1. Welcome Hearth.com Guests and Visitors - Please enjoy our forums!
    Hearth.com GOLD Sponsors who help bring the site content to you:
    Hearthstone Soapstone and Cast-Iron stoves( Wood, Gas or Pellet Stoves and Inserts)

EPA and ethanol

Post in 'The Green Room' started by EatenByLimestone, Oct 14, 2010.

  1. zknowlto

    zknowlto New Member

    Joined:
    Aug 1, 2009
    Messages:
    68
    Loc:
    Lansing, MI
    The price of corn affects a lot more than the price of corn flakes. First, it is a basis for many animal feeds. As it usually requires five to ten times the feed weight to produce the same weight increase in livestock, large increases in corn prices are likely to drastically increase meat prices. Second, one would expect that if corn is fetching very high prices, farmland growing other types of food crops would begin producing corn . This would lead to general increase agricultural products. Finally, there are many parts of the world that are extremely poor and are reliant on relatively low prices of commodity crops to feed themselves. Even if you don't think its necessary for the US to ensure these people are fed, populations that can't feed themselves tend to be very unstable politically and can cause problems for the United States abroad.

    Again, the new ethanol regulations just seem like a giveaway to big agriculture. Increasing the amount of ethanol this country uses is not likely to lead to any environmental effects and most likely harm low income people around the world.

    Helpful Sponsor Ads!





  2. Corey

    Corey Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Nov 19, 2005
    Messages:
    2,165
    Loc:
    Midwest
    The main byproduct of ethanol production is dried distillers grains - which is an excellent high-protein animal feed. It can be made into products for human consumption if the ethanol plant is maintained in a 'food grade' condition. Then you've also got corn oil and a host of other byproducts. Ethanol production really only uses a small part of the corn kernel.

    The beef association quotes about 2.6 pounds of actual corn to produce a pound of beef. The rest is low grade food, grazing on marginal land and items which are unfit for human consumption. A pound of hamburger is running about $1.80 around here - so corn is about 26 cents of that. Doubling corn price moves that to $2.06?

    I don't claim to be 'quite wealthy' heck, I cut and haul my own wood 'cause I don't want to pay for it, and keep the stove fired to cut down/eliminate the natural gas bill. Guess it may be more frugal shopping...using coupons, specials, bulk buys, bought 1/2 a steer for meat - works out to barely $2/pound and the freezers are stocked with all manner of steak, brisket, ribs, roast, burgers and more.

    I think many people underestimate the cost of gasoline. Do you really think it costs only $3 per gallon to build the largest floating structures ever conceived, tow them hundreds of miles out to sea, drill 5 miles into the earth, pump that oil to a super tanker - which took it's own army to build, carry it half way around the world, refine it, pump it half way across the country, put it in a tank and sell it to you? And that is the easy stuff...We're not even talking maintaining a standing army, propping up foreign dictators, dealing with the effects of our oil dollars being used to kill us.

    Even ~IF~ ethanol is just a give away to 'big ag', 'big ag' isn't bombing us and destroying buildings with the money - they are just employing more people to build more machinery and distill the product for us to use.
  3. benjamin

    benjamin Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Nov 7, 2009
    Messages:
    693
    Loc:
    SW WI
    Ethanol subsidies are a giveaway to agriculture, that should be as obvious as solar subsidies being a giveaway to greens, and Obama's SS bonus being a giveaway to seniors.

    Growing corn just to produce ethanol (or burn for that matter) doesn't seem to make sense to me, but to think that corn only produces ethanol is to be completely ignorant of the agricultural economy. I would expect Craig to preach about the possible utopian future that we'll have when Jupiter aligns with Mars, but the rest of us should know that there is a place called Iowa, and there isn't much there besides corn, and they have to do something with all of this corn or it will smother them. Some of it is fed to livestock, some of it is fermented to produce ethanol and then fed to livestock, some of it is exported (to the consternation of honest campesinos), and a very small part of it is actually eaten by people here in this country.

