PDA

View Full Version : Obama's links to Ethanol Interests - Good or Bad?


Cleverboy
Jun 23, 2008, 11:03 AM
New York Times just did a story linking the Obama
campaign to Ethanol interests.
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/23/us/politics/23ethanol.html
In the heart of the Corn Belt that August day, Mr. Obama argued that embracing ethanol “ultimately helps our national security, because right now we’re sending billions of dollars to some of the most hostile nations on earth.” America’s oil dependence, he added, “makes it more difficult for us to shape a foreign policy that is intelligent and is creating security for the long term.”

Nowadays, when Mr. Obama travels in farm country, he is sometimes accompanied by his friend Tom Daschle, the former Senate majority leader from South Dakota. Mr. Daschle now serves on the boards of three ethanol companies and works at a Washington law firm where, according to his online job description, “he spends a substantial amount of time providing strategic and policy advice to clients in renewable energy.”

Mr. Obama’s lead advisor on energy and environmental issues, Jason Grumet, came to the campaign from the National Commission on Energy Policy, a bipartisan initiative associated with Mr. Daschle and Bob Dole, the Kansas Republican who is also a former Senate majority leader and a big ethanol backer who had close ties to the agribusiness giant Archer Daniels Midland.
While favoring the many different kinds of ethanol, Obama has opposed lowering the tarriffs on cheap Brazillian ethanol from sugar, saying that switching out foreign oil for foreign ethanol, isn't exactly the best route to energy independence for America.

While I think the use of corn-based ethanol is a LOSING proposition for a number of reasons, I think the main issue is its intersection with the food supply. There is a lot of promising research with other ethanol sources that I think need to be adequately cultivated and explored.

On the otherhand, McCain's "free trader" advocacy does sound compelling from time to time. It's just that we've seen what lower foreign wages have done to the textile industry, so I think there's some argument to be made for protecting our nations interest... at least while we're getting things back on the track we should have been on.

I think Obama has an "exposed" flank when it comes to the windfall profits being made by corn farmers these days. It doesn't seem like he's in too much of a rush to criticize the excessive corn ethanol usage we have. I can only assume he will push to build out our infrastructure on alternative ethanol sources when he becomes president.

At least I hope...

~ CB

Ugg
Jun 23, 2008, 11:09 AM
I think Obama has an "exposed" flank when it comes to the windfall profits being made by corn farmers these days.

Anyone who takes on the corn lobby has to have balls of steel.

WinterMute
Jun 23, 2008, 11:14 AM
The current obsession with bio-fuels appears to be driving the price staple foodstuffs up right across the world, it's a knee-jerk response to the Gore global warming scam, and when those chickens come home to roost Obama had better be able to account for his interests.

A gallon of ethanol takes more energy to produce than a gallon of petrol it seems, go take a look at Jerry Pournell's site, Chaos Manor for a more informed debate.

clevin
Jun 23, 2008, 11:15 AM
nobody is saint, just a problem about who is less "bad", or relatively more "good".

Cleverboy
Jun 23, 2008, 11:20 AM
The current obsession with bio-fuels appears to be driving the price staple foodstuffs up right across the world, it's a knee-jerk response to the Gore global warming scam, and when those chickens come home to roost Obama had better be able to account for his interests.Agreed.
A gallon of ethanol takes more energy to produce than a gallon of petrol it seems, go take a look at Jerry Pournell's site, Chaos Manor for a more informed debate. I don't like broad generalisations if they omit the necessary "asterisks". I'd imagine this is true for corn, but is the same true for sugar, switchgrass and cellulosic ethanol? It's becoming abundantly clear that not all ethanols are created equal, and I'd hate to listen to any wouldbe pundit that doesn't acknowledge the context of their personal preference on America's fuel direction.

~ CB

WinterMute
Jun 23, 2008, 11:25 AM
nobody is saint, just a problem about who is less "bad", or relatively more "good".

Is it really a good way to choose a president, the one who can most successfully defend their dodgy dealings gets to sit in the White House?

