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posted by janrinok on Tuesday August 24, @04:24PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the its-corn-its-good dept.

The author of this piece has an obvious bias (Geoff Cooper is the president and CEO of Renewable Fuels Association), but does he also have a valid point?

Let's prioritize American renewable fuels over foreign oil and minerals:

After suffering through more than a year of quarantines, stay-at-home orders, and travel lockdowns, millions of Americans have eagerly returned to the nation's highways this summer for long-awaited vacations and road trips. As a result, gasoline demand has surged to record highs and pump prices are at levels not seen since 2014.

In recent weeks, regular-grade gas prices averaged $3.17 per gallon, up almost 50 percent from the same time last year. With higher fuel prices threatening to undermine the nation's ongoing economic recovery, it's easy to see why the Biden administration is looking for ways to ease America's pain at the pump.

[...] Before the Biden administration looks to OPEC+ countries or mineral-rich nations like Afghanistan, China and Bolivia for help, it has an opportunity to turn to America's heartland for a homegrown solution. Renewable fuels like ethanol have a 40-year proven track record of success in helping to lower prices at the pump while simultaneously reducing carbon emissions, supporting good-paying clean energy jobs and curtailing crude oil imports.

Four decades' worth of investment and innovation by ethanol producers has resulted in real breakthroughs in lower-carbon transportation fuels. Today's corn-based ethanol reduces carbon emissions by 52 percent when compared directly to gasoline, according to a recent study from the Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory. Another study by scientists from Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Tufts University similarly shows corn ethanol achieves an average carbon reduction of 46 percent compared to gasoline, with some ethanol in the market today achieving a 61 percent carbon reduction.

[...] Before we turn to the Persian Gulf for answers to our nation's energy and climate challenges, let's give the American heartland a shot. The solution to high pump prices and decarbonization lies in the farm fields of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa and other Midwest states — not in the oil fields of Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and other Middle East nations.

Journal Reference:
Uisung Lee, Hoyoung Kwon, May Wu, et al. Retrospective analysis of the U.S. corn ethanol industry for 2005–2019: implications for greenhouse gas emission reductions [open], Biofuels, Bioproducts and Biorefining (DOI: 10.1002/bbb.2225)


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  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by fustakrakich on Tuesday August 24, @04:33PM (38 children)

    by fustakrakich (6150) on Tuesday August 24, @04:33PM (#1170372) Journal

    Do they include the environmental and economic costs of producing ethanol?

    --
    Ok, we paid the ransom. Do I get my dog back? REDЯUM
    • (Score: 3, Informative) by fustakrakich on Tuesday August 24, @04:35PM

      by fustakrakich (6150) on Tuesday August 24, @04:35PM (#1170373) Journal

      We are the leading trade association for America’s ethanol industry

      --
      Ok, we paid the ransom. Do I get my dog back? REDЯUM
    • (Score: 4, Interesting) by requerdanos on Tuesday August 24, @04:43PM (4 children)

      by requerdanos (5997) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday August 24, @04:43PM (#1170376) Journal

      I don't see any reason why you couldn't power your ethanol production with wind, solar, or unicorn faerie dust.

      Not saying that's typically done, just pointing out the envirocleanliness potential.

      • (Score: 3, Informative) by fustakrakich on Tuesday August 24, @04:56PM

        by fustakrakich (6150) on Tuesday August 24, @04:56PM (#1170385) Journal

        Sorry, I was talking more about the agricultural aspects, water consumption, harvesting, soil damage, pesticides, chemical fertilizers, etc...

        --
        Ok, we paid the ransom. Do I get my dog back? REDЯUM
      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 24, @06:20PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 24, @06:20PM (#1170452)

        whale oil to ethanol. now that is renewable.

      • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Tuesday August 24, @08:13PM (1 child)

        by JoeMerchant (3937) on Tuesday August 24, @08:13PM (#1170493)

        Ethanol should be past the point where it is self sustaining - if desired. Thing is, the infrastructure is all built out using coal, oil, nuclear, etc. The more ethanol is produced, the more infrastructure will be built to use it.

        --
        John Galt is a selfish crybaby [huffpost.com].
        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 25, @07:09PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 25, @07:09PM (#1170933)

          It takes two barrels of oil to produce one barrel-equivalent from field corn*. It is impossible for such a model to become self sustaining. The only reason it can exist at all is because the law requires it.

          *Brazil is the only country in the world with sustainable ethanol fuel production because they make it from sugar cane.

    • (Score: 4, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 24, @04:47PM (16 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 24, @04:47PM (#1170378)

      Ethanol from corn is totally unsustainable. The amount of fuel that goes into producing 1 gigajoule of ethanol is more than half a gigajoule, mostly in the form of natural gas to produce nitrogen fertilizers. It's not viable at all.

      I'm not saying all ethanol fuel is bad. In areas where sugarcane grows, it can be a lot better. But corn ethanol in the US is worse for the environment than gasoline.

      • (Score: 2) by requerdanos on Tuesday August 24, @04:53PM (6 children)

        by requerdanos (5997) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday August 24, @04:53PM (#1170383) Journal

        But corn ethanol in the US is worse for the environment than gasoline.

        The question addressed doesn't seem to be which is better for the environment, but rather whether the U.S. should focus on producing fuel domestically or increasing reliance on OPEC.

        • (Score: 1, Redundant) by fustakrakich on Tuesday August 24, @04:59PM (5 children)

          by fustakrakich (6150) on Tuesday August 24, @04:59PM (#1170389) Journal

          We are exporting oil now. We are an OPEC nation

          --
          Ok, we paid the ransom. Do I get my dog back? REDЯUM
          • (Score: 4, Funny) by DannyB on Tuesday August 24, @05:09PM

            by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday August 24, @05:09PM (#1170395) Journal

            I didn't know America wanted to become one of those OPEC'ers.

