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Keeping It Green

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Page Updated:
February 6, 2020


  • • Ethanol and the Environment
    Ethanol is Nontoxic and Biodegradable

    Unlike gasoline, pure ethanol is nontoxic and biodegradable, and it quickly breaks down into harmless substances if spilled. Chemical denaturants in fuel ethanol make up about 2% of fuel ethanol by volume, and many of the denaturants are toxic. Similar to gasoline, ethanol is a highly flammable liquid and must be transported carefully.

  • • The Rising Price for Corn
    Corn Prices Still Rising

    Track the daily price of this commodity, as provided by he International Monetary Fund (IMF).

  • • Alternative Fuels Data Center
    Ethanol Benefits and Considerations

    Ethanol is a renewable, domestically produced transportation fuel. Whether used in low-level blends, such as E10 (10% ethanol, 90% gasoline), or in E85 (a gasoline-ethanol blend containing 51% to 83% ethanol, depending on geography and season), ethanol helps reduce petroleum use in transportation and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Like any alternative fuel, there are some considerations to take into account when contemplating the use of ethanol.

    A gallon of ethanol contains less energy than a gallon of gasoline. The result is lower fuel economy when operating your vehicle.

  • • A Billion Gallons of Biodiesel: Who Wins?
    That's a Lot of Ethanol

    Although the expanded corn ethanol and cellulosic biofuels mandates contained in the new Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) have generated the most headlines, the act's biodiesel mandates may have a larger impact on U.S. agriculture over the next few years.

    Biodiesel use is now mandated to grow from 500 million gallons in 2009 to one billion gallons in 2012.

    U.S. biodiesel production was expected to decline significantly over the next few years because of low operating margins caused by high feedstock costs. The increased production due to the mandate will put upward pressure on already high vegetable oil prices, which in turn will further increase the cost of producing U.S. biodiesel.

  • • Iowa Caucus: Rethink Ethanol
    Interesting Poll Results

    A recent survey of likely Republican caucus goers shows that support of federal subsidies for the ethanol industry has waned significantly in recent years.

    The poll, which was commissioned by TheIowaRepublican.com, finds that Iowa Republicans view a candidate who supports ending federal ethanol subsidies more favorably than a candidate who does not.

  • • Ethanol Gets Unfair Share of Subsidies
    Corn Ethanol - Unfair Advantage

    Data pulled from a U.S. Energy Information Administration report shows that the corn-based ethanol industry has a history of securing far more tax credits and other federal subsidies than producers of other renewable fuel sources, the non-profit Environmental Working Group said.

  • • Valero Wins Auction for 7 Ethanol Plants
    Valero Energy Goes Ethanol

    b>Valero Energy, the country’s largest independent refiner, said that it would buy seven ethanol plants from VeraSun Energy for $477 million, giving the biofuel industry a lift at a time when it is suffering from excess production capacity and falling gasoline consumption.

  • • Switchgrasses Could Save the Day
    A New Miracle Crop?

    Switchgrass has been touted as the next miracle crop of the renewable fuel industry.

    It’s a fast-growing variety of prairie grass that once grew wild across the eastern United States and has the potential to grow in areas from the Great Plains all the way to the Southeast.

    A new study documents that ethanol from switchgrass is nearly five times more efficient to produce than corn ethanol.

Ethanol Origins

Ethanol sounded like a good idea, and had it been done right, it might have been a decent alternative energy choice. Instead, it has become a boondoggle for the agriculture industry at the expense of everyone else. Politicians placate the farm states (Iowa votes first!) with legislation designed with only their interests in mind.
The expansion has been driven largely by federal measures requiring that 36 billion gallons of biofuels a year be mixed into the nationís gasoline supply by 2022.

Winners and Losers

Let's start with the winners, because that list is not very long. Farmers and food processing firms, large and small, are benefiting from the price of corn which has risen meteorically in the last year; Corn rose from $3 per bushel in 2005 to an astonishing $6 at the end of July 2010.
The rise is partially attributable to a demand for corn-based ethanol, aided by a government mandate that gasoline be blended with it to reduce our dependency on foreign oil. In addition, poor crop yields have pushed prices to where they are today. To protect overburdened cattle ranchers, Texas Governor Rick Perry • petitioned the EPA to reduce the ethanol mandate. His request was denied.

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Camelina's New Purpose
As BioFuel Source

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 7/27-08 - It looks like a long-legged dandelion, smells like broccoli and once lit Bronze Age oil lamps. A long-forgotten member of the mustard family, camelina might have a purpose once again. On 300 acres in Pennsylvania, camelina is being grown as a test crop in the manufacture of biodiesel.
Though the jury's still out on what the crop will yield in oil and what the biofuel market will pay, a co-op of a dozen farmers guided by Penn State University agronomists remains upbeat. The PSU Cooperative Extension Service coordinator says camelina oil is an attractive biofuel source because the plant is low maintenance, requires little fertilizer, no tilling, and can be planted in early-spring.

Ethanol Stirs Complaints

New York Times 7/26/08 -Along the highways of Oklahoma City and in other pockets of the country, a mutiny is growing against energy policies that heavily support and subsidize the blending of ethyl alcohol, or ethanol, into gasoline. As ethanol has spread around the country, gas station owners and wholesalers are catering to concerns about ethanol that are often exaggerated but not entirely unfounded. Though common in the Midwest for at least a decade, ethanol-gas blends arrived on the coasts a few years ago. Only recently did ethanol start showing up in many Southern states.

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So who loses?

Everyone who consumes food, and I assume that includes you. The price of corn affects much of what we consume, including the livestock. Check your pantry for package labeling of products that don't show the words, corn syrup, high-fructose or otherwise.
Our groceries are now costing more than ever. That budget item has risen close to 4% from last year, not a miniscule amount of that rise attributable to corn prices. Milk and meat costs are up because much of our domestic cattle now consume the more expensive corn. Transportation cost has further exacerbated the situation.
There are far better crops that could be used to make ethanol, and their horticulture would not impact the food supply. Plants requiring far less land to grow can produce cellulosic ethanol, which has a higher energy yield and is far friendlier to our neighborhood Earth.

Prof's Example Yields BIG Corn Crop

Des Moines Register 7/27/08 -Most farmers would be pleased with the yields Matt Liebman can get from his cornfield – 200bushels an acre or more. Better yet, Liebman gets his strong yields with far less fertilizer and pesticide than conventional growers use, says Register columnist Philip Brasher. But Liebman, an agronomy professor at Iowa State University, knows few farmers will pay attention to his methods. Not when corn is selling for $6 to $7 a bushel.
Following his model would mean a farmer could only plant corn every three or four years on the same ground. Other years, he would have to plant soybeans and crops such as alfalfa and red clover to replace the nitrogen corn has sucked out of the soil. With the cost of growing crops soaring, Liebman’s rotation system may get a look from farmers. Also, changes in environmental regulations could be near. Limits on greenhouse gas emissions could mean that farmers get paid for practices that reduce tillage and keep more carbon in the soil.

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