More likely: "sure he's a bastard, but he's our bastard"

Agreed.
I don't like broad generalisations if they omit the necessary "asterisks". I'd imagine this is true for corn, but is the same true for sugar, switchgrass and cellulosic ethanol? It's becoming abundantly clear that not all ethanols are created equal, and I'd hate to listen to any wouldbe pundit that doesn't acknowledge the context of their personal preference on America's fuel direction.

~ CB

Yeah, better brains than mine are divided on this issue, Pournelle is one of the better brains who I trust, he's been flagging up the problems of ethanol production for some time, and is very concerned about the economic impact of fuel from food.

It's still cheaper to produce petrol, the economy is set up for it, the raw materials are still reasonable plentiful and CO2 doesn't produce global warming...!

Watch where the money goes, whose benefitting from the billions being pumped into alternative fuels now? It isn't the third world or the poor thats for certain.

clevin
Jun 23, 2008, 11:33 AM
Is it really a good way to choose a president, the one who can most successfully defend their dodgy dealings gets to sit in the White House?

More likely: "sure he's a bastard, but he's our bastard"


:) it might not be the best (which doesn't exist...), but it seems to be the reality.....

Cleverboy
Jun 23, 2008, 11:37 AM
Yeah, better brains than mine are divided on this issue, Pournelle is one of the better brains who I trust, he's been flagging up the problems of ethanol production for some time, and is very concerned about the economic impact of fuel from food. Yeah... I'd just like to always be clear... when comparing the cost/benefits of one fuel over the other, EXACTLY what fuel is being referred to. My strong feeing is that he's talking about "corn ethanol". It would be very useful to know if he was referring to an average of ALL of the various types. He could have started off condemning the obvious problems with corn ethanol, and he could be continuing to criticise it... but he might not be referring to other ethanol sources that are NOT linked to the food supply. The thing is... our infrastructure can be migrated to more efficient fuel crops. With fossils, we really don't have the option to change a mine or a well into a better form of the same renewable fuel. So, these distinctions are HUGELY important to anyone making criticisms on ethanol energy economy. Much more so than just "following the money".

Logic and accurate data is the stuff of good decisions and sound judgment. Inference quickly just becomes fear mongering, when paired with a pre-existing and deeply rooted bias against something. --And I say that not being any "friend" of corn-based ethanol.

~ CB

WinterMute
Jun 23, 2008, 11:45 AM
edited stuff I agree with.

Logic and accurate data is the stuff of good decisions and sound judgment. Inference quickly just becomes fear mongering, when paired with a pre-existing and deeply rooted bias against something. --And I say that not being any "friend" of corn-based ethanol.

~ CB

Since when have logic and accurate data got in the way of money and big business? Gore's gagging of informed debate on global warming has nothing to do with good science and data and everything to do with bolstering his economic power.

However (big breath) I think proper research into alternative energy sources is not just important, it's essential, as you say we can alter the world's economic structure, but I expect the change to be bloody and very expensive. This research needs to be conducted by informed and independent people, but it will never be, too many interests are in charge of the funding.

This is an discussion that will go on long into this century... My vote is nuclear, but thats only because I always wanted an nuclear car....!

Iscariot
Jun 23, 2008, 04:52 PM
The current obsession with bio-fuels appears to be driving the price staple foodstuffs up right across the world, it's a knee-jerk response to the Gore global warming scam, and when those chickens come home to roost Obama had better be able to account for his interests.

What makes you think it's a scam, much less one spearheaded by Al Gore? Even if global warming is an elaborate hoax, oil is still not a renewable resource and we will still face exactly the same kind of shortages.

A gallon of ethanol takes more energy to produce than a gallon of petrol it seems, go take a look at Jerry Pournell's site, Chaos Manor for a more informed debate.

The difference is that ethanol is produced, whereas petrol is refined. I really don't understand why anyone thought biofuels was some kind of genius idea. Why don't we all go back to heating our homes with wood-burning stoves?

