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Former Vice President and presidential candidate Al Gore has changed his stance concerning ethanol. As vice president, Gore created subsidies for corn-based ethanol. The move, it turns out, was aimed more towards garnering votes for his upcoming presidential run than doing what's best for the environment. At a recent green energy conference in Athens, Greece, Gore said:

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For the past several years, the answer to the question of whether producing ethanol from corn is a net energy benefit or loss has depended on who you asked. An assortment of studies have come down on both sides of the equation. Michigan State University professor Jake Ferris comes down firmly on the net benefit side in an op-ed published by the Lansing State Journal.

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The BP oil spill has reminded us that whether we love ethanol or hate it, it's still loads better than crude oil. Or at least that's what the corn ethanol lobbies would have us believe, according to Slate.

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Writing over at The Big Money, Dan Mitchell has coined a great new way for people who don't think corn-based ethanol is a good idea to express their dislike:

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The U.S. Renewable Fuels Standards (RFS2) becomes effective Thursday, July 1 and it describes a whole lot of changes for the biofuels industry in the U.S in the coming decade or so. To prepare for the changes and to figure out just what's even possible, the USDA issued a "Regional Roadmap to Meeting the Biofuels Goals of the Renewable Fuels Standard by 2022" last week. One thing that's not changing – not yet, anyway - is the dominating role of ethanol made from corn in the U.S.

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Following news that the EPA has once again not made a decision about increasing the ethanol content of gasoline sold in the nation's pumps, the ethanol industry is kind of peeved. The Renewable Fuels Association has issued a press release lashing out at the Environmental Protection Agency for "dropping the ball ... for no scientifically justified reason" on the E15 issue, saying this second punt is "a dereliction of duty."

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The debate over corn ethanol, and the federal government's strong support for the biofuel, is being debated across the U.S. Everything from the potential cost for damaged fuel systems to the possible Federal push for E15 is in the news. The discussion has even hit deep into corn country, where the Kansas City Star published a point-counterpoint opinion column yesterday on whether the Feds should continue to subsidize growing corn for ethanol. On the negative side, the corn ethanol mandate "has l

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The nail in the coffin of corn-based ethanol might be made of water. The magazine Environmental Science & Technology has published an article that pegs the amount of water needed to make enough corn ethanol to move a vehicle one mile at 50 gallons. That's pretty high.

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There are a lot of reasons why corn-based ethanol may not be best biofuel available to ween ourselves off of petroleum, most of which have been well covered on this site. Today, we came across one that we were previously unaware of, and, interestingly enough, it has to do with bacteria and antibiotics.

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Conflicting study overload. That's the only way to explain all the messages that we're getting regarding biofuels recently. They speed up global warming. Ethanol is no better than gasoline. You know what I mean. Here's another one, courtesy of the totally non-biased Illinois Corn Growers Association. The findings this time are that "a modern ethanol plant does not meaningfully change farmland use, neither the amount of land farmed nor the mix of crops planted (e.g., corn, soybeans)." Apparently,

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The University of Minnesota has released a study on the benefits of three types of fuels: gasoline, corn-based ethanol and cellulosic ethanol. The conclusion was what most readers know: corn-based ethanol doesn't have that many benefits. Corn still needs tractors to be harvested, and some kind of fuel and/or electricity for distillation. However, the study doesn't discard biofuels entirely and puts an emphasis on the benefits that cellulosic ethanol could bring. For instance, the study calculate

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Bad news for ethanol lovers. One of the most important ethanol producers in the U.S., ADM, has announced that U.S. production of ethanol was down by 21 percent, from some 12.9 million gallons in mid-late 2008 to 10.2 million right now. The market was up when oil prices were high, plants were built (or planned for) about everywhere and ethanol producers received big subsidies. Then came the lower price of oil, a higher price for corn and the credit crunch - all obvious reasons why producers now f

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Photo by petrr. Licensed under Creative Commons license 2.0.

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Undeterred by the fact that ethanol is the worst type or alternative energy, the federal government is in love with corn ethanol, perhaps a bit too much. Over the years, the American farm lobby has worked and worked to get subsidies for corn growers and, more recently, ethanol producers. The result, as calculated the Environmental Working Group in a new report, is that ethanol (including made-from-corn biofuel) now receives more than three times as many federal dollars ($3 billion in 2007) than

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Photo by veganstraightedge. Licensed under Creative Commons license 2.0.

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Photo by Hummanna. Licensed under Creative Commons license 2.0.

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According to a recent survey made by Renewable Fuels Now, 74 percent of Americans say that the US should increase domestic production of renewable fuels, including ethanol. The poll also mentions that Americans support the idea of the Federal Government helping develop the biofuel industry (87 percent) and increasing biofuel blends at the pumps (77 percent).

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We've heard plenty about how biodiesel feedstock from palm plantations in SE Asia contributes to forest devastation there, but the cry from Brazil has not been nearly as loud. Of course, that country's biofuel industry also has an impact on the natural landscape, as this article explains.

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Food & Water Watch, the Network for Energy Choices and the Institute for Energy and the Environment at Vermont Law School are on the quest of creating a report called "The Rush to Ethanol: Not all BioFuels are created equal". They affirm that, "ethanol is no silver bullet solution for fossil fuel dependence, energy independence or curbing emissions".

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All the money rolling into the ethanol/corn industries may come to a screeching halt in a year or two, say researchers at Iowa State University. Inside Green Tech spoke to Bruce Babcock, economist and director of the Center for Agricultural and Rural Development at ISU, who say that, "We think the expected returns to an ethanol plant are zero or negative in 2008."

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