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Ethanol Criticism Polluted By Oiliness

Just another day at the beach for the oil industry

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

Marc J. Rauch

About a year and a half ago, I wrote an editorial that questioned the credentials and motivation of certain academics (university professors and highly degreed individuals) who appear to go out of their way to attack ethanol, alternative fuels, and the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). This editorial was titled: " It's Time To Rethink The Value Of PhD.".

Around this time last year, I followed up on that editorial with a series of three editorials that explored the roots of contemporary ethanol opposition as well as identifying two specific academics who typify those people tasked (asked/paid) by the petroleum oil industry to attack ethanol and the RFS. These three editorials were:

The "Unmasking" editorials revealed the connection that exists between the tobacco industry tactics used to lie to the public about the dangers of smoking with the tactics of the oil industry to lie to the public about the dangers of petroleum oil fuels.

Suffice it to say, there has been no shortage of professional shills to come forward during the past year to take Big Oil's money in exchange for whatever influence their name brings.

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
Veronique de Rugy

The very latest in the recent string of stooges is Veronique de Rugy, an adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute and a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center. She is the perfect example of the type of person I've written about in my previous editorials; a mix of seemingly impressive academic credentials with what appears to be a complete and total lack of knowledge of the issue and what engine fuels are all about.

Her editorial "Is Ethanol Cronyism on the Ropes?" was published on May 3rd and has now shown up on a variety of websites and blogs. The entities carrying the piece are, I'm sorry to say, largely those that espouse conservative American values while supporting American dependence on foreign petroleum oil. This gross inconsistency is hypocrisy, to be sure, but a much better word - a word that is also in the dictionary - is "oiliness." Nothing says slimy like oiliness.

Some basic facts that I suspect Madame de Rugy doesn't know

Internal combustion engines (ICE) run on liquid or gaseous ignitable fuels. They can run on gasoline, petroleum diesel, compressed natural gas, propane gas, ethanol, methanol, biodiesel, and a few other liquid or gaseous substances. The only true issues of concern, or questions, about vehicle fuels should be:

    1. Engine performance
    2. Cost at the pump
    3. Availability
    4. Health and public safety related to contact with, or inhalation of, the substances
    5. Environmental damage

All other issues are irrelevant contrivances, not dissimilar to investing in "derivatives," rather than whole stocks and bonds. Or, try this analogy: Some people love a sport because of its diverse ways to place a wager, rather than just the competitive fun or beauty of the game. A problem arises when you confuse a team or individual player's ability to deliver a winning game with a team or player's ability to deliver a winning bet. In other words, judging the ethanol industry on a superfluous feature like renewable information numbers is a monumental waste of time.

When the internal combustion engine was invented, alcohol mixed with wood turpentine was the fuel used. When the diesel engine was invented a fuel produced from peanuts was used. Neither device required a fuel produced from petroleum oil. There is/was nothing about petroleum fuels that enhance engine performance. Everything about petroleum oil fuels reeks of health dangers and environmental damage - and when I say it "reeks of health dangers and environmental damage" I mean it figuratively and literally.

So, right away, issues #1, #4, and #5 in my above list make petroleum oil fuels a bad choice.

In America, because of excessive taxes on alcohol production, the nascent petroleum oil industry was able to take advantage of the situation and make great strides to become a primary fuel source as ICE and vehicle technology advanced. Elsewhere, in other leading industrial countries, ethanol (alcohol) fuels were competitive to the new petro fuel gasoline. However, almost everywhere, ethanol was the fuel of choice for motor sports participants regardless of cost because it provided better engine performance.

With the freeing of alcohol's bondage to extreme taxation in the U.S. in 1907, which resulted in making ethanol as inexpensive as gasoline, ethanol was set to take a dominant or at least a very prominent role as the "fuel of the future" because high compression engines required the higher octane provided by ethanol (as compared to conventional gasoline that caused engine knock). In fact, the General Motors' scientists that created leaded gasoline believed that ethanol was the "fuel of the future."
      SEE: Exemplars and Case Studies - Tetraethyllead: Kettering and Midgley

However, upon discovering that their discovery (leaded gasoline) could be patented and be eventually worth billions of dollars, they changed direction and pushed their home brew over ethanol and ethanol-gasoline blends.
      SEE: The Rise & Fall of General Motors and the Subjugation of the Industrialized World

In the meantime, an event took place that made ethanol unavailable in America. This event was the ratification of the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution...PROHIBITION. This Rockefeller-sponsored misguided law made alcohol production and distribution illegal. As I've said in previous editorials, "nothing kills your competition better than making it illegal." It's a sure-fire winning marketing tactic. Think how valuable it would be to Pepsi-Cola if they could bribe enough politicians to make Coca-Cola illegal!

Fortunately, Prohibition was repealed about 13 years later. But great damage was done. One result was that disorganized crime became organized crime. The other problem was that the ethanol (alcohol) industry had to restart and compete against an industry that owned America, had the financial war chest to stay in control, and that had inundated the American public with false information about ethanol.

So, now we see how issues #2 and #3 were created by external forces, outside of any legitimate qualitative consideration of ethanol as a fuel, and made ethanol too costly and unavailable.

Originally, gasoline with tetra-ethyl lead (leaded gasoline) wasn't globally accepted because of concern over the use of tetra-ethyl lead (TEL), a highly dangerous poison, and because it wasn't needed in those countries to mitigate engine knock. As incredible as it may seem, the same oil companies that sold leaded gasoline in America and bad-mouthed ethanol were actively engaged in selling ethanol-gasoline blends elsewhere (and they touted the "power alcohol" as being cleaner, more powerful, safer, and providing better mileage than ethanol-free gasoline).
      SEE: The Hypocracy of Big Oil

Leaded gasoline wasn't only highly poisonous because it contains tetra-ethyl lead, but because it required the use of another poison (ethylene bromide) in the gasoline to make the TEL less corrosive. It's not relevant to wonder which is the more poisonous substance, TEL or ethylene bromide, but let me just say that ethylene bromide did not magically make leaded gasoline less poisonous. The use of ethylene bromide to lessen the severe effects of TEL corrosion is little known by the general public, many of whom believe that leaded gasoline was not itself corrosive - ironically these people often describe ethanol as being highly corrosive to engine and fuel system parts.

