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US Senate Votes For Repeal of Ethanol Subsidies 395

Posted by timothy
from the now-with-less-cornholing dept.
T Murphy writes "Although the measure is not expected to become law, a Senate vote 73-27 in favor of repealing ethanol subsidies and tariffs means a lot for future legislation. The White House stands opposed to changes in the subsidies or tariffs, so they will likely go untouched before they expire at the end of the year. Even so, this is a strong indication that such government support for ethanol will be reduced if not eliminated. The response to the Senate vote has been mixed, from corn prices falling, to the World Bank encouraging lower food prices, to concerns over reduced funding for alternative energy, to supporters of such budget cuts."
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US Senate Votes For Repeal of Ethanol Subsidies

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  • by goodmanj (234846) on Friday June 17, 2011 @07:11AM (#36472868)

    Democrat, Republican, whatever. My political support goes for congressmen who believe in the laws of thermodynamics.

    • by hrvatska (790627) on Friday June 17, 2011 @07:20AM (#36472926)
      I think from a politician's perspective the law of thermodynamics is that money burned within your district generates votes for you and money burned outside of your district doesn't.
    • The Laws of Thermodynamics? So does that have authority over the Constitution?
    • A subsidy is when the government forks over money so a product's price point can be lowered enough for it to be affordable. In other words, the government takes your money (tax dollars) and gives it to Big Ethanol producers so they can cut the price of Ethanol to the point where you can afford to buy it. Wait... I paid to lower Ethanol's price to the point where I could afford to buy it?
      • by Fallingcow (213461) on Friday June 17, 2011 @07:32AM (#36473012) Homepage

        Subsidies spur production and research, as well as making a product more competitive internationally. They can keep a threatened industry that is desirable to keep around (say, one that is expected to be useful later but which might die in the meantime and be hard to start back up, or one that needs a push to get off the ground but will provide lots of jobs and tax money once it's going, or one critical to defense, even in an indirect sense) from being lost to foreign competition or simple changing demand. They can also be used to keep staples in the reach of the poor (though that happens more often in other countries, I think). Those are just the uses/justifications I can think of off the top of my head at 7:30 in the morning local time.

        They're not as nonsensical as you imply, though I happen not to support this particular one myself.

        • by Aladrin (926209) on Friday June 17, 2011 @07:36AM (#36473046)

          Technically, you're both right. They are supposed to be used for the reasons you state, but many end up being used as he states.

          • by Bob-taro (996889)

            Technically, you're both right. They are supposed to be used for the reasons you state, but many end up being used as he states.

            You claim that both sides have a point? Call the internet police! I'm pretty sure kind of forum posting law has been broken.

          • by poetmatt (793785)

            The ethanol subsidy has been knowingly misused for decades, so to see this finally end will also help to spell doom to things like HFCS too - since those rely on the ethanol-corn subsidy as well.

        • by trum4n (982031)
          This one IS nonsensical though. The entire reason in the first place was to replace gas. Instead, they mixed it with our gas, ruining our engines, lowering our MPG AND they didn't even lower the price! I cant tell you how angry i get when i pull up to the pump in my 74 Charger that says GAS ONLY, NO ALCOHOL on the cap, and the STATE says i have to ruin my car for their gain. Fuel pump started leaking a few weeks after this crap hit the tank, and ever since, it is a bear to start, cause the fuel bowl dries o
          • by Rei (128717) on Friday June 17, 2011 @08:00AM (#36473248) Homepage

            Your 74 charger would be referring to the "gasohol" movement, which was immature but just emerging back when this car was produced in 1973. There were no standard blends back then (and few filling stations); people could mix anywhere from a couple percecnt ethanol in to a majority ethanol. Your leak almost certainly had nothing to do with the ethanol; the notion that these small percents ethanol are not only damaging, but so damaging that they'd destroy a fuel pump in just a couple weeks, is just absurd.

            The lower MPG claim is quite a legit one. Ethanol is a less dense fuel than gasoline, so when you buy by the gallon, you're buying less energy. But at 10-15% blend, you're not buying that much ethanol in that gallon.

