Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Corn-Fed, Gas Guzzling Iowans

From TMQ:
Few people seem to know this, but owing to the congressional mandate, since 2008, the gasoline you purchase contains 10 percent ethanol. Because ethanol has a lower energy density than petroleum, a 90/10 fuel blend reduces miles per gallon by about 3 percent. So if your mileage has seemed a little low lately, that's because it is a little low -- Congress effectively mandated that gasoline become less efficient.
This is outrageous, especially when you consider the well-known (outside Washington) hypothesis that ethanol takes more energy input to produce than it, in fact, outputs.

I'd noticed the "10% Biofuel" stickers on the gas pumps, and I knew about the massive debt-funded subsidies going to rich corporate farmers in Iowa, but I didn't know it was lowering my fuel efficiency.

Memo to Iowa: I'll take my corn on the cob, please, not in the tank. Next time you see an Iowan, ask him for your money back.


Matt Marsh said...

this has been going on for a while now, but don't hate on iowa! they are trying to make a living just like anyone else, and they will shift their business to where the money is. blame the government for messing with the system to create the perception of cheaper gas prices.

i actually heard a lot about this when i was out there for my internship a couple years back. apparently, the desire for ethanol created a huge shift in the amounts of the crops the iowan farmers produced. all other crops, especially the beans, took a big hit.

however, even that huge increase was not enough to keep up with the ethanol demand and it cut into the food supply which led to a hike in the price of corn, as well as the beans and other crops which are now in shorter supply. soooooo we are getting cheaper and less efficient gas while at the same time increasing the cost of some staple foods and screwing with the farming system as it was.

additionally, and i don't have numbers on this, but i have heard that the energy needed to convert the corn to ethanol is such that you get a minimal return on the apparent savings by reducing the gasoline in your car.

Matt Marsh said...

and all apologies for having no hard numbers to back this up with. it is all anectdotal evidence from a number of talks with farmers, upset natives, and local pundits during my time in iowa back in 2007.

Chops said...

No, I agree with everything you said. But the fact that the government is corrupt doesn't mean Iowans (and other farm-states) bear no moral responsibility. This wouldn't be nearly the issue it is if:
(a) Iowa didn't host the first-in-the-nation Caucus;
(b) Iowans didn't vote at the caucus for corrupt politicians who promise/enact subsidies for them.

John McCain in 2000 couldn't even compete in Iowa because he had opposed ethanol subsidies. In 2008, he kowtowed.

Iowans defend their mantle as the first vetters of would-be presidents. To claim that privilege and then use it as a way to steal money from the rest of the country using damned lies and statistics is reprehensible.

Carol L. Douglas said...

Add to that the fact that there is a price floor for gasoline below which ethanol production is no longer cost-effective. Isn’t this an incentive for government to keep gas prices artificially inflated?

Corn is not an eco-friendly crop. It requires pesticides and herbicides and it is a “leaky” crop for nitrogen fertilizer since it absorbs it poorly.

Chops said...

The price of gasoline currently is WAY below the price floor at which ethanol is cost efficient. That might be $5 or $10 per gallon. Seriously.

The only reason we have ethanol is that it is almost 100% subsidized and is now mandated. The government is accruing debt to create a fuel for which there is no demand, and then mandating demand so that somebody will buy their (still!) overpriced, inefficient product.

It's a good thing these folks don't run an industry where lives are on the line, like health care.

Carol L. Douglas said...

Well, since we’re on this tack tonight, care to comment about US regulators intensifying their probe of Toyota, seeing as the same government now has a piece of GM and Chrysler and the UAW (or maybe they have a piece of the government)?

110K on my Prius and not a hint of trouble ever.

Carol L. Douglas said...

I also vaguely recollect that ethanol not only cuts mileage, it is also corrosive to engines. (Nope, I don’t want to verify anything tonight either.)

Casey said...

We should nuke Iowa to get rid of all the corn politics. Sure, it's a little brutal. But think of all the popcorn it would make...