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

An Open Letter To Maine State Representative Beth O'Connor About Ethanol

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

You can't lead when you don't know the way

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
Marc Rauch
By Marc J. Rauch
Exec. Vice President/Co-Publisher

      Originally published May 2, 2022

Yesterday, Beth O'Connor a Maine State Representative sent me an email regarding my rebuttals to her recently posted anti-ethanol comments and the anti-ethanol presentation that she gave before the entire Maine legislature in 2019. My rebuttals to Ms. O'Connor took place on April 25th, a week ago. If you haven't already read it, you can find it at "It's Time For Ethanol Honesty".

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
Beth O'Connor
I was happy to receive Ms. O'Connor's response because it means that I pushed some of the right buttons. And, since she's an elected official, it ultimately may mean that the true ethanol position is at least getting a chance to be heard (as slim as that chance may be).

Needless to say, I responded to her response with "An Open Letter To Maine State Representative Beth O'Connor About Ethanol." It's located below.

First, here's Ms. O'Connor's email to me:

    Good Day Mr. Rauch.

    I am not sure what your goal is in your quest to present corn ethanol as a viable and sustainable fuel source, but, I do think your address to your opponents is rude. If this is your way of refuting issues keep in mind you could very well be sued by those who care about what you have to say.

    I do not profess to be an expert in the all of the areas where you expound on your knowledge regarding ethanol but I am resolute in my convictions that burning our food for fuel is not beneficial to man nor is it beneficial to the environment. Perhaps with better technology individuals far more intelligent than ourselves will find ways less damaging to mankind to keep the wheels of society spinning.

    This issue was brought to me by a constituent, an astute mechanical engineer Ralph and his wife Elaine, who was an excellent researcher and science teacher. They shared with me thousands of pages of documentation on environmental and health related issues involved with the production and use of corn ethanol as a fuel source. Ralph was instrumental in exposing MTBE as a poisonous fuel additive and due to his and his wife's research MTBE was removed in Maine as an additive in gasoline. As Maine goes so goes the nation. The replacement was corn ethanol, an improvement, but still unwise and unsustainable.

    When I began my search for information some of the loudest voices came from local mechanics, the landscaping industry, small air craft pilots, the boating industry and many farmers. No one in the oil industry seemed to care a whit for my concerns with corn ethanol, but I assure you the corn ethanol industry sent their well healed suits to discredit the information I presented tooth and nail at every turn. Those suits did not prevail as well as they hoped in Maine but the aforementioned individuals did with the expansion of E-0 in around 75 new locations in Maine. I regularly am thanked for that. In fact if you talk to those individuals they would likely tell you they don't care what you have to say they want the E-0. They may just tar and feather you if you try and take it away from them.

    As you have noted ethanol has been used as a fuel source long before you and I were born. There are multiple types of ethanol, I prefer Jameson for consumption but again I don't believe using a food as fuel source is a wise choice, especially now with the prices of everything we consume rising and the number of people who go to bed hungry also rising.

    In my opinion, the corn crop is the most important food grain on the planet. Per acre it contains more calories than any other grain and will keep hungry stomachs fuller for longer periods of time. If you have ever suffered from hunger this may give you a greater understanding of the importance considering the United States now uses 40% of the corn grown for ethanol. Increasing to E-15 will increase that percentage.

    The most recent peer reviewed study on the environmental and attributed health issues of using corn ethanol that I have read can be found here:

    You can argue with these individuals if you want as it seems to be one of your favorite past times. In the meantime I have no intention of engaging further with you on this or any other issue.


    Rep. Beth O'Connor
    HD 5 Berwick, North Berwick (part)
    Berwick ME

Aside from the fact that I disagree with Beth O'Connor on each point, I liked her style in how she was wrong. The letter was written fairly literately; which is a big upgrade to many of the illiterate anti-ethanol messages I receive. I couldn't detect any real spelling errors, just some punctuation omissions.

Here's what I wrote back to her:

Hello Beth -

Thank you for your reply to my editorial and rebukes of your posted comments and Facebook video condemning ethanol fuel.

I was hoping you would reply because the issues of energy and health are of critical importance, and if our legislators are running around quarter-cocked (which is even worse than running around half-cocked) we are doomed.

In your email's opening remark, you ask what my goal is in presenting corn ethanol as a viable and sustainable fuel source. In the same sentence you critique my manner as "rude."

My goal, and my company's goal is clearly stated in an editorial we published nearly 12 years ago after being asked numerous times why this issue is so important to us. In short, the answer is because we care about America; we care about Americans; we care about our economy, and we care for the health and safety of our families and friends. I hope you get the opportunity to read this editorial because there are more details to our concern. The editorial is: "Why Is Getting US Off Gasoline So Important to The Auto Channel?"