            --
            I notice that for each booster shot, they use a fresh needle?!? Don't they know about re-usable boosters?
          • (Score: 1) by khallow on Tuesday August 24, @05:20PM (1 child)

            by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday August 24, @05:20PM (#1170408) Journal

            We are exporting oil now. We are an OPEC nation

            I don't know who "we" are for you, but the US is expressly not part of OPEC because the US and various European countries were the enemy against which OPEC was created.

            • (Score: 1) by fustakrakich on Wednesday August 25, @12:57AM

              by fustakrakich (6150) on Wednesday August 25, @12:57AM (#1170598) Journal

              :-) What "enemy" is that?

              --
              Ok, we paid the ransom. Do I get my dog back? REDЯUM
          • (Score: 3, Informative) by DeathMonkey on Tuesday August 24, @05:21PM (1 child)

            by DeathMonkey (1380) on Tuesday August 24, @05:21PM (#1170409) Journal

            We're not in OPEC but we are a net exporter.

            • (Score: 3, Insightful) by fustakrakich on Tuesday August 24, @05:29PM

              by fustakrakich (6150) on Tuesday August 24, @05:29PM (#1170415) Journal

              Yeah, it's just one of those things that makes the story more like a plain old political lobbying effort.

              --
              Ok, we paid the ransom. Do I get my dog back? REDЯUM
      • (Score: 3, Interesting) by ElizabethGreene on Tuesday August 24, @07:11PM (2 children)

        by ElizabethGreene (6748) on Tuesday August 24, @07:11PM (#1170468)

        It doesn't have to be sugarcane either, there are legume (nitrogen-fixing) biomass crops e.g. alfalfa that could be used to make Ethanol too. I'm unclear on why we put all our eggs in the corn basket. It used to be subsidies, but the direct payment subsidy program has been gone for a while now.

        Inertia?

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 24, @08:49PM (1 child)

          by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 24, @08:49PM (#1170508)

          Machinery for planting/harvesting/processing. Corn requires no new R&D, no change to agricultural practices, and no new investment for processing to ethanol.

          • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 25, @02:07PM

            by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 25, @02:07PM (#1170817)

            This is why republicans were so against Obama's investments into renewables.

            They knew that if they could get over the initial cost barrier that it would overturn the energy sector and THEN what excuse could they use to invade the Middle East?

      • (Score: 4, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 24, @07:21PM (3 children)

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 24, @07:21PM (#1170471)

        Ethanol from corn is totally unsustainable

        The "waste" from ethanol plants are high protein animal feed also known as distillers grains. You see, the problem with feeding cows and pigs corn is all the sugar. In cattle this sugar results in the nasty strains of e.coli that then poison people. Remove the sugar, and cows don't become breading grounds for it. Fermentation of the corn breaks down the sugar and allows the proteins to be used as feed. It's a win-win.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Distillers_grains [wikipedia.org]
        https://www.hubbardfeeds.com/blog/pros-and-cons-supplementing-distillers-grains [hubbardfeeds.com]

        The problem is not the ethanol, it's always the other chemicals like when some ethanol plant used neonicotinoid coated seeds which then cannot be used as animal feed. It basically becomes toxic waste

        https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2021/jan/10/mead-nebraska-ethanol-plant-pollution-danger [theguardian.com]

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 24, @10:52PM (2 children)

          by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 24, @10:52PM (#1170547)

          Yes, the magical muppets don't want you eating meat either.

          • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 25, @12:28AM (1 child)

            by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 25, @12:28AM (#1170590)

            Well why would you, plants are delicious and nutritious with all the vitamins you need.

            • (Score: 2) by PinkyGigglebrain on Wednesday August 25, @04:03AM

              by PinkyGigglebrain (4458) on Wednesday August 25, @04:03AM (#1170658)

              something to remember about meat from cattle and other ruminants, they convert grass, inedible by most Humans, into a concentrated high protein food that Humans can eat. Cows are adapted to eat grass, not corn. Feeding them corn is the cause of most of the problems attributed to cows, in particular the methane and e-coli issues.

              Same can be said of several other meat producing animals. They convert things Humans can't or won't eat into a foods that Humans can eat.

              Humans are omnivores, our bodies are adapted to and work best on a varied diet that includes more than just plants.

              And on a personal note I've yet to eat a vegiburger that tasted anywhere near as good as a waygu beef hamburger. So I'm not going to give those up anytime soon.

              --
              "Beware those who would deny you Knowledge, For in their hearts they dream themselves your Master."
      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 24, @11:47PM (1 child)

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 24, @11:47PM (#1170571)

        "The amount of fuel that goes into producing 1 gigajoule of ethanol is more than half a gigajoule"

        Math is hard. 1 > 0.5. looks totally sustainable to me.

        • (Score: 2) by c0lo on Wednesday August 25, @02:06AM

          by c0lo (156) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday August 25, @02:06AM (#1170622) Journal

          1 > 0.5. looks totally sustainable to me.

          If you rely only on math, it may look sustainable to you.
          I suggest you upgrade your toolset to include at least physics and ecology.

          --
          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoFiw2jMy-0
    • (Score: 5, Interesting) by DeathMonkey on Tuesday August 24, @04:59PM (11 children)

      by DeathMonkey (1380) on Tuesday August 24, @04:59PM (#1170390) Journal

      Do they include the environmental and economic costs of producing ethanol?

      Yes.

