Posts tagged “ethanol”
My new book — Power Plays: Energy Options in the Age of Peak Oil — has been published. A press release issued last week describes the book in some detail:
Here I want to describe a bit about the evolution of the book, discuss what’s in it, and finally provide contact information for reviewers who would like a copy.
It was less than a year ago that I was contacted by Jeff Olson, a Senior Editor at Apress, which is a division of the large global publisher Springer about writing “a book for educated laypeople on today’s energy issues.” I had been contacted a couple of times previously about writing a book, but the timing wasn’t right for various reasons. This time, I felt like I could pull it off, and around the first of August 2011 I actually sat down to write the first words. Eight months and 272 pages later, it was published. CONTINUE»
Were U.S. Taxpayers Subsidizing Ethanol Exports?
Over the past couple of years, U.S. ethanol exports have soared. Last year a news article in Financial Times charged that these exports were being subsidized with U.S. tax dollars. The U.S. ethanol industry strongly denied this, but I wrote several articles on the controversy:
To be clear, it wasn’t the exporting of ethanol that concerned me, it was the idea that taxpayers were potentially subsidizing the practice. Although many ethanol proponents denied it, I said at the time that we would know soon enough, because if ethanol exports fell once the tax credits expired at the end of 2011, that would be strong evidence that exports had indeed been benefiting from those tax credits.
The answer largely depends on your definition of a subsidy and what you mean by payoff.
I’d suggest that many, if not most, subsidies are a roll of the dice (crap shoot) when it comes to the purported pay off. They are social experiments without any guarantee of success, which is not to say they should not be undertaken as long as a mechanism is in place to end the subsidy in a timely manner.
There are many examples that have paid off royally, along with many that were (and are) a waste of time and money to varying degrees.
Note how the brightly colored original warning label with easy to read contrasting text first proposed by the EPA on the left has, under pressure from ethanol lobbyists, evolved into a dull, greasy looking sticker replete with small print that should quickly fade even further into the background as it accumulates gas pump grime. This sticker is the backbone of the EPA’s “misfueling mitigation plan.”
Picture a harried low-income parent in a hurry to pick up a kid at daycare before it closes, who has to first gas up their older model car. Assuming this parent even notices the bland warning sticker, their thought process might go something like this; “Here’s the lowest priced gas. Up to 15% ethanol? Sounds like a good deal to me. Not sure what year this car was made …wonder what the fine print says.”
With the recently announced foreclosure of Vinod Khosla venture Range Fuels, followed by the fire sale of Range Fuels’ assets to Vinod Khosla venture LanzaTech, I have been getting a lot of calls from reporters wanting to discuss exactly what happened here. After all, well over $300 million was invested into Range Fuels — including tens of millions of taxpayer dollars — and what resulted were assets that were ultimately bought by LanzaTech for about $5 million. Two articles were published over the weekend by journalists I spoke with last week: Georgia failure not the only ethanol misadventure Range Fuels fiasco: Finding renewal energy in Georgia forests didn’t work out This quote caught my eye from one of the articles:… Continue»
Recently it was announced that Range Fuels has gone into foreclosure, thus marking the official end of their story. For all practical purposes, the company has been finished since early 2011, but the foreclosure puts an end to the notion that they will yet rise triumphant from the ashes. Last week, Heather Duncan — a reporter for The Telegraph in Macon, Georgia — called me to discuss the Range story. She has just published an excellent summary of what went wrong at Range Fuels, and what lessons might be learned from their failure: Range Fuels failure raises the question: How much risk should the government take with taxpayer dollars? Here I want to excerpt some of the highlights from her… Continue»
Book Update I have mentioned it on here a couple of times, but I am under contract to deliver a book on energy by the end of this year. I initially had a pretty good idea of what I wanted to write, but that has evolved a bit as I started writing. So far, I have turned in three chapters to my editor, and I have several others partially complete. The book is going to be broken down into sections of general information (who uses what, who produces what, how it is produced, etc.), controversies (nuclear power, climate change, peak oil, etc.) and then one on possible energy solutions going forward. I am trying to cover stories from an objective… Continue»
Following my inclusion in the Top 10 list of ethanol enemies, I sought to Set the Ethanol Record Straight on my actual views on ethanol. I set out three broad tenets that shape my views. They are: Tenet One: We must transition from fossil fuels with a sense of urgency. Tenet Two: We need to develop systems and services with a much lower fossil fuel dependency. Tenet Three: We must take care of our topsoil. The second and third tenets are where I usually run afoul of ethanol supporters, because I feel many of our ethanol policies simply maintain a high level of fossil fuel dependency. Further, the rush to turn corn into gold has led to practices that have… Continue»
Last November, the Financial Times published an article charging that ethanol from the U.S. is collecting U.S. tax credits before being shipped to Europe, where it also qualifies for favorable tax treatment. I wrote an article about this called Taxpayer Subsidized Ethanol Exports May Bite Industry in the Future. The gist of my article was that if this charge is true, it completely undermines the supposed reasons U.S. taxpayers are subsidizing ethanol in the first place — to reduce dependence on foreign oil. In fact, as I showed in a later article, any ethanol that is exported actually increases our dependence on foreign oil because it takes some oil to make the ethanol and then ship it to the export… Continue»
Problem? What Problem? Following my recent post What You Aren’t Being Told About Ethanol and Corrosion, someone made a comment that gets to the root of why many ethanol proponents mistakenly see me as an enemy of ethanol (indeed, one of the Top 10). The person said that if there are problems related to our expanding usage of ethanol, we shouldn’t bash ethanol, we should fix those problems. But how do you fix a problem? First you have to acknowledge that there is a problem. I write articles pointing to issues that I view as problems. The other side often denies the problem, as many did over the ethanol corrosion post. I posted results from an Underwriters Laboratories controlled study… Continue»