Monday, March 31, 2014

"Biofuels do more harm than good, UN warns" The Telegraph

"The United Nations will officially warn that growing crops to make “green” biofuel harms the environment and drives up food prices, The Telegraph can disclose.
A leaked draft of a UN report condemns the widespread use of biofuels made from crops as a replacement for petrol and diesel. It says that biofuels, rather than combating the effects of global warming, could make them worse."

"Biofuels Might Hold Back Progress Combating Climate Change" Scientific American

"The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has for the first time acknowledged the risks of uncontrolled biofuels development, a skepticism that has slowly emerged into the mainstream scientific community, say academics."

"A table from the report was leaked last week in which authors list the potential negative risks of development. These issues include indirect land-use change, the conflicts between land for fuels and land for food, water scarcity, loss of biodiversity and nitrogen pollution through the use of excess fertilizer."

Monday, February 17, 2014

"Ethanol Mandates Put The Squeeze on Small Businesses"

"The National Academy of Sciences also found that ethanol creates more greenhouse gas emissions than standard gasoline."

"Tom Tanton: Making ethanol is wasting California's water"

"A biorefinery that produces 100 million gallons of ethanol per year uses the equivalent of the water supply for a town of about 5,000 people — approximately the size of such Central Valley farming communities as Fowler, Gustine and San Joaquin. All in all, it takes 34 times the amount of water to produce one gallon of corn-based ethanol as regular gasoline. Ethanol's water utilization rate doesn't seem to fall in line with the idea of a "renewable fuel." All this water lost and for what gain? The answer is not much for our environment nor for California food producers. The Environmental Protection Agency's analysis has shown that lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions of corn ethanol were higher than those of gasoline in 2012 and will still be higher in 2017. Moreover, from 2008 to 2011, the mandate has contributed to plowing up more than 23 million acres of wetlands and grasslands — an area the size of Indiana — to grow crops, largely corn. This rapid conversion is driving up greenhouse gas emissions even higher by releasing carbon stored in the soil and by increasing use of fertilizers that swell emissions of nitrous oxide, a potent greenhouse gas.
What's more: As more and more corn is diverted to ethanol production to meet the RFS, less is available for livestock feed. High demand for corn on account of the RFS has caused extreme price volatility for this key commodity, forcing prices through the roof and at one point increasing prices up by more than 200% from pre-RFS years. Elevated corn costs drove prices for feed — the single largest input cost to food producers — up by 32% in 2012, increasing production costs for food producers across the state. This proved a deal breaker for many of them in the first year of California's drought, which saw countless farmers forced into foreclosure. Just look at the California dairy industry that has been forced to slash herd sizes and lost hundreds of farms since 2012."

Read more here:

Monday, January 6, 2014

"Dump the ethanol mandate" Chicago Tribune

"The law has succeeded in pumping up profits for corn-ethanol producers and their suppliers, but it has failed to serve the public interest. It hasn't launched a new cellulosic-ethanol industry. It hasn't made the nation less vulnerable to the risks of Middle Eastern oil supplies — domestic production and reduced consumption have had a far more dramatic impact on that count.",0,7010989.story

"Congress Wakes Up to the Bad News About Biofuels" Bloomberg Businessweek

"Senators Feinstein and Coburn want to go considerably further and completely abandon the corn ethanol mandate. Especially given the failure of European reform, that not only would be good for American consumers, but good for the global environment and poor people worldwide."

Monday, December 2, 2013

"EPA’s cuts in ethanol targets deserve widespread backing" Boston Globe

GOVERNMENT SUPPORT for corn-based ethanol is such a sacred cow, thanks to corn-growing Iowa’s important presidential caucuses, that skeptic John McCain used to quip that he drank a cup every day. But ethanol, the biofuel touted as an important part of the renewable-energy future, causes almost as many environmental problems as it solves. Now, amid a rising tide of opposition to ethanol, the Environmental Protection Agency recently proposed scaling back how much of it is included in the nation’s gasoline supply for the first time since such targets were mandated by Congress in 2005. Despite the inevitable political outcry, the EPA should stick with its recommendation.
Under previous targets, the nation would have aimed to sell 18 billion gallons of renewable fuels next year and 36 billion gallons by 2022. But the EPA is now cutting the 2014 renewable-fuel goal to 15 billion gallons, of which 13 billion would be corn-based, according to The Washington Post. The reasons are many, starting with the fact that in the short time since Presidents Bush and Obama both hailed ethanol as a homegrown alternative to foreign oil, gasoline consumption has been declining because of vastly improved fuel efficiency in cars and shrinking car usage in the recession.
Meanwhile, attempts to market “E85” fuels containing up to 85 percent ethanol have attracted few drivers. Oil companies, which never wanted the hassle of blending corn into petroleum, say the discovery of vast domestic shale-oil deposits makes ethanol unnecessary as an alternative to foreign supplies. They also claim the current mandates put them in the position of increasing the ethanol content in an average gallon of gas beyond its current 10 percent, a level that automotive and motorcycle companies fear could damage some engines.
Ethanol now vies with livestock feed as America’s main use for corn, and cattle ranchers oppose the ethanol mandate because it drives up the prices they must pay for feed. Many environmentalists are equally opposed to corn-based ethanol. The Associated Press reported this month that 5 million acres of conservation land have been converted to corn crops during the Obama administration — “more than Yellowstone, Everglades, and Yosemite National Parks combined.” While defenders of ethanol, such as Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, the former governor of Iowa, continue to maintain it is a greener fuel, the conversion of Midwestern grasslands and wetlands to cornfields is imperiling migratory wildlife and releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The crops themselves have required billions of pounds of fertilizers, threatening drinking water in some places.
In the press release announcing the proposed ethanol cut, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy walked a fine line between critics and proponents, saying biofuels remain a “key” part of Obama’s “all of the above” energy strategy. But the cuts speak for themselves. Corn-based ethanol may remain a part of the strategy, but it is a shrinking one, with its energy and environmental promises withering on the stalk.