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.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013


(202) 667-6982
Washington, D.C. -- The Environmental Protection Agency's proposal to lower the amount of corn ethanol blended in gasoline in 2014 acknowledges that the Renewable Fuel Standard program is broken. However, Congress must act to address corn ethanol's well-documented harms to consumers and the environment, EWG said in a statement today.
Alex Rindler, EWG's Policy Associate, said:
“EPA’s proposal recognizes that the RFS is on a collision course with reality. In order to bring alternative biofuels to the market, Congress must permanently reform the program to eliminate the costly and environmentally destructive corn ethanol mandate. Corn ethanol has clearly failed to produce the benefits it once promised, and has proven to be disastrous for consumers and the environment."

"Big Ethanol Finally Loses" Wall Street Journal

"It's not often that the ethanol lobby suffers a policy setback in Washington, but it got its head handed to it Friday. The Environmental Protection Agency announced that for the first time it is lowering the federal mandate that dictates how much ethanol must be blended into the nation's gasoline."

"The 16% reduction is a modest pullback, which EPA says will hold ethanol blends in gasoline at the standard 10% (E10). But we hope this is a precedent-setting victory. After 35 years of exaggerations about the benefits of renewable fuels, the industry has lost credibility."

Saturday, September 28, 2013

"Conservative Groups Oppose Compromise Effort For Ethanol" Bloomberg

"The criticism shows the difficulty lawmakers may face in revamping a program that’s supported by corn growers and ethanol makers, and opposed by refiners, chicken producers, restaurant groups, anti-hunger activists and some environmentalists."

Sunday, September 15, 2013

"Wall St. Exploits Ethanol Credits, and Prices Spike" New York Times

"Every time they mix ethanol into gas, or import fuel already blended with ethanol, energy companies get a credit from the government, and that credit can be sold to other companies that don’t blend ethanol to help them meet federal requirements. If refiners fall short of their obligation, they can face fines of $32,500 a day. To monitor compliance, each gallon of ethanol is assigned a 38-digit Renewable Identification Number, or RIN. Six billion of them were generated in the first six months of this year."
"The market in ethanol credits is exactly the kind Wall Street loves: opaque, lightly regulated and potentially very lucrative."
“The last thing we wanted in implementing this program is to get price increases for the consumer,”

