Frankenstein fuel may be part of tax deal

December 9, 2010 05:48

At a cost of nearly $7 billion a year Grassly, Thune and Harkin want ethanol subsidies tied to the tax deal.

According to The Daily Caller “Chuck Grassley, a Republican senator from Iowa, said in no uncertain terms that the new tax deal will include an extension of those ethanol subsidies.”

Even though ethanol has been shown to have no environmental benefits and in fact harms the environment those who get rich of its subsidies don’t want it to go away. An Investors Business Daily article recently pointed out the problems with ethanol:

“A report by the Paris-based International Council for Science says clearing land for the production of biofuels has aggravated rather than ameliorated global warming. It releases nitrous oxide as well as CO2. Nitrous oxide is said to trap heat at a rate 300 times greater than an equal amount of CO2.”

“Even some environmentalists have gotten wise to the ethanol scam. The Environmental Working Group and five other groups not long ago came out against a further bailout. Subsidies “for corn-based ethanol,” they said, “have produced unintended, yet potentially catastrophic environmental consequences, with little or no return to taxpayers in energy security (or) protection from global warming.””

The ethanol subsidy program is up for renewal this year and its supporters are scrambling to get the lame duck congress to extend the $7 billion dollar a year boondoggle.

A 2007 National Center for Public Policy Research report titled ‘Thanks to Congress, Ethanol and Biofuel Mandates Cause Food Prices to Soar‘ said increased ethanol production was causing a rise in food prices and actually causes harm to the environment:

“Enter the U.S. Congress.  Driven by powerful agribusiness and ethanol lobby interests, Congress is dead-set on further raising the “renewable fuel standard” for ethanol and biofuels, showing little regard for inflated food prices, its impact on the poor, and the recent stream of scientific studies showing ethanol’s harmful impact on the environment.

If the energy bill currently in negotiations between the House and Senate passes, Americans will be required to increase their portion of ethanol-based fuel to 36 billion gallons by 2022, a monumental increase from the current 7.5 billion gallons mandate by 2012.  Twenty-one billion gallons of that must come from the still unproven, land-reliant “cellulosic” technology that turns cornstalks and switchgrass into ethanol.  The remaining 15 billion gallons must come from corn.

For what?  We have known for years that ethanol, like other “poster child” renewables that were supposed to end our dependence on oil, is not all that and a bag of corn chips.  More recently, we’ve learned its effect is even worse than we thought and that, as the OECD reports, “the cure [may be] worse than the disease.”9

Producing biofuels leaves a huge ecological footprint, exceeding that of fossil fuels.  The recent OECD report finds, “When… soil acidification, fertilizer use, biodiversity loss, and toxicity of agricultural pesticides are taken into account, the overall environmental impacts of ethanol and biofuels can very easily exceed those of petrol and mineral diesel.”10

Similarly, nitrous oxide released in the production of biofuels actually increases  greenhouse gas emissions – about twice as much as previously thought – and, in the view of Nobel Laureate scientist Paul Crutzen, is likely contributing to global warming.11

Moreover, ethanol requires enormous quantities of water, a valuable resource already in short supply in many areas of the nation.  Producing one gallon of ethanol fuel, including the water needed to grow corn, requires an astonishing 1,700 gallons of water, according to Cornell University ecology professor David Pimentel.12

As the New York Times recently summarized in an editorial on biofuel: “What’s wrong is letting politics – the kind that leads to unnecessary subsidies, the invasion of natural landscapes… and soaring food prices that hurt the poor – rather than sound science and sound economics drive America’s energy policy.”

A diverse collection of conservative and liberal groups sent a letter to congress asking for the ethanol subsidies ti be left to die this year. The group included environmental groups like the Sierra Club and conservative groups like Freedom Works and the American Conservative Union.

This ethanol subsidy program has proven to already have wasted over $26 billion and has no benefit. It actually takes more than a gallon of carbon based fuel to create a gallon of ethanol. Environmental groups are against it because it actually is a net harm to the environment. Yet it won’t die because it lines the pockets of corporations who then support the politicians who keep it alive.

If Chuck Grassley, Iowa Republican, John Thune, South Dakota Republican, and Tom Harkin, Iowa Democrat, can keep this monster alive despite opposition from both political parties and liberal and conservative groups there is no hope for any serious spending cuts in congress.

Michael Whipple, Editor

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