As to my manner being rude, I think it's a funny comment coming from a member of the legislature of one of America's original colonies. It may be trite to say, but, King George III thought our country's founding fathers to be rude, and look where it got us: INDEPENDENCE.

I'm reluctant to cast myself into the company of those great men, however, independence from the tyranny of petroleum oil dictators is as grave as independence from a "king" who has been deluded into thinking that he rules by divine right.

God did not put George on the throne, and God did not make gasoline our preeminent engine fuel. Gasoline rules America and the world because of a large treasure chest, not divine right. In your 2019 video, and as you implied again today, you claim that "The powerful corn lobby in Washington greases palms and purchases politicians to sweep the horrors of this product [ethanol fuel] under the rug." This is a laughable comment. As I replied to you the other day, the corn lobby is like a mom and pop corner store compared to the oil industry's shopping mall of financial inducements. It is the oil industry that has bought politicians to permit market dominance and sweep the real horrors away.

In reply, you might say that I'm being overly dramatic. I don't think I've been dramatic enough; I don't think the issue could ever be overly dramatized. Coincidentally, a couple of days after I first responded to your anti-ethanol posts, a new video by Derek Muller was posted on YouTube that gives extra body to what we have long stated: that petroleum oil fuels are responsible for the deaths and permanent adverse health of hundreds of millions of Americans (and hundreds of millions more around the world). I wrote about this video and other similar exposés in my editorial "Horrific New Video Identifies Man Who Killed The Most People In History."

As shocking as the information reported in my editorial is, it's only half the story of the carnage caused by the petroleum oil industry because it doesn't cover the enormous loss of life and health as a result of the wars fought over petroleum oil. For that, I refer you to my updated essay "BREAKING NEWS - December 31, 2020: No American Servicemen Die Defending Ethanol...Again". The message in this editorial is clear: No American soldiers, sailors, marines, or airmen have ever been killed protecting domestic or foreign ethanol production.

In the last sentence of your first paragraph you say I should keep in mind that I could "very well be sued" for exercising my right to Freedom of Speech. Considering our current political climate, where defining Freedom of Speech is almost as questionable as defining what is a woman, my right to speak/write freely may indeed be attacked. Of course, any such plaintiff would have to prove me wrong, and such a lawsuit might be just the right forum to bring this entire situation to the public's eye and a final 'declaration of ethanol independence' - which would be the ubiquitous availability of any ethanol-gasoline blend that a consumer wished to purchase. To this, I say, I'm ready and willing to take the stand and testify!

By the way, you may recall that in my initial reply to you that I said I would be happy to debate the issue with you before the Maine Legislature. Either a courtroom or legislative chambers would be a good forum for me.

Now, on to the 2nd paragraph of your email: You say that you are not an expert...regarding ethanol, but that you are resolute in your opinion that burning food for fuel is not beneficial to man nor the environment. If you're not an expert, then don't play one on TV (your Facebook video). And when someone introduces you as an expert, as I have seen done when you've been introduced to speak about energy, you should decline that status and instead preface your remarks as being simply a layman's opinion, not expert commentary. Just so you know, I support your right to have an opinion, but my problem is that when the opinion can lead to someone's death, then the opinion is not just an opinion. For example, if you said to someone who is pointing a gun at his head, "Go ahead, pull the trigger, I don't THINK the gun is loaded." That's not simply an opinion.

If something is just an opinion (resolute or not), then you should be willing to learn more in order to have a 'learned' opinion. If you're just a kindly neighbor-lady, then it's not so important. But if you're a public leader, as you are, I think it's incumbent on you to be correctly informed. I think it's an obligation you owe to the good people of Maine. After all, if our nation follows Maine, don't you want the entire nation to know the real facts? Maine's official state motto can be translated to "I Lead." But you can't lead, when you don't know the way.

I've always said that if someone can prove my opinions about ethanol wrong, I'd change my opinion. I have nothing to gain from my advocacy. We are not farmers, distillers, or retail fuel sellers, nor are we investors in any ethanol production/distribution business. If someone can prove to us that allowing petroleum oil to kill and sicken people is really a benefit to society, I could conceivably stop advocating ethanol fuel. So, if I could change just by learning the truth, why can't you?

Your opinion against ethanol includes the pretend issue of "burning food for fuel." This is wrong for so many reasons, not the least of which is that by definition, food is fuel. We eat to fuel our lives, we burn calories in order to have the energy to get out of bed, get dressed, and go forth.

In actual terms, as it pertains to ethanol fuel, corn doesn't get "burned," it gets emulsified in a mash and then distilled into alcohol. Interestingly enough, the mash doesn't even get burned or boiled, because alcohol vapor occurs well below boiling point.