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

"Biofuel crops: food security must come first" The Guardian

Since 2003, the UK and other EU countries have effectively poured billions of euros into biofuels, on the premise that they reduce emissions from transport. But it has been an expensive case of the Emperor's new clothes: we now know that many biofuel crops actually increase overall emissions. At the same time, they damage biodiversity, hurt some of the world's poorest people by pushing up food prices, and cost us an estimated £460m each year.
Early in September, the European Parliament will have its first opportunity to put the brakes on. MEPs will vote on whether to amend biofuels policy to take account of the critical issue of indirect land use change (iLUC) and at what level to cap biofuels made from food crops.
Biofuel crops increase emissions through land clearance, fertiliser use, and by displacing other crops. When millions of hectares of land are switched from food to biofuel crops, food prices rise and food productionis displaced, triggering a domino-like chain of events ending in cropland expansion elsewhere, including into the tropical forests of Southeast Asia and the savannas of South America and Africa. This is iLUC.
We can't point to the precise hectare of rainforest that's felled because a particular farmer now grows fuel rather than food. But the evidence is clear that burning millions of tonnes of food as biofuel on top of what we eat leads to more land clearance and more fertiliser use (even accounting for useful biofuel co-products fed to animals). UK biofuel use in the first year of monitoring required around 1.4 million hectares of farmland, most of it overseas. That's an area the size of Northern Ireland, just to provide 3% of our transport fuel. By ignoring iLUC, the EU overlooks a large share of the emissions triggered by its biofuel targets.
ILUC is not just about carbon. Agricultural expansion and intensification are among the greatest of all threats to wild nature. Each year, millions of hectares of new cropland threaten tropical forests, wetlands and other biodiversity-rich habitats. Fertiliser run-off from the US corn belt, which supplies us with bioethanol, helps create an oxygen-depleted 'dead zone' in the Gulf of Mexico. The EU's Renewable Energy Directive has laudable 'sustainability criteria', but unsustainable biofuels can still be imported; they just don't count towards the targets. Furthermore, the criteria don't address iLUC, so biofuel demand continues to cause deforestation and biodiversity loss. If a domino falls in the forest, apparently no-one can hear it.
Some in the biofuels industry don't want iLUC factors introduced next month, because some crops would no longer be counted as 'green fuels'. But fuels that trigger deforestation, increase emissions and destroy biodiversity are not 'green'. Supporters of the industry argue that iLUC factors are too uncertain for policy. But they seem happy for policy to support an industry whose promise to deliver lower emissions is even more doubtful. The irony is that any carbon benefit of biofuels is based on their indirect effect in replacing and reducing fossil fuel use. It's nonsensical to argue that food-based biofuels should be supported for this indirect carbon benefit without also counting their indirect carbon cost.
MEPs will also vote on whether to cap use of food as biofuel at 5.5% or 6.5% of transport fuel. The lower cap would protect existing jobs while sending a clear message to investors that food-based biofuels are a poor prospect. In the longer term, we should ask whether it is rational to burn any food at all in our cars.
The right biofuels have a role to play in our energy mix, in the right quantities. Governments should continue to support the development of advanced biofuels, such as those made from waste and those grown in places unsuitable for food crops. But even these 'good biofuels' need safeguards to ensure that they don't damage biodiversity or displace other crops.
In the meantime, it's clear that the Emperor has no clothes. Will the European Parliament listen to the science, and curb the unseemly rush for food-based biofuels? I'll be writing to ask my MEPs to vote for a more modest approach, and I urge you to do the same.
• Dr. Ben Phalan is a research associate in conservation science at the Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge, and is the Zukerman junior research fellow in global food security at King's College.

"Biofuel project funded by UK ‘leaves Africans without food" The Independent

Thousands of people in one of Africa’s poorest countries are going hungry because of a biofuels “land grab” by a firm that receives funding from the Department for International Development, a charity claims.

ActionAid accuses the Swiss company Addax Bioenergy of threatening livelihoods in rural communities in Sierra Leone, where it runs an extensive sugar-cane plantation.
Addax, which will soon begin the first commercial shipping of biofuels from Africa to Europe, receives funding from a UK-based development fund that received just under $150m (£97m) from DfID in 2012-13.
The Addax project, set up in 2008, saw the company take a 50-year lease on 57,000 hectares of land in the Makeni region of northern Sierra Leone. Due to begin exporting in 2014, the project will produce 85 million litres of ethanol a year, for petrol – enough to meet 12 per cent of the UK’s ethanol consumption in 2011/12.
The scheme had been promoted as an example of an environmentally and socially responsible biofuels project. But following visits to the Addax project and 100 interviews with local people, ActionAid claims that the company is harming the livelihoods of 13,000 people, across 60 villages.
Of those surveyed, 99 per cent said that food production had declined in their communities, and 90 per cent said that loss of farmland to the Addax project had been responsible. More than three quarters of local people said that they had never seen the land lease agreements with Addax and 85 per cent said that they had not been adequately informed about the pros and cons of the company’s investment in their land, the charity claimed.
The project is funded by a number of development banks and Government-backed funds, including the Emerging Africa Infrastructure Fund (EAIF), which receives substantial funding from DfID.
Tim Rice, ActionAid’s biofuels policy adviser and author of the report, told The Independent: “It is deeply concerning that DfID, whose aim is to reduce poverty around the world, is funding a project in one of the poorest countries in Africa which is pushing people off their land and into hunger.”
Fiona Hall, Liberal Democrat MEP for North-east England, and a member of the European Parliament’s Industry, Research and Energy and Development committees, told The Independent she would call for a European Commission investigation into the project. “It is a matter of great concern,” she said.
A DfID spokesperson said ActionAid’s claims should be investigated. “EAIF makes their own commercial funding decisions,” the spokesperson said. “As one of EAIF’s funders, we would expect them and their fund managers to investigate any allegations raised and to seek reassurance from the company.”
An Addax spokesperson said the project in question “is already held up as a positive example by the authorities in Sierra Leone, and by international organisations like the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the UN and the African Development Bank.”

