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Tue Jul 21, 2015, 06:20 PM

Myths And Facts About The Renewable Fuel Standard and Ethanol fuel - MediaMatters

.. here is thorough debunking of the popular myths and urban legends {usually promulgated by the Oil industry minions paid and unpaid (read: uninformed would-be environmentalists)} about ethanol from the people at Media Matters. Too bad this will probably make zero difference despite the facts enumerated - to the those who have been thoroughly duped by the Oil INdustry propagandists. LOL!
[div class="excerpt" style="width:390px;text-align:right;background:#ffffff;"] ... oh, not so funny....                                                                      

The article debunks four well known myths about Ethanol:

Ethanol Mandate Increases Food Prices
Ethanol (E15) will destroy your cars engine
Renewable fuels are bad for the environment
Renewable fuel industry receives a disproportionate share of Government subsidies

this excerpt only includes a fraction of the article (note the excerpts in the article are from Government reports and are not subject to copyright protection provisions). the article really should be read in its entirety to be fully appreciated (well, unless of course you are an Oil Industry troll or sucker... in which case you would not appreciate this article even more if you read the whole thing!).


MYTH: Renewable Fuel Standards Raise Food Prices

FACT: Ethanol Production Does Not Divert Food Or Raise Prices

CBO Report: RFS Will Not Significantly Alter Food Prices. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) analyzed how the RFS will impact the economy beyond 2014 and determined that it will have no significant impact on food prices. The CBO also stated that if the standards were increased to meet the initially proposed requirements by 2017, it would result in increased spending on food by just one-quarter of 1 percent:

[div style="border: 1px solid #000000;padding: 10px;" class="excerpt"]
Food Prices Would Be Similar Whether the RFS Was Continued or Repealed

Roughly 40 percent of the U.S. corn supply is used to make ethanol. To the extent that the Renewable Fuel Standard increases the demand for corn ethanol, it will raise corn prices and put upward pressure on the prices of foods that are made with corn -- ranging from corn-syrup sweeteners to meat, poultry, and dairy products. CBO expects that roughly the same amount of corn ethanol would be used in 2017 if fuel suppliers had to meet requirements equal to EPA's proposed 2014 volumes or if lawmakers repealed the RFS, because suppliers would probably find it cost-effective to use a roughly 10 percent blend of corn ethanol in gasoline in 2017 even in the absence of the RFS. Therefore, food prices would also be about the same under the 2014 volumes scenario and the repeal scenario.

By contrast, corn ethanol use in 2017 would be about 15 percent (or 2 billion gallons) higher under the EISA volumes scenario. CBO estimates that the resulting increase in the demand for corn would raise the average price of corn by about 6 percent. However, because corn and food made with corn account for only a small fraction of total U.S. spending on food, that total spending would increase by about one-quarter of one percent. [Congressional Budget Office, 6/26/14]


MYTH: Ethanol Will Harm Your Vehicle


FACT: Rigorous Studies Show That Ethanol Does Not Harm Engines

DOE: Industry-Funded Study Claiming Ethanol Hurts Engines Is "Significantly Flawed." Patrick B. Davis, the manager of the Department of Energy's Vehicle Technologies Program, published an article critiquing the CRC study that found E15 and E20 (a gasoline blend with 20 percent ethanol) hurt auto engines. The DOE concluded that the study was "significantly flawed" because it did not establish a proper control group and that it cherry-picked vehicles "already known to have durability issues" (emphasis original):

[div style="border: 1px solid #000000;padding:10px;" class="excerpt"]
The CRC failed to establish a proper control group, a standard component of scientific, data-driven testing and a necessity to determine statistical significance for any results.

◾ Instead, only three out of the eight engines were tested with straight gasoline containing no ethanol (E0), and one of those three failed the CRC's test.
◾ No engines were tested with E10 fuel, the de facto standard gasoline for all grades, which represents more than 90 percent of gasoline available in the U.S. market. Even though E10 fuel has been in the market for over 30 years and is used in all current conventional gasoline vehicles and small non-road engines, it was not part of the CRC test program.

