Skip to content Skip to site navigation

Tagged with ethanol

Comments

A new reliance on coal could sap green cred from the ethanol industry

As ethanol boosterism spreads far and wide -- from Bush's bully pulpit to the New York Times to green-group press releases -- a quietly emerging trend is threatening to undermine the biofuel's environmental credibility. editorial page How green is this ethanol plant? Photo: iStockphoto. More and more ethanol manufacturers are looking to power their plants with cheap coal instead of its cleaner and increasingly expensive competitor, natural gas, thereby potentially limiting ethanol's environmental benefits. And the Bush administration is doing its part to accelerate this trend. Under pressure from a group of senators and representatives from corn- and coal-producing states, …

Read more: Climate & Energy

Comments

Big Ethanol …

... wins again. House Majority Leader John Boehner's attempt to lower the ethanol tariff (and thus allow ethanol-hungry oil refineries to purchase ethanol from overseas) has gone down in flames: Boehner, who is from Ohio, said last week that the United States was not producing enough ethanol to meet demand and that a temporary reduction in the 54-cent-a-gallon tariff could help boost available supplies and lower gasoline prices. ... Farm state lawmakers, whose corn-grower constituents supply the feedstock for making the vast majority of U.S. ethanol, strongly oppose easing the U.S. tariffs on foreign, and therefore competing, ethanol shipments. ... …

Comments

ADM, high-fructose corn syrup, and ethanol

A speculation about why ADM’s HFCS business is booming.

In the first quarter of 2006, as I reported yesterday, Archer Daniels Midland somehow managed to boost the price of high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) despite mounting concern over the sweetener's health effects. The company booked a cool $113 million profit from HFCS over the quarter, more than three times more than it netted in the same period a year before ($33 million). This, despite a slowing domestic market for sweet soft drinks, as consumers increasingly switch to juice and bottled water. The company's official explanation -- "increased sweetener and starch selling prices" -- doesn't explain how it managed to make …

Comments

Ethanol dreams and ethanol realities

Christopher Cook has a piece in the American Prospect identifying my central concern about the ethanol boom. To wit, here are the sustainability advocates: An array of ideas are afloat to encourage a more sustainable biofuels expansion: a diversified renewable energy policy that, rather than expanding corn crops, promotes more wind power and cellulosic energy from switchgrass and crop residues (which may favor localized, small-scale production); a federal version of Minnesota's model, creating targeted incentives for farmer co-ops; and increased research spending by the USDA and Department of Energy to develop smaller-scale biofuels processing plants. Sounds great, huh? Here's the …

Read more: Climate & Energy, Food

Comments

Ethanol and coal

What’s really disturbing about the new coal-fired ethanol plants.

David's post about ethanol and coal inspired me to do a bit of research on just how much coal goes into producing G.W. Bush's favorite "renewable," "clean-burning" fuel source. What I found is ... disturbing. First, some background. Before you can distill corn into fuel, you have to crush it. There are two ways to do so: wet milling and dry milling. According to this USDA document, dry milling accounts for about two-thirds of ethanol production, wet milling the rest. Traditionally, dry-milling relies on natural gas for power, while wet milling leans on natural gas and coal in roughly equal …

Read more: Climate & Energy

Comments

Media Shower: An addendum

When I was asked to start writing this weekly column, I toyed around with the idea of having myself a slogan: "I watch TV so you don't have to." It is a good thing I didn't, because I'm failing miserably. First, Brendon directs me to CBS's The Amazing Race, which is in its ninth season. I gave up watching the show a few seasons ago. But without Brendon's tip I wouldn't have realized that in episode two, which takes place in Brazil, the teams had to make their own ethanol: In Brotas, Brazil, Teams needed to travel to Camping Bela …

Read more: Living

Comments

Ethanol is suddenly all the rage in D.C. and Detroit

It's as befuddling to see the "Live Green, Go Yellow" slogan splashed across the General Motors ads running throughout the Olympics as it was to hear the term "switchgrass" uttered by President Bush in his State of the Union speech last month. Here we have GM and Dubya, two of the world's most entrenched and heavy-hitting advocates of fossil-fuel consumption, suddenly trumpeting homegrown biofuels as the up-and-coming alternative to oil. GM's new eco-rallying cry. Greenwashing, you wonder? On some level, of course. But there's more to it. GM's new high-budget campaign, which promotes the use of ethanol (hence the "yellow"), …

Comments

Biofuel: some numbers

What’s the most energy-efficient crop source for ethanol?

Biofuel is the hot topic lately in the green blogosphere. There's legitimate dispute about the political and environmental wisdom of plant-based fuels, but at the very least everyone should be starting from a valid, shared set of numbers (oh, to dream). In an attempt to offer up such numbers, I'm going to ... rip off somebody smarter than me. Namely, Lester Brown, founder of the Worldwatch Institute, founder of the Earth Policy Institute, and author of the recently released Plan B 2.0, which is the best big-picture summary of our environmental situation I've ever read (and I'm only 2/3 through …

Read more: Climate & Energy

Comments

GM and ethanol

Just because General Motors calls it green doesn’t mean it is.

Joel Makower reports that General Motors will lead a joint demonstration project "to learn more about consumer awareness and acceptance of E85 as a motor vehicle fuel by demonstrating its use in GM's flexible-fuel vehicles." The California Department of Transportation will use some flex-fuel vehicles and work with Chevron Technology Ventures to make sure there are filling stations that offer E85 (gas w/ 85% ethanol). A company called Pacific Ethanol will provide the liquid fuel. Filling stations that sell E85 will be receiving "a lucrative federal tax credit." Joel passes rather lightly over the central problem with biofuels, a problem …

Comments

Bush’s pick to head the USDA is a big ethanol booster

At a White House ceremony last week announcing the nomination of Nebraska Gov. Mike Johanns (R) to succeed Ann Veneman as agriculture secretary, President Bush called his pick "a strong proponent of alternative energy sources, such as ethanol and biodiesel," later adding that "in a new term, we'll continue policies that are pro-growth, pro-jobs, and pro-farmer." Johanns (left) accepts nomination, as wife Stephanie looks on. Funny he didn't mention "pro-corn." Hailing from a state ranked as the third-largest corn producer in the nation, Johanns has had obvious economic reasons to be a strong advocate for ethanol, the gasoline additive derived …