Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Politics: Wow. Imagine that.

So the .gov decides that putting corn squeezins in the gasoline will make Greenpeace happy and Osama bin Laden sad, both at the same time, which is a win-win deal. So, being a bunch of congressmen, they decided that the best way to get those corn squeezins into the gasoline is to subsidize, subsidize, subsidize. (Especially since a lot of those congressmen came from corn-growing regions and had gotten elected by promising their constituents that they'd have them farting through silk in no time.)

So, being smart, anyone can see that you need to put your corn into corn squeezins, and not Fritos; at least you do if you want any of that sweet, sweet government candy. Only that makes the price of Fritos go up. And now we can't afford to send any Fritos to Chad to keep people there from starving. Whoops.

Imagine, government meddling with the market via subsidies distorts pricing and causes problems.

Who could have seen that coming?


Anonymous said...

Attributed to Ronald Reagan's State of the Union speech in 1986:

"[G]overnment's view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it."


Anonymous said...

It's not just the 90 million that the UN tries to help. It's us, as well.

Food prices: Meat, Post Toasties, Fritos.

Water: More depletion of the Ogalalla Aquifer, an aquifer that is very slow to recharge.

Land: The farmers are not rotating crops, and that depletes the land. Sure, you can fertilize, but it takes energy to make fertilizer. And rotation reduces problems with disease and insect pests.

Ain't Congress wonderful?


Don said...

It's going to get a lot worse before it gets a lot better. In Illinois, people still think E85 (85% ethanol) is the perfect fuel--and so cheap!

Plus it helps The American Farmer.

Of course, The American Farmer might need less help if he hadn't been the beneficiary of government programs aimed at paying him tax dollars to keep him afloat while killing the prices he can charge for his products.

Anonymous said...

People(and by "people" I mean Media) started noticing the financial sideffects of E85 a year ago - I remember watching a 60 minutes piece on the skyrocketing cost of corn affecting poor mexicans(corn is a staple of their diet) last September. It's also going to be affecting us, both directly(IE corn syrup, fritos), and indirectly(alot of corn is used to feed cattle). Milk's recent rise in price, is mainly due to rise in animal feed costs..

The sad part is, if we turned every ear of corn into fuel in this country, it still would only supply only about 12% of our energy needs. And to top it off, availablity is nonexistant the farther you get from "corn country" - about the only state with significant numbers of E85 stations is Minnesota. Only 7 states total have more than 50 stations..

Rob K said...

Maybe soda pop will start to taste better soon, as corn syrup prices go above artificially propped-up cane sugar prices.

Anonymous said...

HTRN, to make it even better about six months ago I discovered that using the EPA's "overall" fuel mileage and average fuel price numbers for a couple of different flex fuel cars and found that with prices where they were at that time it cost 10%-15% more to burn E85, due to the decrease in fuel mileage.

7.62x54r said...

Anarchy is the only answer.

Matt G said...

Mmmmm... Fritos.

GreatBlueWhale said...

Oh, but someone has to do SOMETHING! I did a post on this kind of thing two years ago, and things certainly haven't changed since then. Sadly, it's come to the point where too many "conservative" legislators, state and federal have swilled down copious quantities of high fructose corn syrup sweetened, brightly colored, artificially flavored, non-carbonated beverage.

Anonymous said...

Can the homeless be directly processed into diesel fuel?

I'll take 100 gallons of that ...

theirritablearchitect said...

"Oh, but someone has to do SOMETHING!"

I couldn't agree more with your sentiment here, gbw. It's a phenomenon that crosses the political aisle as well, so it's something of a pure political animal, it seems. The problem stems, I think, from the general populace having the same feelings about the subject, whatever it may be. It's a result of nothing more than stupidity, mental apathy and lack of ethics.

Gewehr98 said...

I luvs me flex-fuel pickup. I luvs my family selling the extra field corn that our Black Angus don't eat, not to Mexican tortilla factories, but to my fellow Cheddarheads. I luvs that they don't need PIK money anymore to keep the farm from being foreclosed on. I luvs me 105-octane E-85, as I build my 383 stroker for my '53 Chevy pickup project. I luvs telling the ululating oilwell tenders in Jihadistan that I don't need them. I luvs how folks claim that the price of beer is skyrocketing because of corn squeezin's being used for automobile fuel:


I luvs how folks piss and moan about ethanol, but don't suggest a better alternative to reduce our fossil fuel dependency, while at the same time they still feel the need to make those trips to Chuck E. Cheese with a Suburban or Excursion full of screaming little crotchfruits every week. Very nice, indeed.

theirritablearchitect said...


Soylent Green as biomass? Can't say that it wouldn't work! LOL!

Tam said...

"I luvs how folks piss and moan about ethanol,"


I thought I was pissing and moaning about subsidies, and the fact that idiot politicians think that they can take a legislative ruler to the knuckles of the Invisible Hand.

Anonymous said...

With 10% ethanol, fuel mileage drops buy about 10%, it drops about 30% with E-85. Even with subsidies, ethanol costs more per mile than plain gas.

