Consumer Energy Report is now Energy Trends Insider -- Read More »

By Robert Rapier on Dec 8, 2010 with 57 responses

How the RFA Wastes Your Tax Dollars – Part II: Blatant Dishonesty and a Debate Challenge

In Part I we saw that the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) pays for shoddy studies and then cites them to fear-monger into getting more tax dollars. Hypocritically, when they are challenged with a critical point on ethanol, they attempt to cast doubt by questioning the source of funding from the challenger (as shown here).

Here in Part II, I will show that the RFA is guilty of misrepresentation so blatant that it can only be called dishonesty.

Perhaps the biggest irony in all of this is that our tax dollars via the ethanol subsidies keep groups like the RFA in business. The circle goes like this: Tax dollars and mandates create and support an ethanol industry. Some of the money from the ethanol industry goes to fund lobbies like the RFA. The RFA uses that money to pay for bogus studies that predict calamity if the tax dollars don’t keep coming their way.

The Integrity of the RFA

Not only does the RFA pay for self-serving research so they can lobby Congress into getting their hands on more tax dollars, they have no qualms about just making things up. In Part I, I discussed my Twitter exchanges with Robert White, who is employed by the RFA. I noticed a number of Tweets from Mr. White along the following lines. He and I had been going back and forth, and he claimed that ethanol couldn’t possibly compete without both mandates and subsidies, because Big Oil “controls the opportunity.” After pointing out that this wasn’t true; that they could be entrepreneurs and build E85 stations across the Midwest and Big Oil couldn’t stop them, he responded: “Build our own & compete against Big Oil that receives $321B/yr in subsidies?! Well conceived plan…”

The assertion, repeated many times, was that Big Oil receives $321 billion per year in subsidies. So I asked for a source, and he linked me back to an RFA press release:

Oil Subsidies Reached $312 Billion in 2009, IEA

Toronto – November 9, 2010 – The International Energy Agency World Energy Outlook today revealed that global fossil-fuel subsidies amounted to US $312 billion in 2009.

You see the problem? Not only is it not Big Oil that received that much in subsidies, it wasn’t even oil period. Those were spread across oil, natural gas, and coal. Further, the report said that the majority of the subsidies were spent in developing nations. India and China combined to spend $40 billion of the total.

How deceptive is it to play that off as a Big Oil subsidy? About as deceptive as if I added up all global renewable energy subsidies – wind, solar, biofuels, etc. – and wrote a headline that called those corn ethanol subsidies. If I did that, my credibility would rightly be in tatters, but it’s all a day’s work at the RFA.

I called Mr. White’s attention to it, but his response was a red herring: “Report clearly compares global biofuels to global fossil fuels, didn’t adjust it 4 my benefit. $57B to $312B – far cry from equal.” Right. My problem is that the RFA press release headline said that the $312 billion represented oil subsidies. Mr. White took it a step further and called them “Big Oil” subsidies. That is clearly deception, and in his response he avoided that question when I pointed it out. Further — while I am certainly not in favor of fossil fuel subsidies — $57 billion for renewable energy is 18% of the $312 billion identified for fossil fuels. But renewable energy makes up only 7% of the global energy mix, according to the report. Nuclear made up 6% of the mix, with fossil fuels comprising the other 87%. So while renewable subsidies are only 18% of fossil fuel subsidies, renewable production is only 8% of the level of fossil fuel production. Thus, proportionally, and contrary to Mr. White’s claim — renewable energy is being subsidized at over twice the rate of fossil fuels. I have no problem with that idea, but let’s not be so sloppy with the truth.

The funny thing in this debate is that the ethanol lobby and their supporters in Congress are acting as if we are talking about repealing the mandate. One wonders what hysterics they would resort to if that was under consideration. But this is only about a redundant tax credit on their ethanol production. Demand is mandated by law to grow by 25% between now and 2015. As I saw someone comment recently: “If you can’t make it in business when customers are legally required to buy your product, then you are in the wrong business.”

Debate Challenge

One of the problems with Twitter is that you can only write in short blurbs. This is great for people who write in slogans, or throw out deceptive arguments. It often takes much longer to debunk a deceptive argument than to make one. To make it, you just make a statement. To debunk them, you have to explain why it is wrong and support that argument.

Because Twitter is not the best format for that, I challenged Mr. White to debate his claims. Not once or twice, but five times I asked him to debate his claims. We even got an offer to host the debate, which I agreed to. But the silence from Mr. White on that point was deafening. A written debate allows for fact-checking. It allows for getting a bit deeper into a topic than sound bites like “Domestic fuel is better.”

So I will challenge Robert White, Bob Dinneen, or anyone else at the RFA to back up their claims. I challenge them to take up a three-round written debate on the issue of ethanol subsidies. I propose the following:

Resolved: Extension of the VEETC is a good value for taxpayers.

I would propose a 1,000 word limit per entry, and the entries would be hosted on my blog, and as long as they are unedited, anywhere the RFA wishes to host them.

  1. By Brian on December 8, 2010 at 8:49 pm

    Unfortunately, they will never debate you. The facts are on your side, and it isn’t even close. You would wipe the floor with them. Yet they are still likely getting VEETC. What a world we live in.

    [link]      
  2. By Rufus on December 8, 2010 at 11:09 pm

    Irregardless, $57 Billion last year for Fossil Fuels Subsidies in the U.S. kind of puts the $0.45/gal ethanol tax credit, which is largely paid back to the taxpayer in lower fuel costs, in proper perspective, doesn’t it?

    Then you might ask yourself what gasoline would cost if we didn’t have that 940,000 bbl/day of ethanol going into our national energy mix. Would it be a nickel/gallon higher?

