The Auto Channel
The Largest Independent Automotive Research Resource
The Largest Independent Automotive Research Resource
Official Website of the New Car Buyer

Fox News' Revolting Take on Ethanol - With UPDATE

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

Guys like Steve Hilton give baldness a bad name

By Marc J. Rauch
Exec. Vice President/Co-Publisher

Originally published December 12, 2017 - See Update at bottom of page

Marc J. Rauch

I just finished watching a video clip from Fox News hosted by Steve Hilton. Mr. Hilton has a Sunday show called "The Next Revolution," and in the show he apparently does a regular segment titled "Swamp Watch." On December 10th (this past Sunday), "Swamp Watch" addressed what Mr. Hilton called "The Corrupt Ethanol Industry."

The story took me by surprise, for a couple of reasons. First, I was surprised because I never heard of Steve Hilton, and I don't believe I've ever watched him before. This is surprising because I watch a lot of Fox News; it's the news channel of choice in my home. (To be fair, Mr. Hilton would probably say that although he's driven cars for decades, he's never heard of The Auto Channel.)

The next reason for my surprise is because virtually everything he said about ethanol is incorrect...stupidly incorrect. Frankly, he presented the kind of fake and wrong information that I have come to expect from the other news channels. I let other news channels and outlets slide with dopey information because that's all you can expect from them. From Fox - because they generally take the political positions that I'm rooted in - I get very upset when they don't get a story correct; I think it reflects badly on the rest of the conservative, patriotic American perspective. Plus, when such incorrect information comes from another person without need of a hair brush, it really rankles me.

Nearly five years ago, Fox did a stupidly wrong story about ethanol. The upside, I guess, is that it's been five years since they did it (rather than it being an every day occurrence). That story, which I wrote about at the time, was on a show hosted by Melissa Francis and featured a guest named Lauren Fix. There was a clear reason for the dumbness of that report: Too much hair. Their hair must have clogged their brains. So you can understand my puzzlement with Steve Hilton; his bald head should be like mine: an unblocked, unfiltered dome-shaped antenna capable of receiving all the information required to render righteous pronouncements. It just goes to show that not all equipment comes from the manufacturer in perfect condition.

Steve Hilton

Anyway, Mr. Hilton takes off on ethanol as if it were a dangerous poison, like, you know, like gasoline.

He goes after large ethanol producers as if they were corrupt, greedy, monopolistic corporate monsters like, you know, like the corrupt greedy monopolistic monster petroleum oil producers.

He goes after government sponsored biofuel legislation to clean the air, free us from foreign dependence on oil, and help American farmers as if it was an ill-considered, restrictive, crime-producing Constitutional amendment like, well, like the Volstead Act (prohibition of the manufacture and sale of ethanol, that was made possible by the generous bribes paid by John Rockefeller to politicians).

Are you getting the drift on my unhappiness with Steve Hilton?

Mr. Hilton begins by saying that the federal government forces energy companies to produce a certain amount of ethanol every year. Right away, I think to myself, what federal government is he talking about? The federal government here in the United States of America doesn't force anyone to make a certain amount of ethanol every year. The growing of corn is a voluntary business decision. Distilling that corn into ethanol is a voluntary business decision. And the blending of ethanol with gasoline instead of any other biofuel or petroleum by-product is a voluntary business decision. As it happens, ethanol is the best, the least expensive, and the safest substance to blend with gasoline; therefore it is the one that is primarily used. In America we grow corn, instead of another crop, to meet the ethanol needs because we have lots of farmers who know how to grow corn and because the climate in the agricultural states that need a money-making crop is more suited to corn than to sugar cane.

He then says that the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) is really the "Renewable Fuel Racket," and says that it "artificially boosts the ethanol market that in turn boosts the demand for corn," and he calls it a "massive boondoggle."

Not knowing what the Renewable Fuel Standard is about explains why he calls it a "Renewable Fuel Racket" and a "massive boondoggle." On top of not understanding the RFS, Mr. Hilton clearly has no knowledge of history or automotive technology. This in itself is extremely surprising given Mr. Hilton's previous position as director of strategy for David Cameron, the former Prime Minister of Great Britain.