    Ethanol causing hunger is absurd, anyone who has ever driven through Iowa should know this. The people who think ethanol causes hunger probably think guns kill people ("guns don't kill people, people kill people)
  4. kenny chaos

    kenny chaos Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Apr 10, 2008
    Messages:
    1,995
    Loc:
    Rochester,ny
    This should go in the Ash Can where people waffle on about things they have no control over and can't begin to understand the forces involved.
    Most of our options are controlled by the ultimate organized crime outfit and we don't even know who that includes.
    They don't however, control all your options. I think a body's time and energy is better served considering those options. :coolcheese:
  5. Dune

    Dune Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Jan 14, 2008
    Messages:
    3,028
    Loc:
    Commonwealth Of Massachussetts
    The United States is the breadbasket of the world. Half of all food is grown here. When food prices rise here, they rise all over the world.

    The moral compunction alone should be enough to end this progam, nevermind the economic damage being done in our own country.

    This topic belongs where it is.
  6. kenny chaos

    kenny chaos Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Apr 10, 2008
    Messages:
    1,995
    Loc:
    Rochester,ny



    Compunction? You know best, Dune.
  7. Corey

    Corey Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Nov 19, 2005
    Messages:
    2,165
    Loc:
    Midwest
    LOL - so the argument basically boils down to..."Ethanol is bad...we should continue to buy oil from terrorists and foreign dictators so we can feed the hungry people of the world."

    No thanks, I think I'll stick with burning ethanol, sc*@# the terrorists, and hope the hungry realize the reason they are hungry is because the live in the middle of a desert and food doesn't -and never will- grow there. If they need assistance, it's to move to a place where there is food, not for us to continue to supply food and them to live in a desert.
  8. kenny chaos

    kenny chaos Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Apr 10, 2008
    Messages:
    1,995
    Loc:
    Rochester,ny





    I'd ask for a referance but I believe this Commy; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IUK6zjtUj00
  9. Dune

    Dune Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Jan 14, 2008
    Messages:
    3,028
    Loc:
    Commonwealth Of Massachussetts
    I don't know about the rest of the country, but here hamburger is2- 3 times as expensive as the price you quoted. Another massive spike in food costs will throw many more of our own citizens into dire straights. Beleive me, I am very much in favor of reducing foriegn oil importation.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Food_vs._fuel
  10. Corey

    Corey Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Nov 19, 2005
    Messages:
    2,165
    Loc:
    Midwest
    Fair enough, but I suspect our crab and lobsta' may run substantially more than the price you pay, or be half the quality, or both. So looking at the price of 'exotic imports' or food which has a high cost due to high local taxes isn't the best way to judge the overall cost of food. IOW, the reason your beef is so high is likely because of shipping, local cost of living and/or taxes, not because the farmer is actually getting paid that much.
  11. Dune

    Dune Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Jan 14, 2008
    Messages:
    3,028
    Loc:
    Commonwealth Of Massachussetts
    Didn't say or imply the farmer is getting paid too much. Also don't consider hamburger exotic.
  12. jharkin

    jharkin Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Oct 21, 2009
    Messages:
    3,372
    Loc:
    Holliston, MA USA
    Cozy-

    I suspect that when you claimed food was 0.33% that was just a gut feel, and you didn't do the math. Even if you bill was dirt cheap, say $50 a week, that would work out to an income of $800,000 a year. Which would put you in the top 1% US household income, and probably in the top 0.1% of worldwide household income.

    I just got out my calculator and did some math and found out in about 2 minutes that my weekly grocery bill is on average 9% of my income. So I made a research informed statement and it didnt take much effort.

    So I would ask you - is your position on corn ethanol also a "gut feel" or did you do research? Do you know how much diesel fuel and natural gas/coal is really used in the production of each bushel of corn? I've done some limited reading and I find the statistics are all over the place depending on the source. Some saying that when you add up the oil.coal, water usage and impact on food supply the net cost is much higher than oil. OTOH I do believe we have to start working off of fossil fuels in general ASAP so I I think biofuels are worth pursing but we have to be smart and make decisions on data, rather than what just feels good and will get farm belt votes.

    It seems all to easy for folks to see some isolated number and draw wild conclusions when the context is unknown. Perfect example of this is the Deepwater Horizon. I got in a discussion with some guy about this months ago, and he kept saying - "look that thing is gushing millions of gallons of oil a day, how can anybody think we can ever run out of oil" And this is not an uncommon belief. But the fact is that without an context that figure is meaningless. When you look at the numbers, the 1-2 million gallons per day the well was leaking is about 1 minute of worldwide oil consumption. When put into that perspective you draw an entirely different conclusion.

