Short summary for those who don't want to read through this long opening post: The US government's policy of corn ethanol has basically been a giant waste of money with very little benefit, perhaps no benefit. I realize that boring old governmental policy stories have taken something of a back seat to the impeachment follies this month, but there is one ongoing issue that shouldn't drop entirely off the radar. And it's one that has both political ramifications for 2020 as well as a direct impact on both businesses and consumers. There's a really good analysis over at the Atlantic this week by Mario Loyola and it deals with the ongoing battle over ethanol mandates and the Renewable Fuel Standard Loyola begins with a bit of history, describing how the United States began its flirtation with government ethanol blending mandates back in the seventies during the first time we were warned that the world was "running out of oil." Jimmy Carter started pushing for mandatory gas rationing and the promotion of biofuels. That sort of faded away when oil quickly became plentiful. But under the tenure of George W. Bush, the fad roared back to life and we were saddled with the RFS. But as the author goes on to point out, the original argument for the "need" for the RFS has disappeared. America is now the top energy producer in the world and nobody can hold us hostage like the Saudis did back in the day. But even more to the point, the mandates are not being put into effect as originally designed. We rely almost entirely on corn ethanol, but the original vision was for us to be using primarily "advanced biofuels” such as biodiesel and cellulosic ethanol from prairie grass by 2022. That’s now nothing more than a pipe dream, but we're still stuck with the mandates and it’s made King Corn more powerful than ever. The RFS program created both a gradually rising biofuel mandate, and within that mandate, a gradually rising proportion of advanced biofuels (particularly cellulosic ethanol) relative to corn ethanol, such that advanced biofuels are supposed to make up the majority of the mandated volume by 2022. But the EPA has substantial authority to waive the statutory targets. In practice, that has rendered the RFS unpredictable and arbitrary, in addition to its other fine qualities. And, because cellulosic ethanol has never been able to overcome the technological hurdles it needs to clear to be viable, the EPA has had to waive the overall target every year since 2013. There were two assumptions built into the original RFS structure, both of which required the ability to predict the future. One was that we would be producing huge amounts of biodiesel from sources like palm oil and recycled cooking oil. The other was that we would be pumping out massive volumes of cellulosic ethanol, derived from plants like switchgrass, which grows naturally all across the country. Well, neither of those things happened. Biodiesel remains more of a cottage industry that’s very difficult to make a profit from. And the research into cellulosic ethanol hit one technological roadblock after another and never truly becoming viable in terms of mass production. So since there’s still a government-created “market” for ethanol, we’re left with fuel made from corn. Corn is the least environmentally friendly way to create ethanol. It’s also a very inefficient fuel compared to gasoline so you wind up having to burn more of it to produce the same amount of energy. In short, we’re defeating some of the primary motivations that led us to start down this path to begin with. And yet the program endures for nothing other than political reasons. Midwestern states like Iowa want the government to keep demanding more and more corn ethanol to bolster agricultural markets. Meanwhile, refineries are stuck trading on a corrupt, fake market for RIN credits, driving some of the smaller ones toward insolvency. The dream of corn ethanol has failed everyone across the board. But like most government mandates, once it’s been summoned into existence, it proves nearly impossible to kill. It would take a tremendous amount of political will to get rid of the RFS now, and that strength clearly doesn’t exist in the Trump administration. You won't find it among the Democrats, either. And so we keep paddling upstream against the same forces for the foreseeable future. https://hotair.com/archives/jazz-shaw/2019/11/25/ethanol-forsaken-us/ So now we have this. Ethanol is damaging cars, destroying lawn mowers and small engines. It's risking the lives of boaters and fishermen and snowmobile users - and of Search-and-Rescue teams, who often have trouble with their infrequently-used equipment, filled with gas corrupted by ethanol. Ethanol not used inside of four weeks - in a gas can or car or lawnmower - goes bad. Water pools in the bottom of the can or tank. In a BOAT...it's HOURS. Ethanol absorbs water like a sponge, and like a sponge, then releases it inside the container. While ethanol is soluble in gasoline, it's TEN TIMES more-readily absorbed in water. And it doesn't bind water and gas together - it mixes with the water, separates from the gas, and ruins equipment. It's indescribably destructive, requires the constant replacing hoses and pre-filters on the motors for recreational fishing and boating. Ethanol does not save energy, it lowers your gas mileage and slowly damages your engine. Ethanol was pushed by uhh corn farmers. Ethanol has driven up the price of corn to ridiculous levels and everything associated with corn has gone up because of it. Corn fed anything beef pork etc is more expensive because the feed is etc. Consumers are paying for giant Agro corporations growing all this corn to get rich. Politicians campaigning are scared to death to even mention doing away with ethanol. Corn is also a much more water intensive crop than wheat, and is draining the water tables in many of these states, which will make things more precarious when a drought hits. Here's a more in-depth study, for anyone who really wants to read it, that shows that corn ethanol doesn't really reduce CO2 emissions that much: https://m3challenge.siam.org/sites/default/files/uploads/Team_175_Wheeler.pdf Corn ethanol and biodiesel biofuels may be more environmentally damaging than petroleum gasoline, according to a new study from the University of Michigan Energy Institute (UMEI), The surprising finding comes after the research team, led by UMEI researcher John DeCicco, analyzed the amount of CO2 absorbed as the crops grow and then released when they are burned as biofuel. They calculated that the aggregate US crop yield can remove only 37 percent of the CO2 that burning biofuel releases into the air. "What we found is that when you actually look at how quickly crops like corn and soybeans pull CO2 from the air and compare that with the emissions that occur when the biofuels like ethanol and biodiesel are burned, you find out that they are not carbon neutral like everyone has been assuming," Dr. DeCicco tells The Christian Science Monitor. "For about 10 years there have been very careful studies of corn ethanol and all of the fossil carbon that is used to make it ... and those studies have gotten a range of answers, but it is about a 20 percent reduction of net emissions relative to gasoline," says Professor Schrag. https://www.csmonitor.com/Environment/2016/0827/Do-biofuels-harm-the-planet-more-than-gasoline Current gasoline mixes are only 10% ethanol, due to the impracticalities of trying to dissolve higher levels of ethanol into the gasoline, so that means that all this trouble is being gone to only to reduce CO2 emissions by maybe 2% (20 percent of 10 percent).