Ugg
Jun 23, 2008, 05:12 PM
The difference is that ethanol is produced, whereas petrol is refined. I really don't understand why anyone thought biofuels was some kind of genius idea. Why don't we all go back to heating our homes with wood-burning stoves?

Your statement outlines one of the major issues that is affecting the discussion on future energy sources.

It seems to me that everyone is looking for a single source for all our energy. Whether hydrogen, solar, wind, biofuels, etc. That's a very simplistic approach to take.

Grist recently put up a map showing that the vast majority of the best wind and solar sources are west of the Mississippi River. It makes little sense to force Maine into using solar if they spend more money shoveling the snow off the solar panels than they generate in electricity. However, since the bulk of manufacturing is in the Great Lakes Region, it makes sense for policies there to look at energy capture from factories.

By the same token, in the midwest and parts of the southeast, it makes perfect sense to use ethanol because of all the biomass generated.

We need to get away from binary approaches and start looking at things from a local or a regional viewpoint.

I live in California's central valley. With water being increasingly scarce it makes no sense to grow corn for ethanol, hydropower is maxed out, there's virtually no manufacturing here, what there is is lots and lots of sun.

What makes sense for you in York County would make no sense for us here in Butte County.

Local solutions for local problems.

.Andy
Jun 23, 2008, 05:16 PM
and CO2 doesn't produce global warming...!
There' still people like this around?


(edit: just to clarify this is not directed at Wintermule)

revenuee
Jun 23, 2008, 05:34 PM
Ethanol is Junk

LOL ... alright, perhaps a slightly rash statement -- BUT there are a lot of concerns with it, the food supply is obvious. How much land will be needed to satisfy our energy needs. In the case of corn; will the corn used for eating be modified to be a more potent fuel - this will further affect food supplies. (from an investment perspective i see some interesting arbitrage opportunities in creating swaps).

we are entering an interesting era of alternative fuel sources --- from my research there should be much more work being done on micro algae -- essentially pond scum who's bi-product is a very high protein substance that can be further used for feed.

please read -- i was very excited about this

http://oakhavenpc.org/cultivating_algae.htm

AND when I saw this i nearly fell off my chair because all the blood rushed out of my brain to power my erection, figuratively speaking offcourse.

my friends the future of energy - salt water

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aGg0ATfoBgo

.Andy
Jun 23, 2008, 05:37 PM
my friends the future of energy - salt water

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aGg0ATfoBgo
How many times must news services fall for rubbish like this?

revenuee
Jun 23, 2008, 05:41 PM
How many times must news services fall for rubbish like this?

well the obvious part is the energy required to actually create the radio frequency ... LOL

solvs
Jun 23, 2008, 06:02 PM
it's a knee-jerk response to the Gore global warming scam
Since when have logic and accurate data got in the way of money and big business? Gore's gagging of informed debate on global warming has nothing to do with good science and data and everything to do with bolstering his economic power.
I think you have that backwards. Gore, and others (it's not just him), have been talking about studying GCC for years now. Long before it became "fashionable". Most of the minority that don't believe humanity is making things worse are usually the ones who are politically or financially motivated. Most scientist and GCC supporters aren't exactly rolling in dough. And almost no one thinks that GCC isn't happening at all. The debate is over how much humans are causing and/or making things worse. Gore is actually on the lower end of the spectrum, there are some in the scientific community who believe it is far worse. An overwhelming majority can provide proof that it is happening, and how we are affecting things negatively. Let alone the obvious reasoning that if you pump that much waste into the air and water, there are bound to be negative consequences. The only "conspiracy" is that some are taking the debate over how much damage we are doing and turning that into a debate over whether it's happening at our hands, or even at all. It is happening. There's no doubt about that. And besides, even if they're wrong, the worst that happens is that we work on better, cleaner technologies, vs. if they're right and we don't listen and we're screwed. More here:

How to Talk to a Climate Skeptic (http://gristmill.grist.org/skeptics)

Anyway, they needed to study things like ethanol better, but instead they jumped into it, are declaring it a dud, and prices will continue to rise anyway, especially with so many economies hurting and the price of oil skyrocketing, even with inflation. We need to do something. But for now, this isn't it. I'm hoping Obama does something better with this if given the chance.