            Gasoline is always going to be a blend of different chemicals. No one chemical is needed, but a wide variety of different chemicals are needed to yield different properties in the fuel. It's likely that for the forseeable future gasoline will contain at least a few percent ethanol because, all "sustainability" issues aside, it's one of the best substitutes for MBTE, which causes serious groundwater contamination.

            • by Moryath (553296)

              Effects seen (firsthand on the part of my rather large family, over a dozen aunts and uncles plus grandparents, parents, siblings, and cousins) within the 6 months after WhiskeyGas (Gas + Ethanol, brought to you by the same tech that brings you Jack Daniels) was forced upon the people of Milwaukee, WI:

              - Failed fuel pumps
              - Failed/corroded fuel lines; alcohol does a number on any rubberized hose.
              - Failed fuel injectors (as the detritus of corroded fuel lines moves through the system)
              - Reduced gas mileage
              - Inc

              • by Rei (128717)

                I'm sorry, but you're making one of the most common mistakes in anecdotal data analysis: attributing whatever symptoms you experience to the phenomenon that you just became aware of. This is the same reason why people think that their vaccines caused their kids to become autistic or that the wind farm a couple miles away gave them cancer.

                Ethanol has its own disadvantages compared to MTBE, but overall it's clearly a net positive. I don't have time to go into each of them here, but for example, while it inc

              • by poetmatt (793785)

                you have to go above the blend for these things to become more commonplace.

                see: E85 and higher proportions of ethanol, and why E85 is barely offered anywhere.

                with the 10% we regularly see, it wasn't as likely - it still happened, but it wasn't as much of a "Every fillup might kill your fuel pumps".

          • No the reason that alcohol was used in the first place was for pollution reasons. Adding alcohol to gasoline allows for the gasoline to burn more completely thus reducing other pollutants. Other chemicals like MTBE [wikipedia.org] achieved the same purpose; however, MTBE was found to pollute ground water when leaked. If you are in bind, you can use more alcohol to replace gasoline but the original purpose was never to increase mileage or be an alternative source. Somewhere along the way, ethanol became a savior that it

          • I will not argue with your gas cap, but my '68 Ford ran for years on gas with "up to 10 percent ethanol", and never had any problems. It was used as a daily driver until brake parts had to be special ordered, then I sold it. Also, I don't think your fuel bowl dries out because of a leaking pump. I have not worked on every brand of carb out there, but all the ones I have had the fuel inlet too high in the bowl to siphon much gas back out.
        • by paiute (550198)

          Subsidies spur production and research, as well as making a product more competitive internationally. They can keep a threatened industry that is desirable to keep around (say, one that is expected to be useful later but which might die in the meantime and be hard to start back up, or one that needs a push to get off the ground but will provide lots of jobs and tax money once it's going, or one critical to defense, even in an indirect sense) from being lost to foreign competition or simple changing demand. They can also be used to keep staples in the reach of the poor (though that happens more often in other countries, I think). Those are just the uses/justifications I can think of off the top of my head at 7:30 in the morning local time.

          They're not as nonsensical as you imply, though I happen not to support this particular one myself.

          The corn subsidy has very little to do with actual economies and a whole lot to do with the Iowa primaries.

          • No, the corn subsidies have everything to do with price control. They are on a sliding scale, and while corn prices are high (as they have been for the last 8-10 years), corn subsidies go way down with the more profitable operations not making anything off of the subsidies. Now, you can argue that an ethanol subsidy is essentially a corn subsidy, I won't even disagree with you much. However, the reasoning behind the existance of corn subsidies existance is sound.

            Agricultural commodities markets fluc
        • by goodmanj (234846)

          I'm all in favor of subsidies as a general proposition, for the reasons you mention. However, corn ethanol does not meet the criteria of any of your justifications.

          Production: is not in itself a good thing, if the thing you're producing is not useful.
          * Research: all these billions funneled into corn ethanol have not led to new insight into how to make the process provide positive net energy. Ethanol production turns one gallon of gasoline and 20 pounds of corn into one gallon of ethanol.
          * Desirabl

      • The point of a subsidy like this is usually to provide a catalyst. If it takes 100,000 people buying something for economies of scale to make it affordable, then you need some way of building the demand to that level. It's not very attractive to companies, so the government provides subsidies. Eventually, they should be phased out as the production cost drops below what the market will accept. The government then gets the subsidy money back in taxes.

