Part V, Ethanol: Bad Economics, Inferior Fuel
Charles E. Carlson
In September 2007, We Hold These Truths published a research paper entitled "Corn-to-Ethanol: US Agribusiness Magic Path To A World Food Monopoly" that was ahead of its time. That paper is still available on hundreds of websites, including our own.
This proliferation of our basic research is even more surprising because the conclusions we drew are strident in condemning Congressional and Judeo-Christian morality. We wrote:
"Congress has total responsibility for creating the corn-to-alcohol monopoly, but it will never reverse itself unless absolutely forced to do so, because most of its members are bought and paid for..." This is a moral issue. The 80% of Americans that are professing Christians have a responsibility before our God not to allow corporate and political criminal elements among us to cast a pall of planned starvation over the planet. Leaders in Christian churches, who have become quite political of late, now must help fix the problem of starvation that they failed to prevent by giving carte blanche support to those most politically responsible."
We are proud of our thinking three years ago. But why can't everyone see that runaway food prices are now upon us? The media maintains a clenched jaw policy, never connecting ethanol subsidies to high food prices. Someone from whom I never expected help is William Jefferson Clinton, former President turned global humanitarian. As Christ followers, we must believe that men can change. Clinton is acting like someone who might have read our paper on Ethanol, and believed it.
According to a Huffington Post story entitled Bill Clinton Warns Farmers That Ethanol Could Lead To Food Riots, he addressed the Department of Agriculture's annual Agricultural Outlook Forum, where he told farmers and department employees that farmers should look beyond domestic production and consider the needs of developing countries. "I think the best thing to say is we have to become energy independent, but we don't want to do it at the cost of food riots," he said.
Clinton's foundation has worked to develop agribusiness in African countries, such as Malawi and Rwanda. He told the Agribusiness and government that the United States must look at the long term global effects of its farm policy. The story reported that Congress may be feeling pressure from below:
After years of boosting ethanol production, Congress has taken an increasingly skeptical look at the fuel as food prices have fluctuated and cutting spending has become a legislative priority...More than $5 billion in ethanol tax credits were extended at the end of last year as a part of an end-of-session tax deal. But the new Republican House passed two amendments to a spending bill last weekend that would attempt to slow ethanol use...Even longtime supporters of ethanol in Congress have acknowledged that the country's mood may mean less support for the ethanol industry. Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, said this week that he would have to "bite the bullet" if he has to decide between cutting the deficit and supporting the House amendments. Grassley said his priority is to show voters that Congress has gotten the message of fiscal responsibility after the last election.
We Hold These Truths appreciates Bill Clinton perhaps for the first time, and hopes he will read our paper, which also needs to be read by the millions of corn farmers who have been deceived into thinking ethanol is their golden egg-laying chicken. Their acts are leading directly to starvation for many. Unfortunately, Mr. Clinton smooth-talked the Ag Meeting when he told them "producing biofuels such as corn-based ethanol is important for reducing U.S. dependence on foreign oil." It is not, as we have shown.
The riot in Tunis started with a food vendor burning himself to death in a public demonstration because he could not afford both the tax on his food cart and the higher food prices. The Ethanol Lobby has stood in line behind the Banking Lobby, War Lobby, and the Pharmaceutical Lobby to buy what is left of our Congress. But they cannot buy the consumer, nor could they buy the life of the man in Tunis who died in a hospital wrapped in bandages from head to foot.
The large Ethanol industry tries to blame the food shortage on big oil. To avoid being fooled, each of us must understand one simple scientific fact about ethanol: it is good for making people drunk, but terrible for fuel.... it does not and cannot work. Ethanol is a wasteful, inefficient fuel, which is why none of the plants that make ethanol burn it for fuel themselves!
Why do ethanol plants burn coal or natural gas? The ethanol industry burns the fuel they claim to be preserving--petroleum and coal--in order to make ethanol; if it burned its product they could not collect the $.46 or more per gallon subsidy that is paid when "White Lightning" is blended with gasoline and sold to you as fuel.
Ethanol is not an efficient fuel; some 35% of its weight is effectively noncombustible, meaning you pay for a gallon of fuel but with ethanol its like pouring one third on the ground. This is basic ethanol chemistry that cannot be changed. Chemical engineer Russell Walker, PE explains it this way.
"The bottom line is that cars (in cool weather) will not start if the ethanol mix is over 15%. The question needs to be asked, if ethanol is so wonderful why don't we use 100% of the stuff? The molecular weight of pure 100% ethanol, ethyl alcohol, is 46.07. It has one oxygen atom in the molecule which has a weight of 16. Therefore 16/46.07 = 34.7%, or more than one-third by weight of the ethanol molecule is non-combustible Oxygen that is free in the atmosphere, but you are required to pay for it every time you fill your tank.
To make matters worse, due to a concept called 'azeotrope' a water distillation of ethanol water mix cannot get more than 95% pure alcohol. The remainder stays as water. The water in the ethanol further has to be vaporized during the combustion process, and because water has a high heat of vaporization the five or more ounces of water in every gallon of ethanol consumes a noticeable amount of the fuel your car burns just vaporizing water, as you would have to add a lot of heat to boil off a pint of water in a pan. The remaining water in the ethanol in your tank also attracts oxygen resulting in corrosion of most metals. Ethanol being a polar molecule tends to dissolve rubber gasket and seals, gasoline does not.
Bloomberg News interviewed Columbia University professor Jeffrey Sachs today, and this expert mentioned every cause of food inflation except the one with a cure, the Ethanol Lobby. It seems a food revolt here in America is the only answer to the mercenary ethanol lobby and its complicit farmers, politicians and professors. It might be called, "Kill Ethanol Subsidies Before They Kill Us." The food shortage problem will take care of itself when prices of corn, wheat, and rice drop in world markets.
Our next very sad issue by this son of a corn farmer is titled American Farmers Sell Their Soul for Ethanol Subsidies.
Corn-to-Ethanol: US Agribusiness’ Magic Path To A World Food Monopoly