You see, Mr. Hilton, high compression internal combustion engines used in most motorcars for the past 100 years require a fuel that does not cause engine knock. Engine knock not only creates a rough running vehicle, it can literally shake an engine apart. In order to quell the knock, an additive has to be combined with gasoline (gasoline, also called "petrol" in the UK, is the primary fuel used in America and certain other countries for these past 100 years). For many years the anti-knock additive was tetra-ethyl lead. Tetra-ethyl lead (TEL) is highly poisonous, even more poisonous than gasoline. It was finally banned by Congress after they and the public were lied to by the petroleum oil industry for more than 70 years. For a few years, the replacement for TEL was MTBE, another poison. It was also banned.

So here we were, the highly industrialized world with millions and millions of on-the-road vehicles in need of a fuel that could power all these vehicles without engine knock. The options are to use more poisonous 'aromatics' such as benzene, toluene, and xylene; or non-poisonous ethanol. Or to put it another way, the option is expensive substances such as benzene, toluene, and xylene; or an inexpensive substance like ethanol.

The "big government boondoggle," as Steve Hilton calls it, would be to bypass ethanol and ignore the expensiveness and poisonous characteristics of aromatics. Perhaps, Mr. Hilton, you need a dictionary and some history books for Christmas (or Chanukah) to sort this all out.

I laughed when Steve Hilton says that the need for a replacement for TEL and MTBE "artificially boosts the ethanol market, and in turn the market for corn." There's nothing artificial about it. When a need arises, and the solution requires some new element or raw material, there is nothing artificial about the burgeoning demand or market for that ingredient. This is basic business economics. When it was decided to use rubber on the wheels of the new-fangled machine called the automobile, the market for rubber wasn't "artificially" boosted because of the demand, there was a true need for rubber, so the rubber market bloomed. Maybe you could also use a good book about marketing for Christmas (or Chanukah), Steve.

Incidentally, everything I've written up to this point only covers the first one minute and fifteen seconds of the almost seven minute segment of "Swamp Watch." So you can see why I wrote that "virtually everything" that Steve Hilton said about ethanol is incorrect...stupidly incorrect.

Then Stevie-boy goes on to impress us (impress upon us, that is, like chains of bondage) with a statistic from the Manhattan Institute about the cost of ethanol to the American public. He says that ethanol costs us $10 billion per year in extra fuel costs. Mr. Hilton uses this statistic as if Manhattan Institute wasn't the home for such ethanol bashers/liars as Robert Bryce and Mark Mills, who I destroyed in my 60+ page rebuttal of Bryce's cesspool book, "Gusher of Lies." (I always describe Bryce book as a "cesspool" book, and not a "seminal" book because it belongs in a sewer with the other garbage.)

Do you know what costs the American public billions of dollars, er, I mean trillions of dollars? All the wars we've fought over the past 103 years to protect and defend someone else's petroleum oil. And please notice that I haven't even yet mentioned the loss of American lives to preserve access to petroleum oil for Great Britain, France, Germany, Scandinavia, Canada, Japan, Korea, Australia, New Zealand, etc., etc. Talk about real cost, what's the cost of a million American lives? What's the cost of tens of millions of injuries sustained during those wars? How do you put a price tag on this?

Next, Steve Hilton brings up the rising cost of grocery food due to the use of corn for ethanol. Hey Steve, The World Bank called, they want their myth taken back. In fact, they want the "food vs. fuel" myth taken back so badly that they've rescinded the wrong information they originally published a decade ago on at least three different occasions. Ethanol made from corn does not cause food prices to increase. The increasing cost of petroleum oil raised the cost of transportation, plastic wrapping, and printing inks. This is what has led and leads to the biggest food price increases.

So now, there's only five more minutes of lies (in Hilton's seven minute video segment) to respond to.

In referring to ethanol's environmental benefits over gasoline and diesel fuel, Hilton says, "And here's the crazy part...a report from the National Academy of Sciences found that the production, farming, and transportation of corn-based ethanol actually creates more emissions than the production and use of regular gasoline." And, he says, that ethanol contributes to pollution in the Gulf of Mexico because of all the fertilizer used to grow corn and soybeans.

