 10:37:05 AM , Rating: 2
With all their other qualities being the same, a religious person is inferior to a non-religious person. Simple as that.

It's amazing that you can say that and think you aren't a bigot. I'm just blown away. And no, I'm not a "religious person", but I'm genuinely amazed how you can make that statement and think it's not bigoted and xenophobic in any way.

RE: ethanol
By corduroygt on 2/9/2012 1:58:03 PM , Rating: 2
I just don't see how it's any different than saying that amongst two otherwise identical people, the one who thinks the earth is flat, or denies the holocaust, or believes the aliens are coming to take them in their spaceship, etc. is inferior. A deluded person does not make healthy decisions.

RE: ethanol
By Reclaimer77 on 2/9/2012 4:52:11 PM , Rating: 2
Are you seriously trolling now?

I think you need to look up the term "inferior". Having a religious belief doesn't make someone a sub-human.

RE: ethanol
By Keeir on 2/9/2012 11:23:24 AM , Rating: 2

This is an dreadful basis for making judgments about people. You know what also correlates? TV watching and IQ. Those that watch more TV have higher IQ (on some sample basis). So should we elect a couch potato based on this correlation study?

In fact, there was a debate about that in the UK between Dawkins/Fry and the Church, where the Church convincingly lost.

While I agree in that specific incident, one might also argue that there have been debates where fundamentally held scientific principles today convincingly lost... A debate proves nearly nothing and is more a tool of changing opinions through clever marketing than a presentation of facts and data.

RE: ethanol
By corduroygt on 2/9/2012 2:01:26 PM , Rating: 2
IQ should never be the sole consideration of who's being elected president. However, history has shown us that overtly religious leaders have never benefited their people.

Science does not lose to religion in any argument based on facts by the way, and it never will by definition.

RE: ethanol
By Keeir on 2/9/2012 3:56:30 PM , Rating: 2
Science does not lose to religion in any argument based on facts by the way, and it never will by definition.

You changing the nature of the debate quite dramatically Corduroygt.

Science and Religion are not really on opposite sides of a spectrum. Faith and Questioning are. Its entirely possible to be a Questioning person overall with a Religious Faith and its equally possible to be entirely faith based person without religious intentions.

I think there are a number of people who have strong Faith that the world is heating up to dramatic levels and drastic action is need now. The accuracy is not so much important as the method by which they came to these conclusions... which was mainly faith based.

However, history has shown us that overtly religious leaders have never benefited their people.

Wow, thats a tough one to prove. I think Constantine was overall a pretty good ruler of Rome! Here was pretty overtly religious however.

I'd stay away from making such definite statements. Absolutes are rarely ever that well absolute.

"Death Is Very Likely The Single Best Invention Of Life" -- Steve Jobs

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