Will California Shuck Corn Ethanol?
Thursday, April 23
Thursday, April 23
Energy Policy: California regulators are ready to conclude that corn ethanol cannot help the state fight global warming. It seems they've discovered putting food in our cars would destroy the earth in order to save it.
California regulators have apparently discovered it ain't easy being green. The California Air Resources Board began two days of hearings in Sacramento on Thursday on a proposed Low Carbon Fuel Standard which considers the carbon intensity of fuels during a given fuel's entire life cycle.
The California Environmental Protection Agency apparently has concluded that corn ethanol would not help the state implement Executive Order S-1-07. The order, signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Jan. 18, 2007, mandated a 10% reduction in the carbon intensity of the state's fuels by 2020. Fuels deemed to have low carbon intensity earn credits toward that goal.
With 20-20 hindsight, the California EPA, by dropping ethanol for now as a cure-all for climate change, is doing the right thing for the wrong reason. "Ethanol is a good fuel, but how it is produced is problematic," Dimitri Stanich, public information officer for the California EPA, said in an interview with World Net Daily. "The corn ethanol industry has to figure out another way to process corn into ethanol that is not so corn-intensive."
California could build more nuclear power plants, but never mind. Ethanol is in fact not a good fuel. According to the Hoover Institution's Henry Miller and Prof. Colin Carter of the University of California at Davis, "ethanol yields about 30% less energy per gallon of gasoline, so miles per gallon in internal combustion engines drop significantly."
It generates less than two units of energy for every unit of energy used to produce it. It takes about 1,700 gallons of water to produce one gallon of ethanol. Each acre of corn requires about 130 pounds of nitrogen and 55 pounds of phosphorous. Increased acreage means increased agricultural runoff, which is creating aquatic "dead zones" in our rivers, bays and coastal areas.
The California EPA now opposes corn ethanol in part because of the environmental damage it says growing the corn does. "Converting land that is now a 'carbon sink' to farmland producing ethanol," says Stanich, "also defeats the purpose of the regulations, because land now absorbing carbon dioxide would be cleared to produce corn."
Clearing land for biofuels is indeed a worldwide problem. A report by the Paris-based International Council for Science says that the production of biofuels has aggravated, rather than ameliorated, global warming. It releases nitrous oxide as well as CO2, which is said to trap heat at a rate 300 times more than an equivalent amount of CO2.
Increased mandated use of the corn-based fuel additive, according to the Congressional Budget Office, will raise the cost of food programs for the needy by $900 million for the current budget year ending Sept. 30. Ethanol and its subsidies amount to a hidden and nefarious tax on food.
"Producing ethanol for use in motor fuels increases the demand for corn, which ultimately raises the prices that consumers pay for a wide variety of foods at the grocery store, ranging from corn-syrup sweeteners in soft drinks to meat, dairy and poultry products," says the CBO. Higher use of ethanol accounted for up to 15% of the rise in food prices between April 2007 and April 2008.
The California EPA's conclusion does not change the mandated reduction in carbon emissions in the state. It does not slow down the headlong rush into an economic abyss by restraining economic growth in the name of achieving phantom climate gains.
But it should remind us that we have other, better means of reducing emissions, such as increased use of nuclear power, that do not raise food prices or abuse the earth while reducing emissions and providing electricity for economic growth, job creation and those electric clown cars the greenies want to cram us into.