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March 20, 2009

California regulators rile ethanol producers

Posted: 12:52 PM ET
Some ethanol producers are unhappy with California's proposed low carbon fuel standards.

Some ethanol producers are unhappy with California's proposed low carbon fuel standards.

California wants to take a big-picture look at decreasing carbon emissions from transportation, and in doing so, it has managed to step on some toes, mainly some ethanol producers. Since California is often a trend-setter on these type of things, this case could be a good example of what the rest of us might see in our own states down the road.

Biofuels play a big role in this, but it’s the way they’re doing it that has some people riled up. I’m a biofuel fan myself and have two vehicles (both 25-year-old-plus diesels, one of which was featured on’s American Road Trips special) that I run on biodiesel, so I find this all quite interesting.

California's proposing a “Low Carbon-Fuel Standard” aimed at decreasing carbon, not only from tailpipe emissions but also from the overall production of fuels and their use. As part of this, it has proposed a rule limiting the use of ethanol in the strategy, mainly because it says ethanol from corn (because of its land use and impact on food crops) can have a higher impact than regular gasoline produced in the state (according to the Los Angeles Times).

Supporters of the proposal claim they aren’t trying to ban ethanol or anything; in fact, according to the fact sheet I linked to above, they’re advocating going from an ethanol blend fuel called E5 (5 percent ethanol, 95 percent gasoline) to E10 (10 percent ethanol, 90 percent gasoline) and E85 (85 percent ethanol) for flex fuel vehicles.

Mainly they’re stressing the change from corn-based ethanol to cellulosic-based ethanol (ethanol made from agricultural waste or switchgrass are cited examples), which the sheet says can have four or five times lower greenhouse gas emissions than corn.

The ethanol people don’t really like that. Tom Koehler of Pacific Ethanol told the Los Angeles Times that the proposal was a “perversion of science and a prescription for disaster.” And Wesley Clark (yes, that Wesley Clark), the co-chairman of ethanol lobbying group Growth Energy, told SFGate that in addition to bad science, it would be “bad policy to adopt a regulation that creates unfair standards” and would continue California’s reliance on fossil fuels.

If you live in California, you have until April 23 to comment on the proposal, when the Air Resources Board will vote. And I'm sure the rest of you will have plenty to say on this controversial topic. Fire away in the comments.

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Filed under: Cars • climate change • environment • Ethanol • Fuel • Gas • Gasoline • Road trip

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Chris Mann   March 20th, 2009 1:56 pm ET

This is a step in the right direction. Anybody lobbying to use expensive,
high carbon byproduct bio fuel is kind of missing the point. Really badly.

Labeling the use of waste cellulose instead of a food crop as bad science is even more blatantly ignorant.

Franko   March 20th, 2009 2:50 pm ET

Ethanol is drinking alcohol
Goofy Gore's disciples need to take a big gulp of Moonshine

If they want to regulate something useful
get a clue from, Methanol Alternative. Robert Zubrin
Multifuel capable vehicles, use what is cheapest

That way, our friendly Saudy Arabian, U$ supported, dictators
Would not have a choke collar on U$

rumpole   March 20th, 2009 3:14 pm ET

Of course, ethanol from corn is unsustainable. The energy return is too small. We need to transition into ethanol from switchgrass (which I heard of for the first time from George W. Bush 😉 , or other higher yield crops, together with cellulosic ethanol. The thing I don't understand is what difference does it make to General Clark which crop is grown? You're still producing ethanol, which is still helping the energy security of the US, which he and I and most Americans are four-square in favor of.

AB   March 20th, 2009 3:31 pm ET

This article is a crock!

The thing they don't tell you is that ethanol blends give you 20% LESS mileage – 20%! If you look at the studies – a clean burning, all gas engine, gives you less emissions than ethanol because the gas engine gets substantially better mileage.

Richard   March 20th, 2009 3:33 pm ET

Right on Califonia. The sooner the better Go big Cal. go

David Moore   March 20th, 2009 3:40 pm ET

Saying "use what is cheapest" works if the externality of carbon dioxide generation is priced in, but it isn't.

Externality simply means a cost that can be foisted off on the public, not paid by the person (or company) that actually incurs it. So, for example, the risks of exotic financial instruments was an externality since it is being paid by the taxpayer rather than those who created them. Externalities are usually unfair since those who pay for them rarely matches those who enjoy the benefit of them.

But actually its worse than that as ethanol from corn is that it is being subsidized and the subsidies are independent of carbon footprint, or any other externaility. As well as carbon emission, which in some cases may exceed the savings in carbon from the replaced oil, ground water is being depleted in some areas.

Because the process requires a lot of natural gas during fermentation, it has also driven up the price of natural gas, which in turn probably means we are burning more coal than we otherwise would be. Coal is very bad for carbon emissions. I don't think the numbers have been done on that but if I am correct it further pushes corn for oil over into being a carbon producer rather than a carbon reducer.

The right answer to all this is price carbon effectively and accurately and remove the subsidies. Then if corn for oil makes financial sense it also makes emissions sense.

This can be done unilaterally by making sure imports from countries who don't follow suit are taxed for their carbon footprint and exports to those countries are refunded their carbon tax. Plus the revenue can be used to replace other taxes, including the deficit, which is itself really a tax, and that will reduce costs in the US and make us more competitive.