"Bad Ethanol Policy Is a Job Killer The price of EPA compliance rose 3,625% since the end of 2012." Wall Street Journal

  •  And 
Like most ideas in Congress, the Renewable Fuel Standard was rooted in good intention. Enacted in 2005 by President George W. Bush and with strong bipartisan support, the RFS was designed to improve energy security and the environment by requiring that the transportation fuels Americans use include a minimum amount of renewable fuels. Administered by the Environmental Protection Agency, the RFS sets a schedule for increasing the amount of renewable fuel used each year, regardless of demand.
The good news is that each gallon of gasoline now includes a 10% ethanol blend. The bad news is that despite technological limits and a lack of consumer demand for greater concentrations of ethanol, the EPA is now mandating that refiners use more than a 10% ethanol blend. That's something refiners simply cannot do.
The Renewable Fuel Standard created a market-based compliance system in which refiners must submit credits to prove that the required amount of renewable fuel is used or paid for by them each year. These credits, known as Renewable Identification Numbers, can be bought or sold like commodities. Both refiners and blenders acquire RINs by either blending the renewable fuel or buying credits in lieu of blending.
Associated Press
As a display of regulatory failure at its finest, current regulations place the compliance obligation on refiners rather than on renewable-fuel blenders—allowing blenders to sell RINs to anyone, including Wall Street speculators—and fail to require any transparency in the RIN market. One result: a shortage of RINs for purchase by refiners, and a lack of clarity about who is acquiring them.
There's somewhat less mystery about the price explosion in RIN credits. Historically, they have traded at a relatively low price—typically four cents per RIN. But higher blend quotas have become increasingly unrealistic to meet—required by law for a commodity that is not reliably available commercially. Another drawback: Ethanol blends beyond 10% can ravage older car engines. No wonder the limited number of RINs are becoming more valuable. Starting in early 2013, prices exploded from four cents per gallon to over $1.45 per RIN, a 3,625% increase since the end of 2012.
The skyrocketing price of RINs is creating a huge threat to refineries like Monroe Energy in Trainer, Pa., near Philadelphia. Monroe purchased the Trainer refinery in June 2012 for a reported $150 million. At current RIN prices, Monroe Energy's annual cost to buy RINs will be almost twice the price it paid to buy the refinery itself.
Like Monroe Energy, refineries across the country are facing unsustainable compliance costs. We need a solution for refineries struggling to comply with burdensome and mismanaged RIN credits, while balancing the intent of the Renewable Fuel Standard.
The Environmental Protection Agency's Aug. 6 announcement that it will consider reducing the renewable fuel volume mandate next year—while refusing to take action this year—is a far too tepid response to this crisis. Next year may be too late. The federal government owes it to the thousands of refinery workers across the nation not to imperil their jobs with ruinous regulations.

Rep. Meehan, a Republican, represents the Seventh District of Pennsylvania in the U.S. House of Representatives. Mr. Eiding is president of the Philadelphia Council of the AFL-CIO.