Iscariot
Jun 23, 2008, 06:11 PM
Your statement outlines one of the major issues that is affecting the discussion on future energy sources.

It seems to me that everyone is looking for a single source for all our energy. Whether hydrogen, solar, wind, biofuels, etc. That's a very simplistic approach to take.

Grist recently put up a map showing that the vast majority of the best wind and solar sources are west of the Mississippi River. It makes little sense to force Maine into using solar if they spend more money shoveling the snow off the solar panels than they generate in electricity. However, since the bulk of manufacturing is in the Great Lakes Region, it makes sense for policies there to look at energy capture from factories.

By the same token, in the midwest and parts of the southeast, it makes perfect sense to use ethanol because of all the biomass generated.

We need to get away from binary approaches and start looking at things from a local or a regional viewpoint.

I live in California's central valley. With water being increasingly scarce it makes no sense to grow corn for ethanol, hydropower is maxed out, there's virtually no manufacturing here, what there is is lots and lots of sun.

What makes sense for you in York County would make no sense for us here in Butte County.

Local solutions for local problems.

I certainly agree with "local solutions for local problems", but I don't think ethanol makes sense anywhere. Producing ethanol (or rather, producing biomass specifically for the production of ethanol) requires large quantities of water and some level of access to sunlight. By introducing another step into the process we are reducing the efficiency of energy production.

.Andy
Jun 23, 2008, 06:15 PM
I certainly agree with "local solutions for local problems", but I don't think ethanol makes sense anywhere. Producing ethanol (or rather, producing biomass specifically for the production of ethanol) requires large quantities of water and some level of access to sunlight. By introducing another step into the process we are reducing the efficiency of energy production.
Which is exactly the same argument for why (from a sustainable resource sense) we should all strive for a vegetarian diet. Meat is another step in the process and a wasteful use of resources. I wonder if most people against ethanol extend the same logic to their diets?

NT1440
Jun 23, 2008, 06:23 PM
I personally dislike places like FOX news declaring ethanol a bad source of energy. Ethanol from corn ? bad idea, but its like they refuse to let anyone know that there are many ways to make ethanol. What really needs to be done is more research into ethanol instead of our politicians forcing an unready product to market in the name of making it look like something is getting done.

mactastic
Jun 23, 2008, 06:32 PM
Algae diese (http://news.cnet.com/8301-11128_3-9965683-54.htmlhttp://)l baby! If we're gonna grow our way out of this fuel problem, this is a very promising candidate.

Iscariot
Jun 23, 2008, 07:21 PM
Which is exactly the same argument for why (from a sustainable resource sense) we should all strive for a vegetarian diet. Meat is another step in the process and a wasteful use of resources. I wonder if most people against ethanol extend the same logic to their diets?

Well, at the very least, I do. In fact, that is the primary reason I have been a vegetarian my entire adult life.

solvs
Jun 23, 2008, 09:19 PM
Something I hadn't really thought about, but:

Nation's Spies: Climate Change Could Spark War (http://blog.wired.com/defense/2008/06/environmental-g.html)

hulugu
Jun 24, 2008, 01:02 AM
Something I hadn't really thought about, but:

Nation's Spies: Climate Change Could Spark War (http://blog.wired.com/defense/2008/06/environmental-g.html)

In 2004, there were numerous reports that the Pentagon had commissioned a study on the possible effects of climate change and future warfare.

"The purpose of this report is to imagine the unthinkable—to push the boundaries of current research on climate change so we may better understand the potential implications on United States national security. . . . Our goal is merely to portray a plausible scenario, similar to one which has already occurred in human experience, for which there is reasonable evidence, so that we may further explore potential implications for United States national security."

