The real cost of ethanol (Another Congressional nightmare)


“It costs money to store, transport and blend ethanol with gasoline. Since ethanol absorbs water, and water is corrosive to pipeline components, it must be transported by tanker to the distribution point where it is blended with gasoline for delivery to your gas station. That’s expensive transportation. It costs more to make a gasoline that can be blended with ethanol. Ethanol is lost through vaporization and contamination during this process. Gasoline/ethanol fuel blends that have been contaminated with water degrade the efficiency of combustion. E-85 ethanol is corrosive to the seals and fuel systems of most of our existing engines (including boats, generators, lawn mowers, hand power tools, etc.), and can not be dispensed through existing gas station pumps. And finally, ethanol has about 30 percent less energy per gallon than gasoline. That means the fuel economy of a vehicle running on E-85 will be about 25% less than a comparable vehicle running on gasoline.”

By James Quinn
Real Cost For A Gallon Of Corn Ethanol

Corn Ethanol Futures Market quote for January 2011 Delivery

$2.46

Add cost of transporting, storing and blending corn ethanol

$0.28

Added cost of making gasoline that can be blended with corn ethanol

$0.09

Add cost of subsidies paid to blender

$0.45

Total Direct Costs per Gallon

$3.28

Added cost from waste

$0.40

Added cost from damage to infrastructure and user’s engine

$0.06

Total Indirect Costs per Gallon

$0.46

Added cost of lost energy

$1.27

Added cost of food (American family of four)

$1.79

Total Social Costs

$3.06

Total Cost of Corn Ethanol @ 85% Blend

$6.80

Multiple studies by independent non-partisan organizations have concluded that mandating and subsidizing ethanol fuel production is a terrible policy for Americans:

* In May 2007, the Center for Agricultural and Rural Development at Iowa State University released a report saying the ethanol mandates have increased the food bill for every American by about $47 per year due to grain price increases for corn, soybeans, wheat, and others. The Iowa State researchers concluded that American consumers face a “total cost of ethanol of about $14 billion.” And that figure does not include the cost of federal subsidies to corn growers or the $0.51 per gallon tax credit to ethanol producers.
* In May 2008, the Congressional Research Service blamed recent increases in global food prices on two factors: increased grain demand for meat production, and the bio-fuels mandates. The agency said that the recent “rapid, ‘permanent’ increase in corn demand has directly sparked substantially higher corn prices to bid available supplies away from other uses – primarily livestock feed. Higher corn prices, in turn, have forced soybean, wheat, and other grain prices higher in a bidding war for available crop land.”
* Mark W. Rosegrant of the International Food Policy Research Institute, testified before the U.S. Senate on bio-fuels and grain prices. Rosegrant said that the ethanol scam has caused the price of corn to increase by 29 percent, rice to increase by 21 percent and wheat by 22 percent. Rosegrant estimated that if the global bio-fuels mandates were eliminated altogether, corn prices would drop by 20 percent, while sugar and wheat prices would drop by 11 percent and 8 percent, respectively, by 2010. Rosegrant said that “If the current bio-fuel expansion continues, calorie availability in developing countries is expected to grow more slowly; and the number of malnourished children is projected to increase.” He continued, saying “It is therefore important to find ways to keep bio-fuels from worsening the food-price crisis. In the short run, removal of ethanol blending mandates and subsidies and ethanol import tariffs, in the United States—together with removal of policies in Europe promoting bio-fuels—would contribute to lower food prices.”

The true cost of the ethanol boondoggle is hidden from the public. The mandates, subsidies and tariffs take place out of plain view. The reason blenders (and gas stations) will pay the same for ethanol is because they can sell it at the same price as gasoline to consumers. A consumer will pay the same for ten gallons of E10 as for ten gallons of gasoline even though the E10 contains a gallon of ethanol. Consumers pay the same for the gallon of ethanol for three reasons. (1) They don’t know there’s ethanol in their gasoline. (2) There is often ethanol in all the gasoline because of state requirements, so they have no choice. (3) They never know the ethanol has only 67% the energy of gasoline and gets them only 67% as far. The result is that drivers always pay much more for ethanol energy than for gasoline energy, simply because they pay the same amount per gallon. When gasoline prices are $3.00 per gallon, Joe Six-pack pays $4.50 for the same amount of ethanol energy.

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