ZUBRIN: OPEN STANDARDS FOR AUTO FUEL

Today’s post comes from an Op-Ed in yesterday’s Washington Times by Robert Zubrin.

Let the market decide – oil, ethanol or methanol

Ladies and gentlemen of the left and the right: Let’s be realistic. There is no chance whatsoever that the U.S. political system will either: A) Pass carbon or gas taxes sufficiently punitive to compel Americans to curtail their driving substantially, or B) Support rapid expansion of offshore drilling for the foreseeable future.

Therefore, if neither conservation nor production is in the cards, how can we hope to deal with our nation’s dangerous and ever-growing dependence on foreign oil?

Here’s my answer: We need to cure our cars of their oil addiction. To paraphrase Shakespeare, the fault is not in ourselves, but in our cars; we are made underlings.

Let’s stop the guilt-ridden breast-beating and place the blame where it belongs. We are not addicted to oil. Our cars are addicted to oil. They are like a tribe of people who, because of some unfortunate flaw, can only eat one kind of food, say herring. Thus, if the herring merchants combine to rig up the price of their product to $100 per pound, the tribesmen have no choice but to submit. They would be far better off if they could become omnivores, capable of eating steak, ice cream, corn, eggs, apples, etc., as the power to use such alternatives would make them immune from herring-cartel extortion.

Our four-wheeled servants have the same problem; they can only drink one kind of fuel. Unfortunately, because we are the ones who must foot the bill for their singular habit, their problem is our problem. We need to cure them.

Fortunately, such a cure is at hand. The technology exists to make cars that are fully flex-fueled, able to run equally well on gasoline, ethanol or methanol, in any combination. If installed at the time of manufacture, the inclusion of this feature adds only about $100 to the cost of a typical car. The benefits of making such a childhood immunization against oil addiction a standard requirement for all new autos sold in the U.S. would be profound.

Were it the rule that only oil-addiction-immunized cars could enter the U.S. market, foreign carmakers would waste no time in switching over their entire lines to flex fuel. Thus, not only Japanese cars sold in America, but also those sold in Japan and everywhere else would be omnivores, as would nearly all other cars sold in any serious way internationally. Within a very few years, there would be tens of millions of cars in the U.S. endowed with the capacity for fuel choice, and hundreds of millions more internationally. Under those conditions, gasoline would be forced to compete at the pump against both methanol and ethanol made from any number of potential sources all over the world. This would put a permanent competitive constraint against future rises in the price of oil. Such a constraint is vitally needed, as without it, current $75-per-barrel recession oil prices could easily explode under conditions of economic recovery to levels of $150 per barrel or more, thereby aborting the recovery itself.

While ethanol can make a significant contribution – it has replaced 7 percent of the gasoline used in the U.S. and more than 50 percent in Brazil – the real key here is compatibility with methanol, which can be made in limitless quantities from anything that either is or once was a plant, including coal, natural gas, recycled urban trash or any kind of biomass, without exception. Its current price on the international market is $1 per gallon, equivalent in energy terms to gasoline at $1.90 per gallon – without any subsidy. If we cure our cars so they can drink this fuel, we will protect ourselves from extortion by the oil cartel, forever.

A bill has been introduced in Congress to do exactly that. Known as the Open Fuel Standards (OFS) Act, it has truly bipartisan support, with its Senate version (S.B. 835) sponsors including such liberals as Sen. Maria Cantwell, Washington Democrat, and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Minnesota Democrat; moderates such as Sen. Joe Lieberman, Connecticut independent, and Sen. Susan Collins, Maine Republican; and conservatives such as Sen. Sam Brownback, Kansas Republican, and Sen. John Thune, South Dakota Republican. Similarly, its House version (H.R. 1476) supporters run the political spectrum from Rep. Eliot L. Engel, New York Democrat, to Rep. Bob Inglis, South Carolina Republican. Under the bill’s provision, by 2012, 50 percent of all new cars sold in the U.S. will need to be fully flex-fueled, with the number rising to 80 percent by 2015.