    If we had to import another 700,000 bbl/day of gasoline from the Arabian Peninsula, or Russia what would that come out to? $63 Million/Day? $23 Billion/Yr?

    As for Dineen: I lobbied for a couple years before Growth Energy was formed to get rid of the clown. I called BS on some of his crap like “replaces 364 Million Barrels of Oil” from the first day they published it.

    Growth Energy, on the other hand, have, as far as I’ve seen, done a good job. I haven’t seen them put out anything that I’d be afraid to “take to the bank.”

    [link]      
  3. By Wendell Mercantile on December 9, 2010 at 12:31 am

    One of the problems with Twitter is that you can only write in short blurbs. This is great for people who write in slogans, or throw out deceptive arguments…

    Twitter is for people with short attention spans — perfect for lobbyists and spinmeisters.

    I’m happy to hear you pointed out to White there is no reason Big Ethanol couldn’t build their own chain of E85 stations across the country. I’ve long advocated they do that starting on the Interstate highways going through the Corn Belt. Sure, it would require a capital investment and initially might be a bit of a slog, but if they worked hard, were capable of strategic thought, and their product is good, they would succeed.

    But Big Ethanol would rather take the short cut of using political influence, lobbying, and back room deals to get subsidies instead of putting effort into building a business as such companies as Sinclair, Phillips 66, and Texaco did when they expanded their networks of filling stations across the country.

    [link]      
  4. By the long shot on December 9, 2010 at 8:38 am

    Rufus…

    Ethanol has not led to a decrease gasoline imports. It has so overwhelmed demand that we are exporting it and companies are using the blenders credit to SUBSIDIZE the export of the fuel. I have researched the supposed subsidies the Oil companies get from the tax payer. Depending on what you define as a subsidy its not even close to the same level as ethanol and biofuels. According to the EIA, biofuels get the equivalent of 5.72 dollars per Nat Gas gallon equivalent compared to Liquid Petroleum which gets .03 dollars per gallon. Even that subsidy is debatable with most of the “subsidy” in the form of depreciation, tax deductions for worker’s pensions, and the like. Ethanol can’t stand on its own two feet. I am tired of giving a man a fish and him returning for two more when I have taught the rest of the town how to fish. Ethanol has returned for another two fish and its time to deny them the benefit.

    [link]      
  5. By ronald-steenblik on December 9, 2010 at 8:57 am

    $57 Billion last year for Fossil Fuels Subsidies in the U.S.

    Source, please, Rufus? Not to defend any subsidies to fossil fuels — indeed, I support abolishing them — but even if that is a correct figure, how many gallons of gasoline equivalent (GGE) does one divide that over? If you divided that figure over just oil consumption, it comes to $0.19 per GGE. Divide it by all fossil fuel consumed and it drops below $0.10 per GGE. By contrast, the VEETC alone (and it is not the only subsidy to ethanol by any means) is $0.67 per GGE. As you say, “kind of puts the … ethanol tax credit … into proper perspective, doesn’t it?”

    [link]      
  6. By Rufus on December 9, 2010 at 11:36 am

    Ron, I’m glad you made me look that up. Go here (Robert’s link:)

    http://www.ethanolrfa.org/news…..-2009-iea/

    It seems like it was a lot more than that. We had our share of the $312 Billion, Globally, Plus $52 Billion “Direct Producer Subsidies.”

    And, 2009 was a lot lower than 2010 will be due to the low prices for oil in 2009.

    Gasoline is $2.31, wholesale, as we speak, and unsubsidized, wholesale ethanol (front month CBOT) is $2.07.

    Ending the VEETC will make no difference unless oil plunges back into the $30.00′s, and $40.00′s again. And, even then it may not make too much difference. As long as the mandates are in place (and, you can bet your bottom dollar They aren’t going anywhere) “Corn” ethanol is just fine (cellulosic is going to be hamstrung for awhile.)

    We’re exporting quite a bit of corn ethanol (NO subsidies applied) for the simple reason that it’s much less expensive than “Sugarcane Ethanol.”

    Just to really confuse you “oil” guys: after thinking about it this morning, I’m hoping Grassley doesn’t get his deal done, and the VEETC goes away. I think the one year extension that’s being proposed actually works “against” the guys that are trying to develop cellulosic, and the corn ethanol producers don’t really need it.

    [link]      
  7. By rrapier on December 9, 2010 at 12:23 pm

    Irregardless, $57 Billion last year for Fossil Fuels Subsidies in the U.S. kind of puts the $0.45/gal ethanol tax credit, which is largely paid back to the taxpayer in lower fuel costs, in proper perspective, doesn’t it?

    That’s the point of all the fossil fuel subsidies. They make fuel cheaper for consumers. That is something I am fundamentally against; no way should we subsidize consumption of a depleting resource.

    RR

    [link]      
  8. By ronald-steenblik on December 9, 2010 at 12:32 pm

    RR wrote:

    That’s the point of all the fossil fuel subsidies. They make fuel cheaper for consumers.

    No, or least not directly. Many if not most production-related subsidies provided by industrialized countries (and some developing countries) are intended to reduce producers’ costs, so that they can sell at the market price, not to make fuel cheaper for consumers. Germany’s declining hard-coal industry would close entirely if its subsidies were withdrawn.

    [link]      
  9. By Wendell Mercantile on December 9, 2010 at 1:11 pm

    Many if not most production-related subsidies provided by industrialized countries (and some developing countries) are intended to reduce producers’ costs,

    Ronald~

    I would say the purpose of most subsidies is to provide jobs. That’s the main reason for Germany’s hard-coal subsidies — to keep their coal miners working. That’s the reason for our corn ethanol subsidies — to expand the commodity market for corn to keep corn farmers employed growing corn, even though their talents might be better used on other crops that would more benefit American consumers.

