August 31, 2011 at 1:58 pm #2145
U.S. Corn-Belt Farmers: The Country Has Turned Its Back On US
Posted by Intellpuke 8/16/2011; News Update by FreeInternet Press 8/30/11
There were times when Arlyn Schipper could almost feel heroic on his family farm in the heart of America’s corn belt. His 1,619 hectares (4,000 acres) in Iowa, planted almost entirely with corn, were helping to feed a nation or at least help put fuel in its gas tanks, as his crop was processed into corn ethanol.
Schipper still sees it that way. It is just he feels America has moved on, or as he put it: “The country has turned on us.” The U.S. debt crisis, and the challenge of finding $1.3 trillion (796 billion) in budget cuts, has forced Congress to re-examine three decades of government subsidies for corn ethanol.
Drought and famine in the Horn of Africa have exposed further a negative consequence of biofuel production: the global food crisis. By competing with food crops for land, large-scale biofuel production has constricted supply and so boosted food prices across the world. This has led to a backlash against biofuels such as corn ethanol from environmentalists and development charities.
“Ten years ago this was the greatest thing since apple pie ethanol. A lot of farmers invested in this, and a lot of farmers invested in ethanol plants. Everybody wanted it. Our country wanted it. It was a renewable resource,” said Schipper. “And now that we have got all of this money tied up in this, it’s kind of turned on us.” Many will feel that corn farmers have had it pretty good. And the ethanol industry still has a mighty hold on America’s corn belt. America is projected to produce 14 billion U.S. gallons (53 billion liters) of corn ethanol this year at 200 refineries across the Midwest.
Iowa, which leads the country in corn production, will use 58% of its crop for ethanol this year. Some farmers, such as Schipper, may sell up to 70% of their crop to produce ethanol. There are five ethanol plants within a 50-mile radius of his home
But a five-year boom in corn ethanol production may be coming to an end or at least that is the hope of some campaigners. “I think we are at a turning point. We are full to the gills with corn ethanol,” said Jeremy Martin, who studies biofuels for the Union of Concerned Scientists.
As a start, the industry is due to lose some of its government support more than 30 years after Jimmy Carter first began subsidizing corn ethanol to encourage the development of a homegrown plant-based fuel.
Congress is expected to end $6 billion in subsidies during the debt deal negotiations. The subsidy had been directed to the oil firms which incorporate ethanol into their products. Fuel sold at most U.S. petrol stations contains 10% ethanol. The industry had hoped to re-direct some of those funds to refitting petrol stations to take more ethanol, under a deal reached in the U.S. Senate last July.
But the subsequent U.S. debt ceiling deal, with its demands for deep cuts, now makes that unlikely. “Washington is out of money,” said Sheila Karpf, an analyst at the Environmental Working Group, a non-profit organization. For farmers like Schipper, and ethanol refiners, there will be little reason to mourn the end of the subsidy, arguing that the money went directly to the oil industry anyway.
But campaign groups estimate it could lead to a slight drop in corn prices. “It won’t make a big difference for American farmers but it could make a huge difference for impoverished countries,” said Marie Brill, an analyst at ActionAid. This year’s famine in the Horn of Africa has a complex set of causes, not least a dire political situation that has made problems much worse, but it has served to refocus attention on global food prices and the impact of harvesting biofuels such as corn ethanol.
The U.S. is the world’s largest producer and exporter of corn, giving it the power to dictate global market responses. Domestic consumption of corn, as ethanol, has driven up the price of corn worldwide, according to studies from the World Bank and other institutions.
The high prices for corn while driving hunger in Africa have encouraged other farmers to turn over land from wheat, soybeans, or even pasture to corn production. U.S. farmers planted 92 million acres of corn this year, up from 4 million acres last year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. “Farmers are tearing up any little bit of land they had and going to corn,” said Brill.
The concern over the global food crisis added new urgency to existing campaigns against the use of corn ethanol. Environmental groups had argued that its use offered no meaningful reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in part because of the vast use of energy and water in the ethanol conversion process. As a food crop, corn is also far more damaging to the environment than other crops, such as soybeans, because it uses more pesticides and fertilizer.
“The research is very clear by now. Turning corn into ethanol is not environmentally sound,” said Bill Freese, of the Center for Food Safety. “It’s really an environmental disaster.” That was not what was intended when Carter promoted the use of ethanol as a way to get America off imported oil, offering subsidies to industries to mix the fuel. The industry never really took off even with federal funding. By 2001, 6% of corn crop was being used to produce ethanol.
But energy policies brought in by George W Bush which set production quota to encourage the use of biofuels allowed the industry to take off. By last year, nearly 40% of U.S. corn was going to produce ethanol. It is less clear, however, whether corn ethanol is having a major effect in helping America reduce its consumption of fossil fuels. Corn ethanol will displace just 7% of the energy supplied by oil by 2020, according to an analysis by Freese.
Campaigners argue that the entrenched government supports for corn ethanol have blocked the development of next generations of greener biofuels made from wood or the non-edible parts of plants, known as cellulosic biofuels. “Corn ethanol continues to eat up the market and even eat up grant money that could be used to spur the development of cellulosic and advanced biofuels,” said Sheila Karpf, an analyst at the Environmental Working Group. Getting rid of corn ethanol though is another matter. For farmers like Schipper, ethanol has brought stability and new sources of income. Over the years, the refineries have spun off another industry in animal feed lots, which buy up the unused parts of the corn kernel to feed to pigs, cattle and turkey. Harris Haywood, who runs a nearby cattle finishing operation, estimates he has cut back on his corn use by 40%, by re-using the product from the ethanol refinery.