◾ Perhaps most surprisingly, the CRC decided to select several engines already known to have durability issues, including one that was subject to a recall involving valve problems when running on E0 gasoline and E10. It is no surprise that an engine having problems with traditional fuels might also "fail" with E15 or E20 ethanol-blended fuels -- especially using a failure criterion chosen to demonstrate sensitivity to ethanol and operated on a cycle designed to stress the valves. [Energy.gov, 5/16/12]

DOE's More Rigorous Study Found No "Unusual Wear" From E15 On Current Systems. The DOE studied 86 vehicles -- compared to the CRC's analysis of eight engines -- and "did not uncover unusual wear that would be expected to impact performance." From Davis' article:

[div class="excerpt" style="border: 1px solid #000000;padding:10px;"]
Prior to the CRC's findings, the Energy Department conducted its own rigorous, thorough and peer-reviewed study of the impact of E15 fuel on current, conventional vehicle catalyst systems. The Energy Department study included an inspection of critical engine components, such as valves, and did not uncover unusual wear that would be expected to impact performance. Rather than using an aggressive test cycle intended to severely-stress valves, the Energy Department program was run using a cycle more closely resembling normal driving. The Energy Department testing program was run on standard gasoline, E10, E15, and E20. The Energy Department test program was comprised of 86 vehicles operated up to 120,000 miles each using an industry-standard EPA-defined test cycle (called the Standard Road Cycle). The resulting Energy Department data showed no statistically significant loss of vehicle performance (emissions, fuel economy, and maintenance issues) attributable to the use of E15 fuel compared to straight gasoline. The Energy Department test program also showed that 10% engine leakdown is not a reliable indicator of vehicle performance. In the Energy Department program, there were vehicles found to exceed 10% leakdown for all fuels, including vehicles running on E0 and E10. There was no correlation between fuel type and leakdown, and high leakdown measurements did not correlate to degradation in engine or emissions performance. [U.S. Department of Energy, 5/16/12]


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Response to Bill USA (Original post)

Tue Jul 21, 2015, 06:25 PM

1. Ethanol is hell on small engines though


I wish it was easier to find pure gasoline, since I won't use ethanol is my lawnmower, trimmer, or ATV.

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Response to Bill USA (Original post)

Wed Jul 22, 2015, 08:44 AM

2. Not a particularly convincing selection of considerations.

The questions addressed and my answers:

Does The Ethanol Mandate Increase Food Prices?
- Yes, but probably not as much as is sometimes claimed.

Is Ethanol Harmful To Your Vehicle?
- Not necessarily and the cost to ensure compatibility is next to nothing as a percentage of overall ownership costs.

Is Renewable Fuel Better Or Worse For The Environment?
- "Renewable fuel"? With the promotion of corn (or any other) ethanol we aren't discussing "renewable fuel" we are talking about augmenting fossil fuels with an additive. To be a renewable fuel it has to meet our transportation needs without fossil fuel dependence.

Does The Renewable Fuel Industry Receive Disproportionate Amounts Of Subsidies?
- This is the wrong question. It doesn't matter if it receives $50 if that money isn't buying us a step on the path to freedom from fossil fuels. The proper question from a policy perspective is 'Does the funding going to ethanol contribute to the elimination of fossil fuels?"

The answer for ethanol is mostly no, it doesn't. I can't stress enough that the proper place to start questioning is to ask what is the end goal of promoting corn ethanol technology through the use of any subsidies at all? Are we going to meet the long term transportation needs of any major sector using corn ethanol?

Probably no, we are not.

The most likely place for it to find a use is in the agricultural sector, where it dovetails perfectly. Given its low well to wheels efficiency as a portable energy storage medium to be used in an internal combustion engine, the GHG reductions it does manage to achieve in the near term are marginal at best. Sure, every bit counts, but the opportunity costs of carbon reductions lost by lack of support for alternatives like rail are not inconsequential.