    That’s also the reason for the subsidies farms get in Europe — to keep those living on small farms employed, and also to maintain what Europeans see as a charming countryside. It is pleasant to drive around Europe and see people working on small farms and living in quaint villages. In Austria, you still can see people (women mostly) raking and putting up hay by hand.

    [link]      
  10. By rrapier on December 9, 2010 at 1:17 pm

    No, or least not directly.

    I am thinking of subsidies like Venezuela’s that keep the cost of gasoline low. Lots of countries do that, and those subsidies have to be huge given the differential between oil prices and what they sell for.

    RR

    [link]      
  11. By ronald-steenblik on December 9, 2010 at 4:38 pm

    Wendell wrote:

    I would say the purpose of most subsidies is to provide jobs.

    Well, that may be the stated purpose (if we are talking about production subsidies), but at best most subsidies are to support regional or local jobs. It is a rare subsidy that creates net jobs across the whole economy. In any case, I was talking about the aim of the subsidies vis-à-vis the recipients. Protecting employment is presumed to be a consequence of keeping the subsidized firms solvent.

    Don’t get me started on the rationales for agricultural subsidies, especially European agricultural subsidies. As with anywhere else, the main beneficiaries are stlll the biggest farmers.

    Robert wrote:

    I am thinking of subsidies like Venezuela’s that keep the cost of gasoline low. Lots of countries do that, and those subsidies have to be huge given the differential between oil prices and what they sell for.

    In that case, I agree with the comment. I am quite familiar with the IEA’s estimates ($312 billion in fossil-fuel consumption subsidies in 2009), and work closely with the people who produced those estimates.

    [link]      
  12. By savro on December 9, 2010 at 4:48 pm

    Ronald Steenblik said:

    I am quite familiar with the IEA’s estimates ($312 billion in fossil-fuel consumption subsidies in 2009), and work closely with the people who produced those estimates.


     

    Ronald, if you’re able to obtain the details and breakdown (by country, sector, etc.) of these estimates and post it here, it would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

    [link]      
  13. By ronald-steenblik on December 9, 2010 at 5:19 pm

    Here’s a graph for 2008 (not great resolution, I admit). The countries in order from the left are Iran, Russia, Saudi Arabia, India, China and Egypt. The dark-purple bars are oil, the lighter blue bars are natural gas, and the red bars are coal.

     

    And here are the “key graphs” for the 2010 report. See the second page of the PDF for the fossil-fuel subsidies:

    http://www.worldenergyoutlook……graphs.pdf

    [link]      
  14. By russ-finley on December 10, 2010 at 10:50 am

    Barely on topic, but English blogger, George Monbiot describes another industry , Asia Pulp and Paper, also being propped up by tax dollars, also with a credibility problem, that also hires firms with “analysts” to provide “analysis” supporting their bottom line:

    APP is part of the Sinar Mas conglomerate, a Chinese-Indonesian company owned by a fantastically rich dynasty called the Widjajas. Founded in 1962, it grew during the regime of Indonesia’s dictator General Suharto into one of Asia’s most powerful companies, with interests in palm oil, coal, property and banking. It has been the focus of criticism from human rights and environmental groups for years. But now it is a company with an urgent mission.

    In 2001, APP defaulted on loans amounting to an amazing $13.9bn (£8.8bn). Most companies would have gone under. But some of the debt was picked up by Indonesian taxpayers, while around half was restructured. Its critics claim it is clearing its debts by clearing the rainforest.

     

    But they didn’t hire Urbanchuk. They hired former Greenpeace activist Patrick Moore.  A commenter below Monbiot’s peice hit the nail on the head with Moore:

    Greenpeace was founded, more or less, by a bunch of students who met in the metaphorical pub. Not a big surprise one went back to his family roots as he got older. It’s a familiar tale of youth activism.

     

    Nothing more dangerous than a fallen angel ; ) The profit motive, she is powerful.

    [link]      
  15. By BilB on December 10, 2010 at 5:43 pm

    Robert,

    In the interests of absolute honesty as you claim to seek, do not forget to include in oil subsidisation the 3 trillion dollars that the Iraq was is costing the US poeple. Not to mention however much it has cost every other country. And for what return in oil delivery? Now don’t start talking about “weapons of mass destruction”, because there will not be anybody on this planet who truly believes that line…any more.

    That is not to say that any lobby group should misrepresent the truth. But in a country where the lies start at the top (Bush) what else can anyone expect. Rather than be endlessly indignant, as intellignet people understanding the true dilema that the Western way of life is facing (peak oil AND global warming AND over population AND resource depletion AND ocean acidification AND mobile populations) wouldn’t our time be better spent mapping out a safe path forward for the next 300 years. I imagine from your past positions this means “find more oil” (though that may have changed), but what do other people think.

    [link]      
  16. By rrapier on December 10, 2010 at 6:23 pm

    In the interests of absolute honesty as you claim to seek, do not forget to include in oil subsidisation the 3 trillion dollars that the Iraq was is costing the US poeple.

    BilB, I would like nothing more than that price to be reflected at the pump. Higher oil prices would change consumers’ behaviors. Keep in mind, though, that we didn’t go in there on the behalf of oil companies. In fact, I know many who thought it was a bad idea. We did go in there with the idea that it would stabilize the region and thus keep oil prices in check, and therefore it would have subsidized consumption had that been that case. But I am not sure that oil prices today are lower than they would have been had we not gone in.

    For the record, I was not in favor of invading Iraq.

    I imagine from your past positions this means “find more oil” (though that may have changed), but what do other people think.

    What position would that be BilB? Could you quote me please, because that statement indicates that you don’t know my position at all.