George   March 20th, 2009 4:00 pm ET

The most important message here for me seems to be the SOURCE of the ethanol. The use of Corn is expensive – to grow, fertilize and then process and its use takes away from animal and human food sources.
To use agriculture and other cellulosic waste should have been part of the plan when Congress took us down this road with the legislative mandate to add ethanol to gasoline for several years now.
I hope Ca. citizens will support this shift away from Corn and that Ca. can once again lead the way in energy innovation so we all can have a positive example to emulate.
Palm harbor, Fla

T Keller   March 20th, 2009 4:02 pm ET

Help me understand – the net energy in corn-derived ethanol is less than what is consumed to produce it, it costs more than gasoline, does nothing to reduce CO2 production, and has caused food prices to skyrocket. Other than wasting huge amounts of money to subsidize an uneconomical industry, there is no reason to continue burning ethanol in our cars.

Paul   March 20th, 2009 4:22 pm ET

I'm pretty severely disappointed in Wesley Clark. Feet of clay, there.

What we have here is a sensible move by California; which does NOT ban ethanol- and simultaneously the lucid demonstration the ethanol lobby is now just another industrial special interest- our product is perfect, and your science stinks, and we can hire generals.

Right. Thanks for making that so clear, Eth Heads.

Rick C.   March 20th, 2009 4:29 pm ET

Where do I start? First, the production of ethanol wastes considerable amounts of petroleum. That's petroleum for fertilizer, petroleum for pesticides, petroleum for the process. Now lets talk about chemical run-off from fields and soil depletion from planting the same crop each year (think Great Dust Bowl). Now, is it ethical to divert a food source for fuel use? Finally, on the other end, ethanol has a lower energy content. More needs to be burned to get the same work accomplished.

jc   March 20th, 2009 4:52 pm ET

AB and Rumpole – read the article again.

As a scientist myself, I must say I am tired of seeing every jerk with an agenda putting words in the mouth of "Science" on every issue under the sun. I am aware of the conclusions SCIENTISTS have come to regarding ethanol as an energy source an they aren't good. The same goes for so-called "clean coal". And I have lost a lot of respect for Mr. Clark for taking part in such a scam. He cherry-picks whatever 'science' he's paid to believe, just like moron Bush did.

Jim   March 20th, 2009 5:04 pm ET

In Iowa there is E-10 ethanol at every station and E85 at some. I don't buy it and won't buy it. It costs anywhere from 3 to 10 percent less than regular gas but my car gets about 25 percent better mileage on regular gas. I guess the people behind the legislation for ethanol figure most consumers won't be able to do the math.

I won't support a fuel that takes more energy to make than it gives us back. I also don't like the fact that without government money ethanol would not be produced anywhere in the world because it just doesn't work in a real life business model. It only works when subsidies keep companies out of bankruptcy.

Jim   March 20th, 2009 5:08 pm ET

One other thing about the ethanol industry. Archer Daniels is one of the largest producers of ethanol and also one of the six big corporations that feed most of the world. They like using corn for gas and they also like the high prices ethanol imposes on food they sell. Can anyone else see a polecat in the hen house?

jc   March 20th, 2009 5:08 pm ET

You forgot this one Rick C. :
-Ethanol cannot be piped, at least not in the existing pipeline system. It must be trucked, wasting most of it's value as an energy source before you even put it your tank.

The thing that bothers me more Mr. Clark taking his payoff is the fact that their is always somebody in MY field (physical science) willing to take a payoff to throw their PhD behind any cause whatever. Living in AK I can say the Exxon and BP have several such on their payrolls.

Alexai   March 20th, 2009 5:25 pm ET

Why not us the stalks from hemp and marijuana ppants. CA is close to leagalizing marijuana entirely and ofcourse there is the recycling of medical use stalks. Corn is counterproductive that it uses needed food, when there are people starvimg to death in counries close as Hati. Lets face it recycling waste from CA's top cash crop could be a great alternative.

Franko   March 20th, 2009 5:31 pm ET

David Moore– "Saying “use what is cheapest”
works if the externality of carbon dioxide generation is priced in, but it isn’t."

Ethanol from Coal is Clean, And security from our Saudy dictators free ?
How to price that in, with increased Global plant growth ?

I look at this as life changing Earth, in order to suit itself
From poision O2 producing Plants — to Coal fired power Plants
Part of Gaia are U$

Mike   March 20th, 2009 5:43 pm ET

Hmm, i am pretty sure that all gas stations in and around Los Angeles state that their fuel contains 'up to' 10% ethanol.. so, i guess that for years we've been driving on that E10 fuel that they are now saying should become a norm? Apparently, it already is, here anyway.

However, if i gas up my Acura in Nevada, which i frequently visit for work, i can get the 95 or 98 octane fuel that Acura recommends for the vehicle. In LA, i get 91 octane. Fact is that a full tank of (18/19 gallons or so) 'LA' gas averages about 250 miles in daily use (albeit half a tank used all the way to Las Vegas, city driving kills this cars fuel economy), on 'Nevada' gas, i get more than 300 with the same driving.

Apparently, my particular vehicle gets much better mileage on the non-[up to 10%] ethanol, 7 octane higher fuel. I've been meaning to test this out by adding an octane booster to my next full tank of 'LA' gas.

