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Obama blindly supports anhydrous ethanol

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Heather Zichal, Barack Obama's energy director gave an interview to AgriTalk.com, an internet radio talk show that devotes its attention to farming issues, in particular ethanol made from corn. I went to the site to hear what I thought was going to be a debate with both sides of the ethanol issue being presented. Obama's energy representative was supposed to tell us why Barack supports it while McCain's expert on the topic was supposed to explain why he wants to get rid of federal subsidies and mandates that the industry needs in order to be profitable. However McCain's horse failed to show up for the race.

 

It's disappointing that the McCain camp doesn't want debate ethanol but it's understandable. Anyone who speaks out against ethanol can pretty much kiss their political future goodbye in the Midwest these days. While the rest of the country's economy is crashing in on itself, they're raking in the cash faster than they can count it selling ethanol made from their corn to be mixed with gasoline. Then of course there's Texas getting fat mixing it with their high priced gasoline which we have no choice but to buy unless we choose to forego driving. Neither gasoline or ethanol are anywhere near as good as they could be. Blending them together makes them near worthless. But since it still allows our cars to move, we buy it anyway and they get rich. 

So the presidential ethanol debate turned out to be definitively one sided, or was it?  Really all it consisted of was the Mike Adams of AgriTalk.com asking Ms. Zichal questions he wanted her to agree with about how Barack Obama supports ethanol in spite of the many pitfalls of its use. She came across like the Obama message on ethanol is that he wants the farm vote so badly that he's willing to bend over backwards as far as he has too in order to get it no matter what it means to the rest of the country. And I can hardly blame him with his being Black. Even though he supports ethanol and McCain doesn't, the corn belt vote still goes to McCain. Their differences over ethanol are however slowly winning corn farmers over to being willing to vote for an African American. In that sense, the debate over ethanol is working to make this country better even if from all other respects, it's nonsensical. White people being willing to vote for a Black man is important to our future, maybe even more important than how bad ethanol added to gasoline is for our economy and environment. I just wish we could have both, a presidential race without regard for the color of a mans skin and energy policies that make sense.  

Actually the way the questions were posed by Adams to Zichal made the interview seem more scripted or even rehearsed than informative. It made me wonder if perhaps McCain wasn't actually invited to have his rep there but was represented as if he had declined it giving the impression he was afraid to defend his position. From the beginning of the interview, Adams and Zichal seemed to have an overabundance of confidence in the tones of their voice like they knew they were going to score big against ethanol's detractors. So I figured the cards were stacked in their favor in some way, I just didn't know what the game was at the time. And I say this with all sincerity. I am an Obama supporter. But my support for quality energy policies trumps my liking or disliking any particular politician.

But Heather agreed overly aggressively with whatever she was asked about ethanol. She gave Obama's undaunting blessing to anything the ethanol industry wanted to do with their product. It was as if she actually doesn't know anything about ethanol accept for how to say what those who support it claim. She even sited how Obama would support increasing the amounts of ethanol added to gasoline from 10 percent to 15 and 20% (E10 –E15 andE20 ethanol/gasoline). This is in spite of the fact that the people who make the engines it will be run in say they can only handle 10 percent ethanol. Samuel Badman has recently introduced new DOE policy changes that will allow E15 and E20 to begin to enter the market claiming it is safe for engines even though the same studies he sites show otherwise. It seems Obama and Bush agree on one thing, corn based ethanol at any cost.

Right now, ethanol is costing us a 3 percent loss in mileage using E10. That's all the DOE will admit to. But complaints from consumers and independent studies point to much higher losses even as high as 30 percent in some vehicles. But just the admitted 3% is a pretty big cut in our national fuel supply. So now that will be increased to twice as much of a loss if we move to using E20. Then there's the increase in VOC pollutants that come from ethanol blended gasoline that will also increase. A new report from NOAA and NASA titled "Climate Projections Based on Emissions Scenarios for Long-Lived and Short-Lived Radiatively Active Gases and Aerosols" that forms the basis our new climate change policy says VOC's are responsible for the weather pattern changes we've been seeing since ethanol use started in the spring of 2006.

What strikes me as odd, or really more like ridiculous bordering on stupid, is how all the players on both sides of the ethanol debate seem to be ignorant of the fact, or pretending they are for whatever reason I can't imagine, that there is a way to add ethanol to gasoline that Brazil, China, Germany, and even the state of Louisiana, are using that is far cheaper than the way we're doing it now that doesn't cause a mileage loss or the pollution problem. It also allows for much higher yields of ethanol to be produced from the same amount of corn. But the way Heather talked about ethanol by simply agreeing with Mike Adams while repeating the results of studies put out by ethanol industry as if they are independent facts made me realize she doesn't have a clue what ethanol is.

Ethanol is not just "ethanol." The ethanol we're required to add to our national gasoline supplies is anhydrous ethanol. It's an oxygenate. Oxygenates were mandated by the Clean Air Act of 1990 as the brainstorm of the first Bush president, Ken Lay of Enron, and Phil Gramm, an ex-senator from Texas who now works on Park Avenue for the United Bank of Switzerland, UBS. Phil Gramm was McCain's lead economic advisor before he made comments about how Americans have turned into  "a nation of whiners" because we're not happy with the high price of gasoline ripping our economy apart. This came at a time when testimony was being given on Capitol Hill about how speculators were using the commodities market to falsely inflate the price of crude oil.