With a stroke of a pen, Congress can break the power of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries to tax the world. The OFS bill will not cost the Treasury a dime, and it will protect the nation from hundreds of billions of dollars of potential losses because of future petroleum price increases. Those reluctant to support it need to answer the question: In whose interest is it that Americans lack fuel choice? In whose interest is it that our cars remain addicted to oil?

Robert Zubrin is president of Pioneer Astronautics and the author of “Energy Victory: Winning the War on Terror by Breaking Free of Oil” (Prometheus Books, 2007).

SOCIAL MEDIA GAINING POWER

Facebook. Twitter. YouTube. Flickr. Blogger.

What do all of these things mean to you? Everyone uses social media in different ways and for many different reasons. However, everyone can agree on one thing – social media has changed the way that our world communicates, and it is not going to go away. 470,334,100 people are on Facebook today. That is more than the population of the entire United States. Not only that, but these 470,334,100 people all have access to what you say.

I don’t want to bore everyone with facts and statistics, but these are pretty compelling numbers. The fact is that social media is gaining power, and all of that power is available to everyone. People want their news, information, and entertainment when they want it, where they want it, and at the click of a button. Anything you want to know is on the internet and in social media in some form or another. That being said, the agricultural community can’t be left behind. If people want to get on their iPhones for 5 minutes while they are walking from the parking lot to their office to get their news for the day, agriculture needs to be right there with them. No one wants to go looking for facts anymore, they want it to come to them, which is what the community of agriculture needs to do. We need to go to the general public with our message, and do it in a way that people will find easily.

Here’s an example: The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) is fighting with farmers and producers about what they think “animal cruelty” is. They think that our practiced and proven methods of farming and raising livestock are wrong because the cows don’t frolic in twenty acres of pasture every day. They are getting so much good press for their messages that the uninformed will believe them easily, because it is easy to believe a cause that claims to be helping animals. Any farmer you talk to will know about this fight with the HSUS and will have plenty to say. But that’s just it, not enough people are saying it! We have the power through social media to give our side of the story, and to educate the misinformed. We have a great message to tell, and now it is our job to use social media to our advantage and tell the world about agriculture. If that doesn’t have you convinced, this article might.  In short, this explains how the HSUS is tagging agricultural videos as porn to get less people to hear our message.

That being said, there’s room for lighthearted and fun education on social media too. Not everyone wants to get involved in heated debates about these issues; some don’t think they have any reason to be concerned. But those are still people that we need to reach with our message. As an intern at IL Corn, I understand the issues that farmers face today. I also understand how people my age think, and it is my job to reach them and everyone else with our message. Corn is not something that people get excited about unless we make it exciting. For example, the IL Corn summer interns have been making videos that have overlaying messages about corn and agriculture built into them. People watch videos because they are quick, easy to watch, easily accessible, and they don’t have to put forth any effort to hear the message. So we give them entertaining and educational videos that they can learn from. Occasionally, someone will stumble across a parody movie we have made and watch it because it looks funny. As a result, they learn something they didn’t plan on learning. When that happens, we have accomplished our goal. We just finished our first video that does just that.

http://www.youtube.com/v/gYvKH8o4DPk&hl=en_US&fs=1&rel=0&color1=0x234900&color2=0x4e9e00&border=1

Social media will never go away. It is here to stay, and everyone has a future with social media whether we go looking for it or not. I personally did not want to get a Twitter account because it seemed like a crazy fad that would soon die out and it seemed annoying to me. When I started this job I started one up, and I have already learned things I never would have dreamed of because I never would have gone looking for it, but there it was, just being handed to me. That is the power of social media. It is all there for the taking, we just have to be giving the information for people to take.

Kristie Harms
Junior at the University of Missouri
ICGA/ICMB Summer Intern

BIG OIL AND THE DEATH OF THE AMERICAN SPIRIT

In response to our Top Ten Enemies of Ethanol post where we reported that Ed Wallace, Robert Rapier, and Mark Perry were among the biggest enemies of ethanol, folks commented against ethanol by the dozens. I can only assume the new readers were driven by the link offered us by Inside Automotive, but all the comments did for me was make me question the American spirit that used to pervade our country and now seems markedly absent.