Moreover, the remnant of the mash (dried distillers grains - DDGS) is often used to feed and grow livestock that is then eaten by humans. DDGS is protein, which is great to fatten animals. It is the starch in corn that is used to make alcohol. On the other hand, starch can be bad for humans. Other portions of the mash remnants are used for several other beneficial purposes. There are oil industry-sponsored myths about the "food vs. fuel" issue. If you'd like to learn about the truths of the mythical accusations, I suggest you read my 'definitive' essay on the issue: "BAM! Closing the Door to the Food vs. Ethanol Fuel Argument."

Wrapped in your "food vs. fuel" argument is the notion that growing corn is bad for the environment. If it's so bad for the environment, then why don't you (and those who argue this point) simply campaign against the growing of all corn? Although corn grown for ethanol fuel is not the same as corn grown for human consumption, the growing process is virtually identical. If it's especially bad for the environment, then why not cut out all corn, after all, who needs all those fattening corn chips, and corn nuts, and popcorn? Can't people at movie theaters be satisfied eating Raisinets and lemon drops? Can't picnickers be satisfied with potato salad as a sidedish, why do they need corn on the cob, too?

Let me cut to the chase, if growing corn is bad for the environment, then growing all crops is bad for the environment. Why plow up new fields for vineyards, we have enough wine grapes and great wine. Why plow up new fields for hops? We have an abundance of beer makers and beers. Why do we need more radishes, broccoli, or onions?

The answer is that in the years since the Renewable Fuel Standard was enacted, farmers and the agricultural community have discovered new and better ways to grow much more, on less land, using less water, and less fertilizer. These innovations have benefitted not only all of America, but the world.

Therefore, when you write, as you did: "Perhaps with better technology individuals far more intelligent than ourselves will find ways less damaging to mankind to keep the wheels of society spinning," guess what? They did! Many of these "individuals" are called FARMERS.

Incidentally, here's some significant statistics that illustrate what I just wrote about agricultural innovation since the RFS was enacted:

    The corn belt grew more corn acres in 1980, way before RFS than in 2018, the year of the highest ethanol production ever. For example:

    • In 2018, Iowa used 13,200,000 acres to grow corn and had record ethanol production.
    • In 1980, Iowa used 14,000,000 acres of corn before RFS.

    • In 2018, Illinois used 11,000,000 acres of corn and had record ethanol production.
    • In 1980 Illinois used 11,600,000 acres of corn before ethanol.

    • In 2018, Indiana used 5,350,000 acres of corn and had record ethanol production.
    • In 1980, Indiana used 6,450,000 acres of corn before ethanol
        SEE: USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service

    • The reason ethanol producers can keep ethanol prices so low, despite the current high corn prices, is that they offset it with the sale of DDGS.

    • Ethanol fuel did not increase fertilizer or chemical pesticide use, and ending ethanol fuel production would do little or nothing to decrease their use.

    PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

    PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

Beth, you write about some of the people you've spoken to, such as Ralph and Elaine, an astute mechanical engineer and his excellent science teacher wife. And you reference some local mechanics, landscapers, general aviation pilots, boating enthusiasts, and even farmers.

Well, here's the best, shortest statement I can make about this:

    All negative comments about ethanol are incorrect. They are either lies, exaggerations, or myths. They were mostly invented by the petroleum oil industry.

    Ethanol doesn't harm engines, it cleans engines. It doesn't suck water out of the air, but it will absorb water that naturally forms because of condensation. Gasoline can't do this so people have to resort to using engine additives that can cost as much as 2 or 3 gallons of gasoline. All liquids are corrosive, especially water. However, ethanol is less corrosive and is compatible with more types of rubber, plastic, and metal than gasoline and aromatics. BTU values (energy content) are irrelevant when discussing internal combustion engines. Ethanol use does not affect the price of food.

    If you are disseminating negative information about ethanol you are WRONG! I don't care who you are, where you went to school, or who you know; there are no negatives to using ethanol fuel.

To any concerns raised by farmers (or anyone else) about the sustainability of growing corn for ethanol fuel, those concerns are irrelevant because corn doesn't have to be the only crop used for ethanol. There are several other cultivated crops that can be used, and our farmers are astute enough to know how to grow those crops, too. In addition, there are a few different, very good non-human-food crops that can be used that grow on arid, non-fertile land. Then there's what might be the mother-load for ethanol fuel production: ocean algae. And, all this doesn't include the ethanol that we can produce from "cellulosic" materials.

Unfortunately, Beth, there's one thing standing in the way of using these other raw materials: People like you who spread lies about ethanol. You're killing the buzz!