Ethanol does reduce the amount of CO and HC's in emissions but increases the amount of VOC's, NOx, acetaldehyde, and a few others. The net result is an increase in pollutants including several directly linked to a significant increase in smog.

It takes 126,000 BTU to create 1 gallon of Ethanol, which yields 76,000 BTU, actually increasing our dependence on foreign oil.

To top it all of, you can expect a shorter lifespan of your car as Ethanol is mildly corrosive.

You can thank ADM for being the primary instigator in the Ethanol scam.

Gewehr98 said...

Bedlamite, what do you really know about ethanol?

I've been a "fuelie" for about 25 years, running ethanol, methanol, and nitromethanol in my street and race vehicles, from a sedate 2.2L S-10 to a blown, big-block 580 inch, Rat Motor 8-second doorslammer. I'm building a 383 stroker moter for my '53 Chevy pickup, and it'll use a new Edelbrock E-85 carburetor.

People conveniently forget that ethanol delivers poor fuel mileage if you keep the engine's compression ratio down there where the low-octane gasoline engines need it. Low compression is a waste of the 105 octane E-85. Some fuels need higher compression to shine, just like diesel. Flex-fuel vehicles like my '01 S-10 are a compromise, allowing gasoline, ethanol, or any mix in between to run with no commitment from the owner. That compromise means you're not going to get the best gas mileage out of E-85 or E-10, but you also aren't committed to staying within driving distance of an E-85 pump.

Corrosion? ALL E-85 compatible vehicles depart the manufacturers with stainless steel or other corrosion-resistant fuel systems. Put E-85 in a vehicle not configured for it, and you'll figure out pretty darned quickly why it doesn't work. Again, we "fuelies" on the drag strip knew about the corrosion effects of alcohol fuels since Christ was a corporal, and had no problems preventing it.

We can certainly continue to suck at the imported petroleum teat, watching the prices of OPEC crude climb to levels unseen before. You suppose as they fill the tanks of the delivery trucks with the ever-more-expensive imported diesel, your Post Toasties will stay cheap then?

We as a nation have seen the heyday of cheap driving come and go, at least in a fossil fuel sense. It remains to be seen what an American's budget allows for as gas prices climb and consumer goods absorb those fuel prices, it ain't just the ethanol.

Nobody wants new refineries in their back yards, nobody wants to drill in the ANWR, nobody wants to invest in oil shale or coal liquefaction, yet everybody wants their H2 or H3 (Tahoe w/codpiece, to borrow a nicely-done adjective) ass-wagons. You can't have your cake and eat it, too. Subsidies suck, I agree, but they have the benefit of lighting a fire under some technologies that would otherwise be smothered by Big Oil, for example. If corn ethanol wasn't exploited, we'd never have a push to cellulosic ethanol - one of the next steps in our independence from imported fossil fuel. I needn't remind folks that corn ethanol was just an easy way to get the ball rolling, thanks to our industrious and alcoholic forefathers in Colonial times. It isn't the long-term solution, nor will it fill every vehicle on the highway. But it's a start, and that's better than sitting there waiting to figure out how you're gonna fill up both front and rear tanks in your Suburban.

As for government subsidies, we corn farmers were aware of that long before Ethanol became the whipping boy of choice. The subsidies have just come from a different government account, now. Ethanol vs. PIK, etc.

Anonymous said...

"Bedlamite, what do you really know about ethanol?"

I know that when someone brings facts to an argument that can't be refuted, the best course of action is to attack the messenger.

taylor said...

I always wondered what happened to the SVO concept (straight vegetable oil). Apparently most diesel cars can be converted to run on veggie oil.

That and synthetic and bio-diesel fuels seem like they hold alot more promise for quicker change than e-85.

The major drawbacks of driving a SVO fueled diesel car are that you have to start it using conventional diesel (cause the ignition point is lower than diesel and the engine has to be warm to run properly) and the exhaust smells like french fries

Gewehr98 said...

hfBedlamite, I didn't attack you.

I won't attack the arguer, but I will attack the argument.

I disputed your assertations regarding energy-in vs. energy-out, EToH vs. gasoline. My sources up here in Wisconsin say differently. Who you gonna believe? Which study is the One True Sword, and which lobbying group paid for that study? I'm not gonna turn Tam's blog into a link fest, but for every gripe aired about ethanol, there's a counter out there to quash it.

Likewise with the corrosion thing - it's a non-issue. It still makes for a nice sound bite from the anti-ethanol naysayers, and it suckers in folks time and time again. For fuelies who've been working with alcohol for the last 50+ years, it was fixed eons ago. The Luftwaffe ran on the stuff, for chrissakes. The crankcase internals of my '01 dual fuel Chevy are nitrided to resist ethanol's effects. GM didn't charge me any more for my dual-fuel truck than a plain gasoline model. The technology didn't exactly bankrupt them. Need I describe more of the techniques?

Regardless,if I was going to attack you, you'd know about it pretty darned quickly. Trust me. Now, since the whining is out of the way, how about you tell us what we're gonna do about our dependency on a dwindling petroleum reserve worldwide? How many gallons of biodiesel per pound of Soylent Green? You know, alternatives...