    -Jeremy
  13. Corey

    Corey Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Nov 19, 2005
    Messages:
    2,165
    Loc:
    Midwest
    Yes, you are correct and a good catch in the math. My mistake - I was looking at a months food vs a years salary, so I stand corrected and my estimate was off by a factor of 12. Though I would caution I did also look at my total 'grocery' bill - but then consider that also includes things like toilet paper, shampoo, laundry/dish detergent plus other odds-n-ends which really aren't food 'groceries'. Plus there may be some consideration - should the grocery amount be compared to gross income - with the admission that the government is grabbing a huge chunk of everything we make or is it better to consider net income.

    Either way, I would still contend - and think the math is fairly undeniable - corn as an actual product is a tiny fraction of the overall cost of food. A few years ago, corn was 8+ a bushel - people were howling about 'corn driving up the price of food'. A few months ago, corn was hovering in the $3 bushel range...did food prices fall by 60% too? No, because at pennies per pound, corn simply isn't a major cost factor even in products which are corn intensive to produce. Conversely - even if they gave corn away for free, the price of food would hardly drop.
  14. jharkin

    jharkin Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Oct 21, 2009
    Messages:
    3,372
    Loc:
    Holliston, MA USA
    Thanks cozy. I got your point.

    Now if only our politicians could discuss issues as civilly, maybe something would actually get done for once.
  15. zknowlto

    zknowlto New Member

    Joined:
    Aug 1, 2009
    Messages:
    68
    Loc:
    Lansing, MI
    You've got me laughing! So the counter argument is "Ethanol is good...so we should continue to buy oil from terrorists and foreign dictators to produce it and, while were at it, cause economically painful food spikes the world's very poor.

    I can't tell if you're being facetious when you say this or not. I'll just point out that plenty of people in the US live in deserts and other agriculturally marginal land, while plenty of people who live in poverty are located in relatively productive farming areas. Also, the very poor generally don't have the option to move around that much, though I'm sure many of them would like to reside in a country where it's easier to grow food, like the United States.

    Overall though, I find the food cost issue something of a red herring. The reason I don't think we should be producing corn ethanol is that I believe the Cornell studies that show it yields a net energy loss. If you think that it does yield a net energy gain (I believe USDA claims the energy gain for corn ethanol gain is 30%) then this proposal may make sense. Even so, I think (admitting that I haven't actually done the math) most would find that the amount of land dedicated to producing enough ethanol to significantly reduce dependance (say the 40% needed to rely entirely on domestic oil production) totally unacceptable.
  16. Corey

    Corey Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Nov 19, 2005
    Messages:
    2,165
    Loc:
    Midwest
    I was wondering when someone would throw the Cornell/Pimentel card. He is pretty widely regarded in the industry as an oil company shill, doing half baked studies which often cite sources only as wide ranging as ....(ta da)...other studies he has done. If it is the study I'm thinking of, it's nearing 30 years old - technology has advanced quite a bit since then.

    With that said, it's extremely hard to calculate the btu which go into production of either ethanol or oil. Do you consider processing (probably)....what if the heat comes from a waste heat source such as a powerplant cooling loop used to boil ethanol 'beer' for distillation? Do you count the mining of steel to make a tractor? (possibly) ...then do you consider the steel for all the oil rigs, ocean platforms, refineries, supertankers, pipelines, trucks, etc? Do you consider economics of maintaining a standing army to protect foreign oil fields and the effects of money which is hemorrhaging out of the US economy, directly into foreign governments and oil field workers, and do you also consider money for ethanol is basically circulating back INTO the US economy, paying American workers?

    It's agreed corn ethanol can't possibly replace all the nations fuel needs - though it's getting pretty darned close to being able to replace most of the more despicable dictators and questionable countries contribution. Almost 15% of the entire nations fuel supply.

    And with that, I've pretty much come full circle repeating earlier posts. So, to quote Forrest, "That is all I got to say about that."
  17. Jags

    Jags Moderate Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Aug 2, 2006
    Messages:
    15,624
    Loc:
    Northern IL
    These pro/con arguments on ethanol give me a little giggle. I have seen it stated many times on this board that "we should add a dime to every gallon of fuel in the name of conservation and going towards alternative energy". Yet, when we have an alternative energy that costs a dime more it gets heckled.

