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Up for vote in the U.S. Senate is a deficit-cutting bill already passed by the House of Representatives that will curb federal spending by $60 billion this year while also preventing the EPA from increasing the percentage of ethanol in gasoline from 10 percent to 15 percent and handing out subsidies for gasoline stations being retrofitted to sell the E15 blend. The combination is creating some interesting political conflicts.

Long-time biofuel supporter Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, for example, has had to publicly restate his priorities: cutting the national deficit now comes before support for the ethanol industry. He told the Des Moines Register, "As significant as it is to me because I'm a great ethanol fan, if in fact those things were in the bill to cut the deficit... I'd have to bite the bullet." That is a pretty significant statement, especially considering that Iowa is responsible for about 30 percent of America's ethanol production. By contrast, Iowa Senator Tom Harkin along with the state's two House Republicans oppose the ethanol provisions. According to Harkin, "Blocking funding for expanding ethanol use to E15 blends not only does not save any significant funding, it takes us backwards on energy security by making us more dependent on foreign imports."

Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis thinks Congressional support for ethanol is faltering due to anti-ethanol campaigns that claim ethanol production is to blame for rising food prices. Maybe, but a lot of Republicans like Grassley are being pushed from the right to make the budget the political issue, and some ethanol support might be one casuality of that push.

[Source: Des Moines Register]


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  • 13 Comments
      • 3 Years Ago
      Why does ethanol have such a big target on its back? Why is there such intense pressure on it?

      Because it is by far and away the biggest, most widely used, most important alternative fuel in the US and the world. Such a resource is greatly threatening to the oil cartel.

      According to a Merril Lynch study reported in the Wall Street Journal, biofuels kept oil prices from rising even higher, 15% higher, during the last peak in 2008, costing the oil cartel $180 billion. No wonder they're upset. No wonder carefully crafted arguments targeted to be convincing to the left or the right have made such inroads, created such an unholy alliance of anti-ag greens and free market hardliners.

      If we buckle to this FUD campaign, the beneficiaries will be our enemies, our environment, and our economy.

      Where does Grassley think the drop in revenue, this fiscal crisis, came from? Oil! OPEC raised its price from $10 a barrel in 1999 to $140 a barrel in 2009, "tax increase" of hundreds of billions on the US economy, sending the portion of an average family of four's net income going for oil from 3% to 33%. No wonder people weren't buying cars and houses anymore; no wonder the economy imploded and federal revenues collapsed.

      The solution is NOT to gut what meager incentives and interventions on ethanol's behalf currently exist.
        • 3 Years Ago
        Maybe because we hate having stuff crammed down our throats that just doesn't make sense.
        • 3 Years Ago
        How does ethanol not make sense, motorhead?

        It's better for the environment, better for your car, better for the economy, and better for our national security.

        Ethanol burns with no smoke, soot, or particulate matter, the source of smog, which blights our cities and kills 40,000 Americans a year, according to the EPA under George W. Bush. If spilled in the water from an Exxon Valdez style tanker, ethanol simply dissolves away into nothing into our vast hydrosphere (any bartender can tell you ethanol dissolves in water, just as any salad chef can tell you oil doesn't), and is broken down into harmless components by naturally occurring bacteria. Ethanol's greenhouse emissions are carbon that would have returned to the atmosphere on its own anyway, in contrast to gasoline, whose C would have remained sequestered forever underground had we not drilled it up.

        Ethanol leaves no gunk in your engine, unlike gasoline, which requires additives like benzene, toluene, and xylene, which are carcinogenic and mutagenic. Think about that the next time you see a gas station ad bragging about its detergents - detergents unnneeded by ethanol.

        Ethanol can be grown in worthwhile quantity from at least 17 plants grown the world over, so it can't be "cornered" like OPEC and have its price spiked to economy-crashing levels - we went from paying $10 billion for oil in 1999 to over a trillion in 2008.

        Finally, ethanol diverts our fuel purchase dollars away from petro-tyrants who fund terrorism. Since we have only 3% of world oil reserves (COUNTING Arctic and offshore), while OPEC has 78%, domestic drilling can't save us. Oil is always and forever Enemy Fuel, funding our foes in the War on Terror.

        In World War 2 our government rationed gasoline, banned pleasure driving, and ordered automakers to stop making consumer cars and make military vehicles instead. We were a patriotic country united for victory, so nobody whined about anything being "crammed down throats".

        Doesn't look like we're as patriotic today.
        • 3 Years Ago
        I meant that the beneficiaries will be our enemies, but NOT our environment or our economy.
        • 3 Years Ago
        "Why does ethanol have such a big target on its back?"

        That's what drives me nuts. I'm not a big ethanol advocate. I think it has it's pros and cons. My big problem is that even greenies treat ethanol like dino-oil is a better choice. The hatred is amazing. It's so bad that I find myself always countering it, making me look like a big ethanol advocate.

        Until the blind rage settles down, we can't seem to have an actual conversation about it. I will say that I've seen the hatred settle down a little bit in the last couple of months, but it has a long way to go.
      • 3 Years Ago
      If E85 was widely available and priced according to its btu content, maybe they wouldn't
      have to try to find ways to make people use ethanol in autos that were not designed to use it.
      • 3 Years Ago
      Yawn.

