Money, Agribusiness, and Politics

This web page was last modified June 1, 2008 at 8:49 PM.

Biofuels – At What Cost?

New study of biofuel subsidies in the U.S.

New study from the International Institute for Sustainable Development confirms the extremely costly nature of the current subidized biofuel industry.

(From the executive summary) Political support for subsidies to biofuels has been described as a perfect storm, combining the powerful interests of agriculture, the national security community, and a significant portion of the environmental community. Such extensive and deep support has surrounded liquid biofuels with an aura of inevitability. Yet there has never been a more urgent need to examine the claimed benefits from biofuel subsidies, and to compare them with the costs of meeting the same goals in other ways.
More below

Table of Contents

  1. The Real Biofuel Cycles
  2. Thermodynamics of the Corn-Ethanol Biofuel Cycle
  3. Ethanol from Cellulose Biomass Not Benign
  4. Ethanol As Fuel
  5. The Money Trail
  6. Rep. Eugene Hahn of Cambria
  7. Handy tools to assist you in following the trail
  8. Analysis and opinion
  9. Archer Daniels Midland
  10. Cargill
  11. New ways of thinking about old problems
…Green fuel is not just a humanitarian disaster; it is also an environmental disaster. Those who worry about the scale and intensity of today’s agriculture should consider what farming will look like when it is run by the oil industry.

November 22, 2004 – Feeding Cars, Not People by George Monbiot – The Guardian

April 28th, 2006 – New ADM chief seen as bridge to oil industry – Chicago Business NewsMs. Woertz’s hiring at ADM also could help thaw the traditionally hostile relationship between ethanol producers and the oil industry…

The Real Biofuel Cycles

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May 7th, 2006 – The Real Biofuel Cycles by Tad W. Patzek – Tad Patzek, of the University of California – Berkeley, submits his response to the recent Berkeley ethanol energy balance paper, This paper analyzes energy efficiency of the industrial corn-ethanol cycle and brackets energy efficiency of the switchgrass-cellulosic ethanol cycle. In particular, it critically evaluates the publications by Farrell et al. (2006a; 2006b) and Shapouri, Wang, et al. (Wang, 2001; Shapouri et al., 2002; Shapouri et al., 2003; Shapouri and McAloon, 2004). It is demonstrated that in a net-energy analysis of the industrial corn-ethanol cycle (Farrell et al., 2006a; Farrell et al., 2006b) did not (i) define the system boundaries, (ii) conserve mass, and (iii) conserve energy.

Thermodynamics of the Corn-Ethanol Biofuel Cycle

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January, 2005 – Thermodynamics of the Corn–Ethanol Biofuel Cycle by Tad W. Patzek Tad Patzek, of the University of California – Berkeley, authors the definitive analysis of ethanol production. Patzek revisits oft–cited studies and blows them right out of the water. He is quite critical of the Holy Scripture of the pro–ethanol gang, the 2002 USDA study, "The Energy Balance of Corn Ethanol: An Update" by Shapouri, Duffield, and Wang. The purpose of this paper was to prove beyond any reasonable doubt that the industrial corn–ethanol cycle accelerates the irrevocable depletion of natural resources: fossil fuels, minerals, top soil, surface and subsurface water, and air, while creating wide–spread environmental damage throughout the continental United States. My arguments relied entirely on the First and Second Law of thermodynamics, and on the Law of Mass Conservation.

Ethanol from Cellulose Biomass Not Benign

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March 15th, 2006 – Ethanol from Cellulose Biomass Not Sustainable nor Environmentally Benign Institute of Science in Society press releaseMajor technical and economic hurdles remain in getting ethanol from plant wastes, while burning ethanol produces carcinogens and increases ozone levels in the atmosphere.

Ethanol As Fuel: Energy, Carbon Dioxide Balances, and Ecological Footprint.

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July 2005 – Ethanol As Fuel: Energy, Carbon Dioxide Balances, and Ecological Footprint – Bioscience; July 2005, Vol. 55 Issue 7, p593 – This study looks at both the U.S. and Brazilian ethanol industries and concludes in part, The use of ethanol as a substitute for gasoline proved to be neither a sustainable nor an environmentally friendly option, considering ecological footprint values, and both net energy and CO2 offset considerations seemed relatively unimportant compared to the ecological footprint. As revealed by the ecological footprint approach, the direct and indirect environmental impacts of growing, harvesting, and converting biomass to ethanol far exceed any value in developing this alternative energy resource on a large scale.

Money, Agribusiness, and Politics - ADM, Cargill, and more

The Money Trail

Rep. Eugene Hahn of Cambria

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Handy tools to assist you in following the trail

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Analysis and Opinion

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Archer Daniels Midland

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Dust swirling around ADM grain elevator in Goodland, Kansas

Dust in the air darkens the sky around an ADM grain elevator in Goodland, Kansas. Photo from NOAA.

Cargill

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New ways of thinking about old problems

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