Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Earth Day #2: The US should drop the ethanol requirement for gasoline

In a recent piece about the difference between "investment" and "spending" I used federal policies concerning ethanol as an example, writing:

Ethanol as an energy source for automobility is another example of spending vs. investing -- although good for corn farmers -- it takes 1.53 gallons of ethanol to generate the same amount of energy as 1 gallon of gasoline.  So adding any ethanol to gasoline reduces the miles per gallon that is achievable.

Again, I suppose you could argue that spending money on creating an ethanol energy-based infrastructure sets the stage for the move towards cellulosic ethanol, which is predicted to have an energy density up to 3 times greater than that of corn-based products.  But in the meantime the ethanol interests get entrenched and instead of moving towards better energy returns they lobby for the continued use of corn, even expanding it.

I don't know if it's the right topic for Earth Day, but ending the use of corn-based ethanol as an element of gasoline fuel stream needs to be addressed.

1.  Corn-based ethanol doesn't generate as much energy per gallon compared to gasoline.

2.  Producing corn for fuel diverts land from supporting food production and increases food costs.

3.  While from a climate change perspective it's not good to encourage the consumption of fossil fuels, it probably makes more sense to "let gasoline be gasoline" and "let corn be corn."  According to FactCheck, it's not clear that gasoline containing ethanol ends up producing significantly less greenhouse gas emissions compared to "pure" gasoline ("Ethanol: higher emissions or lower?").

4.  It would also increase consumption of gas a bit, which would help producers and those communities in the middle of the country that have been getting wrecked by the fall in the production of oil.

5.  There is a tradeoff between supporting gasoline consumption and US-based producers vs. foreign producers.  I'd say support the US producers.

6.  But only institute the change in association with an increase the federal gasoline excise tax, which would encourage sustainable mobility, a shift to more efficient vehicles, use of electric vehicles, etc.

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At 10:13 AM, Anonymous charlie said...

As I understand it, there are two mandates going on.

The EPA mandates "oygentated" fuel and ethanol is the preferred source. Back in the 1970s oxygenated fuel might have helped reduce pollution

Then you've got the 2009 era renewable fuel standards, which mandate the 10% use.

There is an entire other programs for bio-diesel and jet fuel.

Lots of interesting stuff in there. But yes, not great programs overall. Sometimes these mandates work, sometime not. After 25+ years I think we can call this one quits.


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