The news this week is peppered with stories about Thailand’s increasing use of ethanol. In fact, Ford, an American company, wants to become “Thailand’s foremost leader in ethanol technology.” This article mentions that 300,000 E20-compatible vehicles have been sold in Thailand since their introduction in 2006.

In similar fashion, Keith Good made mention in his news summary on Tuesday that “as for performance and durability, Brazilian engineers say local cars that run on E20-E25 gasoline are in no way inferior to their North American counterparts.” This is a direct quote from the Reuter’s article on the US EPA’s delay to approve e15 in the US.

The two articles collectively made me think. If a developed country and an underdeveloped country can pull together and find resources to make domestic, renewable fuels work, why can’t we?

The US used to be a world leader and our entrepreneurship, innovation, and vision were celebrated worldwide. Are we now so dependent on foreign oil that our addiction is clouding the view and inhibiting the exact things that made the US great?

Is the oil addiction so heavy that we are unwilling or unable to change?

I can tell you; it’s not that we’re unable to change. We are changing. US foreign oil imports have gone from 40% to over 60% in the last two decades. Now, the EPA is considering a move from e10 to e15 – a 5% change – and we somehow think that this 5% change towards domestic, renewable fuels is worse than the 20% change in the other direction? I’m not sure I call this progress.

And I’m not sure what we’re fighting. Brazilian engineers are comfortable with the changes to higher ethanol concentrations and notice no difference in performance. Our leaders who have traveled to Brazil and seen and spoken to small engine manufacturers can’t understand why it works so well there and we can’t make it work here. Where’s the battle? Brazilians have been using ethanol for years and if a large problem existed, we’d have heard about it by now.

Corn-based ethanol isn’t the only solution to our problem. But what it represents is a solution we have available now. We have corn, we have the technology to make corn-based ethanol, and we need domestic, renewable fuel.

No argument in the world changes those facts.

Rodney M. Weinzierl
ICMB, ICGA Executive Director

ALL THIS HEAD BANGING IS GIVING ME A HEADACHE

No, I’m not hanging out with the 80’s hair bands at the local watering hole, I’m banging my head against the wall. And it’s not a good look for me.

Yesterday it was an email, today it’s a comment on an article in the St Louis Post Dispatch, tomorrow it will be the tweet that is re-tweeted until it twitters out. And then the next day it will be the link on my news feed in facebook. What am I talking about? The never ending variations of the questions/claims that making ethanol from U.S. corn starves children in the poorest nations and converts land that would otherwise grow “food” to corn acreage.

But that’s okay, because one more question, email, tweet or status update is another opportunity to share accurate information regarding ethanol.

In short:

• Is there enough corn? Yes.

• Does making ethanol mean I won’t have corn to eat? No.

• Does growing corn for ethanol mean we won’t grow food? No.

• That’s not what other people say. I know.

There are all kinds of reasons the people will blog, write, say, tweet, youtube or status update that ethanol is bad. The corn industry is often criticized as an information provider about ethanol because we have something to gain. Um, ya, we don’t grow corn for free. But why would we cut off our nose (feeding livestock, exports to other countries, human food uses, industrial applications) to spite our face (ethanol)?

In case that reference didn’t make sense, let me say it more plainly. Does it make sense that corn farmers would forsake one or many market opportunities just to add another? No. Does it make sense that corn farmers are growing more corn using less land, chemicals, fertilizer, water, time and fuel? Yes. So does it make sense that they would continue to look for ways to use corn? Yes.

Well motivation is a two way street, folks. The naysayers have their own personal motivations and opportunities to gain. (Can you say resume padding, book deals, feature films, and speaking engagements?)

And FYI, being against something, in this case ethanol, doesn’t ordain you with some sort of “hall pass” to make claims that are irrelevant, irreverent, and irresponsible.

Here are some facts about ethanol and facts about corn. And before you go criticizing the source or calling me a liar, consider that these numbers come from the United States Department of Agriculture and their National Agricultural Statistics Service. That’s USDA NASS for short. Other numbers come from the U.S Energy Information Administration or USEIA.