      FTA:

      Retrospective analysis of the U.S. corn ethanol industry for 2005–2019: implications for greenhouse gas emission reductions [wiley.com]

      Since 2000, corn ethanol production in the USA has increased significantly – from 1.6 to 15 billion gallons (6.1 to 57 billion liters) – due to supportive biofuel policies. In this study, we conduct a retrospective analysis of the changes in US corn ethanol greenhouse gas emission intensity, sometimes known as carbon intensity (CI), over the 15 years from 2005 to 2019. Our analysis shows a significant decrease in CI: from 58 to 45 gCO2e/MJ of corn ethanol (a 23% reduction). This is due to several factors. Corn grain yield has increased continuously, reaching 168 bushels/acre (10.5 metric tons/ha, a 15% increase) while fertilizer inputs per acre have remained constant, resulting in decreased intensities of fertilizer inputs (e.g., 7% and 18% reduction in nitrogen and potash use per bushel of corn grain harvested, respectively). A 6.5% increase in ethanol yield, from 2.70 to 2.86 gal/bushel corn (0.402 to 0.427 L kg−1 corn), and a 24% reduction in ethanol plant energy use, from 32 000 to 25 000 Btu/gal ethanol (9.0 to 6.9 MJ L−1 ethanol) also helped reduce the CI. The total GHG emission reduction benefits through the reduction in the CI and increased ethanol production volume are estimated at 140 million metric tons (MMT) from 2005 to 2019 in the ethanol industry. Displacement of petroleum gasoline by corn ethanol in the transportation fuel market resulted in a total GHG emission reduction benefit of 544 MMT CO2e during the period 2005 to 2019. © 2021 Argonne National Laboratory. Biofuels, Bioproducts and Biorefining published by Society of Industrial Chemistry and John Wiley & Sons Ltd

      • (Score: 3, Insightful) by fustakrakich on Tuesday August 24, @05:18PM (5 children)

        by fustakrakich (6150) on Tuesday August 24, @05:18PM (#1170403) Journal

        Sure hope the climate cooperates, and it just pushes the prices way up when it doesn't. And later, when all the warm weather moves to Canada, we'll be importing corn from them. I wish we would just go electric. It requires the simplest, safest infrastructure, and can be minimally offensive to the environment on the largest scale. Transporting electrons is cheaper than moving all that mass around from one refinery to another.

        --
        Ok, we paid the ransom. Do I get my dog back? REDЯUM
        • (Score: 2) by DeathMonkey on Tuesday August 24, @05:36PM (4 children)

          by DeathMonkey (1380) on Tuesday August 24, @05:36PM (#1170423) Journal

          We can do both.

          • (Score: 1) by fustakrakich on Tuesday August 24, @05:50PM (3 children)

            by fustakrakich (6150) on Tuesday August 24, @05:50PM (#1170441) Journal

            The ethanol can serve local needs, the infrastructure is too demanding, even if it is lighter than oil. Electric can be produced and delivered anywhere

            --
            Ok, we paid the ransom. Do I get my dog back? REDЯUM
            • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 24, @06:10PM (2 children)

              by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 24, @06:10PM (#1170451)

              Plus you can drink it.

              • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 24, @07:00PM (1 child)

                by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 24, @07:00PM (#1170462)

                What part of "serves local needs" did you not understand? :P

                • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 24, @07:05PM

                  by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 24, @07:05PM (#1170465)

                  The part where you can drink it.

      • (Score: 5, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 24, @11:11PM (4 children)

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 24, @11:11PM (#1170556)

        Yes, but also no.

        The paper you linked discusses only CO2 emissions, not other environmental costs, among them water and land use.

        The improvement in production efficiency comes from: Higher agricultural productivity; credits for waste production; and more efficient extraction of refinable biomaterials from the corn produced. All of these have problems. Another factor is more efficient farming operations and less carbon-intensive fertilizer, resulting in lower CO2 emissions during actual farming. This is a benefit, but it's not a benefit specific to ethanol production: this benefit belongs to the farming sector as a whole. If the same land were used to grow other crops, the same CO2 emissions reduction would still occur.

        Most of the corn is produced in states irrigated with water from the Ogallala Aquifer, a rapidly depleting and not-very-renewable resource. http://duwaterlawreview.com/crisis-on-the-high-plains-the-loss-of-americas-largest-aquifer-the-ogallala/ [duwaterlawreview.com] It's possible to draw some water from this aquifer sustainably, but not nearly as much as is currently being used. This is a serious problem that is going to be addressed, it's just a question of whether it's addressed intentionally or forced when the water runs out. And it means switching to less water-intensive crops. Corn is one of the worst crops for water use, requiring over 120 gallons of water per pound of corn produced. A gallon of ethanol takes 26 pounds of corn. That's about 3100 gallons (26000 pounds) of water consumed per gallon of ethanol produced.

        Land use is another serious issue. There is only so much crop-growing land, and crops used for biofuel are crops not used for anything else. About ten years ago there was a famine in Mexico, caused by the US convincing Mexico to stop growing their own corn and buy it from the US instead. Then the US decided to set the corn on fire, and Mexicans starved. If the land had been used to grow food crops, this could have been prevented. We are not on the brink of a Malthusian catastrophe, but everyone knows that highly intensive agriculture is damaging. Farmers and scientists do a good job of managing this - we're probably not going to have another Dust Bowl - but there's a hazard here.

        Some of the waste from corn ethanol is converted to pig and cattle feed. They discount their actual emissions because of this because they assume that this is free and that the animals would instead be eating purpose-grown crops. But the reverse is actually the case: Animals were eating corn waste before, and now that the process for extracting refinable biostock from the corn has become more efficient, the waste has become deficient in calories, requiring supplementation with purpose-grown crops. https://theicct.org/blog/staff/if-we-use-livestock-feed-biofuels-what-will-cows-eat [theicct.org]

        I also did not review the value they use for the well-to-wheel CO2 emissions they use for gasoline. It's possible that this is a cause of inaccuracy. Furthermore, some of the data in the paper's sources show much less reduction than the paper claims. The four sources include CARB, EPA, USDA, and Argonne National Lab; EPA and CARB show worse results than USDA and ANL. The paper relies on the more-favorable USDA and ANL data. I did not attempt to evaluate the reliability of the different sources.

