A ritual I engage in weekly never fails to slightly raise my blood pressure: the warning on gas pumps informing me the gas I’m putting in my vehicle contains up to 10% Ethanol. Government mandates of any kind invoke my ire, as I noted in The Joys Of Ethanol in June of 2013:
Ethanol, as you may know, is a fuel that costs more than gasoline, reduces engine horsepower, and also gets less mileage than conventional gasoline. Left for too long in vehicles, it begins to eat away seals and other essential parts of the fuel system and engine and tends to turn into sludge. Its mandated production has greatly decreased the world’s corn supply and contributed to malnutrition and starvation. Other than that, it’s the perfect, green fuel, which is no doubt why the Obama Administration continues to mandate its production and use.
And now we discover that the Obama EPA has been ignoring the law and doing whatever it damned well pleases. I’m shocked, shocked!
The Obama administration has failed to study as legally required the impact of requiring ethanol in gasoline and ensuring that new regulations intended to address one problem do not actually make other problems worse, the Environmental Protection Agency inspector general said Thursday.
The conclusion in the new audit confirmed findings of an Associated Press investigation in November 2013. The AP said the administration never conducted studies to determine whether air and water quality benefits from adding corn-based ethanol to gasoline. Such reports to Congress were required every three years under the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.
The AP investigation described the ethanol era as far more damaging to the environment than the government predicted. As farmers rushed to find new places to plant corn, they wiped out millions of acres of conservation land, polluted water supplies and destroyed habitat.
The EPA agreed with the inspector general’s findings that it had failed to produce studies as legally required. It said it will produce the first report — on the impacts of biofuels — by December 2017, and investigate whether ethanol requirements made other environmental problems worse by September 2024. That will be 17 years after Congress passed a law requiring oil companies to blend billions of gallons of ethanol into their gasoline.
Golly, what do you suppose the EPA will find? Their usual tactic in such investigations of themselves is to find the EPA is blameless and brilliant in thought, word and deed, but surely, under the enlightened leadership of Barack H. Obama, such dishonesty and lack of transparency will not be tolerated? His is, after all, the most transparent administration in history, and if you don’t believe that, just ask him. And if you believe that, have I mentioned I’m a Nigerian prince in exile, and if you send me your bank account and routing numbers, I’ll deposit millions for safekeeping?
But hey, it’s not like ethanol is controversial or anything:
Ethanol is hardly without controversy. On the production side it’s been repeatedly shown that it uses up to 300% more water than anyone expected. Vast amounts of land were converted to corn fields in the rush to cash in on the government mandate, causing all manner of environmental havoc. And the resulting fuel has been problematic at best. Consumer Reports has been warning for years that ethanol blends can destroy small engines and boat motors. In fact, this mandate has spawned an entire new industry which produces additives specifically designed to remove the ethanol which the government insists must be added to our gasoline. (There’s an unexpected government stimulus program for you.)
There is hope in that even some Democrats have begun to see the lunacy of ethanol mandates, and there has been some semi-serious—as serious as the Congress ever gets—talk about doing away with them. Consumers would get better, and on-corrosive gas, and an important food staple would once again be available, saving untold lives. Unfortunately, that state of affairs would not provide nearly as many opportunities for graft and political grandstanding.
A Trump presidency and a Republican Congress might be about as close as we’ll ever get to doing away with this particular boondoggle, but as Ronald Reagan said, the closest thing to eternal life we’ll ever see on Earth is a government program (or mandate).
UPDATE, 08-27-16, 2030 CST: Oh, this just gets better all the time. From The Telegraph:
Green’ biofuels such as ethanol and biodiesel are in fact worse for the environment that petrol, a landmark new study has found.
The alternative energy source has long been praised for being carbon-neutral because the plants it is made from absorb carbon dioxide, which causes global warming, from the atmosphere while they are growing.
But new research in the US has found that the crops used for biofuel absorb only 37 per cent of the C02 that is later released into the atmosphere when the plants are burnt, meaning the process actually increases the amount of greenhouse gas in the air.
Is anyone actually surprised? Take the link and read the rest.