Tricia Braid Terry
ICGA/ICMBA Communications Director

KEEP YOUR FRIENDS CLOSE AND YOUR ENEMIES CLOSER

There’s a new movement afoot in the US and it goes something like this: if corn is bad, corn-based ethanol is worse.

We receive a publication here in the office called The Ethanol Monitor and Friday’s edition featured a front page story by Editor and Publisher Tom Waterman that named the top 10 enemies of ethanol. Some of the listed enemies are blogs and authors I wasn’t well acquainted with and I bet you aren’t either.

This further drives home the message that conversations are happening every hour of every day that agriculture isn’t a part of, so I’d encourage you to click through some of these links and educate yourself. It is raining out there after all.

GRIST is an environmental blog that hits number nine on the countdown and according to Waterman, if you enter “ethanol” in the search button, you will find more than 1,100 entries, not including comments, that are 100% negative. He also mentions that this blog carries a lot of weight with the environmental community and that they could easily be ranked higher than number nine.

Robert Rapier and his blog, R Squared Energy Blog, is ranked as the number five worst enemy of ethanol for time spent discrediting every positive development in the ethanol industry. He is a big fan of the indirect land use theory and according to Waterman is very influential. Also, he’s a former Conoco Phillips employee and is definitely a Big Oil fan.

An Honorable Mention went to Mark Perry whose blog, Carpe Diem, highlights other articles against ethanol like that of fellow Honorable Mention, Robert Bryce. Scroll down to June 10 and June 11 dates to get a flavor of the position he’s pushing.

And because I can’t link to the article or republish without author consent, I wanted to offer to you the entire Top Ten enemies of ethanol according to Tom Waterman.

#10: Business Week/Ed Wallace (Bloomberg)
#9: GRIST
#8: “Big Oil”
#7: Grocery Manufacturers Association
#6: David Pimentel
#5: Robert Rapier
#4: Tim Searchinger
#3: Wall Street Journal (editorial board)
#2: California Air Resources Board
#1: Time Magazine (Michael Grunwald)

Waterman also notes that the number one slot could have easily gone to “mainstream media” who publish uninformed articles and are too lazy to complete adequate research, but he was trying to be more specific.

To obtain a copy of this article, Ethanol’s Top 10 Enemies, email info@oilintel.com or call 732-222-5578.

Lindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director

CAUTION: MEN AT WORK

The Illinois Corn home office is under construction this week. We’re trying to prepare for our June board meetings by repairing some massive pot holes in our parking lot and driveway. What that means for those of us in the office is parking a little further away and doing a bit of a hopscotch move to get into the front door of the building without stepping in drying cement.


Inside the office, we’re under construction too. In fact, there’s a host of issues and events that we’re working on! Some have short deadlines, some have been in progress for decades, but much like the men outside pouring cement, we’re dedicated and can’t wait to see these projects to completion.

It’s just that we’re going to do so with our shirts ON.

Locks and Dams

If you take a look at our website and visit the locks and dams section, we boast that this just might be the year that Illinois corn farmers finally see funding for lock and dam upgrades. What led us to that conclusion is partly that industry and the Army Corps of Engineers have come to an agreement on how to fund the upgrades AND complete them efficiency. We’ve been taking this message to Congress and have found that they are particularly receptive to groups that have their own funding streams to partner with federal dollars! But we also know that if we don’t get lock and dam funding this year, we might have to wait a few more before we push it again. So … 2010 is the year in our minds because the timing just won’t be right next year. Call your Congressman and ask that they fund lock and dam upgrades!

CornBelters

Opening day is June 1! That means that the rest of the week and Tuesday, we’ll be hard at work preparing messaging, coordinating media, assigning tickets, outfitting our suite, and doing all the other miscellaneous work that accompanies our CornBelters partnership. Please join us for opening day when our ICMB Chairman, Jim Rapp, will throw the first pitch! If this is something that interests you, you might check out our recent podcast.