        Remember though that the whole idea behind biofuels is that they'd be close to carbon-neutral. "Hey, maybe we can do a little better than gasoline" is a serious case of moving the goalposts. The paper claims to be 46% better than gasoline, but this drops to about 30% if you eliminate the "livestock feed credit," and even that isn't sustainable because of the farming practices needed to achieve it. (Feed waste loss probably doesn't warrant throwing out the credit entirely, but it very likely shouldn't be taken at face value either). And there's the conflicting data. If you use the EPA data, ethanol isn't any better than gasoline at all.

        So, overall, it looks like corn ethanol is still trash. Sugar cane ethanol is better, but you can't grow sugar cane in Nebraska.

        Electric vehicles are great, but at least half of the transportation industry's fuel consumption is ships and airplanes, which can't realistically run on electricity. The long term solution has to be synthetic fuel produced using energy from nuclear fusion or space-based solar power.

        • (Score: 2) by HiThere on Wednesday August 25, @03:04AM (2 children)

          by HiThere (866) on Wednesday August 25, @03:04AM (#1170636) Journal

          Ships can run on nearly anything burnable. They've got very large combustion chambers and typically don't need a really high pressure. Airplanes are a much more difficult matter.

          --
          Javascript is what you use to allow unknown third parties to run software you have no idea about on your computer.
          • (Score: 2) by PinkyGigglebrain on Wednesday August 25, @04:14AM (1 child)

            by PinkyGigglebrain (4458) on Wednesday August 25, @04:14AM (#1170664)

            Ships can also use small molten salt nuclear reactors [366solutions.com].

            Or even just good old sails.

            both methods are a lot cleaner and safer than burning anything. With the added benefit that the space that would have carried fuel can carry cargo.

            --
            "Beware those who would deny you Knowledge, For in their hearts they dream themselves your Master."
            • (Score: 2) by HiThere on Wednesday August 25, @01:28PM

              by HiThere (866) on Wednesday August 25, @01:28PM (#1170799) Journal

              Nobody can reasonably use molten salt reactors yet. And sails require a highly skilled crew that is not available. (OTOH, there's some high-tech sailish things that might work.)

              --
              Javascript is what you use to allow unknown third parties to run software you have no idea about on your computer.
        • (Score: 1) by fustakrakich on Wednesday August 25, @04:47AM

          by fustakrakich (6150) on Wednesday August 25, @04:47AM (#1170673) Journal

          Electric vehicles are great, but at least half of the transportation industry's fuel consumption is ships and airplanes

          That's ok. Let's work with the half we got. Go electric where we can, when we can. Overland is a good place to start. Coastal shipping shouldn't have much difficulty either, and can be done more autonomously than a car. That will clean up the cities a lot. Some day you'll be able to see across Beijing...

          --
          Ok, we paid the ransom. Do I get my dog back? REDЯUM
    • (Score: 4, Informative) by khallow on Tuesday August 24, @05:18PM (1 child)

      by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday August 24, @05:18PM (#1170402) Journal
      Fusty, it's part of the corn ethanol lobby. I see them suing [desmoinesregister.com] to reverse a court decision blocking a 15% ethanol requirement by the EPA. Looks like three of the four [ethanolrfa.org] officers of the organization are associated with corn ethanol business. And a glance at the biorefineries that they're advocating for, indicates somewhere in excess of 95% of them at least partially use corn.

      So I imagine they're thinking a lot about how to get us to foot the bill for the environmental and economic costs of producing corn ethanol.
      • (Score: 1) by fustakrakich on Wednesday August 25, @12:36AM

        by fustakrakich (6150) on Wednesday August 25, @12:36AM (#1170593) Journal

        it's part of the corn ethanol lobby.

        Bastards! [soylentnews.org]

        --
        Ok, we paid the ransom. Do I get my dog back? REDЯUM
    • (Score: 1, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 24, @10:13PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 24, @10:13PM (#1170532)

      NO THEY DO NOT. Stop trying to grow "gasoline"

      1) Grow food that is what is needed world wide.
      2) Grow windmills and solar farms above the food,
      3) Turn left over plant material in feed - I love my cows
      4) Turn cow poop and left over plant material - compost and used for 1)

      Yes, plants grow well below solar farms. Not all plants like full sun. Solar farms (20' ~6m) above corps do not block all sunlight. Also the "roof" helps during heavy rain not to crush corps. Lastly the control of run off can be held used later water corps. So it rained a month of water in 1 days. The ground and plants cannot store it for that month. But WE CAN.

  • (Score: 4, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 24, @04:43PM (12 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 24, @04:43PM (#1170375)

    SLOW DOWN. Walk places, don't drive so much. Lose your blubber. God, why do people need to be TOLD this, are you all brain-washed infants that can't be taken from the teat?!

    • (Score: 5, Touché) by DannyB on Tuesday August 24, @05:16PM

      by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday August 24, @05:16PM (#1170401) Journal

      I have quit driving so much. Since COVID-19 lockdown began, we started getting everything delivered to our door. Amazon. Groceries from local store. Almost everything we can possibly need. Our cars don't burn as much fuel now.

      We can stay safely inside and this magical clean system brings us everything at the touch of an App.

      I put the trash and recycling out, and other trucks come take it away.

      Now if only we had UBI.

      --
      I notice that for each booster shot, they use a fresh needle?!? Don't they know about re-usable boosters?
    • (Score: 5, Insightful) by Thexalon on Tuesday August 24, @05:19PM (2 children)

      by Thexalon (636) on Tuesday August 24, @05:19PM (#1170405)

      Yes, cutting back on driving would definitely help. Some things along those lines you didn't mention:
      1. Working from home. Which also makes things better for the people that have to commute because you're one fewer car on the road.
      2. Use public transit when possible. Putting hundreds of people on 1 train or even 25 people on 1 bus is a lot more efficient than putting hundreds of people in hundreds of SUVs.
      3. Bicycling. Bicycles are approximately the most efficient tool for moving people from one place to another currently known to humanity.