“The byproduct is very, very cheap compared with corn,” he said. “And we can vary our rations to the price of corn. If corn gets cheap we can use more corn.” It’s going to be hard to persuade farmers away from ethanol. Despite the increasingly negative public opinion on ethanol Schipper is just not ready to give up on it yet. “Everything has turned on us, but ethanol is still a great thing,” he said. “It’s been good for us.”
Intellpuke: You can read this article by Guardian U.S. environment correspondent Suzanne Goldenberg, reporting from Whitten, Iowa, in context here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/aug/15/us-corn-belt-farmers
September 4, 2011 at 2:40 pm #4947
Increase of ethanol in gas will cause damage to certain vehicles
Published: Sunday, September 04, 2011, 8:15 AM
By Bob Marshall, The Times-PicayuneThe Times-Pic
I was trying to summarize the nightmare Pete Landry was describing, and suggested this: Come fall, Louisiana’s 320,000 boaters will begin unwittingly filling their tanks with the new 15 percent ethanol fuel blends (E-15), resulting in millions of dollars in unnecessary damage, not to mention broken dreams.
“Oh no,” Landry said, “It’s much worse than that.”
“This won’t just impact sportsmen. The E-15 also can’t be used in motorcycles, jet skies and any lawn equipment or anything else that that uses these small, oil-cooled engines.
“We’re talking probably millions of people impacted. We’re facing a real crisis.”Landry is no Chicken Little. He’s a retired oil- and petrochemical-industry chemist who has spent the past few years as a pro-bono researcher investigating the impacts of ethanol blends on sportsmen and others. When you check out the results on his website, PeteLandrysRealGas.com, you realize the sky really could fall.
In 2007, President George Bush signed the Energy Independence and Security Act, which, among other things, required a 20-percent reduction in gasoline consumption by 2017. Much of that was to be achieved by the use of renewable fuels, a goal encouraged by a 45-cent per gallon tax credit to refiners for producing ethanol blends — the Volumetric Ethanol Tax Credit.This was a hugely popular event across political lines, but the euphoria didn’t last long. Turned out corn-based ethanol actually costs more energy to produce than it saves. The rapid expansion of corn acres resulted in an increase in fertilizers that harm waterways, a loss of wildlife habitat, and soaring food prices worldwide. While those impacts were generating headlines, what had been thought would be a small list of costs to a whole range of internal combustion engines began climbing. Ethanol, which is basically grain alcohol, collects moisture in fuel tanks, and is corrosive to hoses and engine parts not specifically engineered to handle it. That list would only climb as the refiners moved to meet the
government’s gradually increasing percent of ethanol.This fall, we’ll be hitting the E-15 mark, a level considered unsuitable even for new outboards, almost all small engines, and any car built before 2001.
The Environmental Protection Agency will require retailers to post a label on pumps stating the fuel should not and, in fact, cannot legally be used in anything other than passenger vehicles produced after 2001 and Flue-fuel vehicles.But Landry says chaos is bound to ensue for two reasons: That label is much too small and not specific enough, and neither state nor federal governments are requiring refiners and retailers to produce enough ethanol-free fuel.
In fact, the alternative fuel subsidies give refiners a market incentive to produce most, if not all, of their fuel with ethanol, a far higher volume than the government currently requires. In June, the Marathon refinery in Garyville, which had been the state’s largest ethanol-free producer, went all-ethanol. Since then, Landry said, the list of gas stations selling ethanol-free fuel dropped by 54 to just 977 — this out of an estimated 3,650 stations.
“Availability is a huge problem for retailers,” he said. “And that’s going to get worse. Louisiana now has four refineries producing ethanol-free fuel, and that number could drop because a federal exemption for small refineries is about to expire.”
“Ethanol-free gas is already more expensive, and when we start losing in-state refineries, it will just go higher,” Landry said. “My fear is that when this E-15 goes into effect, people who don’t know the danger will pull up to a gas station and miss that label, or just look at the price and go to the cheaper fuel and do real damage to their engines.”
So what can be done?
Some help may be coming soon as Congress considers repealing what has become a $5 billion annual subsidy of ethanol. That could lead some refiners into becoming producers of ethanol-free fuels.
But what really needs to happen is for governments — state and federal — to require retailers to offer at least one pump of non-ethanol fuel. That would provide the market for refiners to offer that product. I’m not suggesting the nation should leave the alternative fuel race. If anything, we should invest more in supporting technologies that help get us off carbon fuels. If we don’t, there isn’t much of a future for southeast Louisiana. But neither should millions of Americans be needlessly caught in Pete Landry’s nightmare.
In the meantime, keep checking PeteLandrysRealGas.com for safe fuel near you.
September 4, 2011 at 2:44 pm #4946
Here is update on continued damage to cars & small vehicles caused by ETOH – about to become worse with rise 15% E-15 this fall.
And – Now its getting personal screwing around with Relaxing vehicles & Boy-Toys that take sting out of workplace grind! <Just in case causing Famine/Starvation, Bankrupting America & destroying your work car wasnt enough incentive.>
Also even though the addition was caused by Government & Environmentalist – likely individuals will sue the oil companies for damages from engines damaged by E-15 since their pockets are easier to get into than Bankrupt government ones. Companies like Valero that purchased ETOH producers to insure secure supply to meet federal mandated increase …… will ironically likely be one first targets.
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