Either way, considering that i HATE corn for food, they can turn it all into ethanol and i'll happily drive 5 miles per gallon of E50 or whatever they come up with next.

Steve   March 20th, 2009 5:52 pm ET

Using food to fuel vehicles is immoral. Millions are starving to death in our world because we use corn to fuel our vehciles.

Franko   March 20th, 2009 6:45 pm ET

Steve "starving to death in our world because we use corn to fuel our vehciles"

The more Coal we turn to CO2, no matter how, the more Plants will grow
Burry the CO2, starve the Plants, is the Greatest Immoral of U$

Josh   March 20th, 2009 7:16 pm ET

Ethanol damages fuel system components and valve-guide seals in many cars, boats and light aircraft (in fact it is prohibited by the FAA in aircraft engines). It will dissolve holes in fuel tanks on older boats and greatly shortens the life of two-cycle engines. If you have the choice, use regular gasoline in any vehicle that is not E-85 certified. Even in those vehicles I wouldn't use more than E-10 as your fuel mileage will suffer noticeably. Remember that alcohol is a solvent and will wash oil off the machined surfaces inside your fuel pump and engine. It also attracts water and causes fuel / water separation layers that cause extreme hard-starting in small powered equipment with carbuerated engines.
On top of all that it is subsidised by YOUR tax dollars!

drzarkov   March 20th, 2009 7:19 pm ET

The best form of alcohol fuel is butanol, which is high octane and has only slightly less energy content than gasoline. It also has a high cetane rating, which means it could also supplement diesel fuel. Unlike methanol and ethanol, butanol can be shipped through the same pipelines used to ship gasoline. Recent developments give butanol yields equal in volume to ethanol production, plus hydrogen as a by-product, which can be used to run the distillation process.

ChasG   March 20th, 2009 7:34 pm ET

Well it looks like its going to be a long time before there is energy independence for the country. More debates, more politics, more special interests trying to continue the mindset of society not having control of energy usage for the benefit of everyone in the U.S.A. and the world.

Zeoph   March 20th, 2009 7:40 pm ET


Now lets talk about chemical run-off from fields and soil depletion from planting the same crop each year (think Great Dust Bowl).

Great Dust Bowl did not happen cause they planted same crop year after year it was caused by over excessive tilling of the soil. For a long time now they plant by using No-till planters. And most farmers will rotate crops on a given tract of land. Doing so from corn to beans and then wheat or whatever will lessen the use of certain pesticides that kill pests that attack only corn lets say and not beans. Rotate them and the little buggers cant keep up.

Brian K   March 20th, 2009 8:37 pm ET

If they were smart they would legalize the growing of industrial hemp (no you can't smoke it). One acre of this make 10 times more ethanol that one acre of corn in the same time span. Plus, because it is technically a weed, it can be grown anywhere, even the vast desert between here and Arizona.

Robert Lee   March 20th, 2009 9:28 pm ET

The problem with many Californians is that they are totally uncompromising on many issue, especially ecological problem that they lead in creating in the first place. The concept they don't understand is that society rarely gets it right the first time and they are no more nor no less capable of screwing things up. They have this fantasy of a world must go their way or not at all, because they are the only people on earth who have the right stuff to solve any problem. That isn't reality. Keep on paying all those taxes and don't for get to keep complaining California.

Brian, Detroit, MI   March 20th, 2009 9:53 pm ET

Why make automobile fuel from our food??? How much of the world's population depends on sustainable production of corn for their very lives. It makes much more sense to make ethanol from algea, which we don't eat, than corn, which the entire world eats. It was the Bush administration's idea to make ethanol from corn simply to raise food prices for his donors. Production of algea is simple, get a big vat of water, throw a small stick from outside in there and wait. And making fuel from algea costs much less than making it from our food source. But I guess that is what the Bush administration will be known for throughout history. Being simple. Why in the world would anyone elect a C average president?

Jon   March 21st, 2009 12:11 am ET

Doesn't anyone understand that scientific fact that producing a gallon of ethanol requires over a gallon of gasoline. In essence, if you use ethanol in your vehicle yor are actually spending twice as much as you would if you jist burned the gasoline. Not to mention that the ethanol market is in shambles because so many farmers switched to producing corn for the ethanool market that food prices skyrocketed around the world. Finally, the improved milage benefits of methanol are grossly overstated/.

ionscion, Buffalo,NY   March 21st, 2009 12:18 am ET

Its time to wake up to the fact that ethanol is not a long term solution to our energy problems.

We want energy independence and we have the means to do it NOW by using wind turbines to produce the electricity for hydrogen production. The supply is endless, the CO2 pollution virtually non-existent, no run-offs, no pesticides.

Hydrogen is the ONLY long term permanent answer.

Ken Davis   March 21st, 2009 12:51 am ET

This is hilarious... First the government forces all of the car manufacturers to stop producing Natural Gas powered vehicles by taking away the incentives for doing so – for which there is a fueling infrastructure of hundreds of pumps in Southern California alone.

Incidentally, any CNG vehicle is cleaner than any gasoline or gasoline hybrid vehicle on the road – period. Disagree? You send me your Smog Test, and I'll send you mine and you decide. This includes any vehicle running on ethanol or any ethanol blend. CNG is cleaner than ethanol.

