Time To Shut Down The Anti-Ethanol Propaganda Machines

(edited)

 

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On the final weekend of the 2018 Baseball Season, here's a response to a double-header of anti-ethanol published stories

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

 

Early Friday afternoon, I received an email from my business partner, Bob Gordon, concerning two laughably wrong stories about ethanol published under one common heading: “Is it time to end the ethanol mandate for automotive fuel?

This double-header appeared on the Tri-City Herald newspaper website. The newspaper is based in Kennewick, Washington; and is one of the McClatchy newspapers.

The first part of the dud-namic duo of stories is "Yes: Ethanol in gasoline is a boon for farmers, but rips-off American consumers." The second part is " No: Ending ethanol in fuel mandate will create economic and environmental disaster." It looks like this is a point/counter-point set-up in which the newspaper poses the original question and then leaves it to two writers to duke it out - one arguing against ethanol, and then one arguing for ethanol.

Why then - you may ask - do I refer to both stories as being negative to ethanol? The answer is that the second story presents false information about ethanol subsidies and the Renewal Fuel Standard. It presents a situation in which the writer continues the dissemination of one of the top myths typically cited by anti-ethanol people to decry ethanol. Compounding this problem is that the second writer doesn't try to argue against, and correct the other wrong information presented by the first writer. Therefore, what we have here is not a point/counter-point, it is two stories presenting multiple wrong reasons why ethanol is bad.

Who are the two writers? The first is Frank J. Macchiarola, Group Director of Downstream and Industry Operations for the American Petroleum Institute. In other words, a flunky for Big Oil. The second writer is Wayne Madsen, who is sometimes referred to online as a "progressive" writer (progressive usually means communist), and sometimes as a "conspiracy theorist" (not all conspiracies are groundless conjecture - there are plenty examples of conspiracy fact). I can understand why the McClatchy newspaper would go to the API for a writer to present the most aggressively anti-ethanol position possible, but I don't understand why they asked a guy who doesn't appear to have any knowledge of ethanol to present any kind of position on ethanol... Unless the reason for selecting him is to sandbag the pretend point/counter-point debate from the start.

When Bob Gordon sent me the email about the double-header story, he wrote to me, "Perhaps you can help expand these two gentlemen's understanding of the issues related to alternative fuels and so-called fossil fuels."

Bob didn't actually use these words, he wrote something much more akin to "ripping them a couple of new ones." But you can see where either phrasing relates to an expanded flow of, umm, information.

Okay, here we go: Frank Macchiarola begins his written comments by telling the readers how:

"U.S. oil and natural gas producers are shattering records — recently overtaking Saudi Arabia and Russia to lead the world in crude oil production. Fueled by advanced technology, the American energy resurgence is paying off for consumers and shielding U.S. markets from instability overseas."

Frank then writes:

"But drivers may need extra cash to pay the mechanic if federal regulators keep forcing more ethanol into the fuel supply."

What Frank doesn't know, or is trying to hide is that the fuels produced from petroleum oil are poison. They poison the air we breathe. They poison the water we drink and swim in. They create neurological and respiratory illnesses. The use and distribution of these fuels have caused the death and destruction of untold millions of wildlife. Reliance on petroleum oils fuels has been the cause of every major war over the past 104 years.

Frank lauds our advanced technology for helping to make the U.S. domestic crude oil the leading supplier in the world. This may be true, but I think that if we really want to domestically produce a high-demand poison to sell to the world, then we should just go into the national business of producing heroin and cocaine. There's no doubt that our advanced technology, natural resources, availability of year-round shipping ports to the major oceans of the world, and military muscle, would make us the leading exporter of all types of addictive drugs.

But do we want to be in that business? Do we want to be known as The Dope Pushers To The World? Sure, it sound glamorous, but is it the right thing to do?

Pushing petroleum oil fuels is the same as pushing dope or tobacco.

Frank says that the American energy resurgence is paying off by shielding us from instability overseas. Really? Have we been able to pull our troops out of Afghanistan? Have we closed our military bases in Middle East oil producing countries? Has our navy and air force been able to stop patrolling oil shipping lanes around the world? Are American citizens and companies overseas no longer in threat of terrorist attacks? Has the price of gasoline at the pump in America dropped to the price of gasoline in Kuwait ($1.32 per gallon)? Has the price of gasoline in America suddenly dropped to the price of gasoline in Iran or Nigeria or Egypt ($1.09; $1.54; $1.62; respectively)? Egypt isn't a real oil producing country, why is their gasoline half the price of ours, if we have such abundant resources?

Most importantly, what does the abundance of domestic petroleum oil have to do with why we need ethanol to be blended in internal combustion engine fuels? Unless we go back to using tetraethyl lead, or start using much higher levels of toluene and benzene in the gasoline, higher ethanol levels are needed for modern and next generation engines - regardless of how much crude oil is found in America. We can go to using ethanol-free gasoline with more toluene and benzene; there's no problem doing this...outside of the exorbitant cost and health risks.