    Funny stuff really.
  18. Delta-T

    Delta-T Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Feb 27, 2008
    Messages:
    3,144
    Loc:
    NH
    It is funny stuff Jags, and I chuckle with you. I wonder how predictable/sustainable a huge industry based on corn ethanol could be. It is, after all, an agricultural product, susceptible to bad weather, mold/fungus/insect infestations, odd diseases and stuff like that. Could make for a much less stabile industry.
  19. Jags

    Jags Moderate Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Aug 2, 2006
    Messages:
    15,624
    Loc:
    Northern IL
    About as stable as a wind generator with no wind or a solar panel in a cloudy environment. ;-P
    That is why when it comes to renewable energy, there is no one silver bullet. It needs to be attacked from multiple directions. Ethanol has its place as a potential augmentation to our motor fuel. The real argument is whether or not corn is the proper feed stock. At first blush, the infrastructure that we had in place for corn was the ONLY infrastructure large enough to make a dent and all of our farmers knew how to grow corn and had the equipment to deal with it. That is one of the main reasons that ethanol in the states is corn based (as of now). Not to mention that we grew so much corn that there was a MAJOR overstock of it for many years.

    So in retrospect - if it wasn't for corn - we would be nowhere with ethanol. Maybe now is the time to take the next step into "growing" the ethanol industry by using other feed stock or improved processes, etc. But the fact is - it wouldn't have happened in the US with out starting with corn. And we need to start somewhere, sometime.
  20. Dune

    Dune Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Jan 14, 2008
    Messages:
    3,028
    Loc:
    Commonwealth Of Massachussetts

    The primates in Washington based our ethanol plan on Brasil's.

    Problem is, Brasil's plan works, ours doesn't.

    If we were using the whole plant, like Brasil does it would be a different story.

    Methanol also addresses the enviromental vageries you mention, and does not subtract available arable land.
  21. Dune

    Dune Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Jan 14, 2008
    Messages:
    3,028
    Loc:
    Commonwealth Of Massachussetts
    Adding a dime to every gallon of fuel costs the user of the fuel more money. Making fuel from food costs everyone who eats food more money. Why should starving children subsidize the cost of driving in the United States?
  22. Jags

    Jags Moderate Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Aug 2, 2006
    Messages:
    15,624
    Loc:
    Northern IL
    Dune - its been pretty much accepted that the price of corn going up a few percentage points will have a long drawn out decimal position on the cost of food.

    We create more ethanol from corn today, than we ever have, yet the price per bushel is pretty stable. The 2008 floods in Iowa did more to increase prices of corn than the ethanol market ever has. AND....the simple fact is that farmers cannot sustain business when corn is at $2.50 per bushel. Todays rates are probably a more true and fair market for corn than those years of the 2.50 corn.

    Hijacked from a .gov website:

    Higher corn prices increase animal feed and ingredient costs for farmers and food manufacturers, but pass through to retail prices at a rate less than 10 percent of the corn price change.


    Given that foods using corn as an ingredient make up less than a third of retail food spending, overall retail food prices would rise less than 1 percentage point per year above the normal rate of food price inflation when corn prices increase by 50 percent.


    Even this increase may be partially tempered by changes to corn use in food production.

    I'm not a shill for ethanol - I just like the truth, whatever that be.
  23. Dune

    Dune Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Jan 14, 2008
    Messages:
    3,028
    Loc:
    Commonwealth Of Massachussetts
  24. Jags

    Jags Moderate Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Aug 2, 2006
    Messages:
    15,624
    Loc:
    Northern IL
    Good read.

    I did pick this out of the stats though:
    "The cost of labor is the biggest part of the total food marketing bill, accounting for nearly half of all marketing costs."

    While labor outside of the farm was double the cost of the farm's share. Interesting. It does somewhat back up the logic that the actual cost increase in the grain is waaay down on the scale of what the costs of a food product is.
  25. Delta-T

    Delta-T Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Feb 27, 2008
    Messages:
    3,144
    Loc:
    NH
    isn't Brazil using cane sugar to produce the ethanol? this is more efficient as far as I know (higher yield). They just happen to have the right climate for it. We might be able to make the same thing happen with beets, but I dunno how intensive that is. Any beet farmers on the forum?

Share This Page