The point that can't be"debunked is that it can't provide a meaningful and ongoing reduction in GHG emissions because it won't scale up as a primary solution to transportation of goods and/or people. The results Media Matters cite are weighted strictly against standard internal combustion engines using gasoline as fuel. Since that is not the only alternative and since other alternatives have much broader applicability, you can't use this "busted myth" list as a list of the important decision-making criteria. en its low efficiency as a portable energy storage medium the GHG reductions it does achieve in the near term are marginal at best.

Far better results are obtainable using the funds - however much they are - to promote the adoption of technologies that are going to be either the core solutions or stepping stones to those core solutions.

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Response to kristopher (Reply #2)

Wed Jul 22, 2015, 07:21 PM

3. consider...Ethanol/Methanol can meet half the light transportation fuel needs of the country...

From cmt 2:
The questions addressed and my answers:
Does The Ethanol Mandate Increase Food Prices?
- Yes, but probably not as much as is sometimes claimed.

It helps to read the CBO report referenced in MediaMatters article. Here is a quote from that report:

(emphases my own)
With both direct and indirect effects included, full compliance with the EISA mandates would increase total
spending on food in 2017 by $3.5 billion, CBO estimates, relative to spending under the other two scenarios. With total U.S. food expenditures expected to be roughly $1.8 trillion in 2017, that increase would represent a rise of about 0.2 percent.

from Cmt 2
It doesn't matter if it receives $50 if that money isn't buying us a step on the path to freedom from fossil fuels. The proper question from a policy perspective is 'Does the funding going to ethanol contribute to the elimination of fossil fuels?"

The answer for ethanol is mostly no, it doesn't.

reality: Ethanol currently represents about 10% of the light transportation fuel supply. To that extent we have already eliminated fossil fuel consumption/combustion (Producing Gasoline from Petroleum: 1.23 million Btu Fossil Energy Input to yield 1 million BTUs of gasoline). THere is no technology known to man which will eliminate all fossil fuel consumption/combustion instantly upon initiation of use of that replacement technology. Wind power and solar power are eliminating some fossil fuel consumption for electirc power, but not ALL fossil fuel consumption for that purpose. It will take decades to eliminate or significantly reduce our fossil fuel use for electric power. Hybrid vehicles, due in part to cost, will take decades to be a significant part of the light transportation fleet. In that time the Global Warming will be proceeding and accelerating. Achievements in GHG emissions reductions today are worth MORE GHG emissions reductions achieved in 20 to 30 years. That is, to get the same affect on global warming, a GHG emissions reduction achieved 20 years from now would have to be greater than a GHG emissions reduction achieved today or in, let's say, the next 5 to 10 years. This becomes significant when you consider that increases in hybrid car and PHEV sales to a significant share of total car sales are not expected to occur for perhaps 20 to 30 years. It is important to remember, as Global Warming is accelerating, GHG emissions occuring 20 or so years from now would have to be significantly greater than GH emissions reduction occurring NOW or in the next several years (see below for calculations of numbers of hybrid vehicles needed to match the GHG emissions reductions being achieved right now by ethanol.

Now, back to ethanol. Eliminating 10% of the fossil fuel that would have been consumed for light transportation needs - What does that mean in terms of GHG emissions reductions for the light transportation sector as whole.? The Argonne National Laboratory has determined that the GHG emissions reduction for corn based ethanol is -34%. So in the aggregate that is, for the whole light transportation fleet, that would be .1 x .34 = 0.034 or 3.4% reduction of the GHG emissions for the entire light transportation vehicle fleet. But how does that stack up to another approach to eliminating fossil fuel consumption for light transportation, such as hybrid vehicles (including PHEVs)?