      But there are lots of people, at least where I am, that drive around for pleasure at least as much as for necessity. And there's a really easy way to stop them from doing that: Let the price of gas go up. A few years ago, gas started approaching $4 a gallon in the US, and suddenly sales started to drop as people began making adjustments to not need so much of it.

      --
      The inverse of "I told you so" is "Nobody could have predicted"
      • (Score: 2) by bzipitidoo on Wednesday August 25, @12:17AM (1 child)

        by bzipitidoo (4388) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday August 25, @12:17AM (#1170586) Journal

        I was loving it when gas was $4/gallon. Suddenly, my economy car changed from an object of scorn and mockery into an interesting and cool ride. Not that I ever cared what idiots thought of my ride, though the persistent attempts to make a stink about it were sometimes annoying. Usually ended up with my coworkers baffled that they couldn't budge what I valued about a car. Bosses too would get frustrated that I wasn't falling into the trap of needing that job income to pay for an expensive new car. If I wasn't making car payments, I was a flight risk, you know.

        It was especially funny one evening when my boss bummed a ride off me to get home, as his truck was in the repair shop. Soon as I started the engine, he asked what was that horrible rumbling noise? It wasn't that bad, but the car didn't have the best sound dampening, and that particular engine, being a large 4 cyl, was harder than most to muffle. By the time I reached cruising speed on the freeway, he announced that I needed a new car. That he was a teensy bit behind in paying me apparently didn't disturb his thinking in the slightest. He was hardly unique in that kind of thinking, lot of bosses think that way, including at least 2 others I had.

        Anyway, if only it was so easy to cut back on the driving, in America! Public transportation is lacking, and walking and bicycling is hindered by city design that is all but oblivious to all other forms of transportation. And of course, we have severe suburban sprawl. So damned many bridges have no room at all for pedestrians or bikes. There is also a major attitude problem about it all. Lot of people really like the current situation in the belief that pedestrian traffic is undesirable. Only poor, low status, crime prone people walk, you see. One time I proposed that a city ordinance be amended to allow-- not require, just allow, mind you-- gaps in the fence behind strip malls, for pedestrian access, and a shop keeper who overheard that went nuts, yelling that it would bring more crime, raise his costs, scare away his customers, force stores to make the backs safer and cleaner, etc. He went on and on for a solid 5 minutes, not letting me get another word in, and finally, the city councilman who was listening to the whole thing said "man, you are on a roll!"

        • (Score: 2) by Thexalon on Wednesday August 25, @03:46AM

          by Thexalon (636) on Wednesday August 25, @03:46AM (#1170644)

          I definitely enjoyed the $4 gas too: Mostly because it put a stop to the bikers and hot rodders using my road as a drag strip for a while. But more generally, it really showed how much people were driving for pleasure rather than to actually get somewhere.

          --
          The inverse of "I told you so" is "Nobody could have predicted"
    • (Score: 4, Interesting) by Tork on Tuesday August 24, @05:32PM

      by Tork (3914) on Tuesday August 24, @05:32PM (#1170419)

      God, why do people need to be TOLD this...

      Because we spend our waking lives working for someone else just to keep out of the elements for another month.

      --
      Slashdolt Logic: "24 year old jokes about sharks and lasers are +5, Funny." 💩
    • (Score: 5, Funny) by DannyB on Tuesday August 24, @05:50PM (5 children)

      by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday August 24, @05:50PM (#1170439) Journal

      When I use an exercise bike, I feel that it somehow compensates and allows me to drive more than necessary. Thus having no net impact on the planet's resources.

      (Now where do I plug in this exercise bike?)

      --
      I notice that for each booster shot, they use a fresh needle?!? Don't they know about re-usable boosters?
      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 24, @06:06PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 24, @06:06PM (#1170449)

        Perfectly infantile logic. I use an electric exercise bike so I can go further than regular pedaling.

      • (Score: 2) by bzipitidoo on Wednesday August 25, @12:29AM (3 children)

        by bzipitidoo (4388) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday August 25, @12:29AM (#1170592) Journal

        You joke, but really, has everyone forgotten just how weird the whole concept of exercise is? All that sweating and panting that isn't getting any work accomplished. And we even blow money on "exercise" machines. How about some old timey exercise, like, washing your laundry by *gasp* hand! With a washboard! And hanging the clothes on a line outside to dry!

        • (Score: 3, Informative) by HiThere on Wednesday August 25, @03:06AM (2 children)

          by HiThere (866) on Wednesday August 25, @03:06AM (#1170637) Journal

          Modern clothing isn't sturdy enough to survive that kind of treatment.

          --
          Javascript is what you use to allow unknown third parties to run software you have no idea about on your computer.
          • (Score: 2) by DannyB on Wednesday August 25, @01:31PM (1 child)

            by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday August 25, @01:31PM (#1170802) Journal

            It might be more earth friendly for some people to wear much less clothing.

            --
            I notice that for each booster shot, they use a fresh needle?!? Don't they know about re-usable boosters?
            • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 25, @03:11PM

              by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 25, @03:11PM (#1170831)

              wink wink

    • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Tuesday August 24, @08:17PM

      by JoeMerchant (3937) on Tuesday August 24, @08:17PM (#1170494)

      How about work from home? I always bought homes close to work, so my annual commute was 4000 miles or less anyway, but since COVID lockdown I think I've put less than 100 miles on the cars for to-from office driving.