Then you tell the auto manufacturers to make Ethanol or "Flex Fuel" cars for which there is no product to sell in California (there are 2 stations in Southern California that charge way too much money for the product). The consumer price of ethanol is $2.35 per gallon today. Gasoline is $2.05. Motor vehicles that are running on ethanol get 20% worse fuel mileage than an equivalent gasoline car. So – the consumer pays more money per gallon for a product that the vehicle gets worse mileage running and the technology is dirtier than CNG which already has an infrastructure in place for fueling, CNG is significantly cheaper than gasoline ($1.65 is todays price), and CNG vehicles get the exact same mileage as their gasoline counterparts... Why the heck would I buy an ethanol car again? Even at the GMC/Chevrolet subsidized price, you're really paying 1.05 to 1.10 per equivalent gasoline gallon and you have exactly 2 places in Southern California to get this "cleaner fuel". Unfortunately GMC/Chevrolet is practically going broke... so how long the subsidy lasts is anyone's guess. Almost no one – a miniscule minority – is willing to pay more money for less fuel in this economy. So... everyone runs gasoline in their "Flex Fuel" cars, and the environment is dirtied just as it always was.

Then, once ethanol producers figure out a way to make ethanol profitable in California you take away that by regulation so that they have to go back to the drawing board and figure out how it is possible to make a profit from non-food crops.

Ethanol is a joke. It's a absolute joke. Why don't we just use what we already have that works? Take a look on the back of every Metro Bus in existence, every City bus, many UPS trucks, almost every garbage truck in Southern California, thousands of taxi cabs, most of the Southern California Air Quality Management (SCAQMD) vehicle fleet – they all run CNG. Yes, SQAMD vehicles are almost all CNG powered.
These are the people that are setting the standard for air quality in Southern Ca.

If it works for them, it can work for every consumer vehicle on the road.
We need to stop waiting for electric cars, hydrogen cars, water powered cars, and every other "dream" car that won't be practical for consumer use for years – if ever.

Instead, buy a clean car that is really clean and works today. You can buy one today, and start driving it tomorrow – running clean fuel that lowers pollution and has no dependency on foreign oil. Natural gas is a domestically produced product and it's plentiful.

Randall Arnold   March 21st, 2009 1:47 am ET

I don't get it: so people like Wesley Clark are arguing as if producing ethanol from waste is a BAD thing???

Hoo boy. Makes them look like undercover shills for the status quo.

Franko   March 21st, 2009 4:17 am ET

Josh makes the key, pivotal point;
"Ethanol damages fuel system components and valve-guide seals in many cars"

For minimal production cost, all engines could be multifuel, alcohol tolerant
Zubrin made the case, for government standards, long before
However, the politicians are corporate puppets,
and the Corporations just want profits or bailouts.

Franky   March 21st, 2009 10:30 am ET

Guys, you do know you lose some and gain some, right? In life, there's no such thing as a perfect model or a perfect solution, if it was, God will be pissed...

It does surprise me how freak out people are and they should do this or do that and if we don't, we'll go to hell!!! For the record, if we had better solutions, then quite honestly, our country will have better marriages....and trust me, I can roast you guys on some numbers I have with me, LOL!!

And you think we're smart?? Ha!!!

Bill B   March 21st, 2009 11:30 am ET

Hmm...."it would be “bad policy to adopt a regulation that ...would continue California’s reliance on fossil fuels." Maybe so.

However, is it not WORSE policy to encourage California to burn corn for use as gasoline versus growing corn....for use as a food?

Kevin   March 21st, 2009 12:35 pm ET

This is both solid science and common sense, but it needs to be
said here anyhow. Corn-based biofuels do not help the environment
and do not save the taxpayers or consumers money. The added carbon-burning fuels needed to plant, raise and harvest the corn, the
extra pesticides used to maintain the crop, the govt subsidies that
are routed to the corn farmers, all of these make corn-based
biofuels and worse choice than even iol-based gasoline for our
environment and our wallets.

Cellulose-based biofuels can make a positive impact, and would be
worth implementing. The problem is, not many interest groups are
currently set to profit from this activity, except, ofcourse,
California citizens. But if and when California citizens become the
important interest group we are supposed to be, cellulosed-based
ethanol is the only biofuel option worth moving to from our current
large-scale fueling methods.

Bill Mosby   March 21st, 2009 12:37 pm ET

Perhaps there's been more progress than I know about, but until recently cellulosic ethanol had a lot in common with clean coal: it exists mainly in the future, if at all.

Corn ethanol is something of a dead end given the land and energy needed for its production.

hoyleysox   March 21st, 2009 1:16 pm ET

Ethanol carries the same inefficiencies as bottled water.

Petroleum comes to CA via pipes. Ethanol corrodes pipes and must be transported via trucks and it is a long drive from the corn based ethanol states to CA. States in the midwest would enjoy more benefits than CA due to their proximity. Mandating more ethanol in CA would raise gas prices (which some people appreciate, but not me!)

Allan Hanson   March 21st, 2009 1:20 pm ET

Yes ethanol is a big rip off perpetuated by Aurther Daniels and their bought polititions.
Brazil uses sugar cane which is far more productive, it is true ehanol requires more energy to produce than it produces. Does this make sense?
It is a big scam, and we are stuck with it. How do we change it?
Remember how MTBE was the answer to our "global warming", here we go again.