        Of course, theory and practice don't always agree, an

        • by canajin56 (660655) on Friday June 17, 2011 @10:02AM (#36474694)

          Corn ethanol cannot be made affordable regardless of economies of scale, due to a thing called the laws of thermodynamics. Even if you manage to build a 100% efficient ethanol engine, it will still take more ethanol to grow a crop of corn, that can ever possibly be obtained from the corn. So corn subsidies are the government spending money in order to make things worse. Because the generators and the tractors don't run on 100% efficient ethanol engines, they run on diesel. So instead of just using 100 gallons of petrol in vehicles, you're using 120 gallons on farms to make 100 gallons of ethanol, which then gives a lower MPG than petrol did in the first place*. And no price makes that make any sense, ever, no matter what. Now, there are far more efficient sources of ethanol, but the American corn states had a lot of power, and sort of forced all Ethanol research to be on corn. For one, any grain at all would be a better source by a long shot. Corn is the worst crop in the world to be grown for food in terms of efficiency, and the same holds for fermenting it.

          *these numbers are made up, but broadly true.

    • by Smallpond (221300)

      Ethanol subsidies would not exist if the Iowa caucus weren't the earliest primary. Corn prices have been driven so high by E85 that there has not been a need for subsidies in at least 4 years [tradingcharts.com]

    • by rwa2 (4391) *

      Yay! So if this eventually leads to E10 going away, does that mean we can all look forward to a 3% increase in gas mileage? Will gas prices go up 3% to compensate for not being watered down? Were gas prices reduced 3% in the first place to compensate for ethanol having only ~66% of the energy density of gasoline in the first place?

      I highly doubt it :-P

      • by goodmanj (234846)

        Who said anything about E10 (10% ethanol-gas mixtures) going away? The same bill eliminates the tariff on ethanol imports from outside the US, which allows Brazil to send us good cheap sugar cane ethanol. This stuff has its own problems, but at least has an energy return on energy invested (EROI) greater than one.

  • But is this really news for slashdot? It's hardly nerd news.
    • by apetrelli (1308945) on Friday June 17, 2011 @07:24AM (#36472952)

      It's about ethanol and biofuel. I think that many of us have different ideas about biofuel (e.g. I don't like it, it reduces food fields) that might be discussed.
      And there's the problem of funding biofuel, that may not be fair comparing it to other alternative technologies, like hybrid or pure electric cars.

      • by jhoegl (638955)
        Wasnt there also proof that ethanol also harms the engine?
        It had a good run, but it needs to stop. Question is, if they stop this, does that also remove the % requirement as well?
        Otherwise, gas prices will rise again.
      • I see this kind of stuff posted everywhere - that actual real foodstuffs are used for producing bio-ethanol. It might have been so a couple of years ago, but the new technology (deployed for example in Florida) uses green and production waste - that is dropped leaves, construction wood, green hay etc etc - to produce ethanol and electricity. I doubt there would be enough research and mainly development done in this area without the subsidies, and we'd be stuck with burning corn for making ethanol.

        Have a loo

      • It's also a substantial change to what has been a cardinal fact of American politics--ethanol subsidies are untouchable because of the Iowa primaries. This is odd, and probably reflects the fact that everyone is recognizing the need to begin campaigning nationally early now. The early primaries are still important, but they're less important.

        There are political nerds too. And we, as nerds, should care about some politics--because we like to see things done well, and sometimes political action makes a dif

  • by Madman (84403) on Friday June 17, 2011 @07:14AM (#36472884) Homepage

    If the US used every acre of cropland for biofuel feedstock production it would only be able to produce 40% of transportation fuel needs and then there'd be nothing to eat! It's impossible to make even a dent in fossil fuel usage with biofuels, and by trying we will make food more expensive for everyone and reduce the surplus that helps to feed the world's poor.