      Our total miles driven now are about 30% what they used to be in 2019, and that's not just fuel saved for miles not driven, that's wear and tear that didn't happen on the vehicles and the roads. Our cars are getting more timely maintenance now, and we're keeping them for more total miles than we likely would have if we were driving 3x as much per year.

      --
      John Galt is a selfish crybaby [huffpost.com].
  • (Score: 2) by Barenflimski on Tuesday August 24, @06:56PM (8 children)

    by Barenflimski (6836) on Tuesday August 24, @06:56PM (#1170460)

    Our local gas stations continue to run out of gas. I asked the local attendant what was going on.

    The attendant informed me that there is a shortage of truck drivers, that is so bad, that there are simply not enough drivers to deliver gas.

    Hire more drivers? More money. Not enough gas at stations? Higher prices.

    I asked him why he thought we didn't have enough drivers. He told me, "They're all sitting on their asses at home receiving stimulus checks."

    Take if for what its worth....

    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by ElizabethGreene on Tuesday August 24, @07:01PM (2 children)

      by ElizabethGreene (6748) on Tuesday August 24, @07:01PM (#1170463)

      Middle/Tennessee/USA - The local Speedway gas station chain has this issue as well. To me "raise your prices to reduce demand" seems like a pretty obvious solution, but they haven't done that. They prefer to hang out of service flags on the pumps instead. My guess is this is because the higher price on the sign would hurt the in-store Food/Beverage/Nicotine sales where they make profit.

      • (Score: 2) by PinkyGigglebrain on Wednesday August 25, @04:30AM (1 child)

        by PinkyGigglebrain (4458) on Wednesday August 25, @04:30AM (#1170667)

        if the stations raised prices people would complain loudly enough to their congress critters that they might actually do something to save their jobs.

        Remember how the last time gas proces went this high? I think it was after Katrina. Gas in the San Fransico Bay Area hit US$4.50/gl and suddenly congress was talking about committees to investigate the prices.

        Even if it was all just for show it makes people start thinking about all sorts of alternatives. The last thing the oil companies want is for the pot to be stirred.

        --
        "Beware those who would deny you Knowledge, For in their hearts they dream themselves your Master."
        • (Score: 2) by ElizabethGreene on Wednesday August 25, @02:03PM

          by ElizabethGreene (6748) on Wednesday August 25, @02:03PM (#1170815)

          <opinion>A large portion of congress, but probably not a full majority, wants to see gasoline significantly more expensive to drive purchases of EVs and fuel efficient vehicles.

          Like 'cash for clunkers' this hurts people with low incomes. That should be blatantly obvious, but for some reason it gets ignored. I assume that is ignorance and not malice.</opinion>

    • (Score: 2) by istartedi on Tuesday August 24, @07:24PM (1 child)

      by istartedi (123) on Tuesday August 24, @07:24PM (#1170472) Journal

      There's probably some lack of incentive to work due to government payouts but it's not the whole picture. A lot of people who stopped driving during Covid aren't coming back no matter what. Truckers have been retiring faster than new truckers have been training for a while now. A lot of those truckers are Boomers, so it's a large cohort. There are simply not that many in later generations to replace the old truckers. Some of this is cultural. The "call of the open road" doesn't appeal to people like it used to. Younger people are not even getting their driver's licenses as much as they used to, let alone CDLs. Also, a lot of people think it's going to be automated so who wants to start a career only to get replaced by AI in 10 years?

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 25, @12:37AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 25, @12:37AM (#1170594)

        > start a career only to get replaced by AI in 10 years

        OK so not perky youtube poster creator?

    • (Score: 2, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 24, @07:43PM (2 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 24, @07:43PM (#1170482)

      Take if for what its worth....

      Which isn't a lot. [npr.org]

      The real problem, Spencer says, is not a shortage but retention. According to the ATA's own statistics, the average annual turnover rate for long-haul truckers at big trucking companies has been greater than 90% for decades. That means, for example, if a company has 10 truckers, nine will be gone within a year or, equivalently, three of their driver positions will have to each be refilled three times in a single year because so many new drivers leave within a few months.

      "We have millions of people who have been trained to be heavy-duty truck drivers who are currently not working as heavy-duty truck drivers because the entry-level jobs are terrible," says Steve Viscelli, a sociologist at the University of Pennsylvania who studies the trucking industry.

      The industry, namely the very large trucking firms, has been crying for many years about the "trucker shortage," but the issue isn't due to stimulus checks, but the fact that they treat entry level truck drivers like shit:

      The biggest issue is how the companies pay the truckers. Compared with other blue-collar occupations, the median annual income of trucking is actually pretty good: $47,130. But long-haul truckers commonly work extremely long hours, often 60 to 70 hours per week or more. And drivers are typically not paid by the hour. Instead, they are typically paid only for the number of miles they drive. The average truck driver gets paid 52.3 cents per mile, according to the Department of Transportation. Even if weather or traffic slows them down and extends their working day, they get paid the same. Moreover, they're not compensated for the significant time it takes to load or unload their trucks. And they're not compensated for their "off time," even though they're miles and miles away from home.

      Being a long-haul trucker also means living out of your truck, because motels are pretty expensive and often don't have parking for big rigs. Meanwhile, finding parking to rest anywhere is a growing problem. Truckers sacrifice their health, sitting on their butt for hours and hours and eating junk food on the road. And the job is dangerous: Truck drivers are 10 times more likely to be killed on the job than the average worker.

      But, Viscelli says, through political lobbying, legal activism and harsh business practices, big trucking companies have made a difficult job even harder, especially for entry-level truckers. He says the companies have been "systematically degrading trucker working conditions." Scholars have referred to trucks as "sweatshops on wheels." Viscelli says the industry is rife with minimum wage violations and what he calls "debt peonage." Basically, new drivers become indentured servants, going deep into debt to get training and to lease trucks from their employers (listen to a recent Planet Money episode about this issue).