Monday, August 26, 2013

John Decicco in Yale's environment 360 blog

22 AUG 2013: OPINION

Why Pushing Alternate Fuels
Makes for Bad Public Policy

Every U.S. president since Ronald Reagan has backed programs to develop alternative transportation fuels. But there are better ways to foster energy independence and reduce greenhouse gas emissions than using subsidies and mandates to promote politically favored fuels.

by john decicco

For nearly four decades, every American president has promoted alternative fuel vehicles as a way to secure the country’s energy independence. Ronald Reagan backed the 1988 Alternative Motor Fuels Act, which championed development of non-petroleum fuels. George H.W. Bush helped shape the 1992 Energy Policy Act, whose goal was to displace 30 percent of U.S. transportation oil use by 2010. Bill Clinton ramped up those initiatives, launching the Clean Cities program to promote alternative fuels. George W. Bush gave particular support to hydrogen fuel cell vehicles and worked with Congress to create the Renewable Fuel Standard, which mandates a large increase in biofuel use that has now reached 16 billion gallons a year, mainly ethanol. 

And President Obama — under the misguided presumption that alternative fuels emit significantly fewer greenhouse gases than gasoline, and goaded by green groups and alternative fuel business interests — has been a staunch proponent of alternative fuels and electric vehicles (EVs). The president's first-term economic stimulus allocated an additional $300 million for alternative fuel vehicle deployment. His administration has enthusiastically promoted EVs, pledging to put a million electric vehicles on the road by 2015. Obama’s new climate plan, unveiled in June, calls for ongoing efforts to deploy biofuels, EVs, and hydrogen fuel cell cars. 

Despite this bipartisan support stretching back almost 40 years, the fact is that using government mandates and subsidies to promote politically favored fuels du jour is a waste of taxpayers’ money. It's also a diversion
There is no environmentally persuasive reason to rush alternative fuel vehicles onto the road.
from what really needs to be done to reduce transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions. Examining alternative fuels as they are produced today, as opposed to how some people wish they'll be produced in a hoped-for renewable energy future, reveals no environmentally persuasive reason to rush alternative fuel vehicles onto the road. 

To be sure, fundamental science and engineering research are important for creating new options for the future, and so a well-hedged set of alternative fuel vehicle options has a place in the federal research and development portfolio. But as for going beyond laboratory research and development, a rigorous analysis shows that subsidizing deployment of alternative fuels and vehicles — totaling billions of dollars over the last 40 years — is a misplaced priority. The Renewable Fuel Standard, the $7,500 tax credit for electric cars, the alternative fuel promotions of the Clean Cities program — these and decades of other programs go well beyond research and development by trying to push alternative fuels and vehicles into the marketplace. 

Instead, in order to reduce transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions, action is needed on three fronts: continuing to raise fuel efficiency standards, pursuing policies to reduce driving, and, most importantly, controlling carbon upstream in the energy and resource systems that supply the fuels used downstream in our everyday lives. 

George Bush hydrogen fuel
Alex Wong/Getty Images
President George W. Bush toured the first hydrogen fueling station in the U.S. in 2005.
In the case of electric vehicles, an upstream focus means cutting CO2 emissions from power plants, as Obama has proposed in his new climate plan. Without low-carbon power generation, EVs will have little lasting value. Similarly, for biofuels such as ethanol, any potential climate benefit is entirely upstream on land where feedstocks are grown. Biofuels have no benefit downstream, where used as motor fuels, because their tailpipe CO2 emissions differ only trivially from those of gasoline. 

Given how difficult the climate policy debate has been, it's crucial to prioritize where our money, time, and attention are focused. Even if certain alternative fuel vehicle technologies (say EVs) may play an important role in the decades ahead, these technologies are unlikely to take the form being prematurely subsidized today. What’s at issue is not just the waste of tax dollars, but the squandering of public goodwill due to the hyping of alternatives. 

Whether what propels a car is electricity, liquid fuels, natural gas, or hydrogen, the critical impacts all occur far from the car itself at locations where fuels originate and natural resources are exploited. Today, none of the relevant sectors — electric power generation, oil and gas supply, agriculture and land — are close to having their carbon impacts adequately
Accelerating power sector cleanup is far more important than plugging in the car fleet.

