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Stop taxpayer funding of ethanol

Fri, Feb 6th, 2009
Posted in Commentary

Ethanol, in any form whether grain or cellulosic, will never economically replace petroleum. There just are not enough BTUs to justify it. Ethanol is about 20 to 30-percent less efficient than gasoline and about 50-percent less efficient than diesel fuel.

Adding 10-percent ethanol to gasoline reduces miles per gallon (MPG) by at least 10-percent. I know this because I checked it out. On a road trip to Florida, when I left the corn belt states where 10-percent ethanol is mandated and filled up with 100-percent gasoline in Kentucky, my mileage instantly increased from 20.5 MPG to 23 MPG, which it stayed constant in the 23 MPG range until I filled the tank with the ethanol blend on the return trip. That resulted in an immediate decrease of 10-percent in MPG.

I challenge anyone to run your own mileage tests. This is one of the dirty little secrets that the ethanol industry does not talk about.

Calculate the extreme negative numbers.

First, we taxpayers subsidize the construction of ethanol plants.

Secondly, we subsidize the planting and growing of the corn, and if the politicians have it their way, cellulosic material.

Thirdly, we subsidize each gallon of ethanol produced twice. Once with our federal taxes and again with our state taxes. There are federal direct subsidies of 51 cents per gallon of ethanol and federal indirect subsidies of 75 cents per gallon plus the state subsidies. Many of the ethanol plants in Minnesota were and are being built with tax abatement subsidies.

Total subsidies, direct and indirect, are over $1.75 per gallon of ethanol produced. In addition to all the subsidies we are paying, the addition of 10-percent ethanol to our gasoline is costing us at least 10-percent more at the pump. When we spend $40 to fill up the tank of our vehicle, $4 of this is wasted because of the ethanol blend's lower mileage. Think of that next time you fill up.

Eunice Biel's letter to the editor, January 19, 2009 Fillmore County Journal, states that "ethanol infuses over $3 billion into Minnesota's economy each year". I ask, how many more billions is it costing the 99.5-percent of us who must pay an extra 10-percent for the privilege of sharing in that $3 billion? Also, keep in mind that most of the $3 billion is our tax money to begin with.

I have known Ken Tschumper for 30 years and probably never agreed with him on any issue before. But maybe for different reasons than his, I agree with him that ethanol subsidies make no sense and they must be eliminated.

Current research seems to indicate that there is very little, if any, environmental advantage to using ethanol, and may even be a negative. It is hard to find any factual positives about ethanol.

In my opinion, the ethanol producers who are receiving these multi-billion dollar subsidies, are akin to the Wall Street bankers and brokers, with their collective hands in our back pockets.

Research also seems to indicate that it costs considerably more to produce a gallon of ethanol than its value as a fuel. Add to that the negative environmental impact of:

1. The large amounts of water that is drawn from our aquifers. Over 1000 gallons to produce 1 gallon of ethanol.

2. The natural gas that is burned to produce the steam need to heat and operate ethanol plants. If ethanol is such a great product, why don't the ethanol plants burn it instead of our natural gas resources?

3. Once ethanol is produced it consumes more of our natural resources to transport it in special tankers because it is too corrosive to put into pipe lines.

The negatives are overwhelming. Common sense says, "pull the plug on public subsidies to this boondoggle."

Gordon Holter lives in Houston, MN.

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