Readers of General Aviation News know that ethanol is bad for planes, so we thought this study would be of interest: Long heralded as a green alternative to fossil fuel, corn-based ethanol has become a costly distraction that chiefly benefits corporate, political and lobbying interests rather than the American public, the environment, small farmers and rural communities, according to a new report by Vermont Law School’s Institute for Energy and the Environment (IEE) and Food & Water Watch, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit. Titled “Crystal Eth: America’s Crippling Addiction to Taxpayer-financed Ethanol,” the report concludes that corn-based ethanol is unlikely to significantly reduce America’s dependence on imported oil, has a negligible ability to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, contributes to environmental degradation in coastal waters and has been an economic boon for agribusiness giants managed in absentia rather than small and medium-size, locally owned farms, farm cooperatives and ethanol refineries.
The report, available here, examines the political contributions and lobbying efforts of some of the largest corporate ethanol refiners to garner ever-larger subsidies, and how the growth of corporate consolidation in the corn-based ethanol sector has been an unintended result of America’s renewable transportation fuel politics, policies and subsidies. The report estimates that ethanol refiners have received at least $22.8 billion in total government financial support between 1999 and 2008.
The report recommends that:
- Corn-based ethanol subsidies should be phased out completely over the next few years in favor of subsidies to biofuel alternatives that are more efficient, economically feasible and environmentally friendly, such as cellulosic and algae biofuel refiners.
- The renewable fuel standard should be amended to lower the amount of corn-based ethanol qualifying for government quotas.
- Renewable fuel standards should be increased for second- and third-generation biofuels such as cellulosic ethanol and algae-based biodiesel, which should only receive support if they meet sustainability criteria to qualify for subsidies. These could include a net energy gain for cellulosic or other biodiesel fuels, reduced water utilization, limiting the indirect land use impact on food production and eschewing emerging higher-risk technologies such as nanotechnology and synthetic biology.
- Farmers who produce and consume their own biofuels on the farm should be rewarded by an energy tax credit for each gallon of ethanol, biodiesel or vegetable oil that they use instead of fossil fuels.
Congress has mandated that biofuel use must reach 36 billion gallons annually by 2022.
Vermont Law School, a private, independent institution, has a top-ranked environmental law program and one of the top-ranked clinical training programs in the nation, according to U.S.News & World Report. The school is home to the Environmental Law Center and the South Royalton Legal Clinic. For more information: www.vermontlaw.edu
Dean Billing says
I must say, that report is pretty clueless.
The only corn based ethanol subsidy is the VEETC, which is a tax credit given to the gasoline producers to blend ethanol into gasoline. There is no benefit or other subsidy given to corn producers, so there is nothing to phase out. The VEETC died last year until resurrected by by Chuck Grassley and the other corn state senators in the emergency tax bill in December. It is scheduled to terminate again this December. I will leave it up to the GAN readers to discover what the ethanol lobby wants it replaced with to extend corporate welfare to the ethanol producers.
“The renewable fuel standard should be amended to lower the amount of corn-based ethanol qualifying for government quotas.” Not likely, especially considering that corn based ethanol is capped in the RFS at 15 billion gallons in 2015, so there is already an artificial limit.
“Renewable fuel standards should be increased for second- and third-generation biofuels such as cellulosic ethanol …” This has got me rolling on the floor laughing my head off. The RFS requires ever increasing amounts of “… second- and third-generation …” biofuels. This is an area where corporate welfare is rampant. For the last 30 years billions of your tax dollars have been thrown down the proverbial rat-hole to develop commercially successful “advanced biofuel”, a.k.a cellulosic ethanol, processes. The result, nothing, nada, zip, zilch, not one viable production process or plant. Last year the RFS required 100 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol and thirty pilot production facilities could only come up with maybe 6 million gallons. This year the RFS requires 250 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol and the 30 or so plants have committed to trying to produce 10 million gallons. From 2015 to 2022 the RFS mandates that all increases in ethanol production to get to that magic 36 billion gallons in 2022 be produced from cellulosic ethanol or other advanced ethanol processes and we’re talking adding billions of gallons of cellulosic ethanol production per year. It is so grim that after 30 years of trying to find a viable cellulosic ethanol process, the ethanol lobby is asking the EPA to grant “advanced biofuel” status to the newest corn ethanol production systems so that corn ethanol can be produced past the 15 billion gallon cap in 2015.
Does any of this remind you of another fuel problem? More than 20 years looking for a replacement for the lead in 100 LL, and no viable solution has been found. Oh well, I’m sure that throwing more and more tax dollars at the problems will find a solution in both cases, wink, wink.