Take electricity, for example. In the United States, most of it still comes from fossil fuels — 37 percent coal and 30 percent natural gas, as of last year. Recent shifts to natural gas have had only a modest effect; CO2 from electricity generation is declining, but slowly, at a projected rate of less than one percent per year. But thanks to stronger fuel economy standards pushed by the Obama administration, the CO2 emissions rate of U.S. automobiles is on track to decline by 2.1 percent a year, more than double the rate of reduction in the power sector. 

Given the gains in gasoline vehicle efficiency, the climate benefits of electric vehicles will shrink unless more is done to reduce emissions when generating electricity. Because power plants are retired much more slowly than cars are scrapped, government spending to rush EVs onto the road and underwrite their infrastructure is not money well spent. By the time the power sector is clean enough and battery costs fall enough for EVs to cut carbon at a significant scale, self-driving cars and wireless charging will probably render today's electric vehicle technologies obsolete. Accelerating power sector cleanup is far more important than plugging in the car fleet. 

As for ethanol and other biofuels, a National Academy of Sciences reportconcluded that their climate benefits are highly uncertain. The study found that the Renewable Fuel Standard — now at 16 billion gallons and climbing — may not reduce greenhouse gas emissions at all once global impacts are counted. A pioneer in fuel cycle studies — Mark A. Delucchi of the University of California, Davis, Institute for Transportation Studies — now questions the accuracy of any of the greenhouse gas analyses used to promote biofuels. 

In fact, biofuels have no climate benefit on the road, which is where they are burned. If there is a benefit, it happens on land and occurs only if harvesting biofuel feedstocks causes a net additional removal of carbon dioxide from the air. Take corn, which is the main feedstock for making ethanol. Growing the corn that becomes ethanol absorbs no more carbon from the air than the corn that goes into cattle feed or corn flakes. Burning the ethanol releases essentially the same amount of CO2 as burning gasoline. No less CO2 went into the air from the tailpipe; no more CO2 was removed from the air at the cornfield. So where's the climate benefit? 

Until that question can be carefully answered for fuel produced on a large, commercial scale — as opposed to limited and costly experimental methods — it is not possible to scientifically determine the extent to which biofuels actually benefit the climate. The implication? We need to ensure that biomass feedstocks really do absorb more CO2 than whatever else might be growing on the land. For now, it makes more sense to soak up CO2 through 
Climate policy should not be saddled with the legacy of disco-era, `anything but oil’ energy policy.
reforestation and redouble efforts to protect forests rather than producing biofuels, which puts carbon-rich natural lands at risk. 

As for hydrogen fuel cell cars, the benefits depend on low greenhouse gas hydrogen production. Today, hydrogen is produced from natural gas or during petroleum refining, and commercially available hydrogen involves about 35 percent more greenhouse gas emissions per unit of energy than gasoline. Hydrogen fuel cell cars are more efficient than today's gasoline cars, but their ultimate value depends on extensive changes upstream in the industrial sectors where hydrogen is generated.

Similarly, the climate benefits of natural gas vehicles depend on the control of upstream emissions, particularly methane. Because natural gas combustion emits only 22 percent less carbon dioxide than gasoline per unit of energy, and any methane leaks undermine that modest benefit, the climate benefits of natural gas vehicles are marginal at best. 

Whatever fuel is considered, the real need is to limit the greenhouse gas emissions that now remain largely uncontrolled in the sectors from which fuels are sourced. This conclusion is based on a detailed analysis that works forward from present realities rather than backward from one imaginary future or another. Although one or more alternative fuels might have a role to play someday, which alternatives will be needed, and when, cannot be determined on the basis of current data. It's also quite possible that none will be relevant in the forms that alternative fuel vehicles are being promoted today. Moreover, given the poor track record of alternative fuels to date, there's no need to saddle climate policy with this legacy of disco-era, “anything but oil” energy policy. 