The Second World War brought many drastic changes to the world. Although this sounds like an obviously redundant statement, I'm not referring to the political and geographic changes from the war, I'm referring to the economic and social changes that came with America's ascension to being the dominant country of the world. America's economic might and generosity was much needed. The price to receive America's generosity was to accept or be "receptive" to American technology and more of our way of life. One such example was the television transmission system known as NTSC. Another was the near global acceptance of leaded gasoline, which was still under the exclusive patents owned by Standard Oil, General Motors, and DuPont Chemical - all "American owned" and the world's largest companies in their respective industries.

Despite Standard's and General Motors' collaboration with our enemies in the great struggle (some call it treasonous), the world chose to ignore or forgive what they did. Consciously or unconsciously, the world rewarded the leaded-gasoline patent holders with billions and trillions of dollars, pounds, marks, yen, pesos, lire, francs, gilders, and rupees by buying leaded gasoline.

So, coming full circle in a world that generally doesn't impose prohibition on the manufacturing and distribution of ethanol, and without outrageous excessive taxation, we can see that all five of the issues I listed above make ethanol the smarter, less expensive, safer, healthier, and superior fuel to use in internal combustion engines.

My business partner (Bob Gordon) and I believe that anyone with an ounce of brains; with even a modicum of common sense and thoughtfulness; should easily understand the significance of what I've just laid out. It shouldn't require us to explain things to highly degreed individuals like Madame du Rugy. She and they should have already known of the history, and understood the implications of the historical facts. Unless they each are being paid many millions of dollars - enough money that they never have to work again in their lives - it is unconscionable for them to take the anti-ethanol positions that they do, and to write the anti-ethanol drivel that they do.

Veronique du Rugy's article "Is Ethanol Cronyism on the Ropes?" (subtitled "It’s time to end government handouts for corn farmers") is laughable, preposterous, ridiculous, puerile, asinine, and downright stupid.

If any industry is guilty of cronyism it's the petroleum oil industry. If any individuals are guilty of cronyism they are the people who work for or at the behest of the petroleum oil industry. They stink. They reek the way that New Jersey used to smell when you crossed over the Goethals Bridge from Staten Island in New York. The Elizabeth area in New Jersey smelled that way because of the petrochemical plants that were located there. The manner in which the petroleum oil industry has conducted itself at all seats of political power is the dictionary definition of the word cronyism. If other industries and non-oil individuals also partake in unsavory lobbying it is because the oil industry has set the bar for cronyism so high. You know the term grease the wheels? It means "oiliness" is required.

Madam* Du Rudy's subtitle is "It’s time to end government handouts for corn farmers." Does she not know that less than half of all corn grown in America is used to produce ethanol? Does she not know that a good portion of corn that is used to produce ethanol is then also used to feed livestock that is used for food? Does she not realize that corn used to make ethanol also is used to make corn oil and other products? Does she not know that farms in America are AMERICAN farms located right here in America? Does she not know that the Renewable Fuel Standard does not mandate that corn ethanol be used? Does she not know that ethanol is used for the RFS mandate because it is the best, safest, and least expensive ingredient that can be used? Does she not know that no American military man or woman has ever been killed or wounded while protecting ethanol production and distribution?

Does the Madam* not know these things, or does she simply not care because she's too busy wallowing in the money that the oil industry must have paid her for giving up her academic virtue?

She refers to a 2016 University of Minnesota study (I presume she means the study done by John DeCicco - she doesn't specify) that claims an "unintended consequence of the biofuel mandate is that it actually increases net greenhouse gas emissions" because the lower prices of ethanol-gasoline blends encourages drivers to drive more. Well, excuse us for living! Excuse the American people for wanting to go where they want, when they want! The Madam's interpretation of DeCicco's study is the dumbest, shallowest, most idiotic criticism against ethanol that I have ever read. And keep in mind that the crappy study conducted by John DeCicco was rebuked, repudiated, and laughed at from the moment that it was published.

The Madam then concludes her dissolute comments by writing, "The RFS program has failed to achieve its stated policy objectives of improving the environment and promoting energy independence. Rather, it primarily exists today as a handout for corn farmers. This is made clear by the fact that reform proposals are evaluated primarily by their impact on farmers and that the most strident defenders of the status quo in Congress come from agricultural states. A president who is serious about draining the swamp wouldn't succumb to their demands but would instead push for the permanent reforms needed to reverse an ill-conceived market intervention."

In reality, the RFS program has not failed; hundreds of millions of Americans use ethanol in their vehicles every single day, and there are no examples of ethanol causing any engine or fuel system problems that are not (or cannot be) blamed on ethanol-free fuel. Our air quality is far better today than it was prior to the regular use of E10 and E85, even though there are more cars on the road today. American farmers who grow corn have the opportunity to grow a product for which there is a robust profitable market. And every single gallon of ethanol used means that we are using one gallon of poison gasoline less. This is called SUCCESS, Madam.

Permanent reforms are, however, necessary. It's time to stop selling any new vehicles powered by gasoline or petroleum diesel engines. Ten years ago we called for an end to new gasoline-powered vehicles by 2014. We gave them five years to make it happen. The grace period is over, We're taking off the gloves!

*There are multiple definitions for the word "madam." Check them all out in a dictionary.