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Open Letter to Energy Analyst Michael Lynch


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

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Marc J. Rauch
Hi Michael -

I just finished reading an article you wrote for the Forbes Magazine website titled, "Put Ethanol In People, Not Gasoline." I know it's been five months since you published the story, and I apologize for not writing to you sooner about this article.

The problem is that between spending time with my two beautiful dogs and working to correct all the other wacko anti-ethanol articles that appear online and in print, I sometimes get a bit backlogged. The great thing is that the Internet keeps everything handy to pullout out and use, like a huge big refrigerator. Unfortunately, this Internet "refrigerator" is like a real refrigerator in that if you put in some rancid meat or spoiled milk it doesn't magically turn fresh, it just stays rotten. This brings me to your Forbes article...

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Michael Lynch
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Your bio at the bottom of the Forbes webpage reads: "I spent nearly 30 years at MIT as a student and then researcher at the Energy Laboratory and Center for International Studies. I then spent several years at what is now IHS Global Insight and was chief energy economist. Currently, I am president of Strategic Energy and Economic Research, Inc., and I lecture MBA students at Vienna University. I've been president of the US Association for Energy Economics, I serve on the editorial boards of three publications, and I've had my writing translated into six languages. My book, "The Peak Oil Scare and the Coming Oil Flood" was just published by Praeger."

WOW! Wowee, wow, wow, wow! (In my minds eye I can see and hear actor Christopher Walken say this line. If you can't image it, here's the video clip:)

Michael, you definitely have great credentials and experiences. The only thing is that none of this background makes you qualified to comment on ethanol as a viable fuel, let alone to own and operate a lawn mower that has sharp cutting edges on it.

You write an article that incorrectly lambastes the economics and business aspects of ethanol, and then close it out with a misdiagnosis of what went wrong with your lawn mower. I'll start here, because hopefully the explanation of the problem you experienced with your lawn mower will help to simplify why you don't understand the economic and business problems related to ethanol fuel.

The inefficient burning of gasoline causes the build-up of debris in an internal combustion engine. This problem has existed in internal combustion engines since the advent of using gasoline to run internal combustion engines, and it happens with all sizes of gasoline-powered internal combustion engines. It is a problem that the greatest scientific and technical minds have been challenged by for almost 150 years. Now that deserves a real, sincere WOW!

The answer to alleviating the problem of this gasoline debris buildup is to add some type of detergent to the gasoline. You know, something like a solvent to help dissolve and loosen the debris from clogging up the works. Now let's say you had a gasoline-powered lawn mower in the 1950's or 60's, and after a couple of seasons' use you find that it's not operating smoothly, or at all. You'd open up the engine compartment and you'd notice all this crude/goop/slime covering all the parts and components. You'd see nozzles and crevices clogged up. If you're a do-it yourselfer, you'd begin to clean the parts and components. Along with some rags and a brush, you'd use a solvent...something lying around the house, like rubbing alcohol, or a brand name automotive care product that contains some type of alcohol. Now, it wouldn't really matter what type of alcohol was in the solvent, but it could easily have been ethanol.

The petroleum oil and gasoline industry know about this debris problem, which is why they added detergent to gasoline (this was the reason for detergent, not because they were suggesting that you could do your laundry in the car's engine compartment). But even with adding detergent, the gasoline debris build-up process is so severe that the build-up still occurs, and it can require professional maintenance.

There is a solution to eliminate or keep the gasoline debris problem to a minimum, and this solution is the same solution recommended by the world's largest manufacturer of marine engines: Mercury Marine. Now, I specifically bring up Mercury Marine for two reasons: First, boat engines are often classified as smaller engines (which you target), and because marine engines often have open-vent fuel systems (which some people wrongly believe makes them more susceptible to ethanol's 'ability' to suck water right out of the air).

The solution suggested by Mercury Marine is the use of an ethanol-gasoline blend!

In the ethanol webinar conducted by Mercury nearly ten years ago, Mercury stated that the ethanol-gasoline blend will help keep your engine free from debris build-up. Now, I admit that Mercury says that the engine might first have to be thoroughly cleaned, but the need for the cleaning is as a result of the inefficient gasoline burning, not ethanol's efficient burning (ethanol does not cause inefficient burning).

Mercury also states (correctly, I might add) that ethanol has no ability to suck water out of the air!

Presuming that you were successful in cleaning your lawn mower engine and getting it running again, the best thing you could do for it is to make sure that you use an ethanol-gasoline blend as fuel. And my personal suggestion is that you should use at least E15 or E20 instead of just E10.

Now, if this little tutorial wasn't enough for you to understand why you have mis-analyzed the ethanol fuel market, I'll explain further. The engine fuel market is not an open and free market. It has virtually never been an open and free market. It has always been controlled by the government, corporations, or both. The public has never had the free choice in choosing which fuel to use because government actions or corporate actions, or both simultaneously, have kept the public from being able to make a fair price comparison between a petroleum oil fuel and a non-petroleum oil based fuel, such as ethanol. If you're an historically-deprived person, and you don't understand how and why the public never had a free choice in determining which engine fuel to use then you might like to read the thesis that Robert L. Bradley, Jr. asked me to write for him:
        "Life As We Might Have Known It: What If Ethanol Was Our Primary Engine Fuel".

If you didn't know this historical information; tsk, tsk, tsk. If you knew it but you were hoping that no one else would know it, I'm sorry to burst your bubble. And if you think you know some factual information that is contrary to what I wrote about in my thesis for Rob Bradley, hahahahahahaha, you don't.

More to the point, Michael, regardless of whether you know the history or not, in your Forbes article you try to ridicule people from two different ethanol organizations over their comments about "market share" and "consumer choice." You accuse them of using "Orwellian Doublethink." But they're not the ones deserving ridicule, you are. And regarding the "doublethink" comment, if anyone is guilty of doublethink it's the oil industry and their peons who have amped up sycophantic oil industry hyperbole to full-blown Josef Goebbels' style hypocrisy. If this analogy is over your head, you can read my paper:
        "The Hypocrisy of Big Oil and API"

By the way, the reason I particularly link oil industry doublethink to Josef Goebbels is because of the massive support given to the Nazis by the oil industry's biggest entities, such Standard Oil and Royal Dutch Shell. Supporting the petroleum oil industry over domestic ethanol is un-patriotic. Oil companies in America have little or no allegiance to America. People who work to support the oil companies are either dupes or they too have no allegiance to America. Frankly, I don't care who or what you have allegiance to, but I'll be damned if I stand by and let you pretend that you care about America and its citizens while prattling on in support of an industry that is responsible for killing untold millions of humans and other animals - and I'd say the same thing to any oil industry bootlicker in whatever country they claim citizenship and residence.

You go off on criticizing the energy required to produce ethanol without pointing out that ethanol is energy positive whereas gasoline production is energy negative. In any event you take the entire EROEI issue out of context because you don't acknowledge that ALL usable energy requires tremendous amounts of energy to produce it. And you act as if petroleum oil fuels are not huge causes of harmful emissions (some say, the worst causes). Is this how you analyze energy issues for clients?

You conclude that you think it's time for a "million mower march." Well I think it's time for a "300 million 'merican march" to get rid of petroleum oil fuels.

I hope you'll respond to this open letter, Michael. And to make it easy for you to want to, I included a little something about the Mercury Marine situation that you can try using against me. I hope you'll try, let's see it you can find it.