In order to get to the point where public demand is great enough to finance the economical development of using these other materials along with corn, the lies, myths, and gross exaggerations against ethanol have to stop.

Any day of the week, I'll match the engineers, science teachers, mechanics, landscapers, pilots, boating enthusiasts, and farmers that I know against yours. And then I'll throw in my real-world experience and research into the debate. Whether it's in a public auditorium or courtroom, it's okay with me.

In today's email you repeat something that you previously said: That you are proud of your efforts to expand the use of E0 (ethanol-free gasoline). This is an unconscionable position for you to take, and it is a frighteningly stupid thing to say in public. It's like asking a child to carry a heavy glass object across a wet floor and telling the child to run across the slippery floor in order to shorten the journey time to reduce the potential for disaster.

Accoring to the Swiss Federal Laboratory for Materials Science and Technology, even with just 10% ethanol added to E0, the especially health devastating ultra fine or nano particulate emissions were lowered by 97%, carbon monoxide lowered by 81%, carbon dioxide lowered by 13%, aromatic hydrocarbon emissions lowered by 67-96%, and genotoxic emissions lowered by 72%.
    SEE Bioethanol Blending Reduces Emissions....

Shame on you, Beth.

You write about the use of 40% of American corn crop for ethanol fuel as if it's an alarming figure. It's not. In addition to what I've already said about the use of the ethanol corn crop remnants as an excellent food for animals that are eaten by humans, that 40% is a growing number as the overall demand for corn grows. It provides the consistent amount needed to meet all human corn uses. Today's 40% is about as great or greater than any amount of corn grown for human consumption before the RFS was enacted. It's not a situation where we now only have 40% of what was available to make corn chips, corn flakes, popcorn and corn-on-the-cob. Increasing ethanol fuel to E15, E20, E30, E50 will not impact the amount of food for humans to get fat on because the overall production of corn will grow proportionately.

Here's the stats of U.S. Cropland used before and after the RFS was enacted:

    1997 349,000,000
    1998 345,000,000
    1999 344,000,000
    2000 345,000,000
    2001 340,000,000
    2002 340,000,000
    2003 342,000,000
    2004 336,000,000
    2005 336,000,000
    2006 330,000,000 with 4.0B gal. corn ethanol produced
    2007 335,000,000 with 4.7B gal. corn ethanol produced
    2008 337,000,000 with 9.0B gal. corn ethanol produced
    2009 333,000,000 with 10.5B gal. corn ethanol produced
    2010 335,000,000 with 12.0B gal. corn ethanol produced
    2011 328,000,000 with 12.6B gal. corn ethanol produced
    2012 340,000,000 with 13.2B gal. corn ethanol produced
    2013 336,000,000 with 13.8B gal. corn ethanol produced
    2014 341,000,000 with 14.4B gal. corn ethanol produced
    2015 337,000,000 with 15.0B gal. corn ethanol produced
    2016 336,000,000 with 15.0B gal. corn ethanol produced
    2017 334,000,000 with 15.0B gal. corn ethanol produced
    2018 338,000,000 with 15.0B gal. corn ethanol produced - most ethanol ever produced
    2019 323,000,000 with 15.0B gal. corn ethanol produced
    2020 329,000,000 with 15.0B gal. corn ethanol produced

The recent peer-reviewed study you mention; the garbage study done by an assistant scientist and his buddies, is nothing more than a rehashing of the myopic garbage studies conducted by David Pimentel and Tad Patzek a decade and two ago. My response to Tyler Lark, et al., is "SLAM! Shutting the File on the Tyler Lark Anti-Ethanol Study."

Perhaps, more importantly, is the rebuttal to Tyler Lark, et al., from Argonne National Laboratory. It was published about 5 weeks ago. It is not the first time that government laboratories have rebutted the claim that corn ethanol is more harmful to the environment than gasoline. By this point in time, no one should be referencing the Tyler Lark, et al., study, except if they want to hide the truth. You can download the Argonne report by CLICKING HERE

In your final paragraph, you write, "You can argue with these individuals if you want as it seems to be one of your favorite past times."

If you read my 600-page book "THE ETHANOL PAPERS," you'll see that I do argue with these individuals, and it is one of my favorite past times. You can read it for free online by CLICKING HERE. I'd also be happy to send you a complimentary copy, Beth, if you'd like to have one on the off-chance that you'll try to actually learn about ethanol fuel.

On a side note, I think your choice of Jameson is very good, and considering your apparent ethnic origin, very commendable.

Good day to you, Beth.

Special thanks to Dana Fletcher for supplying some vital statistical information. Dana is one of America's very astute farmers that I referred to above.