Hey Frank, why don't you know this?

Frank says,"... drivers may need extra cash to pay the mechanic if federal regulators keep forcing more ethanol into the fuel supply." Why would they have to pay mechanics, Frank? What problem would occur that could require an engine repair that wasn't caused by the use of gasoline, Frank? You do know that all gasoline internal combustion engines get damaged by gasoline, don't you?

Frank the API flunky says that multiple industry and consumer groups warn against E15. Yeah, no kidding, Frank, the groups that are sponsored or funded by some element of the oil industry do warn against E15. What else would they say, Frank?

Frank writes “most retailers that sell E15 or E85 have seen minimal sales of these products;” and that “there's a significant demand in the market non-blended gasoline or E0." Yes, that's what happens when the oil industry blocks retailers from expanding their fuel products, and when the oil industry spends hundreds of millions of dollars every year to spread lies about alternative fuels.

Flunky Frank says that the idea behind the Renewable Fuel Standard was to "encourage a cheaper, local alternative to reduce reliance on fuel imports from overseas." Yes, and that's exactly what has been achieved.

Funnily enough, however, the flunk man says that "Ten years and one U.S. energy revolution later, surging domestic crude oil production has taken care of the reduced imports goal." Not true, Frankie, we still get about 30% of our crude from foreign sources. If we have so much that we can export some of it, why do we need to import any foreign crude? A look at the data on the U.S. Energy Information Administration website doesn't reveal any WOW-WOW-WOW import statistics. It shows that the past eight years have been fairly static. What U.S. energy revolution, Frank?

Then Frank tries to impress us with his command of mathematics and science with a couple of other mythical anti-ethanol lies. Unfortunately for him, he must not have gotten past first grade math and science. The issue of energy content in gasoline and ethanol is irrelevant. A gasoline engine using gasoline may usually get better miles per gallon when using gasoline, but it has nothing to do with the comparison of energy content between gasoline and ethanol. It gets better miles because the engine is optimized to run on gasoline. A comparable engine optimized to run on ethanol will get equal or better mileage when using ethanol, despite the differences in BTUs.

Moreover, if a gasoline-optimized engine loses 10% mileage when using a ethanol-gasoline blend, but there's a savings of 20% in the lower cost of the ethanol-gasoline blend, then it is a NET GAIN to the consumer.

On top of all of this, in South America there is a country called "Brazil." Brazil is about the same size as America, and it has a population over 200 million people (approximately equal to the combined populations of the United Kingdom, France, and Germany). Brazil is not an insignificant country. Virtually all of their cars (new, used, classic) and marine motors are the same as the cars and marine motors that are used in the United States, UK, France, and Germany. The standard gasoline (gasolina) in Brazil is E27. E27 has nearly three times more ethanol than E10, and nearly two times more ethanol than E15. The vehicles in Brazil have no difficulty using E27. If consumers in Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, and Recife have no problem using E27, then consumers in Miami, Allentown, and Seattle will have no problem using E15, E20, E25, or E30.

And, if consumers in America used E15, E20, E25, E30, E35 or E40, then not only would there be no pretend blend wall, but with E30 and higher we would have no need for any foreign crude oil. There's your revolution, Frankie boy!

At the end of Frank Macchiarola's portion of the double-header, he writes, "It’s time to stand up for consumers and fix the broken RFS once and for all." I finally agree with him on something, it is time to stand up for consumers; to stand up for consumers and kick the heck out of API and the petroleum industry for all the misery and deaths they've caused over the last 150 years. It's time to take the restrictions off the use of year-round E15, and to green light the use of higher ethanol-gasoline blends for all internal combustion engine vehicles.

ON TO COMRADE MADSEN

In his piece, Wayne Madsen includes correct information and statistical data about how ethanol has far less harmful emissions than gasoline, how it has been a significant factor in helping to clean our air, and how corn crops have been economically beneficial to many farmers and workers, and several farm-belt states. These are critically important details because there are a lot of ethanol-haters who keep publishing nonsense about how ethanol is dirtier and more harmful than petroleum oil fuels, and the haters make it seem as if having successful American farmers is a criminal offense.

The problem, as I mentioned at the very beginning of my response to Macchiarola and Madsen, is that Wayne drags in some very wrong - quite ignorant - information about an ethanol mandate and Federal ethanol subsidies. There is no "ethanol mandate," and there are no Federal ethanol subsidies.

There is a biofuel mandate, which the anti-ethanol crowd likes to pretend is an ethanol mandate so that they can attack ethanol, but it's not an ethanol mandate and this isn't just a semantic differentiation - other substances could be used in place of ethanol. It just so happens that ethanol is the best, safest, and least expensive to use.