    RR

    [link]      
  17. By BilB on December 10, 2010 at 7:22 pm

    I recall, to the best of my knowledge, you on the TOD a number of times proposing increasing oil exploration to extend the life of existing oil reserves. That would take some digging to prove, which I am not going to do. So if you say that you never took that position then I retract the comment.

    What we do need above all the bickering over who is extracting what from the public purse, is a plan that truly represents our actual position in the short medium and long term, and sets a believeable path forward. With such a plan appropriate support (or not) for required resources can be applied intelligently and with testable time frames.

    Every thing else is just tit for tat nitpicking, and a guaranteed path to disaster.

    [link]      
  18. By rrapier on December 10, 2010 at 7:36 pm

    I recall, to the best of my knowledge, you on the TOD a number of times proposing increasing oil exploration to extend the life of existing oil reserves.

    I wasn’t sure if that is what you were talking about. Anyway, my position is this. It is unrealistic to think that we won’t still be heavily depending on oil in 10 or 15 years. So if we develop energy policy around the notion that we won’t need all the domestic production we can get, we are asking for trouble. I believe that oil supplies will be in decline, and any domestic production we can come online will help. However, all it can do is add a little bit of supply; we can’t possibly produce enough to be self-sufficient.

    So, if the question is “What sorts of things do we need to do to help mitigate a severe supply crunch?” — then drilling needs to be in the mix. But if the question is “How do we solve Peak Oil?” — then my answer is not “drill more.”

    RR

    [link]      
  19. By BilB on December 10, 2010 at 8:29 pm

    The real question not just “How do we solve Peak Oil” , it is how do we solve all of the other probelms at the same time because they are consecutive, not sequential.

    [link]      
  20. By BilB on December 10, 2010 at 8:29 pm

    The real question not just “How do we solve Peak Oil” , it is how do we solve all of the other probelms at the same time because they are consecutive, not sequential.

    [link]      
  21. By Frank Schmitt on December 10, 2010 at 11:30 pm

    The circle goes like this: Tax dollars and mandates create and support an ethanol industry. Some of the money from the ethanol industry goes to fund lobbies like the RFA. The RFA uses that money to pay for bogus studies that predict calamity if the tax dollars don’t keep coming their way.

    I believe the term you’re looking for is a “self-licking ice cream cone”.

    [link]      
  22. By OD on December 12, 2010 at 2:29 am

    It appears that if the tax bill passes, ethanol is getting a big subsidy. Rufus must be cheering somewhere.

    Maybe Cheney was right when he said, deficits don’t matter :-)

    [link]      
  23. By Oxymaven on December 12, 2010 at 8:29 am

    Looks like RFA doesn’t want to go head to head with Robert, but clearly their website’s new post “Answering Ethanol Attacks” is at least partly aimed in his direction. Some of the usual goofy statements on oil displacement etc, and none on VEETC or subsidies including this old goofy statement: “In fact, producing gasoline takes much more petroleum than producing ethanol. Researchers at the Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory found that it takes 1.23 units of fossil energy to produce one unit of energy in the form of gasoline. In other words, it’s gasoline—not ethanol—that has the negative energy balance.”

    [link]      
  24. By Rufus on December 12, 2010 at 10:08 am

    OD, as I stated upthread, I’m not “cheering.” I kind of wish it wouldn’t pass. Corn Ethanol really doesn’t need it, and It’s NOT good for “Cellulosic.”

    [link]      
  25. By paul-n on December 12, 2010 at 1:12 pm

    Oxy, that statement, that gasoline uses more petroleum to make than ethanol is definitely true. Depending on where the oil comes from, you are looking at 1.1 (Saudi) to 1.35 (oilsands) barrels in per barrel out (or more accurately, you need to produce 1.1-1.35 barrels out of the ground per barrel of refined product)

    With ethanol there is probably only 0.1-0.2 barrels in per equivalent barrel out.  There is a lot of non petroleum energy input, of course, mostly NG, but they could instead use coal, biomass or even waste heat, but within the strict definition of petroluem, meaning liquid fuel, gasoline needs much more to make, because the feedstock is liquid fuel.

    At least this is one statement where they are not distorting reality, it is just that most people won;t understand the context.

     

    @Rufus, why do you say it’s not good for cellulosic – is that because it is diverting capital from cellulosic to corn ethanol?

     

    [link]      
  26. By Rufus on December 12, 2010 at 2:08 pm

    Kind of, Paul. Cellulosic gets a $1.01/gal “Producers” Credit. However, as long as the “Blenders” Credit is in force Cellulosic gets the “Blenders Credit” plus a smaller (I think it’s $0.46/gal – might be $0.56/gal.)

    As a result, if the Blenders credit goes away cellulosic will have about a $1.00 advantage over Corn, whereas, right now cellulosic has, roughly, a $0.50/gal advantage.

    At least, that was my takeaway when I read the law. Those last two brain cells are getting a little tired, so I could be reading it wrong (although, I don’t think I am.)

    To tell you the truth, I’m getting more interested in “Solar” right now, than in any kind of ethanol.

    [link]      
  27. By BilB on December 12, 2010 at 4:46 pm

    Paul N,

    That is a good thing to keep in mind when people are criticising EV’s powered temporarily by coal. Where an ICE is say 30% efficient it actually uses 7 unit of fuel/CO2 to 1 unit of electricity for equivalent klms. But the coal is say 30% efficient and emits more CO2. So all taken in it is still better to run cars on coal electricity than petrol from a CO2 point of view. And where the electricity is solar then that is a massive saving in CO2 emissions. Far more than I thought.

    [link]      
  28. By BilB on December 12, 2010 at 5:02 pm

    Backtracking here, Paul N, on rereading.