Phil Gramm of course was defending speculators while trying to place the blame for high prices on stronger demand from China and India. The outcome of that debate was a bill being passed through the senate in a 96 to zero vote to reign in oil speculators and bring down the price of oil. It later died in the house even though it had wide bipartisan support. Ever since then, all we've heard about is the trillions of dollars worth of Wall Street bailouts when all we need to do is stop allowing speculators to falsely inflate the price of crude oil. 

Getting back to my point, anhydrous ethanol is not a fuel, it's an oxygenate that replaced another oxygenate called MTBE. MTBE is an invention of the oil industry that helped them get rid of poisonous byproducts of refining crude oil that the EPA doesn't allow them to legally dump into the atmosphere - isobutylene (anhydrous ether). Enron made its climb to the top of the economic ladder supporting and controlling the logistics of MTBE production and distribution.

Oxygenates were designed to enhance emissions from gasoline engines, not as fuel. They purposely cause mileage losses to increase emissions of VOC's. In 1990, there was bad smog problem nationwide. VOC's mix with smog and dissolve it. The resulting pollution, low level ozone, is much more dangerous than the smog oxygenates get rid of but it's largely invisible so complaints about air quality were marginalized by using them. When it became too widely known that MTBE polluted groundwater nationwide, it was replaced with anhydrous ethanol in 2006.

When the state of California took the EPA to court and proved oxygenates worsen air quality, the president stepped in saying ethanol was now being required under the Clean Air Act to be used as a fuel additive to lessen our dependence of foreign oil. He sited Brazil's use of ethanol to become energy independent to validate his reasoning. For whatever reason, no one challenged him with the fact that Brazil uses hydrous ethanol, not anhydrous ethanol. If you query experts on the issue, they will say that hydrous ethanol has water in it that can't be mixed with gasoline. But if you search the keywords "hydrous ethanol" and "gasoline," you will find countless articles relating how it is being done successfully and has been for a very long time in places that were until recently considered third world countries without causing mileage losses or pollution like anhydrous ethanol does. 

MTBE is made from natural gas and toxic byproducts of refining oil. Both are resources we have an overabundance of. Since we started making anhydrous ethanol from our most precious national asset, corn, our economy has fastly been falling apart. In fact the value of the dollar began the steep decline in value that lead to 4 dollar a gallon gasoline just as the EPA oxygenate program switched from MTBE to ethanol. And according to this new report on climate change, VOC emissions from ethanol and the refineries that produce it are causing the extreme weather pattern changes that we're being told are part of a global warming process caused by carbon dioxide. But if we look at how these other countries use ethanol, we find they do it in a way that doesn't cause these problems while none of our leader seem to know the difference between hydrous and anhydrous ethanol.    

It reminds me of how abortion and gay marriage are dealt with politically in this country as if real solutions to those problems that would benefit everyone are not welcomed by either side of the debate. Rather their differences are purposely staged so both parties are wrong so they can divide us into two voting camps while pushing most intelligent Americans away from the election process altogether. But even with energy costs being at the center of our economy failing, it isn't enough to get anyone in Washington or the presidential candidates to come up with real solutions if the dysfunctional issues they would be applied to can easier be used to garnish the votes of special interest groups if left broken.

Really what amazes me most about this presidential election process is watching the news media report on the dreams the candidates have for our future on the back pages of the same newspapers that the front pages are reporting on how we don't have an economy anymore. But for McCain and Obama, it's business as usual where they have no plan for how to lead us out of this desperate place, only for what they will do with our economy when it fixes itself. What they have is confidence in our ability to put things back on track towards a path they both blame the other for not having guided us to in the first place. Then they'll show us how they can make the world perfect if we elect them to the most powerful leadership position in the world.

Neither presidential campaign seem to represent themselves as playing roles in getting us to where their American dreams for us have a chance of coming true. If they do, they're keeping their plans secret but I can't imagine why. From what I understand, the debate coming up in a couple days will focus on Obama's ties to Bill Ayers and ACORN. I swear if I didn't know better, I would think all four candidates for the White House have been skipping to the back pages of the newspapers they read to find the stories about themselves while missing the front pages altogether. I wonder if they'll still be talking about getting us out of this depression using anhydrous ethanol when we can't afford to buy crude oil to make gasoline from anymore (McCain supports anhydrous ethanol made from cellulose without federal mandates or subsidies. But anhydrous ethanol made from any source is still an oxygenate, not a fuel). Hydrous ethanol can also be used as fuel by itself without mixing it with gasoline and can be produced in your backyard. Anhydrous ethanol is dangerous and corrosive even at 10 percent.   

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Great article, and a nice find ;)  Corn-... by Steve Windisch (jibbguy) on Wednesday, Oct 29, 2008 at 12:24:37 PM
McCain did bring it up in one televised debate, no... by Bill Samuel on Wednesday, Oct 29, 2008 at 2:25:31 PM
  There is so much wrong with this article, f... by Richard Lee on Wednesday, Oct 29, 2008 at 9:39:58 PM