    • by Madman (84403)

      Here's a link to my blog entry on the subject btw:
      http://tetsui.net/gdblog/2011/06/17/why-biofuels-make-no-sense/

    • Isn't that what's happening in Mexico as is? Full disclaimer, I heard this from a friend in casual conversation, but my understanding is that it's more profitable for Mexican farmers to sell their corn crops to the US for ethanol than to feed their people, so prices of corn products have risen sharply and the nation is starving as a result.
      • by Madman (84403)

        Isn't that what's happening in Mexico as is? Full disclaimer, I heard this from a friend in casual conversation, but my understanding is that it's more profitable for Mexican farmers to sell their corn crops to the US for ethanol than to feed their people, so prices of corn products have risen sharply and the nation is starving as a result.

        Yes it is the perfect example of how biofuels can affect food prices, or even availability. It caused a local food shortage in parts of Mexico and people did go hungry.

        • by Noughmad (1044096)

          I guess some really smart general figured out that going to war is too much fuss when you can simly buy out their food.

    • If the US used every acre of cropland for biofuel feedstock production it would only be able to produce 40% of transportation fuel needs and then there'd be nothing to eat! It's impossible to make even a dent in fossil fuel usage with biofuels, and by trying we will make food more expensive for everyone and reduce the surplus that helps to feed the world's poor.

      Hmm... Sounds like we need to shift our focus from propping up friendly puppet despots in oil-producing regions and start propping them up in agriculturally productive ones... Rising food prices(and a bit of judicious repression, good for the defense industry) should ensure a steady supply of squalid, desperate peasant labor to work the biofuel fields. We can't eat our cake and drive it too; but eating our cake and driving theirs is eminently possible...

      • by Madman (84403)

        If the US used every acre of cropland for biofuel feedstock production it would only be able to produce 40% of transportation fuel needs and then there'd be nothing to eat! It's impossible to make even a dent in fossil fuel usage with biofuels, and by trying we will make food more expensive for everyone and reduce the surplus that helps to feed the world's poor.

        Hmm... Sounds like we need to shift our focus from propping up friendly puppet despots in oil-producing regions and start propping them up in agriculturally productive ones... Rising food prices(and a bit of judicious repression, good for the defense industry) should ensure a steady supply of squalid, desperate peasant labor to work the biofuel fields. We can't eat our cake and drive it too; but eating our cake and driving theirs is eminently possible...

        You are definitely right in that biofuels imports would simply substitute one despot for another, however the problem is wherever it comes from it will still compete against the food on our tables and make food more expensive and scarce. It's already happened in places and I for one am not willing to have people starve so I can use biofuels that aren't really green. Ethanol is a poor substitute for gasoline as it only has 80% of the energy per unit of volume, and it has other properties that make it a bad c

        • I'm not really arguing for the viability of 'conventional' biofuels(ie. ones that are rivalrous with food crops, people growing algae in tubes on sterile salt-flats are really just doing 'photovoltaics by other means'), I was just, by means of slightly gallows humor, noting that oppression and death in the service of obtaining biofuels would really just be an extension of the way fossil fuels, and mineral resources in general, are frequently obtained today.

          Although they are conveniently long enough that
    • by naasking (94116)

      Here's a thought: why not use a plant with a higher ethanol output than corn and which grows on land we can't use for corn and other food, like switchgrass [scientificamerican.com]. Personally, I'd rather see the fossil fuel subsidies abolished so we can get some actual competition in the energy market.

    • by ProppaT (557551)

      I almost feel like politicians hear the words "farm" and "agricultural" and think, "We're 'Merica, we make technology....farming is for for the third world."

      The best thing for our country would be a massive return to farming/agriculture. We would get better food with more nutrition, be self sufficient once again, and keep our money from flying out of the country. There's such a stigma against farming. Well, news flash. Unless we want to start deciding who gets to eat and who doesn't (and that's already

  • by tarsi210 (70325) <nathanNO@SPAMnathanpralle.com> on Friday June 17, 2011 @07:15AM (#36472894) Homepage Journal
    I wish it WOULD pass. I'm in Iowa, the heart of ethanol country, and I can't stand the stuff and what it's done. Artificial inflation of corn prices, artificial money, artificial companies. Whole corporations and huge plants have been built up on the promise of ethanol and just as quickly have fell into bankruptcy because the dream failed to pay off. As people have slowly come to realize that the bang-for-buck of ethanol is so much lower than gasoline, even with subsidies, plus the corrosion factors on improperly-engineered cars, it's fallen by the wayside. E-85 was supposed to be the next big thing and it barely made a fart in the market at all. All we've ended up with is farmers who thought they had a huge market for their product and suddenly....don't.