    Does this mean that it takes 9% of a Saudi barrel to produce a barrel of product ie 1 barrel yields 91% of product with 9% consumed. Or does it mean 1 barrel yields 45% of product with 55% consumed?

    [link]      
  29. By BilB, Australia on December 12, 2010 at 5:10 pm

    I should have said that if it is the former then that is reasonablly efficient in energy processing terms and brings the EV coal CO2 issue back roughly to par with petrol/coal electricity on CO2 emissions.

    [link]      
  30. By rrapier on December 12, 2010 at 6:19 pm

    Paul N said:

    Oxy, that statement, that gasoline uses more petroleum to make than ethanol is definitely true.

    At least this is one statement where they are not distorting reality, it is just that most people won;t understand the context.


     

    No. It is an apples and oranges comparison. For the petroleum, they count the petroleum as an input. But then petroleum is also the output. It takes about 10% of the energy content of the barrel to process it. So, the energy balance looks like this: 5.8 million BTUS of oil (1 barrel) requires 550,000 BTUs to process into gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, etc.

    For ethanol, they don’t count the BTUs in as inputs. They are only looking at the energy that was consumed to produce the ethanol. So for say .75 BTUs of energy consumed, you get 1 BTU out. So their energy return for ethanol would be 1/0.75. That is NOT what they are doing when they look at petroleum. If we compared apples to apples, the energy return for petroleum would be 5.8 million output (almost all of the barrel ends up as useable energy) for 550,000 in. So ethanol has a 1.3 (or whatever) and petroleum has a 10.

    It is a grossly misleading argument, and quite useless. What matters is how much energy is consumed in the production of energy. Imagine this: We convert 100% of a barrel of oil, without any energy input, into products. The best you can do is 1.0. But if you have a million BTUs of input in to make a million and one BTUs of energy from ethanol, it would be better by that metric. In that case, you would consume numerous barrels of oil to make a net barrel of oil, but according to their argument ethanol wins.

    Simple answer: They are comparing an efficiency of production for oil to an energy return for ethanol. Apples to apples, efficiency is about 90% for oil and 20% or so for ethanol. Again, apples to apples, energy return is 1.4 for ethanol and in the range of 6-8 for oil.

    RR

    [link]      
  31. By BilB on December 12, 2010 at 7:19 pm

    Thanks kindly for that clarification, Robert.

    [link]      
  32. By Rufus on December 12, 2010 at 7:44 pm

    All that really matters is: in the end oil will be gone, and ethanol will still be here.

    [link]      
  33. By Kit P on December 12, 2010 at 9:00 pm

    “All that really matters is …”

    Exactly correct. The job of energy producers is to deliver energy when and where customers need it. If is a cold and rainy night unless it has started snowing. If people do not like that my electricity comes from coal I don’t care. If critics care to assume the responsibility of providing energy in a better way, then the should do just that.

    “With ethanol there is probably only 0.1-0.2 barrels in per equivalent barrel out.”

    That sounds about right Paul. In the case of ethanol, the object is to demonstrate that we have an alternative to imported oil in case as Rufus suggests it is gone some day it.

    [link]      
  34. By Wendell Mercantile on December 12, 2010 at 10:39 pm

    No. It is an apples and oranges comparison. For the petroleum, they count the petroleum as an input. But then petroleum is also the output.

    Right RR.

    The true test would be if the ethanol industry could power ethanol production (from wheel to wheel — the full cycle as making fuels from petroleum does) using energy from the ethanol they make. But they can’t. So they throw out a smokescreen that deliberately obnubilates EROEI with process efficiency.

    Makes one wonder if RFA’s Bob Dinneen even understands the difference between process efficiency and EROEI.

    [link]      
  35. By Wendell Mercantile on December 12, 2010 at 10:44 pm

    All that really matters is: in the end oil will be gone, and ethanol will still be here.

    Actually, that’s not true Rufus. We will never run out of oil — it’s just that it will become tremendously expensive and far out of reach of ordinary people. It will become too dear to use as mere transportation fuel — but we will still use oil for things that only oil is suitable for.

    After all, there is still a market for (and small supply of) whale oil. But no one uses it for lamps anymore.

    [link]      
  36. By BilB on December 12, 2010 at 11:42 pm

    Wendell M,

    What you say is not true. The entire ethanol process can be powered by its own fuel. ethanol, methanol. They don’t, but they can. Saab was making a 9 litre ethanol commercial vehicle engine before its demise. It can be done, and it will be done when petrol prices rise high enough again to make the investment necessary. Mind you as petrol increases in price so also will ethanol, just not by as much. If your response to this is that there is not enough ethanol left after the full production process, I point out that the farming practices used for corn ethanol are not optimal by a long stretch and can be improved to provide more than enough stover to power the entire distilation process from biomas, just as cane ethanol is.

    What that means to the argument about your subsidy I don’t know. But I suspect that it is unnecessary, the mandate should be enough certainty for the industry to thrive, particularly at todays oil price.

    [link]      
  37. By ronald-steenblik on December 13, 2010 at 2:08 am

    But the coal is say 30% efficient.

    I’m no fan of coal-fired electricity, but let’s at least use realistic figures. Here’s one showing conversion efficiency in the United States and China, showing that 35% is a more accurate assumption:

    New plants are much more efficient. From a NYT article from 18 moths ago:

    With greater efficiency, a power plant burns less coal and emits less carbon dioxide for each unit of electricity it generates. Experts say the least efficient plants in China today convert 27 to 36 percent of the energy in coal into electricity. The most efficient plants achieve an efficiency as high as 44 percent, meaning they can cut global warming emissions by more than a third compared with the weakest plants.