Ethanol

Now that we finally have the first blender pump operating in Sullivan, IL, we can return to other ethanol issues that are close at hand. The EPA indicates that they will issue a decision on higher ethanol blends this summer and we continue to press our Illinois Delegation to co-sponsor HR 4940, the Renewable Fuels Reinvestment Act. This act would extend the Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit among other things and will help ethanol remain a valuable partner in developing rural communities, lessoning our environmental impact, and accomplishing energy security. Kuddos to the Illinois Congressman that have already co-sponsored this important bill – if your Congressman doesn’t appear here, give him or her a call today!

Social Media

We have hired several interns for the summer that will start next week working on social media projects and helping us continue to gear up our social media presence. As you’ve obviously noticed, our blog posts and content are improving daily, but we can’t wait for them to arrive, helping us populate our youtube channel with valuable information and maybe even getting more facts and data our on facebook and twitter. If you aren’t already following us on all of these important outlets, I’d encourage you to check into them!

There are a million other “projects under construction” in our office but this definitely gives you a flavor for what the Illinois Corn staff and boards are up to right now. Please notice that we can’t complete many of these projects without your help! Consider contacting your Congressman on the above issues to thank him and ask for his help on the things that matter to you. Consider partnering with us on the social media front by following us on twitter, Facebook, youtube, or the blog and forward our messaging to your friends and family.

As they say, it takes a village. And I could sure use your help as I traverse the construction area outside our door! That’s one construction project that can’t be done soon enough.

By: Lindsay Mitchell

ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director

AN EVEN TRADE?

The Renewable Fuels Association released a report yesterday regarding U.S. ethanol exports. According to the report, our ethanol exports are surging partly because the U.S. is the lowest cost producer right now and also because we have extra ethanol we can’t use within our country.

Both of these concepts might come as a shock to you so let me give a brief explanation. Ethanol produced in Iowa is currently $1 cheaper per gallon than ethanol produced in Brazil. Blending 10% ethanol from Iowa into a gallon of gasoline would be $0.11 cheaper than the same blend containing ethanol from Brazil.

I’m not shocked that U.S. farmers and ethanol producers are the most efficient in the world, but I’m sure some are.

And in regards to the second point, we do have additional gallons of ethanol that we can’t use in the U.S. right now. Since the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will only allow a 10% of each gallon of gasoline to be ethanol, we simply don’t have any more gallons of gasoline to blend into.

But all the summaries and background information aside (you can read that here), there are a couple of take home messages from this data that I just can’t ignore.

First, I wish the world, the government, and the American consumer would notice that American corn farmers are doing EXACTLY as we said they would – they are producing more than enough corn to feed and fuel the world. Corn farmers have grown enough corn to feed all the livestock in the U.S., to export corn to other countries to feed their livestock, to fulfill the needs of all the food markets in our country, to produce all the ethanol that our entire nation can use, and now to ship our ethanol to other countries.

Why did anyone doubt us and when is someone going to notice? American corn farmers can produce corn. They can produce exponential yields using less fertilizer, fewer chemicals, and contributing to minimal soil erosion. When is someone going to stand up and give the corn farmer credit for this incredible story of production and environmental stewardship?

Secondly, and maybe more importantly, why are we shipping ethanol to other countries at the expense of our own energy security!?

To quote the RFA report, “As long as domestic ethanol usage is restricted by the regulatory limitation on 10% blends, the U.S. ethanol industry will be forced to look to the global marketplace for new demand sources. And, as a result, Americans will miss out on the opportunity for greater fuel savings and a healthier, more secure domestic energy supply.”

I admit that I obviously have a bias because I love corn farmers, I love corn, and I love ethanol. But am I the only one thinking that trading our safety, our health, and our cash for more oil overseas because of government rhetoric is crazy?

Dave Loos
ICGA/ICMB Technology & Business Development Director
(and ethanol expert!)

ETHANOL PRODUCTION DOES NOT IMPACT INCREASING NITROGEN AND PHOSPHORUS RUNOFF

Corn needs nitrogen and phosphorus in the soil to produce quality grain. For years, farmers have added these nutrients to the soil through manure applications and, more recently, directly injecting them into the soil.