    I've heard a lot of arguments for things like switchgrass ethanol and so forth and, hey, I'm all for alternatives -- if they work. But the fact remains that despite whatever "green" intentions people may have, if you can't sell it to the general public without a crutch, you're going to lose in the end. Time to let ethanol stand -- and die gracefully -- on its own.
    • E-85 was supposed to be the next big thing and it barely made a fart in the market at all. All we've ended up with is farmers who thought they had a huge market for their product and suddenly....don't.

      Lets see. Trillions of free money for bankers, but only tens of billions for farmers? Hardly fair. Surely if they spent trillions on the farmers they would be able to grow enough corn to fill the gas tanks.

      So what's next? Where do you think are the billions or trillions in subsidies going to be spent next? Hey it's free money, everyone should be getting involved.

      • The "trillions for bankers" weren't subsidies, they were loans. Said loans were already paid back, with interest.

        The Ethanol subsidies aren't getting paid back, and they aren't all going to "farmers" (unless you count massive Ag companies like Cargill or ConAgra as "farmers"), and they aren't even an effective use of subsidy to fund alternative fuels. The real advocates for bio-fuels will tell you that sugar cane works better than corn, and switchgrass works better than cane.

        Corn ethanol subidies were a

        • by Colin Smith (2679)

          The "trillions for bankers" weren't subsidies, they were loans

          Of course they are subsidies. What is the interest rate again? 0.25%? 0.01% at some points. Meanwhile inflation is hitting 7% (http://www.shadowstats.com/). Which is like 100 billion/year in free money.

    • by acid06 (917409) on Friday June 17, 2011 @07:37AM (#36473052)
      Corn-based ethanol is a joke. Ethanol from sugar cane has been in use in Brazil for 20+ years and it works great - cheaper than gas without the need of any subsidies. More than half of the Brazilian car fleet runs on ethanol on a daily basis. Don't dismiss ethanol completely just because the US has chosen a silly way to manufacture it.
    • by Smallpond (221300)

      A couple years ago when I was in Ohio I saw people who had replaced their lawns with corn because prices were so high. Looks like its still over $7/bushel. I wonder how well a 1/16th acre crop would do in New England? The farmers I know aren't getting rich, though.

    • Even though I am not a big fan of corn based ethanol as a general purpose motor fuel I am tired of hearing about the "corrosion factors on improperly-engineered cars". Most of what people think are issues caused by ethanol in gas are really issues caused by crappy gas. I have fallen for the its $0.03 cheaper over here at the off brand gas station compared to the other one across the street. Some of those off brand stations sell good gas some of them sell crap gas that makes my car run poorly, but once refil
    • by Hatta (162192)

      Let's not stop there. We don't need corn subsidies at all. We need to stop subsidizing corn and start subsidizing fresh fruits and vegetables, if anything.

  • Thats all that needs to be said.

  • Great idea for living creatures, stupid as all hell for machines. I mean, seriously... we are feeding machines with perfectly good food. Hello?

    Let's leave the food for the living and stop rewarding this stupidity with the further stupidity of the government stealing the fruits of our labors to subsidize this lame-brained bullshit.

    • Ethanol subsidies are, pretty much, purely about buying votes in flyover country; but your distinction between food and fuel is somewhat artificial. Essentially all fossil fuels are 'biofuels' that have been taking a dirt nap long enough to be unpalatable; the only real advantage is that, at the price of additional extraction costs, we can spend down millenia of Cambrian biofuel production with a few weeks of digging and blasting.