Norm Edson   March 21st, 2009 2:30 pm ET

Ethanol should come from corn stubble [ the rest of the plant left over after corn harvest]. The technology is there. This would help the rest ofcorn and soybean dependant farms [dairy, beef and poultry] to survive the current reccession, which is putting them to the brink of bankruptcy by lowering grain prices. This would help consumers on their grocery bills. The corn growers would benifit by getting lower fertilizer bills because of less demand for it and give them extra revinue by being able to sell the pretty much worthless otherwise stubble which helps insect pests over winter. Using corn grain for ethanol is energy deficient. It takes more to make it than it saves. It is foolish to waste so much money for so little gain.

Franko   March 21st, 2009 3:03 pm ET

Special interest groups are polluting with legistlation
What is the use, if all new vehicles cannot run on 100% any alcohol ?

Makes jobs for "responsible men" - "members of the leadership class"
Wesley Clark, Goofy Gore, Arnold - the list is long

Luke D   March 21st, 2009 4:31 pm ET

I think ignorance is the major problem here. I work with Ethanol plants everyday. As for food vs fuel, apparently you don't know how they make most ethanol. When they are done making high fructose corn syrup (the #1 food product made from corn, which everyone is against also) then they take away the starch and then finally they ferment the rest into Ethanol. This is how Cargill and ADM do it. The other method still produces feed for livestock and corn oil for edible or industrial use. But you ask why is your food prices going up, because it takes money to transport your food. Diesel is at all time highs sometimes twice the price of gasoline. If you were to look at a box of Corn Flakes. There has to be corn in that, only about $0.08 worth of corn. $0.80 of the price is oil based expense. Which one makes the price rise?

Maybe before just believing whatever someone randomly tells you, you could look up the facts. We should know by now the press won't do it for you. The one point we could agree on is that there isn't one solution to replace oil. It will take many renewable sources. Lets not just count one out because it can't solve all of our problems.

Robert Zagrodzky   March 21st, 2009 5:56 pm ET

Ethanol is a lousy motor fuel. At todays corn prices, it probably costs more to produce that gasoline. What neds to be done is go to diesel powered vehicles. Diesel is cheaper to produce, & it mixes with most any clean oil; vegetable, animal, human. Give all these fat Californians free lypos and you could powere half the state.

Chris   March 21st, 2009 7:15 pm ET

Got any science to back your claims Cody?

ARB does. Ethanol is a bad fuel for the environment and your 25 year old deisels are even worse. You can run all the "bio-deisel" in them you want, but a modern engine running any fuel will be MUCH cleaner.

Brian   March 21st, 2009 8:48 pm ET

I would like to make several points as I am an engineer, and a farmer –
An engine properly designed to run on ethanol is just as efficient as one that runs on gas and is designed for gas. Gasoline and ethanol have different optimal buring pressures and temperatures – its science, look it up.
Also, cellulosic ethanol is even less practical then corn ethonal, as there are already machines and infrastructure to support corn production; cellulosic ethanol requires gathering other plant material, and other than hay and straw, which is already utilized, there is no real system to gather this 'waste'. Call up John Deere, they dont even have a corn fodder gathering system in any mass production.
One more important fact is that the agricultural 'waste' that is talked about is actually integral to the health of the soil. For example, the corn stock, which is not utilized directly, actually biodegrades, putting minerals and nutrients back into the soil which would otherwise have to be replaced by synthetic, petroleum based fertilizers (which as you can imagine, makes growing more expensive and less benefical to the environment).
However, one fundemental benefit of ethanol that is missed is the fact that it is domestically produced – yup thats right – by buying ethanol almost all of the money goes directly to the American economy. When you fill up with gas, you might as well write two checks, one to exxon (or whomever) and one to Saudi Arabia, or Dubai, or Venezuela, or Canada. The Untied States pays $700,000,000,000 (thats right – $700 BILLION) to other countries annually for OIL. Check out Ethanol may only be part of the energy solution, but we must do something about Americas energy situation, and do it quickly.

Kevin   March 21st, 2009 9:23 pm ET

I didn't see anyone talking about the water use of Ethanol because California is in a big drought and is limiting the water supply to cities like LA and the farmers in the valley who are growing food. I'm not sure of the water usage of cellulotic ethanol, but I'm sure that it's still pretty big. It seems that ethanol will have to come from out of state sources.

A better solution would be to focus more on better mass transit systems in Southern California like they have up in the Bay Area (BART). It they could get more people to use these systems it would create cleaner air. They also did more in requiring increased fuel mileage and decreased emissions from car manufactures which is also good.

Loki   March 21st, 2009 10:15 pm ET

The real issue here is our addiction to primitive internal combustion engines, but it will be some time until the hundredth monkey figures that out.

Shortly after the Fermi paradox self-destruction scenario hits us, I imagine.

Franko   March 22nd, 2009 12:41 am ET

The motivation is based on CO2 being an Evil Poision Climate Changer
In Antarctica, with little Sunshine, CO2 has very little heat trapping effect
However, high above, radiates better with increasing concentration

Eddy   March 22nd, 2009 1:14 am ET

Some of you need to understand something: There are far better sources for creating ethanol that DO realize a net gain in energy over and above the natural resources to create it. Two of which were mentioned in this very article! (switchgrass and ag waste) Can't you read between the lines (of greed and politics)? Tom Koehler and Wesley Clark have obviously put all their eggs into the corn ethanol basket and now feel very threatened by the prospect of California using something that makes much more sense but doesn't make them rich. So they'll say anything, no matter how ridiculous, in an attempt to protect their financial interests.