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

"For science’s sake, the EU must legislate on biofuels land use change"

"Producing tens of millions of tonnes of biofuel requires a large increase in agricultural output, or a correspondingly large reduction in the amount of food people eat. If the extra agricultural production comes from clearing land to expand farms, either in Europe itself or further afield in countries like Brazil or Indonesia, it will cause the loss of carbon stored in the soil and in biomass (grasses, shrubs, trees and so forth) on the land, emitted as carbon dioxide."

"Advocates, foes of biofuels mandate get ready to rumble" The Hill's E-2 Wire

"The federal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) has been an “unmitigated success” that curbs oil import reliance and creates jobs.

No wait, forget that . . . the national biofuels mandate is actually an “unworkable law that places consumers at risk of high food and fuel costs, engine damage, and environmental harm.”

"Ethanol Mandate to be Debated for Two Days Before House Panel" Yahoo News

"After a year battling over the airwaves and strategizing behind closed doors, the legions of lobbyists fighting over a federal biofuels mandate will finally get the chance to present their arguments to Congress during a two-day House hearing starting Tuesday.'

"The Ethanol Tax" Wall Street Journal

"The quickest way for Washington to lower prices would be to repeal the ethanol quotas. But White House energy adviser Heather Zichal said this week that repeal would be "shortsighted" because the mandate combats climate change. But even environmentalists (including Al Gore) now concede that ethanol probably increases carbon emissions."

"Our Coming Food Crisis" New York Times Op-Ed

"Moreover, the farm bill should include funds from the Strikeforce Initiative of the Department of Agriculture to help farmers transition to forms of perennial agriculture — initially focusing on edible tree crops and perennial grass pastures — rather than providing more subsidies to biofuel production from annual crops."

Saturday, July 13, 2013

"The One Issue Republicans and Democrats Can Agree On" Slate

"The fact that most ethanol is made from corn means that an increase in the ethanol content of gas could create, or exacerbate, a variety of problems, like higher food prices and elevated levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide. Ethanol production has also been linked to the spread of a dangerous form of E. coli."

"Ethanol fuel’s many problems have drawn together an orgy of strange bedfellows, including the petroleum lobby, environmentalists, foodies, food processors, auto enthusiasts (cars don’t like ethanol, either), and citizens of all political bents—basically everyone outside of the corn belt and D.C.’s Beltway."

"Already, the increased demand for corn created by ethanol policy in recent years has led to more land being cleared for agriculture. This activity, and the intensive tillage of the industrial farming system that produces most corn, has resulted in widespread loss of topsoil: We’ve only got about 60 years’ worth of topsoil left at the current rate of loss, by some estimates. The vast and expanding monocultures of corn that blanket the Midwest are part of this problem."

"Topsoil sequesters carbon dioxide. The more topsoil that’s lost, the less carbon dioxide is sequestered, and the more carbon dioxide is added to the atmosphere. Thick, healthy soils are also an important natural reservoir of water; thin soil is less able to retain rainfall and irrigation, which increases the demand for water."

"Meanwhile, on the food-safety front, a mushy yellow byproduct of ethanol production called distillers grains, which is widely used in cattle feed, turns out to be a rich source ofE. coli 0157, the pathogen behind several recent recalls of E. coli-tainted beef. Though links between distillers grains and specific cases of food-borne illness have yet to be established, it has been demonstrated that the higher the percentage of distillers grains in cows' diets, the higher the level of E. coli 0157 in those cows."

Thursday, July 11, 2013

"Nobel laureate: the world is waking up to biofuel shortcomings" The Hindu

"...the amount of energy produced by biofuels is only a little more than that invested in growing and manufacturing them."

"EU Lawmakers Back Limits to Biofuels' Use in Transport" Wall Street Journal

"A growing body of evidence has shown some biofuels produce more carbon-dioxide emissions than traditional fossil fuels when taking into account how land is used to grow the crops, such as the clearing of forests. They also have repercussions for food prices, as the cultivation of biofuel crops reduces the amount of land available for other crops."