Here's the real crazy part of what Steve Hilton calls the "crazy part," it's that he's quoting from a study by the National Academy of Sciences, an organization that he vehemently criticizes in his opposition to man-made climate change activism. Hilton has stated that climate change activists are the biggest threat to our environment. Well, the NAS is a climate change activist and they rather vehemently state the position you disagree with. How about some consistency, Steven, not just adherence to whatever single position or benefactor can do the most for you. This is the problem that I described at the beginning of this paper, Fox News needs to be consistent. It's okay to have different opinions on different issues, but don't hold out something as a trusted or important resource when you otherwise consider its opinion as being wrong. If NAS' position on man-made climate change is wrong, and that same position relates to a judgment that they made about ethanol, then maybe the ethanol comment is also wrong. But if they're correct, then Hilton's position is wrong; and if Steve Hilton can be wrong about this, then he can easily be wrong about ethanol.

However, the true point with pollution in the Gulf of Mexico is that if it's such a bad situation, and it's a situation that requires immediate and drastic attention, then why not call for the elimination of all corn crops, not just corn for ethanol. As I've written in the past, we don't need popcorn in movie theaters, there's plenty of other candy to buy. We don't need corn-on-the-cob at picnics, there's macaroni salad. And if corn and soybean crops account for about half of the pollution in the Gulf of Mexico, why not also take aim at other gross users of fertilizers that drain into the Gulf? For example, golf courses use a tremendous amount of fertilizer to keep their fairways and greens looking so green. There are around 10,000 golf courses located in the states that are connected to the Mississippi River. Why not abolish golf; it's just a silly game? And why not abolish other agricultural uses that require fertilizer, such as growing grapes and hops in those states that feed into the Mississippi. We don't need wine grapes or beer hops from Indiana or South Dakota, we have plenty of vineyards in California, Oregon and Washington.

And don't get me started on flower farms. Seesh, all that water and fertilizer just for some piece of decoration that will be dead in a few days. Just buy silk flowers, they last for years and require no fertilizer and no water. Oh, and they're allergy-free!

At around the 2:10 mark in the video, Mr. Hilton poses the following question: "If the ethanol industry hurts consumers, and the environment, why on Earth is it propped up by the Federal Government?" He answers his own question by saying that, "As usual, in Washington, it's not just lobbying, it's straight forward out-and-out corruption - big business buying off politicians to get what they want." The question is absurd because it incorrectly presupposes that something about the ethanol industry is hurting Americans and the environment, and wrongly implies that the alternative to ethanol does not hurt Americans and the environment. Moreover, his answer is ludicrous because it paints the ethanol industry as if it were the petroleum oil industry.

If you're going to talk about big business, you can't in the same breath mention the petroleum oil industry and the ethanol industry. The largest petroleum oil company in America can make a hundred times more net profit in a single calendar quarter than the largest agricultural company can receive in gross revenue in an entire year. You're basically comparing Macy's in Manhattan versus a 1,500 square foot dry goods store in Topeka, Colorado (I know Topeka's not in Colorado, I'm just testing to see if you're awake).

And if we're talking about the out-and-out corruption of buying off politicians to get what you want, how can you compare anything to 150 years of petroleum oil political corruption that kept ethanol from having a level playing field to compete in; or to the oil industry's collusion with foreign enemy governments and companies (Standard Oil working with the Nazis), and then decades of lying about tetra-ethyl lead?

The question that Steve Hilton should be posing on his "Swamp Watch" segment is, "Given the facts that petroleum oil fuels are poison, that the environment has been permanently fouled because of it, that it has been responsible for killing untold millions of animals in the wild, that petroleum oil is the root cause of so many wars that have killed and wounded so many millions of people, and that so many millions of others have died or been disabled because of gasoline emissions, how is it that everyone involved in the petroleum oil industry hasn't been arrested and thrown in jail?

At this point, I'm about 2,000 words into a response of the first two and a half minutes of Mr. Hilton's lambasting of ethanol. There's still more than 4 minutes of his video to go, and my computer keyboard still has lots of life in it. If you stay with me I'm delighted, if you leave now because you've reached your laugh quota for the day, I understand.

Marching Forward

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
"They did what? They're representing their constituents' concerns? Why that's...that's...that's...what they're supposed to do."