However, the actual use of nitrogen and phosphorus per bushel has decreased in recent years. Corn yields are going up and nutrient applications are decreasing, allowing farmers to use 36 percent less fertilizer for their crops than they did only three decades ago.  In addition, new tillage practices are reducing soil erosion which, in turn, decreases nutrient run off. If you look at their numbers, there is less phosphorus and nitrogen per bushel of corn now than ever before.

Currently there are two projects starting in Illinois that are addressing the movement of nitrogen and phosphorus by studying tillage, application dates and amounts. These studies will be a collaborative effort between the Environmental Defense Fund, American Farmland Trust, and University of Illinois researchers.

Increased ethanol production has had no impact on phosphorus and nitrogen run off.
Recent information is now looking at “legacy phosphorus and nitrogen” – a term coined by the EPA to indicate nutrients that were washed into the streams and rivers and deposited 50 years ago and are now being moved downstream by the heavy rainfall events of the last few years. It is estimated that it may take 30-50 years before this huge reservoir of sediment and nutrients will be washed out of the River system. Thus the significant reduction in applied nutrients/bushel currently is actually keeping the levels of nutrients in our water systems from being as high as they could be.

Mike Plumer
Ex Officio Director, ICGA & U of I Extension Specialist

WHAT QUALIFIES AS GLUTTONOUS PROFITS? HOW ABOUT 8,000%!

If you’re looking for a good read, I think you might have just stumbled across one.

Take a look at this article by Marc J. Rauch, Executive Vice President of The Auto Channel which claims to be the “largest independent automotive information resource.” I don’t know about that, but I do know that Mr. Rauch is in favor of calling a spade, a spade.

The article quickly chronicles the arrival of a news tip in his inbox entitled Automakers Concerns with E15, and his thoughts on the folks that wrote the article, their lack of facts, and their unbiased support of the oil industry.

He offers some great quotes. For one, “The story’s byline claims that its author is with the ‘Ethanol Transparency Project,’ a sponsored program of “The Agribusiness Council.” After perusing information about The Agribusiness Council I would say that its name is as ill-conceived in describing its real purpose as “National Socialism” was to describe Hitler’s Nazi Party.”

And he summarizes the article by saying, “Except for those people who make gluttonous profits from the petroleum oil, it is in everyone’s best interests to destroy OPEC and the ruling hierarchy of the gasoline companies. Energy independence from foreign dictators and terrorism supporters can be had, and there are economically viable alternatives to gasoline that are available right now. Alcohol (ethanol) is one, and it may be as close to a viable single source solution to oil as is possible.”

I won’t ruin it for you. Come check it out here.

By: Lindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director

FAPRI Response to “Stop Big Corn” in Washington Times

Ethanol Fumes

The editorial “Stop ‘Big Corn’ ” (Opinion, Monday) did not accurately describe the analysis of ethanol policy conducted by our institute.

The editorial says we at the University of Missouri’s Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute estimate that the ethanol blender’s tax credit increases the price of corn by “18 cents per barrel.” This appears to be a reference to a report we issued in March that looked at the impact of extending the 45-cents-per-gallon ethanol tax credit, the 54-cents-per-gallon ethanol tariff and the $1-per-gallon biodiesel credit. We estimated that the combined effect of these three policies would be to raise the average producer price of corn by 18 cents per bushel during the 2011-12 corn-marketing year. Individually, each of these policies would have a smaller impact on corn prices.

In addition, the editorial says the Environmental Protection Agency is deciding whether to “boost existing requirements that gasoline contain 10 percent ethanol to 15 percent.” The EPA is actually considering whether to allow 15 percent blends, not whether to require them.

Finally, you cite the cost of the blender’s tax credit as $16 billion per year. That would be the eventual cost of the credit if ethanol consumption reached 36 billion gallons per year and the tax credit were maintained at its current level. We project actual ethanol use in 2010 to be a little more than 12 billion gallons, suggesting that the direct fiscal cost of the credit this year will be less than $6 billion. Without legislative action, the blender’s credit will expire at the end of 2010.

PATRICK WESTHOFF
Co-director, Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute
University of Missouri
Columbia, Mo.

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