    In the United States, the most efficient plants achieve around 40 percent efficiency, because they do not use the highest steam temperatures being adopted in China. The average efficiency of American coal-fired plants is still higher than the average efficiency of Chinese power plants, because China built so many inefficient plants over the past decade. But China is rapidly closing the gap by using some of the world’s most advanced designs.

    [link]      
  38. By BilB on December 13, 2010 at 2:51 am

    Quite so Ron S.

    I was doing a rule of thumb comparison. Yes there are much more efficient coal plants out there. I’d be willing to bet, though, that the averaged efficiency of the worlds clutch of coal fired plants falls well below the 40% mark. As also will the averaged efficiency of the worlds car fleet. Certainly not the 40 plus percent efficiency of the latest high efficiency diesels which will represent a small percentage of he total fleet.

    My general point is for people to realise that running an electric car on coal generated electricity is still a saving in CO2 emissions, although a small one. So there is no impediement to converting to electric cars now while we wait for renewable electricity generation to catch up and bring on the full CO2 reduction benefit.

    [link]      
  39. By Kit P on December 13, 2010 at 2:23 pm

    “In the United States, the most efficient plants achieve around 40 percent efficiency, because they do not use the highest steam temperatures being adopted in China.”

    Not so Ron.  I can see Ron is a ‘well informed’ NYT reader.  Do not blame the electricity generating industry for not being allowed to build new more efficient coal plants.  The same loons who advocate consumers spend $1000 more on a heat pump water fight tooth and nail making coal plants more efficient.  Go figure!

     

    http://www.lowes.com/Attachmen…..188018.pdf

     Duke Energy is building a IGCC coal plant in Indiana and a supercritical plant in NC.  

     The second and third videos are modernization projects at coal plants. The newest unit at Cliffside is a supercritical boiler replacing units built in the 40s.

     

    http://www.powergenworldwide.c…..0371580001

     

    One of the things that hurts efficiency of US coal plants is pollution controls.  I am not arguing against pollution controls but there is a cost for cleaner air.  

     

    [link]      
  40. By ronald-steenblik on December 13, 2010 at 4:26 pm

    Not so Ron.  I can see Ron is a ‘well informed’ NYT reader. Do not blame the electricity generating industry for not being allowed to build new more efficient coal plants.

    Not so what?!

    Do you go out of your way to be a jerk, Kit, or were you just born that way? What the f*Ck do you know about what I do or do not know about coal-fired electricity generation? And who said I was blaming the electricity generating industry? I was quoting a NYT article, and a segment of that article that simply states a fact.

    [link]      
  41. By savro on December 13, 2010 at 4:45 pm

    Ronald Steenblik said:

    Do you go out of your way to be a jerk, Kit, or were you just born that way? 


     

    Are the two mutually exclusive?

     

    What the f*Ck do you know about what I do or do not know about
    coal-fired electricity generation? And who said I was blaming the
    electricity generating industry? I was quoting a NYT article, and a segment of that article that simply states a fact.

    In defense of Kit, I think his point is that you’re a pink commie hippie liberal residing in California. The iron tower on the Champs de Mars that you frequently think you see is just a mirage caused by your pot-induced haze.

    Didn’t you know that Kit knows everything about everyone who doesn’t agree with him???

    [link]      
  42. By Wendell Mercantile on December 13, 2010 at 5:39 pm

    From the NYT article: Experts say the least efficient plants in China today convert 27 to 36 percent of the energy in coal into electricity. The most efficient plants achieve an efficiency as high as 44 percent, meaning they can cut global warming emissions by more than a third compared with the weakest plants.

    Ronald,

    The problem is that the NYT quoted some nameless “experts” instead of quoting Kit P. Had it said, “Electrical generation expert Kit P said the least efficient plants in China…” I suppose all would have been OK.

    [link]      
  43. By Wendell Mercantile on December 13, 2010 at 5:46 pm

    What you say is not true. The entire ethanol process can be powered by its own fuel. ethanol, methanol.

    BilB,

    Theoretically — if the EROEI of corn ethanol is as high as Big Ethanol likes to say it is — that should be true. But personally, I suspect that if one tried to power the entire corn ethanol process — from making seed corn and fertilizer; to cultivation; to planting and harvesting; to making pesticides, fungicides, and herbicides; to transportation, milling, fermentation, and distillation; to delivering fuel ethanol to a retailer — using only final process ethanol as an energy source, the process would grind to a stop.

    But we won’t know for sure until the corn ethanol industry tries such an experiment, will we? I do know — despite the fact it would be to their benefit to do so — Big Ethanol is too risk averse to attempt such an experiment and prove once and for all that corn ethanol has a positive EROEI.

    You’d also think that one of the Corn Belt land grant universities would have done that experiment long ago, but they haven’t either — there is just too much for Big Ethanol to lose should the experiment fail.

    That says a lot about their confidence in their claim that corn ethanol has a positive EROEI doesn’t it?

    [link]      
  44. By Kit P on December 13, 2010 at 5:57 pm

    “I was quoting a NYT article, and a segment of that article that simply states a fact.”

    Easy there Ron, are you saying you are well informed about US coal plants?   If you are quoting something it is customary to put quotations marks around it.  Your statement was a conclusion not a fact.  Furthermore, the facts were wrong and your conclusion was wrong.  Which you would have know if you were better informed.   If you get your information from the NYT you know what the journalists at the know about coal plants, no much.    

    In a way I was being kind.  Being poorly is better than being stupid, lazy, and dishonest.  That is my opinion of the journalist at the NYT.

     

    I did provide two examples of types efficient coal plants being built in the US.  Did you bother to open the links provided or did just opt for a pathetic attempt at profanity that sounds more like a 12 year old rather than an adult?  That’s right I forgot you write reports for a living, ‘oh fooey, my cut and past function is not working right’.