Linky (http://www.usnews.com/usnews/tech/nextnews/archive/next040227.htm).

hulugu
Jun 24, 2008, 01:16 AM
Your statement outlines one of the major issues that is affecting the discussion on future energy sources.

It seems to me that everyone is looking for a single source for all our energy. Whether hydrogen, solar, wind, biofuels, etc. That's a very simplistic approach to take....

Local solutions for local problems.

I absolutely agree. In the southwest (especially in Tucson where it feels like every photon from the sun is falling on your rapidly toasting noggin) solar seems like an nearly ideal energy source. Backed up by nuclear, I think most regions can use some form of renewable energy. Moving cars to electric platforms (hybrids, plug-in hybrids, etc.) will help as well.

For Wintermute, I'll politely disagree with you about whether or not climate change is a 'scam' but at the very least I think of moving away from an energy policy based on petroleum/coal is a Pascal's Wager (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pascal's_Wager). Someone in the PRSI forum reminded me of this term and I think it's apt.
If we assume that climate change is real, then by acting we have several advantageous scenarios:

1. Climate change is real and by reacting in time, we halt it. The global climate changes, of course, but less rapidly and we give ourselves and other species time to evolve.

Or:

2. The science is wrong, but by acting, we end up with cleaner skies and an economy based on new technology with new jobs and manufacturing.

Either way, we win. The key is to act without cratering the economy and as I noted in the "Gore burns ants for fun" thread, I tend to think we can invent our way out of this. I may be naive, but acting is a lot more interesting than continuing to do the same thing.

Beric
Jun 24, 2008, 01:47 AM
Would have known it.

Ethanol: one of the huge numbers of failures perpetrated by the government due to the lack of being able to do a simple cost-benefit analysis. The CFC ban would be another such failure, and the DDT ban a third. All of these things have good intentions, but the benefits are minimal and the costs are huge. If the government would put its research into more cost-benefit analyses, we would see why ethanol is such a failure.

My family consumes more than a gallon and a half of milk A DAY. Because of ethanol, the milk prices (milk cows need corn) have skyrocketed. We now spend almost $1000 more on milk per year than we used to.

And most studies seem to say it takes almost as much or even MORE than a gallon of gasoline to produce a gallon of ethanol. And that's not even factoring ethanol's lower MPG effectiveness than gasoline.

takao
Jun 24, 2008, 06:06 AM
Which is exactly the same argument for why (from a sustainable resource sense) we should all strive for a vegetarian diet. Meat is another step in the process and a wasteful use of resources. I wonder if most people against ethanol extend the same logic to their diets?

so just like cattle you eat gras ? .. you know not every land is suitable for vegetables ?

actually the problem with ethanol production is the very same problem .. there are much more efficent ways/plants but in the US the corn lobby is too strong and that's the problem

in fact fermenting fast growing gras is quite a usable way of producing biomass
(on small scale it can work really good: the tv report on the small town in germany comes to mind where the citizens decided themselves to build a bio-mass power plant fueled mainly by their farmers and it turned out a huge success)


that said full agreement with ugg, a more decentralized energie production is the key point many are missing .. the only problem is that the energie companies don't like that idea

.Andy
Jun 24, 2008, 06:36 AM
so just like cattle you eat gras ? .. you know not every land is suitable for vegetables ?
Yes I do eat lots of grasses. Wheat, barely, oats, rye, millet, corn, bamboo.....

Eating these makes far more sense energy- and resource-wise than growing them, feeding them to animals (along with all the water, refrigeration, transport, processing, etc etc involved in preparing meat for sale). If you think more than a small percentage of your meat comes from animals wandering around in sunny, grassy pastures, you're sorely mistaken.

takao
Jun 24, 2008, 08:38 AM
Yes I do eat lots of grasses. Wheat, barely, oats, rye, millet, corn, bamboo.....

and how much percent of those plants are you eating only the tiny parts at the top right ? i seriously doubt you eat the whole ones ;) (and that was my point if you missed it)