      Grassley understands that these bills from the House will do what all House bills do.

      They will go to the Senate steps to die.

      Wake me up if the Senate ever debates the bill.
      • 3 Years Ago
      Besides the fuel line & pump (which are important), I'm wondering what else would be messed up in using E85 gas in my 1995 car? I have swapped out the fuel filter, PCV valve, spark plugs, & O2 sensor in the past 3 years. I might be wrong, but I would hope that the parts companies are only producing one line of parts that can handle e85 or at least e15.

        • 3 Years Ago
        rcappo -

        E85 conversions are 100% illegal. There are no legal E85 conversion kits for the US market. It is even technically illegal for you to play with "homebrew" mixes of ethanol (mixes more than E10 in all years of non-flex fuel vehicles).

        With that said, there are certain cars made in certain years that have been successfully converted to run E85. The most popular conversions seem to be for cars with turbo engines in OBCII cars (mostly post-1997). Each car is different, but usually it requires higher flow fuel injectors and software updates in order to run straight E85 without getting heavy pinging and too-lean burn conditions.

        Let me take a moment to address all the Fear-Mongering about how ethanol will destory your car. When it comes to non-flex fuel vehicles running straight E85, all the Fear-Mongers are 100% correct. You heard me. An ethanol proponent saying the Fear-Mongers are right about ethanol. You can do serious damage to your car trying to run E85, including completely destroying your engine. This is because using ANY fuel and getting heavy pinging and too-lean burn conditions can destory your engine. This is an engine controls issue that would apply to any fuel running at the wrong fuel mixtures. It isn't E85 specific, but it certainly can happen with E85 unless you make the proper engine contol modifications required.

        If you have a 1995 non-turbo, non-ODBII car, the best you will probably be able to do is to "homebrew" a lower ethanol mix somewhere in the E15-E30 range. There are no hard fast rules that are a blanket answer across all cars. Anyone who tells you that you either can or can't run all cars on any given ethanol mix between E15 and E30 is playing politics, not talking mechanics.

        How well your car runs on E15-E30 mixes will depend upon how fast your car goes into closed-loop O2-sensor operation, what your open-loop settings are, what your ceiling is on your injectors, etc. The only real way to know how well it is working is to get an ODBII reader or the like that allows you to graph your air/fuel mixture, and to do the required calculations to know at what point your car's computer is able to adjust your fuel flow to keep your car in acceptable air/fuel mixture ranges to match your own "homebrew" mix. Even at E15-E30 you might need to tweak your fuel maps to run correctly.

        IF you do your E85 conversion or "homebrew" correctly, you can get a good running car that will run correctly ONLY with the ethanol mix you tune for. You won't be able to fill up with E85 one day, E50 the next day, then E10 unless you have programs for each and swap programs when you change your ethanol mix.

        To make a long story short, the answer to your question is no.
        • 3 Years Ago
        So, the timing would be the main thing I guess. Pinging is bad, but maybe they could come up with some other additive to correct for that to boost the octane. And the computer would be the other problem.

        And, I have no intention of doing this, I'm just trying to figure out if the claims that using e15 would destroy my 1995 car would be true, or if big oil is lying to me and just doesn't want to give up 5% of their sales...
        • 3 Years Ago
        E85 has significantly lower BTU content/volume, so fuel injection is probably not calibrated properly. I'm no expert, but I would not try using E85 in a non-flex-fuel model of any vintage.
      • 3 Years Ago
      Corn ethanol is value-added processing. However, corn prices are so high now and the export market so strong, that there is less need for adding value. Thus, Grassley is somewhat off the hook for needing to support ethanol.

      For 400 years, the trend in Europe and the Americas has been for grain prices to decline, when measured in constant dollars. That is now changing. As world population climbs relentlessly and demand for feed grains rises as people demand better diets and are able to pay for them, and as agricultural production increases have stagnated, and as there is more money looking for a place to be invested, commodity markets have been rising. I don't see a return to low grain prices in the future.
        • 3 Years Ago
        Fred, you hit it directly on the head when you said "as there is more money looking for a place to be invested, commodity markets have been rising."

        This is the key to both food and non-food commodity prices rising. But there IS something we can do about it. We can re-regulate the commodities markets so that commodity trading is for the most part limited to just producers and consumers (with some buffer traders that are registered traders allowed). That means that for the most part, nobody could speculate on corn futures unless you either have a pile of corn physically that you will have to sell, or you can physically take delivery of a huge pile of corn.

        Where would I ever come up with an idea like that and know it would work? Because that was how the regulations used to be before the commodity markets were de-regulated. That was when grain prices continued to drop. It wasn't until deregulation allowed speculators to run up the commodity market the same way they ran up the dot-com bubble, the real-estate bubble, the stock-market bubble, etc.

        Unfortunately, there are a lot of really rich people who actively look to build bubbles just to break them and reap huge profits both on the way up, and the way down.

        Volitility == profit
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