     

    Back to examples of US power plants.  From the largest US generator:

     

    “The John W. Turk, Jr. Power Plant proposed for Southwest Arkansas will use high efficiency ultra-supercritical generation technology to provide baseload power, 24 hours a day, to customers of our SWEPCO subsidiary.”

     

    http://www.aep.com/about/power…..ation.aspx”

     

    “In defense of Kit, I think his point is that you’re a pink commie hippie liberal residing in California.”

     

    No but I do get tired of hearing China glorified.  It is a ruthless dictatorship with no respect for human rights, no EPA, no public debate of power plant construction, and no court system to bring a complaint about them.  

     

    So Sam, I well informed person response with information not calling people jerks.  Do think that the NYT is a shinning example of investigative journalism?  I am I wrong to be proud of my industry that respects the safety of workers and the environment while providing affordable electricity?  Is it okay to present a different point of view?  

     

    So Sam if you would like to resort to juvenile ridicule, you should know one fact that is universal in America.  The Yankees suck! 

    [link]      
  45. By BilB on December 13, 2010 at 6:28 pm

    Wendell,

    Before you get too entrenched in that thinking have a read of this

    http://paraquat.com/knowledge-…..fuel-crops

    even though this is from a pesticides manufacturer the information appears to be consistent with other material that I have seen. For balance here is a study done a few years ago which touches on the benefits of “no Till” cultivation, but then writes down the benefit by suggesting that not enough people will use the practice to obtain the benefit.

    http://dukespace.lib.duke.edu/…..sequence=1

    That is a 5 minute research effort. If it was my problem then I would go to a lot more effort.

    [link]      
  46. By Wendell Mercantile on December 13, 2010 at 6:48 pm

    For balance here is a study done a few years ago which touches on the benefits of “no Till” cultivation,

    Bilb~

    I am familiar with “no-till.” All I can say about that is I live in the Corn Belt, and very few corn farmers have yet to adopt “no-till.” That’s easy to verify by driving around the countryside in April and observing.

    Many of the corn farmers around here are also dedicated to planting “corn on corn” — year after year, relying on the energy from synthetic nitrogen fertilizers to make a crop despite the adverse effect it has on the soil.

    Best practice says to use “no-till” and to rotate crops, even occasionally letting a field lay fallow for a year to regenerate. But few Corn Belt farmers practice that. They aren’t dumb, so I can only guess the let the motive to make money help them decide to use the energy in fertilizer made from natural gas rather than to use “best practices” to recharge the soil. I can’t explain why “no till’ hasn’t caught on more than it has.

    [link]      
  47. By savro on December 13, 2010 at 8:03 pm

    Kit P said:

    Do think that the NYT is a shinning example of investigative journalism?
     

    I know where you’re heading with this, and to an extent, I agree. The NY Times is heavily slanted to the left politically and it isn’t just kept to their editorials – they allow it to creep into their news section.

    However, there’s pretty much no such thing as a non-biased news outlet. Once you come to terms with that, and know where the NY Times’ stands politically, they actually do a very good job at uncovering and writing news. If you think that that it’s a contradiction for a biased news outlet to be good at what they do, you’d be correct; but at the same time, that’s where journalism stands today. It comes down to the reader understanding how to decipher the news they read.

     

    I am I wrong to be proud of my industry that respects the safety of

    workers and the environment while providing affordable electricity?  

    Nope; there’s nothing wrong about being proud of your industry and what you do. However…

    Is

    it okay to present a different point of view?

    Definitely. In fact, without opposing views being debated there would be no point in this forum. But what bothers almost everyone on here is your method of presenting your differing point of view. If you acted with a semblence of civility the complaints would vanish.

    There’s nothing wrong even when debates sometimes get heated, as long as it remains civil.

     

    So Sam if you would like to resort to juvenile ridicule, you should

    know one fact that is universal in America.  The Yankees suck!

    Let’s leave this for after Cliff Lee’s “The Decision.”

    [link]      
  48. By Kit P on December 13, 2010 at 8:16 pm

    From BilB linked LCA,

     

    “the benefits of using corn ethanol to reduce greenhouse gas emissions must be questioned if CRP lands are used.”

     

    Bilb the goal of corn ethanol is to reduce the importation of oil not reduce AGW. The correct comparison would therefore be to other technologies that do the same thing like BEV. For example, you can compare ghg emissions for PV with the electricity from other sources it offsets.

     

    I did my masters in environmental engineering on adding AD to a dairy farm. If you have not noticed I am a skeptic. Putting AD on farms to make electricity had not been very successful in the US at that time. I used LCA methods to evaluate it. In that case, the product was milk. On of the conclusion was that the organic fertilizer produced by AD reduced reduced wind erosion that caused the local environmental problem of dust storm. That might not hold everyplace but after interviewing a local dairy farmer and neighboring farmers it was clear that dairy farmers had to many nutrients and neighboring farmers could not keep enough organic in the soil because of the semiarid climate.

     

    Once you establish something is worth doing, you have to figure out how to overcome the root cause of previous failures. As luck would have it, my company had a renewable energy group that had already determined that AD was a good way to make electricity on pig farms and chicken breeding operations.

     

     

    [link]      
  49. By Kit P on December 13, 2010 at 9:55 pm

    “It comes down to the reader understanding how to decipher the news they read.”

