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Energy Bill

When the president mentioned his energy bill I remembered for the first time in a while that the damn thing still hasn't passed yet. What's absurd here is that the bill contains a number of worthy and basically uncontroversial provisions for, among other things, badly needed modernization of the electrical grid. Rather than get this stuff passed, however, Bush has chosen to link it up with a bunch of inane special interest giveaways, throw in a few controversial measures, then try and paper over controversy with pork, and wind up with a bill that's basically collapsed under its own weight. His hope is to use the good stuff as a bludgeon with which to get the bad stuff through the Senate. The upshot is that either a bunch of good stuff won't get done, or else that a bunch of bad stuff will. It's really a pretty shameful approach to an important topic. For my part, it'll be a cold day in hell before I endorse anything involving an increase in ethanol subsidies.

February 3, 2005 | Permalink

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Comments

"For my part, it'll be a cold day in hell before I endorse anything involving an increase in ethanol subsidies."

I believe that sentence means you'll never be able to run for President.

Posted by: Petey | Feb 3, 2005 3:15:16 AM

I'd be cool with ethanol subsidies if they meant we'd have lots of cheap whiskey. But if it's this gasoline stuff, I'm not a fan.

Posted by: Ethical Werewolf | Feb 3, 2005 3:36:14 AM

Cold enough for a snowball fight? Oh, the irony.

Posted by: godoggo | Feb 3, 2005 4:17:20 AM

Cold enough for a snowball fight? Oh, the irony.

Posted by: godoggo | Feb 3, 2005 4:18:31 AM

Hey, I swear I submitted only once.

Posted by: godoggo | Feb 3, 2005 4:20:33 AM

I'd be cool with ethanol subsidies if they meant we'd have lots of cheap whiskey.

I'd go with Luksusowa (excellent Polish vodka).

Posted by: rwcox | Feb 3, 2005 8:00:31 AM

I've got one thing, make that two things, to say about the energy bill: MTBE and Texas cronies. Remove those two things and we've got ourselves a passable bill...But I'm just Bush sees the looming MTBE "crisis" to be just as frivolous as Asbestos claims. Bastard.

Posted by: fnook | Feb 3, 2005 8:05:53 AM

It's called a lack of statesman-like leadership.

Posted by: SEC Overreach | Feb 3, 2005 9:36:12 AM

What IS the deal with ethanol? Our you opposed simply because its a government subsidy to a small portion of America? Or are there health, economic reasons? I don't understand and want to know.

Posted by: Adrock | Feb 3, 2005 10:41:54 AM

And the main reason I ask, is because at the drag strip on amatuer night, I see some of these guys pouring it in to raise the octane rating. As my car gets more modified, I might consider this. But if there are serious reasons I should object to it, I'd like to know.

Posted by: Adrock | Feb 3, 2005 10:43:22 AM

I wouldn't say there's a strong reason to object to people using it, if they've got some objective reason to, but there are no real polution advantages, because what you gain from exaust quality, you lose due to the worse properties of the evaporated fuel during refueling. Mainly, it's just a government subsidy for ADM, pretending to be about polution.

Posted by: Brett Bellmore | Feb 3, 2005 11:43:20 AM

Adrock, more energy (excluding the photosynthesis) tends to get consumed in the production of the ethanol than gets put into the consumers' gas tank, thus rendering ethanol subsidies into nothing but a run-of-the-mill vote purchasing operation for a small, but electorally critical, portion of the population. It really is among the more depressing examples of how the political process trumps good public policy, and illustrates the limits of a statist approach to solving problems. One of the reason I shudder at the prospect of a much larger role for the state in delivering health care good and services is how the phenomena illustrated by ethanol subsidies will raise it's ugly head in health care delivery.

Posted by: Will Allen | Feb 3, 2005 11:45:40 AM

Not to be an apologist for ethanol, but Will Allen is wrong (I know--surprise!) when he states that making a gallon of ethanol consumes more energy than the ethanol actual contains.

Per the Wikipedia article on alocohol fuel:

Many early studies concluded that the use of corn ethanol for fuel would have a negative net energy balance. Namely, the total energy needed to produce ethanol from grain — including fermentation, fertilizing, fuel for farm tractors, harvesting and transporting the grain, building and operating an ethanol plant, and the natural gas used to distill corn sugars into alcohol — exceeds the energy content of ethanol. . . . Most such studies were based on data collected in the 1970s and early 1980s . . .

However, continuous refinements to ethanol production procedures have much improved the benefit/cost ratio, and most studies of modern systems indicate that they now have a positive net energy balance.