Also, to those of saying ethanol is a poor fuel source, do you not realize that many forms of competitive motorsports have been using ethanol for years? It produces superior horsepower to petrofuels. Engines can easily be manufactured that handle ethanol fuels properly. With proper design and tuning, they can be every bit as reliable, durable, and fuel efficient as petrofuel engines – and cleaner!

Detroit: sell me a hybrid car that sips a little cellulose ethanol to turn an electrical generator!!

John   March 22nd, 2009 1:32 am ET

The future of bioethanol, to the extent that there is one, is algae. Influential lobbyists have steered the conversation towards corn for far too long. Corn cannot and will not be the primary source of ethanol in biofuels. It makes no sense. Good for California.

tc   March 22nd, 2009 2:05 am ET

If corn prices rise, more corn is planted.
If corn prices fall, less.
If corn prices fall below production costs, no one plants corn.
The american farmer can raise almost twice what our country uses.
He won't when prices are below production costs.
People starving in other countrys isn't related to the high price of corn.
It's a problem with their goverment, and needs a political solution.

Every one here seems to ignore the amount of energy needed to crack petrolum. the higher tempatures needed vs. ethanol. The ideal would be a ethenol plant using solar distillation.

Lets see, we add 15% ethenol, and loose 20% of our mileage? Seems to me like figuers don't lie but liers sure play with the figures.

C.l   March 22nd, 2009 8:14 am ET

It dont matter folks like AIG will make a buck off of it and pass the cost to you.So do the math big business will hold it over us no matter what we do or use in our tanks. And go price a solar or wind power setup for your home then price the new cars .

jim   March 22nd, 2009 11:27 am ET

Kevin – thanks for bringing to light the fact that ethanol production requires large amounts of water. It takes something like five gallons of fresh water to make a gallon of ethanol.

jeffrey noyes   March 22nd, 2009 11:32 am ET

We never should have started useing corn, Just look at the food prices now.

Fred   March 22nd, 2009 11:49 am ET

Subsidized ethanol from corn has advantages and disadvantages. It probably makes sense as a bridge to cellulosic ethanol but how long should we keep subsidizing corn ethanol before cellulosic ethanol is commercial? (newsflash: the government can't make it so). The best solution to me is to suck it up on the near-term cost with mass transport and better metro planning.

Greg   March 22nd, 2009 12:39 pm ET

Ethanol is the only current viable alternative to dependency on foreign oil. If petroleum based fuels were required to use the same carbon footprint analysis as what is being proposed for corn based ethanol, you would quickly see that ethanol has a smaller footprint. While many on here so quickly point to the reduction in gas mileage when using ethanol, the figures they are using are for E-85 only. E-10 and E-20 have shown no significant difference in gas mileage from regular gasoline and it's cheaper to fuel our vehicles. Take a look at any study not funded by big oil and you will start seeing facts instead of fiction. Corn-based ethanol is the conduit that will lead us to cellulosic ethanol, but without corn-based ethanol, cellulosic will not have any type of market and will never get off the ground. Ethanol is clean, it's green, and it's our ONLY currently available alternative to foreign based petroleum. Let's keep the money right here in the United States where it belongs.

Franko   March 22nd, 2009 12:56 pm ET

Eventually, U$ will catch up with French technology of long ago;
"Ferdinand Porsche so aptly demonstrated and even raced the first petrol-electric vehicle!"

It will come down to power wheels - Free Piston Power, Efficiency
50%, super batteries or ultracapacitors - and the fuel of your choice.

U$ Government is just playing stupid - knowing correct, but doing wrong
Brazil can do Ethanol - "flex fuel" engines - Detroir cannot ??

Larry   March 22nd, 2009 1:07 pm ET

Is there anything (ANYTHING AT ALL) that california isn't against? These morons want everything, but, seem to expect it to appear as if magic. WHY? Because they don't want it made in their backyard. Nutcase Fientstien is now against producing solar energy in the desert because it will PO the turtles. This has got to stop. I know! Lets give california (all of it) and all the people currently living there to Mexico And to make sure that that cannot continue to screw up America any longer, refuse them visas (for any reason)

Roger   March 22nd, 2009 4:14 pm ET

If all types of cellulose can be used to make ethanol why not simply use old cardboard and paper that used to be sent to China to be recycled but that China no longer wants? We could clean things up and mine landfills for the raw materials. Lawn clippings and weeds would make great fuel.

Al Wagner   March 22nd, 2009 4:14 pm ET

This product is having a negative effect on the marine industry.Besides eating up fiberglass fuel tanks its affinity for water leads to fuel contamination and stranding. All fuel hoses need changing to alcohol resistant lines.

Ethanol needs to go away as a bad idea.With out the subsidy it would probably go away on its own.