The only Federal ethanol subsidy ended several years ago. Moreover, the subsidy didn't go to American farmers, it went to the blenders (a part of the oil industry) to presumably make up for lost profits by having to replace some of their poison gasoline for ethanol.

So I wondered, what's up with this? How could Wayne have done enough research to get the correct information correct, while getting some other very obvious details wrong?

Then it became clear... it became clear as I read some of Wayne Madsen's other editorials and articles. Wayne hates Donald Trump. Whether his hatred of Trump stems from his being a "progressive" (a communist, if he is indeed a communist), or it's just part and parcel of his other irrational hatreds, such as possibly being an anti-Semite, that makes him oppose Trump, I'm not sure.

In any event, what it looks like Wayne is doing with his contribution to the McClatchy newspaper editorial is to just make an attack on Donald Trump, and not be an advocate for ethanol. Wayne Madsen poses a situation where the Trump administration's abolishing of ethanol subsidies will bring doom and disaster to American corn farmers and the corn-farming states. Is this the kind of (false) conspiracy theories that Wayne is said to disseminate? It sure looks like it.

Consequently, Wayne's recitation of correct facts is tainted by his intermingling them with wrong information. Any reasonable person could, and should ask, "How can I trust Madsen's statements? If he is capable of lying/miss-stating/exaggerating some details, how can I rely on anything else he says?

At the end of Wayne Madsen's portion of the double-header, he writes, " Eliminating the federal government’s commitment to corn ethanol would destroy an entire industry. Does Mr. Trump really want this economic disaster to occur on his watch? Given the wrong information that he presents - in addition to the wrong information that Frank Macchiarola presented - the question that should be asked is, "Does the McClatchy newspaper group really want to include this kind of garbage in their publications, and if they do, why?

In the spirit of the end of the 2018 baseball season, let me close with this:

  • It's root, root, root for the home team (the farmers)
    If they don't win it's a crime
    So it's one, two, three strikes out for that gas-oline grime!
Edited by Marc J. Rauch
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13 hours ago, Marc J. Rauch said:

Most importantly, what does the abundance of domestic petroleum oil have to do with why we need ethanol to be blended in internal combustion engine fuels? Unless we go back to using tetraethyl lead, or start using much higher levels of toluene and benzene in the gasoline, higher ethanol levels are needed for modern and next generation engines - regardless of how much crude oil is found in America. We can go to using ethanol-free gasoline with more toluene and benzene; there's no problem doing this...outside of the exorbitant cost and health risks.

This is the first time I've seen this particular defence of ethanol so I looked it up. Oh right, the 10 per cent ethanol is so the fuel will burn more efficiently, as lead is banned and higher levels of the other additives are not a good idea. I had assumed that the E10 blend was a sop to politically powerful farmer groups, but I see there is a point to it. 

As for the part about America requiring crude oil imports, the country is a net crude exporter but different applications require different types of oil and my understanding is that the shale oil boom emphasises a certain range of crude, hence there are both exports and imports. Someone with more knowledge of the area may be able to expand on that. 

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5 minutes ago, markslawson said:

This is the first time I've seen this particular defence of ethanol so I looked it up. Oh right, the 10 per cent ethanol is so the fuel will burn more efficiently, as lead is banned and higher levels of the other additives are not a good idea. I had assumed that the E10 blend was a sop to politically powerful farmer groups, but I see there is a point to it. 

As for the part about America requiring crude oil imports, the country is a net crude exporter but different applications require different types of oil and my understanding is that the shale oil boom emphasises a certain range of crude, hence there are both exports and imports. Someone with more knowledge of the area may be able to expand on that. 

Mark, I love the fact that you're starting at a good position... meaning that you had the initiative to do some of your own research and discover that there is "some" value to using ethanol. Far too many people in your position won't take the time to do the research and/or are so resistant to change that they refuse to accept what you've accepted.

Now the next step, the part about different types of crude and their uses, is also a pretty good deduction for you to make on your own. But, as you have realized there is still the need to fill in for those areas where the crude oil for one product is not available because it is being "used up" by the fuel requirements. So if we expanded E30 or E40, then the crude we need from the Middle East wouldn't be needed. The shale oil could fill in for the junk oil needed for fuels, and the non-shale wells could go more fully into the manufacturing of the other products. At this point, we would have less oil being burned as fuel, which would help to further reduce harmful emissions, and we're then not dependent upon the whims of foreign oil producers and outside political pressures. This would have the further benefit of driving the price of foreign oil down (because more oil is available to the global market), which would help to take away money used by adversary oil producing countries to fund terrorism as well as to limit their development or purchase of weapons.