Wednesday, July 3, 2013


"He was not alone in seeing Africa as an exciting new frontier for biofuel production, with cheap land that, to an outside eye, looks wasted."

"Foreign biofuel companies promise benefits such as jobs, but their projects have driven rural communities in some of the world’s poorest countries off their land, offering only modest benefits in return, critics say."

"A 2011 report by the International Monetary Fund and United Nations agencies, including the Food and Agriculture Organization, linked sharp rises in food prices in poor countries to the demand for land to plant biofuel crops."

"This terrifying chart shows we’re not growing enough food to feed the world" Washington Post

"It’s a question that keeps crop scientists up at night: How are we possibly going to feed the world over the next few decades?
After all, consider what we’re up against: The global population is expected to swell from 7 billion today to 9.6 billion by 2050. The rising middle class in China and India is eating more meat than ever. And this is all happening at a time when we’re setting aside a greater slice of farmland for biofuels and trying not to cut down any more forests (which exacerbates climate change). Doing this in a sustainable manner is tricky."

"Full Planet, Empty Plates: Chapter 4. Food or Fuel?" Lester Brown

 "The grain turned into ethanol in the United States in 2011 could have fed, at average world consumption levels, some 400 million people. But even if the entire U.S. grain harvest were turned into ethanol, it would only satisfy 18 percent of current gasoline demand."

"Not only are biofuels helping raise food prices, and thus increasing the number of hungry people, most make little sense from an energy efficiency perspective."

"One of the consequences of integrating the world food and fuel economies is that the owners of the world’s 1 billion motor vehicles are pitted against the world’s poorest people in competition for grain. The winner of this competition will depend heavily on income levels. Whereas the average motorist has an annual income over $30,000, the incomes of the 2 billion poorest people in the world are well under $2,000.

Rising food prices can quickly translate into social unrest. As grain prices were doubling from 2007 to mid-2008, food protests and riots broke out in many countries. Economic stresses in the form of rising food prices are translating into political stresses, putting governments in some countries under unmanageable pressures. The U.S. State Department reports food unrest in some 60 countries between 2007 and 2009. Among these were Afghanistan, Yemen, Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Haiti."
"Yet for the foreseeable future, production of those cellulose-based fuels has little chance of reaching such levels. Producing ethanol from sugars or starches like corn or sugarcane is a one-step process that converts the feedstock to ethanol. But producing ethanol from cellulosic materials is a two-step process: first the material must be broken down into sugar or starch, and then it is converted into ethanol. Furthermore, cellulosic feedstocks like corn stalks are much bulkier than feedstocks like corn kernels, so transporting them from distant fields to a distillery is much more costly. Removing agricultural residues such as corn stalks or wheat straw from the field to produce ethanol deprives the soil of needed organic matter.
The unfortunate reality is that the road to this ambitious cellulosic biofuel goal is littered with bankrupt firms that tried and failed to develop a process that would produce an economically viable fuel. Despite having the advantage of not being directly part of the food supply, cellulosic ethanol has strong intrinsic characteristics that put it at a basic disadvantage compared with grain ethanol, so it may never become economically viable."

Ethanol trade undermines U.S. biofuels policy Thomson Reuters

" U.S. policy to boost the use of fuel from renewable sources is generating additional greenhouse gas emissions due to rising trade in ethanol between the United States and Brazil, rather than lowering emissions as intended, research by Thomson Reuters Foundation shows."

"As a result, since the start of 2011, the United States and Brazil have shipped over 1 billion gallons of ethanol back and forth – more than 500 million gallons each way. The emissions generated by the shipping have worsened the carbon footprint of both fuels."

"As demand for biofuels has grown in the United States, non-profit groups working on poverty and the environment have also weighed into the debate, arguing that growing biofuel crops on large swathes of land is hiking food prices, damaging the productivity of farmland and causing deforestation."