The average increase in fuel efficiency for hybrid vehicles is about 25% - 33%. This translates into a fuel consumption reduction of 20% to 25% per vehicle. The fuel consumption reduction is the measure of the GHG emissions reductions for Hybrid vehicles (it's more complicated for PHEVs so for simplicity, let's just use conventional hybrids for this calculation). To get the number of hybrid cars needed to achieve an aggregate reduction of 3.4% (ethanol's aggregate GHG emissions reduction) of the GHG emissions for the entire fleet, you divide the 3.4% (0.034) by the fuel consumption reduction per hybrid vehicle. So 0.034/0.2 = 0.17 -- which means the number of hybrids (with fuel consumption reduction of 20% per vehicle) needed to get an aggregate reduction of GHG emissions of 3.4% - would be 17% of the fleet.

If we use 250,000,000 cars and light trucks as the number for the entire fleet that would be 42.5 million hybrid vehicles needed to achieve an aggregate reduction of 3.4% which ethanol is achieving today - and has been achieving for the last four to five years.

If you assume a fuel efficiency improvement (over comparable ICE powered car) for hybrids on average of 33% yielding a fuel consumption reduction average of 25% the number of hybrids needed to achieve an aggregate GHG reduction of 3.4% would be: 34,257,576.

NOw, how long it would take to achieve these numbers of hybrids on the road is anybody's guess. Would it be two decades, or three decades? No one knows for sure. But in that time ethanol would be achieving 3.4% reductions every year (and climbing if we were to start using ethanol in the more efficient ways it could be used - or as ethanol/methanol production from agricultural and forestry product waste is committed to and invested in).

THere is also the consideration of what percentage of the entire fleet that hybrid and phevs could realistically constitute. THis depends upon cost and how much battery performance is increased in the future. Cost is an important issue in adoption of any technology. As to future battery performance and when that will be achieved - and how much that will cost - these are all extremely hard to predict. Which is why nobody is making an 'hard' predictions on when hybrid and PHEV sales will reach a specific number of vehicles or percentage of the entire fleet. (usually such estimates are given a range of years or sometimes predicted with a range in numbers for the year 2050 - 35 years in the future!)

from cmnt 2:
Are we going to meet the long term transportation needs of any major sector using corn ethanol? The answer for ethanol is mostly no, it doesn't.

THis is not what the Oak Ridge National Laboratory concluded in their study: Biomass as Feedstock for a Bioenergy and Bioproducts industry: the TEchnical Feasibility of a Billion ton Annual Supply. They concluded that biomass in the form of corn based ethanol and ethanol from agricultural and forestry product waste could meet 30% of the nations need for fuel for the light transportation fleet.

Billion ton update

[font size="+1"] But it must be noted that when they computed the 30% of the supply they were assuming that the fuel efficiency of ethanol can only be computed by using the BTU content of ethanol relative to gasoline. An assumption that is valid only if you insist on using ethanol in a low compression engine (optimized for low octane gasoline). It has been shown that engines optimized to use ethanol can achieve the same fuel efficiency as gasoline or better (15% higher fuel efficiency has been achieved (without downsizing of the engine which would boost the fuel efficiency improvement even higher) when using ethanol (or methanol) because of ethanol's and methanol's higher octane and higher heat of evaporation. Considering this, the volume of fuel supplied would not be 30% of the light transportation fleet's needs but 46% to 53%. (note high compression operation can be achieved with turbo-charging or super-charging which can be controlled to reduce boost to accomodate low octane gasoline and thus achieve a dual fuel car which still is optimized to use ethanol/methanol as efficiently as it can be used).[/font]

NOw, it should be noted that the biomass could be used to produce methanol (this can be done right now) and methanol would perform comparably to ethanol.

Obviously, ethanol/methanol can be used in any surface vehicle transportation application from small cars to large trucks.

