Three Degrees Still Can't Make Ethanol Slam Stick
A Response To Peter Z. Grossman and the Washington Examiner
By Marc J. Rauch
Exec. Vice President/Co-Publisher
THE AUTO CHANNEL
A new op/ed article disparaging ethanol appeared today in the Washington Examiner. This one, titled "The Washington Swamp Is Filled With Ethanol," was written by Peter Z. Grossman. Peter is the Efroymson Professor of Economics at Butler University (Indianapolis), and is the author of U.S. Energy Policy and the Pursuit of Failure (2013). He holds three university degrees: Washington University (Economics) Ph.D. 1992; Washington University (Economics) M.A. 1990; and Columbia University (Philosophy) B.A. 1970.
I think there's a joke here, somewhere... "How many degrees does it take for a professor to understand the subject he teaches?"
Peter's opinion article is the latest in a long list of negative articles written by eggheads at the behest of the oil industry in order to kill their main engine fuel competition. I presume that Peter's financial arrangements with whomever in the oil industry asked him to write and submit this article are at least equal to what other shills have received when prostituting their academic credentials.
Peter begins his opinion piece by calling to the readers' attention that "December is the tenth anniversary of the passage of the Energy Independence and Security Act, and its wildly expansive Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS)..."
You know, remembrance is a great thing, and beginning any story with a commemoration or tribute is an excellent literary technique to set the tone of a story. So I would like to offer my own commemoration before I delve into the real substance of Mr. Grossman's remarks:
Today, Friday, December 8, 2017, marks 16,098 consecutive days since the October 1973 Oil Crisis in which no American serviceman or woman has been killed or injured anywhere in the world defending ethanol production and shipping. By comparison, we can't usually go more than a week or two without an American soldier/sailor/airman dying while defending foreign oil interests.
In referring to the RFS, Mr. Grossman writes that it's "better known as the ethanol mandate." The funny thing is that the only people who refer to the Renewable Fuel Standard as "the ethanol mandate" are those people who want to mock the RFS; to paint it as just an insignificant act designed to benefit a few blue collar farmers sprinkled around the middle of the country. It's sort of like referring to Lincoln's Gettysburg Address as irrelevant "silly remarks." (http://blog.pennlive.com/gettysburg-150/2013/11/lincoln_gettysburg_address_har.html)
There is no "ethanol mandate," there is a "biofuel mandate." Ethanol emerged as the primary substance to use because it is the best, least expensive, and safest substance to use for the job it is intended to do. This is not an insignificant point.
Now, what is the job that a biofuel mandate was intended to do? Peter Grossman, writes that it was simply because Congress was besieged by the public for a solution to rising gasoline prices. Two of Peter's advanced academic degrees are in economics, and he's an economics professor with a specialty in economic history. For him to dumb-down the RFS and make it as if it's just a way to lower gasoline prices ignores three very important events: The 1973 Oil Crisis, rising fuel and food prices over past couple of decades, and the deadly health consequences of the gasoline additives (tetraethyl lead and then MTBE) that ethanol replaces. If you ignore these three events, you are untrustworthy as a professor of anything, except perfidy. Hmm, does any school award a Ph.D in Perfidy?
Peter Grossman might as well argue that if we could all just do away with breathing we wouldn't have to worry about the health problems caused by leaded-gasoline.
Using gasoline in a high-compression internal combustion engine requires an additive to mitigate engine knock and to keep the price of gasoline relatively affordable. With tetraethyl lead and MTBE out of consideration, the only options are increased aromatics or ethanol. Aromatics (benzene, toluene, xylene) are far more expensive than ethanol and they are poisonous. If we only consider the cost issue, and forget about the health issue, we are left with: ethanol-gasoline blends that cost $2 to $3 per gallon, or ethanol-free gasoline with increased aromatics that cost $4 to $8 per gallon. You don't have to be an economics Ph.D to appreciate the difference in costs. But if you are an economics Ph.D and you don't understand what that difference means, then you should be stripped of your degree.
The 1973 Oil Crisis happened. Yes, it was a manufactured crisis, in that it did not occur because of any true oil shortage or worldwide depletion of resources, however the effect of the crisis (the control of our economy and lifestyle) were real, and it's precisely what we want independence from. If the consequence of oil independence results in having ethanol fuels or ethanol-gasoline blended fuels that are less expensive and healthier than ethanol-free gasoline, why is this a problem. A professor of economics should know this; a six-year old child should know this.
Peter Grossman then cites a Wall Street Journal comment that the use of a biofuel in our national supply of gasoline would cause "a gigantic transfer of wealth," and he cites this as it being a negative effect. But the transfer of wealth that WSJ is talking about is taking money from foreign dictators and terrorists and giving it to American farmers and consumers. Which precept in economics makes this a bad thing?
Peter should have concluded his nonsensical opinion piece with the cost issue. However, for some strange reason he decided to push on; I guess he was getting paid by the word from Big Oil so he decided to up the bounty with commentary on the availability of corn.
He brings out the old canard about America not having enough corn to supply all of our ethanol needs...that it would take 100% of the American corn crop to do so. So what? So what if it was necessary to use all corn grown in the U.S. to make enough ethanol to replace gasoline? What deprivation would that cause, not enough popcorn for movie theaters? Not enough corn to make the endless supply of tortilla chips that Jay Leno once assured us there would always be? So what, we'll eat more potato chips; movie goers will buy more Raisinets and licorice; kids can learn to love green beans instead of corn-on-the-cob.
But the real response to the stupid corn availability issue is that corn isn't the only crop that can be used to make ethanol, nor that it's the best to use (from a yield perspective)...and I'm not even referring to cellulosic raw materials. I'm talking about sorghum, sugar cane, sugar beets, cattails, Jerusalem artichokes, buffalo gourds, and algae. The reason we don't use all these other crops is that we don't yet need to, we have plenty of corn for our current needs, and we could grow enough corn if we switched from E10 to E85 as our basic engine fuel. Even then, we could probably still grow enough corn to keep popcorn eaters rotund and happy.
• For more info about available land to grow ethanol crops CLICK HERE and scroll down to "LAND HO … HA, HA, HA."
For crying out loud, Peter, didn't you do any research when you accepted this writing gig from the oil industry? Who did you speak to about any of this? Did you speak to anyone about any of this?
And then Peter Grossman ventures into environmental concerns. Oh man, he botches the whole economics side of the issue and now he wants to solve climate issues. Hey Peter, you want to see proof positive that gasoline is more hazardous to the environment? Watch this video, it compares burning ethanol to burning gasoline:
If this isn't enough for you, go to Los Angeles, or San Francisco, or New York, and look up. If you notice that the sky is far cleaner than when we were growing up it's due in large part to the use of ethanol-gasoline blends. Fracking for more petroleum oil doesn't solve any environmental issues, it creates more.
Washington has been inundated by the gooey swamp of the petroleum oil industry, not the sweet cleanliness of alcohol (ethanol). The petroleum oil industry has literally been killing Americans for more than a century, and it keeps us from flying high, unlike this unfortunate creature:
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