      Corn is a particularly terrible biofuel crop, being fertilizer intensive an
      • Re:Food As Fuel (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Rei (128717) on Friday June 17, 2011 @08:21AM (#36473466) Homepage

        The problem with algal biofuel is that you can't just grow it in a field. You have two options: sterile, pure algal strains, and open-air tanks. Open-air tanks means that algal predators get in, wild algae strains get in and overtake your desired ones, etc. The amount of recoverable energy is a tiny fraction of that if you use pure strains. But pure strains means compeltely enclosed tanks. *Acres and acres* of enclosed tanks, with each acre only yielding a few tens of thousands of dollars. And you can't just enclose it with thin film; the weather would destroy it in no time. This needs to be thick plastic. And it'll photodegrade. The cheaper the type of plastic you use, in general, the faster it'll photodegrade. This makes it increasingly opaque and brittle until it's useless.

        On top of all this, separating water from algae is an expensive, energy-intensive process.

        Solar is even higher capital cost per acre, but it is *extremely* energy dense per acre compared to even the best biofuels -- about an order of magnitude more energy dense than enclosed-tank algae, two orders of magnitude more than corn. A streamlined EV like the Volt or Leaf uses about 250Wh/mi. A square meter of land on the surface of the Earth receives that every 15 minutes that said area is in full overhead sunlight. Even after factoring in panel losses, and the capacity factor (sun's not shining all the time, etc), that's *very* high energy density compared to 330 gallons of ethanol per acre per *year* (under 1/10th gallon per square meter per *year*) for corn and 6,000 for enclosed algae (1 1/2 gallons per square meter per *year*). Plus, fuel crops generally have absurd amounts of freshwater water consumption, something that marginal lands are already very short on, plus there's the pesticide and fertilizer issues, etc.

  • That's right! AND it gives you worse gas milage, and in cars made before 1994-1998 (reports vary wildly) it can accelerate engine part wear. No wonder the price of food (i.e. corn, a staple of Latin America) has gone up damn near 800%. Food as fuel seems to only work with sugarcane/beet. Even then it seems wasteful.

    • And here in Minnesota we have a law that was passed a while ago and signed by now presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty that mandates 20% of motor fuel consumed be ethanol. I forget the date by which this needs to be met, but if 20% isn't reached then all fuel will have to be a minimum E20 instead of the current E10.
  • Brazil actually produces energy efficient ethanol from sugar cane. It's used by more than half of Brazilian cars and it's generally cheaper than gasoline, without any subsidies.

    The only reason Brazilian sugar cane ethanol can't compete with the US corn-based ethanol (which is silly and energy inefficient) is because of the huge advantage given to US producers.

    This will mean cheaper ethanol for Americans and improved market conditions for Brazilian ethanol companies. Hopefully the price of ethanol here
    • by Zaatxe (939368)

      [...] It's used by more than half of Brazilian cars and it's generally cheaper than gasoline, without any subsidies.

      It is cheaper "per liter", not "per kilometer", unfortunatelly. Until 2 years ago I would fill my car's tank with ethanol only. Now I use gasoline because the cost per kilometer is lower with gasoline.

      Hopefully the price of ethanol here in Brazil won't rise too much, thanks to the larger demand.

      You don't live in Brazil, do you? We already had a big rise in the ethanol price because of the international price of sugar. Sugar cane farmers prefer to turn their crops into sugar than into ethanol for bigger profits. If the demand on the ethanol increases, it will be more expensive than gasoline PER LITER!

      • by acid06 (917409)
        Actually, it still is cheaper per kilometer for my car, it only wasn't for maybe a week or two. It actually depends on the car - the Brazilian media usually says it's only worth using ethanol if its price is at most 70% of the price of gasoline but that varies from car to car. On my car, the threshold is 80% - I've done several measurements over a few months.