This is not to say hybrid vehicles of PHEVs should not be invested in. I am for everyone who can afford one to buy one. We will need them to help reduce GHG emissions from the light vehicle fleet. But we cannot expect to solve the Global warming problem as it applies to light vehicle transportation using hybrids and PHEVs alone. Any GHG emissions reductions we may gain from adoption of hybrids and PHEVs will come too late by themselves to make much of a difference. [font size="+1"]The fact remains that you can replace the fuel cars burn far faster than you can replace the cars that burn it.[/font]

Even greater efficiency gains can be achieved with alcohol (ethanol/methanol) powered engines

Fuel efficiency improvement of 25% to 30% over the conventional ICE are achieveable with the Ethanol Direct Injection turbocharged engine using only 5% ethanol. That means, if all the vehicles in the fleet were equipped with the ethanol direct injection turbocharged engine, we could reduce fossil fuel consumption 28% with a volume of ethanol equal to only 5% of the total fuel supply! We currently meet 10% of the fuel supply with ethanol. The other 5% could be blended with the gasoline used yielding a total gasoline consumption reduction of 33%! This engine cost about 1/4th the additional cost to produce a conventional hybrid car.

Then there is the Ultra-High Efficiency Reformer Enhanced Alcohol Engine: 50% Efficiency gain over conventional ICE

[font size="+1"]By the way, if the ethanol/methanol supply mentioned in the Oak Ridge study above was used in the Ultra High Efficiency Alcohol engine with reformer - which doubles the fuel efficiency of the typical ICE powered car, that supply of ethanol/methanol would meet 69% of the light vehicle transportation needs.[/font]

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Response to Bill USA (Reply #3)

Wed Jul 22, 2015, 08:25 PM

4. Thank you for confirming everything I wrote.

All the rest is pure spin and largely irrelevant. Ethanol will be a good product for the AG sector, but it isn't going to be significant anywhere else.

A point by way of example - the product and subsidy under discussion is CORN ethanol. Your generalization to possible future technologies as a justification for CORN ethanol subsidies isn't kosher or acceptable. Your strong dedication to that type of dishonest argumentation (all of your posts are riddled with it) hurts you far more than it helps.

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Response to kristopher (Reply #4)

Wed Jul 22, 2015, 08:36 PM

5. LOL: your capacity for delusion & ignoring legitimate research by Oak Ridge Laboratory scientists as

well as research by MIT scientists is staggering. IF you should ever decide to leave your imagined universe, the real world will still be here trying to deal with Global Warming with science and real world initiatives.

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Response to Bill USA (Reply #5)

Wed Jul 22, 2015, 08:49 PM

6. Not ignoring anything, friend - have accomplished detailed academic study of the topic

The difference between us is that I studied it in the context of the entire range of pathways to decarbonize our world energy supply. I'm thoroughly repelled by your enthusiasm for dishonest argumentation, and I don't fall for your misuse of data.

It isn't rocket science.

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Response to kristopher (Reply #6)

Thu Jul 23, 2015, 03:37 PM

7. "don't fall for your misuse of data" ... care to be specific? & What technology for reducing GHG

emissions for the light transportation sector can you identify that will produce more GHG emissions reductions than ethanol is currently... oh, well that's already known. There is no technology that is producing anything close to Ethanol's current GHG reductions. Then, perhaps you have a technology you would identify for its future potential? Since you have "accomplished detailed academic study" this should not be a problem. Your use the terminology "academic study". Is that meant to imply this is a formal study completed to meet some academic requirement (a book report perhaps)? ... or are you employing a little 'poetic license' just for our benefit.

But more than that, since ethanol does produce GHG emissions reductions now, what is your argument for not employing this technology. Why would we give up the GHG reductions we currently are achieving with ethanol - since, Global Warming is proceeding as we speak and accelerating.

I do not exclude any technology that gets results as you are doing with ethanol. We will need all the techniques and technologies available to us - including biofuels and hybrid vehicle technologies (incl PHEVs) - to achieve the maximum reductions to GHG emissions for the light transportation sector. It will take two or three decades to achieve significant GHG reductons with hybrids (and PHEVs). Why would we forego the GHG reductions ethanol can achieve over the ensuing 20 to 30 years?

Again, if you claim I misused data, please identify such misuses.

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