      I'd be interested to hear what our own current or former truck driver experts think. Their problems are the same as the service industry, particularly the restaurant industry, where they're finding that people are wanting to be treated at least a little better than shit. The trucking industry's solution isn't to improve the working conditions, but to lobby Congress to drop the minimum age for cross-state truckers from 21 to 18.

      • (Score: 3, Interesting) by ElizabethGreene on Wednesday August 25, @02:09PM (1 child)

        by ElizabethGreene (6748) on Wednesday August 25, @02:09PM (#1170820)

        (Heavy truck mechanic a touch more than two decades ago.)

        There is another factor. Trucking is digesting a major disruptor, mandatory electronic logbooks. For many drivers this is a good thing; It reduces the administrivia of the job and forces dispatchers to accountability for their requests. Some drivers see it as a very bad thing. It wasn't uncommon to fudge a logbook to increase earning potential. That money is gone now.

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 25, @08:01PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 25, @08:01PM (#1170953)

          Paying by the mile, on its face, sounds like a good idea until you take into account traffic jams and loading/unloading times. It is a shame that the industry won't make some reasonable changes, like pay by the hour or lump sum for the loading/unloading, or just pay by the hour regardless. Or, god forbid, put them on salary.

          Maybe something a bit bigger needs to change, like increase long haul transport by freight rail, then have most of your truckers being relatively local so that they can drive the "last mile" and be in their own beds each night. But that probably would never happen unless the trucking companies had major stakes in the freight rail business. And I don't see the current situation changing much if their solution is to bring in teenage drivers (read: CHEAP) and invest in self-driving trucking.

  • (Score: 2) by ElizabethGreene on Tuesday August 24, @06:56PM (13 children)

    by ElizabethGreene (6748) on Tuesday August 24, @06:56PM (#1170461)

    In recent weeks, regular-grade gas prices averaged $3.17 per gallon, up almost 50 percent from the same time last year.

    At least there are no more mean tweets, right?

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 24, @07:08PM (4 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 24, @07:08PM (#1170466)

      Trump was single-handedly depressing gas prices with the power of his tweet.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 24, @07:12PM (1 child)

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 24, @07:12PM (#1170469)

        Enjiy the above comment and other delusions brought to you by the Party of No Responsibility.

        • (Score: -1, Troll) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 24, @07:48PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 24, @07:48PM (#1170485)

          If people fall for a conman, that's their problem. Fuck 'em twice.

      • (Score: 3, Insightful) by JoeMerchant on Tuesday August 24, @08:32PM (1 child)

        by JoeMerchant (3937) on Tuesday August 24, @08:32PM (#1170499)

        Trump was single-handedly holding back the whole world economy with his unpredictability - evidence? What happened after he lost?

        --
        John Galt is a selfish crybaby [huffpost.com].
        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 24, @08:38PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 24, @08:38PM (#1170504)

          Bb..ut he made America grate and saved Western civilization (thanks for that by the way).

    • (Score: 4, Insightful) by JoeMerchant on Tuesday August 24, @08:30PM (7 children)

      by JoeMerchant (3937) on Tuesday August 24, @08:30PM (#1170497)

      Because mean tweets keep gas prices low?

      I think everybody has missed the point of using foreign oil: we trade imaginary money for real oil, we pump all the oil out of THEIR ground while keeping it in OURS. Then, when imaginary money isn't worth anything anymore, we still have oil.

      --
      John Galt is a selfish crybaby [huffpost.com].
      • (Score: 2, Touché) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 24, @09:43PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 24, @09:43PM (#1170521)

        > we trade imaginary money ...

        That imaginary money sure buys a lot of Rolls-Royces and Lamborghinis (etc). And the random hired killer here and there too.

      • (Score: 2) by ElizabethGreene on Wednesday August 25, @03:48AM (3 children)

        by ElizabethGreene (6748) on Wednesday August 25, @03:48AM (#1170647)

        No, not at all. Mean tweets don't effect gas prices. Cancelling drilling leases in ANWR and off the Louisiana coast, a moratorium on oil and gas leases in federal land and waters, and cancellation of major pipeline projects do effect oil and by proxy gas prices.

        So there's that.

        It's not like that's a shock. Decarbonizing American energy was something he ran on. Did people think that was going to be free?

        • (Score: 3, Informative) by JoeMerchant on Wednesday August 25, @10:51AM (2 children)

          by JoeMerchant (3937) on Wednesday August 25, @10:51AM (#1170762)

          I believe you are drastically overestimating the impact of domestic production project cancellations on short term pump price swings. How did gas prices fall in 2020? It wasn't producer side cost reduction, it was a drop in consumer side demand.

          Those domestic production projects that were cancelled were relatively high cost sources. It's not as if we just locked up a giant tank of free gasoline.

          --
          John Galt is a selfish crybaby [huffpost.com].
          • (Score: 3, Disagree) by ElizabethGreene on Wednesday August 25, @02:35PM (1 child)

            by ElizabethGreene (6748) on Wednesday August 25, @02:35PM (#1170823)

            I believe you are drastically overestimating the impact of domestic production project cancellations on short term pump price swings.

            I have is anecdotal evidence to support my opinion. There was a similar moratorium on exploration and lease sales after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill (2010). Eight months later gas prices broke $3 and didn't dip below it until just before the mid-term elections in 2014. Correlation is not causation means we'd have to run the experiment a bunch more times to get a reasonable confidence level, but it's a notable coincidence.

            • (Score: 2, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 25, @03:50PM

              by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 25, @03:50PM (#1170847)

              Lets take a look at that data, shall we:

              https://www.statista.com/statistics/204740/retail-price-of-gasoline-in-the-united-states-since-1990/ [statista.com]

              That jump in 2010 looks to me very much like it is a "return to normal" after the crash of 2008, note that there is a similar dip in 2020 for the covid crash, so it stands to reason that the current jump in prices is a similar "return to normal."

