News / Science & Technology

Alternative Fuel Ethanol Hits a Wall

Alternative Fuel Ethanol Hits a Walli
X
Steve Baragona
May 10, 2014 10:55 AM
With petroleum-based fuels contributing to climate change, advocates have backed plant-based biofuels as a greener source of energy. A 2007 law requires gasoline makers to add increasing amounts of the biofuel ethanol to the U.S. fuel supply. Home-grown ethanol has also been billed as providing American jobs and more energy independence. But some regulators are now proposing a reduction in the ethanol requirement. VOA’s Steve Baragona looks at why, and what it could mean for food, fuel and the environment.
When U.S. drivers fill their tanks with ethanol, they are essentially buying fermented corn grown by American farmers. 

A 2007 law requires gasoline makers to add increasing amounts of the biofuel to the U.S. fuel supply. With petroleum-based fuels contributing to climate change, advocates have backed plant-based biofuels as a greener source of energy.

However, rising costs and competition for resources have led some regulators to propose a reduction in the ethanol requirement.  

Ethanol boom

The 2007 law sparked an ethanol boom that has boosted rural economies. 

Another benefit, according to Bob Dinneen, head of the ethanol trade group the Renewable Fuels Association, is that corn absorbs the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide as it grows. 

“We are produced from agricultural crops and residues that are taking carbon out of the air, something petroleum can’t claim,” Dinneen said.

But ethanol has a flock of critics. Poultry and other meat producers say their animals are now competing with ethanol for the corn supply. That has raised corn prices and costs for raising livestock.

“Eventually these higher costs borne by the industry have to be passed along," said Hobey Bowen, president of the Virginia Poultry Federation. "So, this policy has contributed to inflation, food inflation.”

Too much to handle

Another factor may also put a lid on ethanol’s growth. 

“There’s more ethanol in the gasoline required by the mandate than the vehicle fleet and fueling infrastructure can handle,” Patrick Kelly, a policy advisor for the American Petroleum Institute.

Here’s why. Most U.S. gasoline currently contains 10 percent ethanol. Raising it to 15 percent would be one way to meet the law’s requirements. But some cars may not be able to handle a higher mix of ethanol.

“If you have a car that was designed to use E-10, and that fuel pump [in your car] is not compatible with E-15, it could leave you on the side of the road stranded,” Kelly said.

So the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is proposing to lower the ethanol requirement for this year. 

Going backwards?

Dinneen, of the Renewable Fuels Association, says that's a bad idea.

“It’s going backwards on our energy policy, not forwards,” he said.

Dinneen says Congress passed the law intending to drive major changes in where the United States gets its fuel. One side effect, for example, is that car companies now make some models that can run on up to 85 percent ethanol.

“If you’re going to have ethanol replacing gasoline, if we want to have options other than fracking and drilling deeper and deeper in the Gulf [of Mexico], we have got to assure investors that there is going to be a market for these new advanced biofuels,” he said.

These new biofuels can be made from garbage, corn cobs, or other plant matter, which could end the food-versus-fuel debate. 

What fuels our cars in the coming years may hinge on EPA’s final decision, expected in June.

You May Like

US Storm Falls Short of Severe Predictions, Yet Affects Millions

Governors of several East Coast states close schools, order travel bans, urge people to stay home as snowfall, heavy winds, flooding continue in areas More

Millions of Displaced Nigerians Struggle with Daily Existence

Government acknowledges over a million people were displaced in 2014 due to fight against Boko Haram insurgency More

Facebook: Internal Error to Blame for Outages

Temporary outage appeared to spill over and temporarily slow or block traffic to other major Internet sites More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Algenol Biofuels from: Florida, USA
May 14, 2014 2:11 PM
“When U.S. drivers fill their tanks with ethanol, they are essentially buying fermented corn grown by American farmers.” It does not have to be that way. Algenol Biofuels’ patented technology enables the production of the four most important fuels (ethanol, gasoline, jet, and diesel fuel) for around $1.27 per gallon each by using proprietary algae, sunlight, carbon dioxide and saltwater at production levels of approximately 8,000 total gallons of liquid fuel per acre per year.

A yield that far exceeds the approximately 420 gallons of ethanol, per acre/per year produced by corn. Algenol’s novel, low-cost techniques have the added benefit of consuming carbon dioxide from industrial sources, not using farmland or food crops and being able to provide freshwater. As a result, the fertile farmland currently used to grow corn for fuel can be used to grow food, instead.


by: Charlie Peters from: Hayward Ca
May 11, 2014 2:47 AM
The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) collects $billions$ using “Wallet Flushing” car tax. Is it time for CA AG Kamala Harris EPA GMO ethanol fuel waiver conversation?


by: Erock Fisher from: Auberry,CA
May 10, 2014 12:34 PM
“We are produced from agricultural crops and residues that are taking carbon out of the air, something petroleum can’t claim,” Dinneen said. Yea after they removed the forest to plant corn.
I think the forest was already taking the carbon out of the air.


by: Phoenix Quill from: Vista, CA
May 10, 2014 10:25 AM
Any Engineer could tell you the Ethanol requirement was moronic from day one. Make bio fuels from farm waste, not the valuable grains people & animals eat. The mandate has never been anything besides the political corruption of Big Ag paying Big Government to force the purchase of their products & jack up prices.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visiti
X
Aru Pande
January 26, 2015 9:33 PM
U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visit

U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video US, EU Threaten New Russia Sanctions Over Ukraine

U.S. President Barack Obama has blamed Russia for an attack by Ukrainian separatists that left dozens dead in the port of Mariupol and cast further doubt on the viability of last year’s cease-fire with the Kyiv government. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington.
Video

Video White House Grapples With Yemen Counterterrorism Strategy

Reports say the U.S. has carried out a drone strike on suspected militants in Yemen, the first after President Barack Obama offered reassurances the U.S. is continuing its counterterrorism operations in the country. The future of those operations has been in question following the collapse last week of Yemen’s government. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Kerry Warns Against Violence in Nigeria Election

US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Nigeria Sunday in a show of the level of concern within the U.S. and the international community over next month’s presidential election. Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sides

The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, and even music, are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. VOA’s June Soh met some animal artists at the zoo in Washington. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Saudi, Yemen Developments Are Sudden Complications for Obama

The death of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah and the collapse of Yemen’s government have cast further uncertainty on U.S. efforts to fight militants in the Middle East and also contain Iran’s influence in the region. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports on the new complications facing the Obama administration and its Middle East policy.
Video

Video Progress, Some Areas of Disagreement in Cuba Talks

U.S. and Cuban officials are reporting progress from initial talks in Havana on re-establishing diplomatic ties. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State (for Western Hemisphere Affairs) Roberta Jacobson said while there was agreement on a broad range of issues, there also are some “profound disagreements” between Washington and Havana. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins has the story.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid