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posted by janrinok on Tuesday August 24, @04:24PM   Printer-friendly
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: 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.

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

    by requerdanos (5997) 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.

        --
        Shhhhh! Don't tell anyone . . . the microchips are not in the vaccine but are in the Ivermectin!
      • (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