        If there was a reliable, growing, international demand, the producers would also raise production levels so we would only face maybe a short-term pr
  • The damned requirement for it to be in the gasoline. IT ruins gas mileage and the gas stations are NOT selling it for 5%-10% cheaper because that is what your gas mileage loss is from running E10. They sell that crap at full price because consumers are too stupid to know better. (Most people think that "premium" is a better gas! The lack of education in fuel that is used daily by the population is incredible)

    I have a flex fuel car, it get's 25% less gas mileage when running on E85 but it's designed to ru

    • EXCEPT: IT's a fantastic racing fuel. I have 10 friends that are in racing and all of them have modified their cars to use ethanol instead of racing gas. IT's cheaper and they are getting MORE power from it One friend has went from 12.2 on the quarter mile to 11.9 just by changing fuel. Plus they can afford to race at $3.29 a gallon instead of $6.89 a gallon.
      I assume your friend has changed the tune of their engine to take advantage of the higher octane rating, since thermodynamics is thermodynamics and p
    • Congratulations you have just stumbled upon the issues with ethanol as a general purpose motor fuel. You mention that that your flex fuel car gets 25% less mileage when running on E85, but if you look at the energy content by unit volume of fuel you will see that E85 has closer to 2/3 the energy of regular gas. This show that your car isn't running as efficient as it could be on either fuel since they have very different characteristics (octane, stoichiometric ratio, latent heat).

      Also you mention that it i

  • by dkleinsc (563838) on Friday June 17, 2011 @07:55AM (#36473194) Homepage

    The White House stands opposed to changes in the subsidies or tariffs, so they will likely go untouched before they expire at the end of the year.

    That 73-27 vote is way more than the 2/3 required to override a presidential veto. Even if Obama doesn't want to do this, Congress could force it on him.

  • Brazil's ethanol industry [iastate.edu]

    Brazil imports record amount of ethanol [autoblog.com]

    "So, where's Brazil getting all of this ethanol from? The United States. According to Platts, almost all of Brazil's imports were U.S. corn-based ethanol, as prices were deemed to be the world's most competitive".

  • Ethenol is a great fuel, the way it is distributed and used however is it's downfall. Selling a pre-blended mix at the pump is just plain stupidity. It needs to be blended at the pump in any ratio to allow for vehicles to be sold that run 100% or close to 100% ethanol. A engine running pure alcohol can run extremely high compression ratio's greatly increasing the power and efficiency.

    You would have to engineer some way to keep stupidity out of the mix by preventing people from using the wrong blend.

  • by OwenTheContrarian (2163170) on Friday June 17, 2011 @08:39AM (#36473622)
    Here are some facts.
    1. Corn has been subsidized for decades, keeping the cost of corn below the cost of production.
    2. Third world agriculture cannot compete with our subsidized grain exports. Therefore, they have no sustainable agricultural production. If we use the grain for something else, they starve. If we use the grain for something else and the prices go up, they begin growing their own grain again. Our farm subsidies have been a foot on the head of the third world. They don’t need a handout, they need us to play fair so they can have real economies themselves.
    3. Alternative fuels are actively hindered by grocery manufacturers and big oil companies. They want cheap high fructose corn syrup and a continued 90% petroleum mandate. Don’t kid yourself. Follow the money.
    4. Without incentives, we’ll never get off petroleum. It costs so little to produce and has existing infrastructure paid for with our tax dollars. There is the other problem of the most powerful cartel in the world, OPEC. Do you think they are happy about our efforts to wean our nation off of their product and stem the tide of petrodollars?
    5. Food prices are affected 2% by the cost of grain and 92% by the cost of petroleum, according the USDA.

    I’m all for getting rid of subsidies. If we get rid of ethanol subsidies, let’s level the playing field first. Get rid of petroleum subsidies and make the EPA remove the artificial 90% gasoline mandate, too. Then we can see how things really shake out.

    BTW, if an engine is properly designed for ethanol, it will get better mileage than with gas. The higher vapor pressure allows higher compression than is possible with gas. In fact, oil companies have used this fact to worsen the grades of gas they sell, knowing the 10% ethanol blend will prevent consumers from complaining about knocking.
  • by gestalt_n_pepper (991155) on Friday June 17, 2011 @09:06AM (#36473892)

    *Corn* ethanol was always a boondoggle, brought to you by lobbyists and innumerate politicians who were unable to understand or care about the concept of EREOI. Brazil has made *sugar cane* alcohol with a reasonable EREOI (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethanol_fuel_in_Brazil). While nothing will replace oil, moving as much of the transportation industry to alternatives like sugar cane methanol would give us a bigger cushion against the inevitable loss of oil as a major energy source.

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