Juat check with the Marine industry and Boat US for comments on this dumb product.

a biologist   March 22nd, 2009 7:11 pm ET

Finally! For years I've lived in a state full of farmers and politicians capitalizing off the ethanol boom by tilling grasslands and planting corn. As an environmental scientist that studies rivers, I can positively state that there is no crop worse for water quality than corn. Unlike most other crops, it is widely spaced and allows for greater erosion. Erosion creates sediment, which is a pollutant because it alters physical habitat, thus altering biological habitat. The same things do not live in solid mud, or sediment, that would live in gravel or sand. Also, when grassland is tilled it releases large quantities of carbon that is not replaced by the corn crop (no-till farming helps avoid this". Corn based ethanol is not the "green" energy source that it is made out to be by midwestern farmers and legislators.

Michael J   March 22nd, 2009 11:25 pm ET

There are plenty of scientific papers (peer-reviewed) supporting the conclusion that there is a net energy gain by converting corn to ethanol (yes, even considering the energy inputs). That is not to say that there aren't others that refute that conclusion. All of you people who are so convinced that ethanol production is net energy negative haven't done your homework, and to think that the process won't become more efficient with time is naive. Ethanol should be a part of a broad-based energy effort.

Franko   March 23rd, 2009 12:45 am ET

Michael J
"Ethanol should be a part of a broad-based energy effort."

Multifuel option has been inconvenient ? Detroit could not be bothered ?
"Both methanol and ethanol FFVs use parts with alcohol compatible
materials, including the fuel pump, fuel injectors and fuel lines"

For very little extra cost, all vehicles, less than 10 years old, could
have been Flexible Fuel Vehicles. - instead the money and time
was wasted - between the politicians, lobbyists, and Detroit CEOs

The option to use what is cheapest, is still the goal to set (legistlate)

Me   March 23rd, 2009 2:14 am ET

Picking through all the information that is available is difficult. You can find articles one way or another. Generally the more one-sided it is, the more you have to question the motives of those who wrote it.

It's easy to put two extreme articles from the corn ethanol lobby and the other alternative power lobbies and in each side someone is not be honest. But how do you tell?

For instance, websites that for every fact reference an article or paper by a pro-ethanol group. Ethanol is a part of a solution, but the massive building of the plants

Petroleum based products in our economy are huge, outside of it's use for transportation. Lubrication, plastics, drying, heating and the list goes on.

There is not enough to land to replace even 25% of our usage of petroleum based products with ethanol from corn. We need to find better products that don't require fertilizer and pesticides. Where I live the biggest way we cleaned our rivers was to take the land that drained into the rivers out of production.

Most of the tractors I see running in the corn fields are diesel. So I guess how many gallons of diesel and gasoline and propane/natural gas for one gallon of ethanol? How much electricity?

I don't believe there is one solution, it will take many to really undo our petroleum dependency, clean electricity for electric cars, one we solve the electricity storage issue. Finding a nuclear power solution that doesn't create long term nasty waste or the threat of turning a large area into a deadzone.

It will also take consumers to vote with their conscience instead of protecting each dollar in their wallet to make use of something different. People are willing to make choices based on what they can afford in front of them. Econocar for $11,000, truck $25,000 and 1/3 the mileage. Where I live, I see a lot more trucks.

Andre Sobczak   March 23rd, 2009 7:15 am ET

Corn is a bad thing. Really; it is what it has come to be, a BAD CROP, when mass produced. We grow so much of it that either it gets turned into corn syrup which gets put into everything possible as sweetener and pollutes and grotesquely distorts our bodies, (Not to mention our land) or it gets to be made into ethanol, which sounds like a good thing on the surface until you do the energy calculations and discover how woefully ineficient the process is: it's an energy sink, for godssakes, just about! We could use out wet lowlands to grow sugar cane insted which is 5 times more efficient when used for fuel. I say stop subsidizing american farmer welfare queens and corn will disspaear as a mass crop, except in the form of a delicous cob that we all love to eat; that is what it was always meant to be, and NOTHING ELSE. To hell with the rest.

Steve   March 23rd, 2009 8:40 am ET

Exactly (AB)! keep on adding stuff to the fuel and keep dropping the mpg so we burn more. I use to get 25+ mpg on the highway with my diesel now I am getting 19 with winter fuel and 22 MAX with the new ULS, the EPA needs to make up their mind fuel economy or zero polution. We have had polution controls on cars and such since the mid 1970's and we're told then that it would "decrease" the hole in the ozone layer, well it's 2009 and as far as I have heard it's still getting bigger!!! Doesn't seem like we have done anything to help polution but sure help the economy by increasing the cost of the average car over the years.

BrianC   March 23rd, 2009 9:24 am ET

Personally, I'm sick and tired of hearing California whine and cry about everything they encounter and then dictating to the rest of the country their warped views. They complain about building new cleaner burning coal plants for power generation. (Yes, lets just let the old outdated plants to keep running instead of replacing them with the newer technology!) They complain about wind generated power because it freaks out migratory birds. They complain about hydroelectric power generation and have enen suggested dismantling dams already in use. They complain about nuclear.

Then – they complain about the high cost of power they have to purchase from other states because their own tree huggers won't let the state build more power generating facilities in their own states. Their massive consumption puts a strain on other states' power plants which have to be upgraded to meet their demand. In their warped little minds, these other states then become the bad guy because they have to charge more per kwh to recoup the costs of upgrading to meet the powr needs.