Many other studies of corn ethanol production have been conducted, with greatly varied net energy estimates. . . . A 2002 report by the United States Department of Agriculture concluded that corn ethanol production in the U.S. has a net energy value of 1.34, meaning 34% more energy was produced than what went in. This means that 75% (1/1.34) of each unit produced is required to replace the energy used in production. MSU Ethanol Energy Balance Study: (http://www.ethanol.org/pdfs/msu_ethanol_study.pdf) Michigan State University, May 2002. This comprehensive, independent study funded by MSU shows that there is 56% more energy in a gallon of ethanol than it takes to produce it.

Posted by: jlw | Feb 3, 2005 1:04:59 PM

That's a fairly lousy rate of return, energy-wise. It means that when you burn a 50-50 mix of gasoline and ethanol, you had to burn maybe three pints of diesel fuel to get the half gallon of ethanol. Since, even discounting it's worse effects on smog when it evaporates unburned, it's not really THAT much better coming out of the tail pipe, using ethanol probably INCREASES net polution.

Posted by: Brett Bellmore | Feb 3, 2005 1:20:24 PM

Hey--like I said, I'm no apologist for ethanol, even though I was born in Indiana. But the formulation "[Alternative Energy Source X] consumes more energy than it produces" is ubiquitous among those who are shilling for either nuclear power or fossil fuel that I think it bears repeating that the formulation is almost always wrong. The net gain may be small in some cases, but there is a net gain.

Besides, since Will Allen was wrong about ethanol, it means that he is also wrong about single-payer health insurance and libertarianism in general.

Posted by: jlw | Feb 3, 2005 1:51:31 PM

The Democrats have pushed a stripped down version of this bill limited to the uncontroversial aspects and eliminating the pork. Bush's minions in Congress have blocked these efforts as they know the only way their pork passes is a tag along with the worthy aspects. So the GOP is pushing pork. John Kasich - where are you when we need you?

Posted by: pgl | Feb 3, 2005 3:26:55 PM

Golly gee, I was unaware that Wikipedia had become the site of Infallible Devine Thought. As is often the case, this is an area where conflicting studies can be produced. From a Cornell University study comes the following conclusion:

"Adding up the energy costs of corn production and its conversion to ethanol, 131,000 BTUs are needed to make 1 gallon of ethanol. One gallon of ethanol has an energy value of only 77,000 BTU."

A synopsis of the study, which was published in the Sept. 2001 issue of the Encyclopedia of Physical Sciences and Technology,can be found here:

http://healthandenergy.com/ethanol.htm

I don't pretend to be able to say which is more accurate, but jlw's tiresomely and fatuously snide rhetoric aside, there appears to be a conflict regarding this issue.

Now, if jlw wishes to lecture us as to the superiority of central planning, we are all waiting.

Posted by: Will Allen | Feb 3, 2005 6:28:41 PM

"His hope is to use the good stuff as a bludgeon with which to get the bad stuff through the Senate. The upshot is that either a bunch of good stuff won't get done, or else that a bunch of bad stuff will. It's really a pretty shameful approach to an important topic."

Er, how long have you been in Washington?

Posted by: CTD | Feb 3, 2005 7:59:44 PM

In the interest of completeness, let the record show that the Wikipedia article on alcohol fuel says this about the Cornell study: "A peer-reviewed study by Cornell University ecology professor David Pimentel seemed to confirm this conclusion. Pimentel's study was disputed by other specialists, forcing him to revise his figures. Still, in August 2003, he stated in a Cornell bulletin that production of ethanol from corn only takes 29% more energy than it produces."

And tiresome and fatuous? Doctor heal thyself. Hard-core libertarianism is as deserving of snide remarks as hard-core Marxism. LIbertarianism is an immature attitude masquerading as a political idea.

Posted by: jlw | Feb 4, 2005 12:00:27 AM

What's wrong with ethanol, primarily, is that ethanol producers are looking to corn waste byproducts as the forthcoming primary fuel source for new E85.

Pollution shrugged off and set aside, folks, implementation of ethanol would start to reduce our usage of foreign oil. I doubt anyone here is willing to argue in favor of that reduction.

Posted by: letters | Feb 4, 2005 1:57:54 AM

jlw, try not to be an ass. How does expressing reservations about state-mandated solutions translate into "hard-core libertarianism"? You resemble the sort of dolts who call everyone to the left of Ted Kennedy a communist. Go away and don't come back until your social maturity exceeds that of the average middle-schooler.

Posted by: Will Allen | Feb 4, 2005 2:36:43 AM

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