     

    I certainly agree. I try to filter out agenda and use some key words to use the Internet to find more information. Most power plants have public documents like EIS and PUC docket information. A few years back there was a story that made most of the US dailies. It was very critical of US policy for cleaning up nuclear weapon sites. While that was not unusual, there were numerous errors in geography that any educated American would not make. It was as if the article was written by a communist propaganda team with the intent to damage US reputation. The original source of the China Daily News. NPR (National Pravda Radio) did an interview on author of a book on energy. The publisher of the book was Pravda. On the 60th anniversary of VJ day, NPR did a story on allegations of rape in SF.

     

    “as long as it remains civil.”

     

    Funny thing Sam, the folks who complain about most about being civil are the one I consider the least civil. While you might consider it ‘civil’ to suggest I have questionable parentage, I think you just called me a SOB. Personally I prefer that latter, it is more honest. Civility derives from mutual respect. It also requires that a difference of opinion not be taken as insult. Some opinion are held more as beliefs. If you have been told something all your life but never to check to see if it true, your belief system is threatened by anyone who disagrees. Unfortunately, renewable energy and the environment have been adopted as a religion by some. Put it this way, if someone expects me to kiss the Pope’s ring you will likely find me less than civil. It is not that I do not have respect for the Pope, it is I think someone is using their unfounded beliefs to manipulate the discussion. Does not work on me. Lived in California too long.

    [link]      
  50. By Wendell Mercantile on December 13, 2010 at 10:59 pm

    the goal of corn ethanol is to reduce the importation of oil not reduce AGW.

    The goal of corn ethanol is to increase the commodity market for corn.

    [link]      
  51. By ronald-steenblik on December 14, 2010 at 2:38 am

    Kit wrote:

    If you are quoting something it is customary to put quotations marks around it. 

    Or indent the paragraphs. Which I did. But because of the graphic (Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration) it didn’t appear indented. But there were other clues. Note, for example, the colon at the end of the sentence beginning “From a NYT article:” You can also click on the link provided.

    Your statement was a conclusion not a fact. Furthermore, the facts were wrong and your conclusion was wrong.  Which you would have know if you were better informed. If you get your information from the NYT you know what the journalists at the know about coal plants, no much.

    I was providing BilB with a succinct summary of the situation, which happened to be written by the NYT. What conclusion? Do you disagree with the figures cited? Does it ever occur to you that journalists often get their information by interviewing people like you?

    I did provide two examples of types efficient coal plants being built in the US.  Did you bother to open the links provided?

    Yes, and those links refer, in the first case to a label for a water heater — heat pump. What that has to do with a coal-fired power plant I cannot fathom. But, unlike you, I’m not the world’s greatest engineer. The other one is to a video of a plant under construction. Plants that are not yet operating do not normally affect the kinds of statistics I quoted. Do they in your calculations?

    That’s right I forgot you write reports for a living

    Is that how you judge all people, by their current occupation? So, do you sneer at the former engineer who, in his retirement takes a part-time job doing something else? Do you regard somebody who once dug ditches and who studies to become an accountant as a chinless nerd? You have no idea what other people here know or do not know except  as revealed through what they write over time. Yet you clearly have an irrepressible urge to try to put people into what you see as their proper place, which is somewhere in the neighborhood of your backside.

    [link]      
  52. By rrapier on December 14, 2010 at 2:56 am

    Kit P said:

    Civility derives from mutual respect. It also requires that a difference of opinion not be taken as insult. 


     

    The problem is that you generally toss in an insult along with your difference of opinion.

    RR

    [link]      
  53. By Kit P on December 14, 2010 at 8:10 am

    “The goal of corn ethanol is to increase the commodity market for corn.”

     

    So Wendell you are saying that it is not about AGW as stated in the grad students LCA?

     

    This is what is called a win-win scenario.  We are reducing dependence on imported sources if energy and creating a market for hard working Americans. 

    [link]      
  54. By rrapier on December 14, 2010 at 12:29 pm

    Kit P said:

    “The goal of corn ethanol is to increase the commodity market for corn.”

     

    So Wendell you are saying that it is not about AGW as stated in the grad students LCA?

     

    This is what is called a win-win scenario.  We are reducing dependence on imported sources if energy and creating a market for hard working Americans. 


     

    Yet you don’t want higher taxes, and you support the ethanol subsidies. So you support pushing that debt off to the next generation.

    Further, you have never acknowledged that the market for hard working Americans is created by taking money away from other hard working Americans.

    RR

    [link]      
  55. By ronald-steenblik on December 14, 2010 at 2:26 pm

    Back to the topic of Robert’s original post, last Thursday Nathanael Greene wrote a column on the NDRC’s “Switchboard” blog, “From all corners: Congress shouldn’t waste dollars on ethanol or cut support for clean energy“. The usual ethanol-industry folks came along and tried to impugn Greene’s independence (implying that he was dancing to the “Junk Food and Meat Industry’s” tune), rather than address the issues raised in Greene’s article. Twice I asked those contributors to answer this question:

    How much additional ethanol production, domestic use and subsidized exports would be stimulated — beyond the sales guaranteed under the Renewable Fuels Standard — by the extension of the VEETC?

    Not one of them has cared to answer.

    [link]      
  56. By Wendell Mercantile on December 14, 2010 at 6:08 pm

    So Wendell you are saying that it is not about AGW as stated in the grad students LCA?

    Kit P.

    Yes, I am. AGW wasn’t anywhere on either the NCGA’s or Big Ag’s radar screens when they first got the idea for subsidized and mandated corn ethanol. Their thinking was, “Ah, if there were subsidies and mandates for corn ethanol, more people would need to buy corn, and that could only be good for corn farmers.”

    [link]      
  57. By Bobby Fontaine on December 23, 2010 at 9:03 am

    You might find this article interesting -

    Ethanol: First Big Challenge for the Tea Party
    http://www.americanchronicle.c…..iew/204172

    [link]      
Register or log in now to save your comments and get priority moderation!