              The only major drop in gas prices that didn't have an accompanying crash seems to be from 2014 to 2016, but I will bet that FOX news has answers as to why the price bounced in 2016.

      • (Score: 2) by Thexalon on Wednesday August 25, @03:56AM (1 child)

        by Thexalon (636) on Wednesday August 25, @03:56AM (#1170651)

        I think everybody has missed the point of using foreign oil: we trade imaginary money for real oil, we pump all the oil out of THEIR ground while keeping it in OURS.

        Except we're doing nothing of the sort. Instead, they're pumping all their oil out of their ground while we're pumping all available oil out of our ground too as quickly as possible, because the oil industry knows that climate change will eventually lead to policy changes that render whatever oil is still in the ground completely worthless. It's a race against the public waking up to the fact that their industry could very easily be doing a lot more damage than is already obvious.

        --
        The inverse of "I told you so" is "Nobody could have predicted"
        • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Wednesday August 25, @10:54AM

          by JoeMerchant (3937) on Wednesday August 25, @10:54AM (#1170764)

          Insightful, but decades late. The climate change oil rush has been driving lobbyist funding since the 1970s. Don't you remember how Al Gore discovered global warming in college, before he built the internet?

          --
          John Galt is a selfish crybaby [huffpost.com].
  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 24, @10:54PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 24, @10:54PM (#1170548)

    Since 2020. I don't know about the minerals, but rare earth imports will probably increase with more electric infrastructure. The author isn't doing renewable any favors by sounding like a boomer.

  • (Score: 2) by crafoo on Tuesday August 24, @11:48PM (1 child)

    by crafoo (6639) on Tuesday August 24, @11:48PM (#1170573)

    Corn reduces emissions 52% eh? No other reason for mixing it into gasoline and in some states, not even informing the customer of the % mix?

    You stupid cattle deserve what is coming to you.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 25, @10:01PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 25, @10:01PM (#1170994)

      Just move to Elbonia already, your edgy comments and at best near-racism are not enjoyed by anyone. Perhaps GAB or 4Chan would be more fitting.

  • (Score: 1) by sydbarrett74 on Wednesday August 25, @02:53AM (6 children)

    by sydbarrett74 (7637) on Wednesday August 25, @02:53AM (#1170634)

    Why isn't thermal conversion (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thermal_depolymerization) getting more attention? We have vast quantities of fuel locked up in our landfills and plastics recovered from the oceans. PLenty enough to lessen our reliance on unfriendly foreign powers by great amounts.

    • (Score: 2) by PinkyGigglebrain on Wednesday August 25, @04:36AM

      by PinkyGigglebrain (4458) on Wednesday August 25, @04:36AM (#1170670)

      probably because there aren't any subsidies to line the pockets of the people who would end up running those programs.

      I would love to see our "garbage" get turned into something useful beyond turning valleys into mountains. But until thermal conversion gets profitable in a big way it's not going to happen.

      --
      "Beware those who would deny you Knowledge, For in their hearts they dream themselves your Master."
    • (Score: 2) by ElizabethGreene on Wednesday August 25, @02:45PM (4 children)

      by ElizabethGreene (6748) on Wednesday August 25, @02:45PM (#1170825)

      It's not a sexy 'green' energy project. e.g. It obviously puts carbon into the air, and burning feels dirty. The science says it does make sense to do and is greener than making trash mountains. Unfortunately people get elected with sound bites. "Burn your trash' won't get anyone elected.

      Another example of soundbites over policy is wastewater reclamation. West of the Rockies is in a more-or-less perpetual drought. Today wastewater is scrubbed more or less clean and then dumped into rivers for downstream neighbors to drink. Sane and rational policy would be to re-use that water instead of throwing it away. That is extremely uncommon. Why? The politician that wants you to "Drink sewage" loses in the voting booth.

      • (Score: 1, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 25, @07:24PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 25, @07:24PM (#1170940)

        In some cases there are also international treaties requiring certain amounts of water to be flowing in those rivers.

        https://www.usbr.gov/lc/phoenix/AZ100/1940/mexican_water_treaty.html [usbr.gov]
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colorado_River_Compact [wikipedia.org]

      • (Score: 2) by quietus on Friday August 27, @08:27PM (2 children)

        by quietus (6328) on Friday August 27, @08:27PM (#1171524) Journal

        What? The science says it makes sense to combine tons of unknown chemicals with high energy and all will be peachy downwind?

        • (Score: 2) by ElizabethGreene on Saturday August 28, @01:46AM (1 child)

          by ElizabethGreene (6748) on Saturday August 28, @01:46AM (#1171605)

          The major emissions are CO2, SO2, and NOx. On a kg/MWh basis...
          CO2 emissions are about 10% higher than Natural Gas energy, and roughly half of a coal plant
          SO2 emissions are about 4x a Natural Gas plant and about 3% of a coal plant.
          NOx emissions are about 2x a natural gas plant and roughly half a coal plant.

          ... Why all the comparisons to coal plants, Greene?

          Because we're shuttering a bunch of coal plants. We could flip those to plastic energy recovery, get a little more life out of that infrastructure, and stop burning diesel (in trains) and bunker fuel (in bulk carriers) to ship our plastic trash to third world countries. To be particularly clever this technology should be combined with pyrolysis recycling too. The company doing this already has a well-sorted plastic input stream and massive heat source. Using those resources to cook up monomers and usable hydrocarbons is a no-brainer.

          • (Score: 2) by quietus on Saturday August 28, @08:33AM

            by quietus (6328) on Saturday August 28, @08:33AM (#1171688) Journal

            Burning a mixture of synthetic paints, glues and heavy metals: and the main problem, according to you, is CO2, NOx and SO2 ?

(1)