After Steve Hilton asks his own idiotic question and answers it with an absurd answer, he goes personal. He attacks Senators Grassley and Ernst for being on committees that deal with issues related to their constituents.

He attacks Grassley and Ernst for money contributed to their re-election campaigns from the ethanol industry.

And he then attacks the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) as "the ring master of this swampy circus" that has spent nearly $8 million dollars on lobbying since 2010 (about $1 million per year).

Steve Hilton, in his big boy voice, asks, "How dare Senator Ernst use hard working family farmers in Iowa to cover up her corruption?" And he says that "Giant corporations (Cargill and Monsanto) are shoveling money into her pocket..." and that, "they are destroying family farms in Iowa, and Joni Ernst is helping them do it."

This portion of the video represents a combination of being the most ignorant and the most disingenuous of his entire diatribe. I had to stop and consider that perhaps this entire episode has all been just a joke; that he's just taking the piss (as the British say) out of the anti-ethanol lobby's argument against ethanol. But he never breaks a smile, he never gives a wink to indicate that he's joking. I even fast forwarded to the end of the video clip to see if he broke character. No, he was serious, he is that ignorant and unconscious about life in the world we live in. (Or he's really auditioning for Saturday Night Live.)

Stevie rails against RFA for spending about $1 million per year on lobbying. However, the major oil companies spend more than $115 million per year on lobbying. The American Petroleum Institute (API), which you could say is the ring master of the gasoline swampy circus, contributes the largest part of the $115 million per year, they spend $65 million per year. That's 65 times more per year than RFA.

Lobbying is not an illegal activity, but if spending $1 million per year on lobbying is bad, how atrocious is spending $65 million per year on lobbying?

Mr. Hilton "exposes" the two U.S. Senators, Grassley and Ernst, for taking money from the ethanol lobby. There are 100 U.S. Senators. The website lists 95 U.S. Senators who accepted lobbying money from the oil industry in 2016. If two Senators accepting lobbyist money is bad, how disgusting is 95 Senators accepting money from Big Oil lobbyists?

To paraphrase something else that Hilton says in this video, if you want a textbook example of how a fake story makes it to broadcast or publication on a news media outlet, this is it.

But still, he's not finished, Steve still has about 90 seconds of junk information to peddle.

He bemoans the poor small oil refiners who have to go out of their way to buy and blend ethanol into their poison gasoline blend. I agree that it was probably more profitable for them when all they had to do was use tetra-ethyl lead...So what if millions of people are developing respiratory illnesses, if more and more children are developing autism. Breathing is overrated anyway, plus look at all the carbon dioxide emissions that breathing creates. If we can get every one to exhale only after every other breath we could make a serious dent in CO2 pollution. By the way, this paragraph is what "taking the piss out of something" is all about.

Steve Hilton closes out the video by calling Joni Ernst a pig and a stooge. He doesn't use that description on the 95 Senators who accepted oil industry money, and he doesn't consider that the 95 were stooges for the oil industry.

I'm glad that Steve Hilton worked in the circus tableau in his report because he unwittingly gives insight to the job he should really have. He should be the bald-headed geek in the side show who bites off the heads of chickens.

If you want to drain the swamp, you have to get rid of the cause of the swamp. The swamp is caused by the purveyors of that gooey, smelly, war-inciting gunk called petroleum oil.

January 7, 2018

Tonight, Steve Hilton took off on the petroleum oil industry. Perhaps my harsh criticism of him and the ignorant comments he made about ethanol a few weeks ago paid off. Or perhaps he just thought he should do some research and found out that he was wrong and that he grossly over-exaggerated his anti-ethanol comments.

In this week's SWAMP WATCH report Steve acknowledges the huge amount of money spent by the oil industry to lobby politicians, and then asks why the oil industry has to resort to spending so much money and using such high-handed tactics in Washington. The answer is simple: petroleum oil fuels are poisonous. Petroleum oil fuels cause wars, serious respiratory problems, hazardous pollution and other environmental disasters. The way to overcome these problems is by spending lots of money on politicians.

Now it would be nice if Steve acknowledged that he knows nothing about ethanol and that he apologizes for his previous remarks.