Grow up California and start taking responsibility for yourselves! Until California can start to come up with some real solutions, they need to sit down and STFU!

trevor   March 23rd, 2009 9:29 am ET

Most of you say ethanol doesnt work. I live in Brasil. More than 50% of cars are flex vehicles. My car, Fiat Siena. I pay less than 50% for alcool than gasoline. Yes, I get 20% less miles but Im paying half. Its 100% alcohol, 0% gas. So if it works here in a country of 1/2 billion people, why can it not work there? The blend in the states IS a big ripoff (more money made for the govt). Just to convert a car from gas to alcohol is less than 200 dollars and there is no problems to our cars since flex vehicles were introduced.

Franko   March 23rd, 2009 2:04 pm ET

I am curious of Brasil antipullution devices
Ethanol is a smog free fuel ? - Liquid natural gas – butanol ?

Buddesatva   March 23rd, 2009 6:00 pm ET

Ethanol is a dead end. Growing food to produce fuel is idiotic. Regardless of how much money is thrown at lobbying for this canard, ethanol is not the right direction.

Franko   March 24th, 2009 12:15 am ET

The real decision makers are not you and me, choosing to optimize
The bankers, lobbyists, politicians, - the "responsible men" of corruption
Lining their pockets, by manufacturing, marketing, consent

Brazil has multi-fuel vehicles, able to chooose, by the dollar, at the pump
Too dumb for demoncracy, Let the politicians choose for U$ ?

so7all   March 24th, 2009 4:44 am ET

just curious has anyone consider the effect of all the CO2 released from soda drinks -such as Cola-Coke or Pepsi and all the drinks? or or is it only CO2 from other sources that count?

Franko   March 24th, 2009 1:41 pm ET

More CO2, in the air you breathe, no matter if from coal plants, or from soda water, Perks you up, - Your breathing is affected by CO2 - some claim to feel more energized in the high CO2 of the city, compared to the low CO2 of the countryside.

Luke D   March 24th, 2009 4:13 pm ET

Seriously are you debating if CO2 from Soda is a concern. Do you realize that you breath out the same amount of CO2 in one breath as a can of soda. These comments are all over the map. Just a couple replies here.

Obviously Brazil can make this work because they whole heartily went for it. In the US we need to be careful not offend anyone so nothing ever gets accomplished because someone got offended.

California is really the root of the problem. Lets see how many people we can fit in smallest area possible and in turn we have no problem sitting on the freeway for 3 hours everyday with our SUV's going 5 mph max. And you though ethanol was inefficient. I bet there is plenty of open land in Montana or Wyoming.

"Corn is a really bad crop" Andre. WHAT!!!, this is reason your food prices are lower. If we used sugar cane for every food instead then you would be complaining about high food prices. It is the largest cash crop in our economy. You want to see the US economy crash lets just take corn out of GDP. FYI the corn you eat at dinner is only about 0.1% of the type of corn produced. You don't eat field corn.

Yes it takes about 5-10 gallons of water to make 1 gallon of ethanol. But it takes 80 gallons of water to make 1 gallon of gasoline.

Ethanol doesn't need to destroy your engine. The first Model T that Ford built ran on 100% ethanol. Detroit can make ethanol powered cars.

As for using other feed stocks instead of corn. Cellulose is still way to expensive and can you guess on how much it costs to transport something with the density of shredded paper. Also you need to find something that we make a lot of. With out Corn based ethanol we would have more corn then we knew what to do with. And it would be worth about $1.00 a bushel. The only people farming would be huge corporate farms because they could afford to. Also you might like paying $1.90 for gas. If it weren't for ethanol we would still be at $4.00 or even $5.00 a gallon. Big oil is just trying to kill the ethanol business by catching them with low prices while corn is high.

AL   April 2nd, 2009 12:56 pm ET

Everyone seems to be missing the point on WHY we use corn. The farmers grow corn instead of switch grass for one reason. Corn has multiple buyers!!! If they won't buy it for biofuel, they can sell it for feed. Can sell for those, they have other markets. Farmers won't grow switch grass for ONE market....alternate fuels. Why? Because that market could dry up over night and then where is the farmer?? Holding the bag. When farmers get an upfront garantee that what they grow will be bought, then they will grow it. Farmers are being put out of business all the time by changing markets. Don't yell at the farmers for not growing it, yell at the politicians for not really supporting them!!! Industry will use what is readily handy. Corn is there. Switch grass is not. You can't ask a manufacturer to build for switch grass if no one is growing it either.

Gene Lucas   December 22nd, 2009 7:26 pm ET

Since the March 20 decision to take into account all the energy and pollution involved in Ethanol, and other syhnthetic fuels, it's been pretty quiet around here in California. It shouldn't be! Out here we should have one overriding consideration about any product that is "grown." That factor is WATER! Water use for growing corn varies from state to state, and 96% of corn in some midwestern states uses no irrigation water at all. For them, ethanol from whatever is fine.

But here in California, almost all corn would have to be irrigated, and that would require massive amounts of scarce water. Some people say that corn takes 4 acre-feet of water per acre. Others say ONLY 1.2 acre feet. Let's do the math on 1.2. An acre-foor ot water is about 320,000 gallons, which could make almost 800 gallons of ethanol. That's 400 gallons of water for every gallon of ethanol! Ethanol from corn, or any other grown crop, may be OK somewhere else – but not here.

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