"Fuel firm drops plan to transport ethanol" The Boston Globe

"A fuel company has scrapped a proposal to transport ethanol by train through densely populated communities north of Boston, amid concerns from activists that the highly flammable liquid could be ignited in a derailment or attract would-be terrorists."

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

"EPA biofuel rule: energy solution or economic burden?" The Christian Science Monitor

"The brewing controversy has pit biofuel advocates and the EPA against the oil industry and fuel manufacturers who say the standards impose an unnecessary economic burden on consumers. Fueling cars with corn also has significant consequences for agriculture, putting upward pressure on food prices."

"By requiring refiners to produce a product that consumers can’t use and don’t want, it is only logical that this constriction of the market will increase fuel prices, causing economic damage," Rep. James Lankford (R) of Oklahoma said in prepared remarks. "Because of the over-reliance on food-based ethanol as a renewable fuel, the RFS has a negative impact on our food supply and security."

"The increasing demand for corn ethanol has upended agriculture markets. When the RFS was first created in 2005, ethanol made up about 14 percent of the country's corn production, according to a May 2013 report from the USDA. By 2012, that level had increased to roughly 42 percent. The growing focus on corn for energy has contributed to a 40 percent rise in crop prices between 2001 and 2012."

"EU votes on crucial cap on biofuels made from food crops" The Guardian

"Ahead of this week's votes, Olivier De Schutter, the UN special rapporteur on the right to food, wrote a letter (pdf) to the commission, member states and MEPs that was highly critical of EU biofuels policy. He is concerned that EU policy creates incentives for land leases or acquisitions, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, in which the rights of current land users are inadequately protected."

"The land and water resources of the countries concerned should serve, in the first instance, the realisation of the right to food of the local populations; these populations should not be forced to compete against EU consumers, whose purchasing power is vastly higher," said De Schutter.

"De Schutter said biofuels had pushed up food prices, with estimates that, by 2020, EU biofuel targets could ramp up the agricultural price of vegetable oils by 36%, maize by 22%, wheat by 13% and oilseeds by 20%. Another concern is that biofuels favour large-scale industrial models of agriculture that appear to offer limited benefits to local populations, particularly smallholder farmers."

"Food fight: White Castle vs biofuels" SmartPlanet

By  | June 17, 2013
U.S. chain restaurants and a group of congressmen are launching an assault against biofuels on the grounds that fuel produced from crops like corn are pushing up food prices.
At a press conference on Capitol Hill this Thursday, the president of burger chain White Castle will join the owner of a Wendy’s franchise and other meat movers to demand the repeal of the federal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).
The RFS requires transportation fuels to contain a minimum complement of renewables. That includes ethanol which is produced from corn, a crop that has long fed the cattle that the food industry turns into burgers and steaks that groups like White Castle and Wendy’s sell.
In a media advisory announcing the Thursday press conference, the National Council of Chain Restaurants (NCCR) said:
“The federal RFS mandate drastically manipulates the corn marketplace and increases commodity and food costs across the supply chain – from farmers and chain restaurants to consumers and diners. NCCR, along with other coalition partners and Members of Congress, will hold a press conference to launch ‘Feed Food Fairness: Take RFS Off the Menu.’ “
Speakers will include Lisa Ingram, president of White Castle; Mark Behm, who operates some 61 Wendy’s outlet in Michigan; Steve Foglesong, a cattle producer and the former chair of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association; Robert J. Green, executive director of of the NCCR; and Congressmen Bob Goodlatte, a Republican from Virginia, and Jim Matheson, a Democrat from Utah.
White Castle almost certainly has the distinction of being the country’s oldest burger chain, dating back as early as 1916 in Wichita, Kan., over two decades before McDonalds started in San Bernardino, Calif.
To this day, White Castle confounds some meat eaters and thrills others by offering square-shaped burgers rather than round ones. Whatever form consumers prefer, White Castle and its fellow meat marketers are hoping to take a bite out of the renewable fuel forces that they say are pushing up prices.