And, I have to say that I like the idea of you reaching out to see if someone else can add information to this discussion because I'm not really up on all the specific uses of each portion of the refining process, and I'd like to know more about this, too. I'm sure Jan van Eck will have some thoughts on this, he's an engineer.

Oh, and before I finish, don't forget that most, if not all, non-fuel products that are made from petroleum oil can be made from alcohol (ethanol). So now we would even have to worry about constant oil spills and other environmental disasters that come from pipeline ruptures, railway accidents, earthquakes, etc.

 

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3 hours ago, Marc J. Rauch said:

So if we expanded E30 or E40, then the crude we need from the Middle East wouldn't be needed.

Nope sorry - that's where we part company. There is a point to E10 as its a useful additive, as I realised. Once you start mandating E30 and more for geopolitical reasons then you are imposing an unnecessary additional burden on consumers. If the stuff's cheaper than petrol then fine, I won't object, but if its not then forget it. International trade has many advantages and if some material has to come from the middle east I don't see the problem. America's dependence on foreign oil is greatly reduced (in gas as well) and you should be happy with that. Leave it with you.

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3 hours ago, markslawson said:

Nope sorry - that's where we part company. There is a point to E10 as its a useful additive, as I realised. Once you start mandating E30 and more for geopolitical reasons then you are imposing an unnecessary additional burden on consumers. If the stuff's cheaper than petrol then fine, I won't object, but if its not then forget it. International trade has many advantages and if some material has to come from the middle east I don't see the problem. America's dependence on foreign oil is greatly reduced (in gas as well) and you should be happy with that. Leave it with you.

Mark - Good news, we don't have to part company, ethanol is cheaper than gasoline.

But i don't agree with the premise that America should be happy being dependent or subservient to anyone, particularly when it's not necessary. Some years, ago, a guy named Robert Bryce tried to make the same point as you in his book "Gusher Of Lies." In 2013, I wrote a lengthy 60+ page rebuttal to the book. Here's what I wrote on this point:

"Bryce treats us to a sermon he titled 'WHY WE THINK WE WANT ENERGY INDEPENDENCE.'

"Or let me suggest another title that he could have used, 'Why struggle with freedom when slavery has so much to offer?'

"Bryce’s discourse reminded me of two things: First, the slave owner who says to his slaves, “What’s the big deal about freedom? If I free you, you’ll just have to go out and struggle to find a job, then a house, then clothes to wear, and food to eat. If you get sick, you have to pay the doctor’s bills. Why not stay here and I’ll take care of those things for you? What’s a little whipping every so often, and occasionally I’ll rape your wife or daughter or son; but so what? They’ll probably even learn to enjoy it?”

.......

"Bryce says “Americans are fixated” on the issue. I think there’s truth to that. However, I don’t think we’re fixated enough on the issue. He makes the picture look cheerful by telling us that we’re paying less for gasoline now then we did in 1913, based on adjusted numbers for inflation, improvements in lifestyle, Gross Domestic Production figures and other arcane comparisons. He attempts to alleviate our concerns when he writes that oil isn’t the only foreign product we depend on. And that’s true, too.

"I think it’s distressing to know or feel that we are incapable of producing steel nuts and bolts to build a new SF Bay Area Bridge, and that we need clothing factories in Bangladesh to manufacture $100 jeans for our malls to sell, and that we need China to build solar panels that don’t work sufficiently. It’s sad, but I’m still not getting the connection between our production inabilities and why it’s okay to be reliant on foreign sources for our engine fuels.

"Bryce also reminds us in GUSHER OF LIES that we’re not the only country enslaved to foreign oil; our two greatest allies in World War II, the Germans and the Japanese, are also locked in oil chains.

"Wait, did I just write “our two greatest allies in WWII, the Germans and the Japanese?…”. Oh, my gosh, weren’t they our enemy in WWII? Didn’t we win the war and they lost it? Didn’t we spend billions of dollars to rebuild their societies? Didn’t we get pulled into that war specifically because Japan went on a campaign of aggression to conquer oil producing countries in the Far East and we objected to it? Did we do all that just so we can bring ourselves down to the level of defeated nations?

"Now I get it. Hey, everybody it’s okay that we’re enslaved to oil that comes from people who hate us because it’s the new cool thing to do!

"Slavery is easy; it’s simple; it doesn’t require troublesome decision making…. If only there weren’t those occasional lashings and rapes….Hmmm.

"Alright, I hear you; I’m telepathically hearing you ask me, “What occasional lashings and rapes are you talking about?”

"Getting American service men and women blown up on the other side of the world, for one; having a bomb blow up at the finish line of a marathon, I’d say that’s a pretty good screwing; having a fully loaded jet fly into one of our office buildings; having an American doctor who is overseas trying to help poor people kidnapped and killed; owing other questionably-friendly nations trillions of dollars; you know, just those little everyday nuisances."

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