SVO is a nice concept, but again, you have to commit to it. I've got a neighbor down the street who uses waste vegetable oil in his older Volvo diesel. He gets it for free from local restaurants, but he has work to do, both in filtering the stuff and putting a second fuel tank in the car, along with associated plumbing. He has to be at his restaurants every day to pick it up, otherwise they'll give it to some other entrepeneur. He has to get his car's engine up to temperature on normal diesel fuel while pre-heating the vegetable oil to 150 degrees, then switch over to it. Before he shuts the car down, he has to switch over to diesel fuel again to prevent the vegetable oil from gumming things up. Mechanical injection diesels appear to have an easier time of running on SVO compared to their electronic injection counterparts.

SVO and biodiesel have promise, but also need help, particularly in colder climates where they gel up. That's why biodiesel pumps don't sell 100% biodiesel around my neck of the woods, but a mix of soy biodiesel and regular diesel fuel.

Matt G said...

I'll have to agree that Gewehr didn't attack the person.

I'll also have to say that corn squeezin's would make a fine fuel... if.

If they can be produced for less energy than they produce. (Big if.)

If they can be made without subsidies.

Anonymous said...

G98 - The fact remains that the 10% algas that has been pushed on to us by a bunch of ignorant bought and paid for politicians is a lose-lose fuel.

My gas mileage on my 2000 Isuzu drops 10% whenever I'm forced to put that crap in the gas tank. And all of your babbling about the wonders of running "fuelies" isn't going to change that.

As well, the car's operating systems were not designed to run on that crap. I suspect that consequently the life of all those components will be significantly decreased.

And as Tam already pointed out, the only reason it's even on the table is because of the massive taxpayer subsidies that ADM has gotten from its lobbying dollars.

Anonymous said...

taylor said...

The major drawbacks of driving a SVO fueled diesel car are that you have to start it using conventional diesel (cause the ignition point is lower than diesel and the engine has to be warm to run properly) and the exhaust smells like french fries

the major drawback to waste veggie oil is that you need to scrounge it up yourself and then process it by yourself to remove the bits left over from that fish fry.

I'm willing to bet that as soon as you get vendors selling the stuff at 51% of the filling stations in the country, you'll get WVO vehicles ready to go from the showroom floor.

Of course, when that happens, no one will give you that fuel for free anyone either.

Tracy said...

Alcohol is also hygroscopic, meaning it can hold quite a bit of water. You could be paying $3 per gallon for the water content as well as the fuel. The ECU would adjust for it, but miles per gallon would decrease even more because water isn't fuel.
Same problem happened in the '70s with gasohol, except no ECU to bump mixture & timing.
Besides, in this country any alcohol distillation is gonna be heavily regulated by... guess who?... ATF. With all the attendant taxes, and with subsidies to offset that for the most favored ones; screw everybody else.
Growing jatropha and pressing it for oil bypasses all that crap, and is an inherently libertarian endeavor. That in itself makes be prefer it, plus I prefer diesel engines for most purposes anyway.

Anonymous said...

There's no doubt that the situation is good for those who raise corn, but their fertilizer bills are gonna go up. Year-after-year monoculture exacerbates problems with bugs and plant disease.

The Ogalalla Aquifer is already being depleted; the cost of irrigation will increase.

Wildlife lands are being converted to farmlands. That impacts those making a living from supplying hunters.

Profitability: At $2/bushel, it's a buck a gallon. At $4 a bushel, it's $0.09. That won't do much for ROI.

Food prices are already climbing because of the change in the use of corn.

Short-term: Boon for farmers. Long-term: Bad for bunches of people. We're helping 2% of the workforce to the detriment of 98% of the workforce.


Anonymous said...

The problem with straight vegetable oil is that it's a range of substances with a range of melting points - and some portions will turn solid at normal outdoor temperatures, even in the southern states. That will clog up your fuel injectors, pronto. So you have to run regular petroleum diesel until the engine heat warms up your SVO tank, filter, and fuel lines, and then you have to switch back to petroleum oil a few minutes before you shut the engine off, to ensure all the SVO has been washed out of the injectors. It costs a lot to provide your car with a double fuel system, with the SVO half all heated (e.g., fuel lines have to be a tube within a tube, with the outer tube connected to the engine coolant). Also, you don't save much petroleum except on long trips. For instance, with my 7-mile, 11 minute daily commute, I probably wouldn't even get to switch over to SVO before it was time to switch back.

Finally, although you can automate the switchovers with thermostats and timers (at the cost of wasting fuel by keeping the engine running X minutes on the timer after you stop rather than you switching over manually X minutes before you get there), you've still got to be a lot more aware of what's going on under the hood than most drivers.


Anonymous said...

I find the whole subsidy thing humorous and discouraging at the same time. Humorous because the goal is to reduce oil imports and throw a perk to the farmers. Discouraging because where do the farmers get the fuel and fertilizers to make the whole thing grow.

Those of us in the oil industry just look at this as one big political giveaway program but in the end we just don't care much. They will still burn our oil so no skin off our noses.