Eating these makes far more sense energy- and resource-wise than growing them, feeding them to animals (along with all the water, refrigeration, transport, processing, etc etc involved in preparing meat for sale). If you think more than a small percentage of your meat comes from animals wandering around in sunny, grassy pastures, you're sorely mistaken.

obviously because vegetables/non-meat never needs, water, transport, processing until the point of sale
also the amount of genetically modified products is ridiculous high on the non-meat side which wouldn't be as bad, if it was as easy trackable through charge codes as meat,milk products or eggs ...
the animals might not be on the sunny grassy pastures but that doesn't matter if their hay/silage is coming from those (around here it's more rainy grassy pastures though)
also not everywhere you got flat surfaces for vegetable archiculture and in those more than producing food for animals is even more resource wasting

hey i don't even own a car since i don't need one i'm so many steaks in surplus by now already that i could eat thousands of them very likely

Iscariot
Jun 24, 2008, 06:24 PM
obviously because vegetables/non-meat never needs, water, transport, processing until the point of sale

Men of straw, eat them raw?

I'm pretty sure .Andy said it was more efficient, which remains absolutely true.

also the amount of genetically modified products is ridiculous high on the non-meat side which wouldn't be as bad, if it was as easy trackable through charge codes as meat,milk products or eggs ...

...Growth hormones, antibiotics, ruminant feed, feed with lower standards than that set for human consumption...

hey i don't even own a car since i don't need one i'm so many steaks in surplus by now already that i could eat thousands of them very likely

Pretty sure it doesn't work that way.

Cleverboy
Jun 24, 2008, 06:36 PM
For the record...? I have to say that for the record, I think we're ALL being screwed with. I think the technology for efficient renewable energy fuel ALREADY EXISTS, but that it would ruin the economy of the world... so its been shelved until such a time as it wouldn't represent a disruption. The ONLY real puzzle we've had before us, is how to generate hydrogen gas from water, without using more energy to do so than the resultant gas would produce.

This same principle could be applied to any number of disruptive technologies. Throw in the large oil futures market (where much of the mortgage bubble investments have run off to), and suddenly you're looking square in the eye of an unfathomable global economic crisis.

Instead, we're being told that ethanol production couldn't POSSIBLY be improved, and worse, that we should continue focusing on corn ethanol until the country caves in on itself. There's a solution to be had, but I don't think it will be ONE silver bullet answer. It will be a series of solutions that represent investment in scientific research and infrastructure refactoring. We simply have to LEARN from what is actually happening... and stop suggesting "gas tax holidays" and running to the next short term fix by importing a new fuel while the heartland of America rots from the inside out.

I honestly think Obama's got the right eye on this. It's HIGHLY charged and political, but he makes sense. In an imperfect world, its all going to come down to some measure of trust.

~ CB

hulugu
Jun 24, 2008, 06:46 PM
From Thomas Friedman's column, "Mr. Bush Lead or Leave"

Two years ago, President Bush declared that America was “addicted to oil,” and, by gosh, he was going to do something about it. Well, now he has. Now we have the new Bush energy plan: “Get more addicted to oil.”
Actually, it’s more sophisticated than that: Get Saudi Arabia, our chief oil pusher, to up our dosage for a little while and bring down the oil price just enough so the renewable energy alternatives can’t totally take off. Then try to strong arm Congress into lifting the ban on drilling offshore and in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge....

Link (http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/22/opinion/22friedman.html?em&ex=1214452800&en=9e18876aa91d9df1&ei=5087%0A)

themadchemist
Jun 24, 2008, 06:48 PM
Again, one of those things that isn't great to hear, but I doubt it will make much difference. After all, everyone who runs in the Iowa primary is finely attuned to the interests of the corn lobby, so to speak.

mactastic
Jun 24, 2008, 07:01 PM
Far more effective than drilling for additional sources of oil would be to lower the national speed limit to 55mph. Unlike drilling, the effect would be immediate. It would cost little to nothing extra to implement, and would immediately lower the demand for oil and thereby lower the price.

But of course it's political suicide to even suggest, so it's not likely to happen.