Alan Reynolds Attacks Capitol Drunks!

Economic blogger par excellence Alan Reynolds has another superb column up at Townhall.com.

Here’s a disturbing slice:

Ethanol already gets an indefensible tax break at the pump of 51 to 71 cents a gallon, but Congress now wants to compel everyone to add it to their tanks. But doing so would leave us with less fuel at higher prices. Why? Because there is much less energy in eight gallons of ethanol than in the seven gallons of gasoline it takes to produce it.

In his June 15 speech, President Bush said: “Ethanol comes from corn — and we’re pretty good about growing corn here in America; we’ve got a lot of good corn-growers. Therefore, it makes sense to promote ethanol as an alternative to foreign sources of oil. Ethanol can be mixed with gasoline to produce a clean, efficient fuel. In low concentrations, ethanol can be used in any vehicle. And with minor modifications, vehicles can run on a fuel blend that includes about 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline. Ethanol helps our farmers find new markets …”

Efficient fuel? Check the official mileage estimates at www.fueleconomy.gov. A Dodge Stratus gets 20 miles to the gallon in city driving on gasoline, but that drops to 15 mpg on E85 (the 85 percent ethanol fuel) — and highway mileage drops from 28 mpg to 20 mpg.

Dude, Alan, you’re freaking me out man! I don’t need no steenking ethanol in my tank!!!!

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12 thoughts on “Alan Reynolds Attacks Capitol Drunks!

  1. Does it pollute less? Is there less of an environemental impact in general? Does it support terrorism like oil does? These are all important questions. Sure, our wallets are important as well, but they’re not the most important thing.

  2. Economic blogger par excellence?

    Alan Reynolds stated that a barrel of oil contains 42 gallons. Yes it does, but it’s 42 gallons of OIL. That’s why they call it a barrel of OIL. Actually, about 19.9 gallons of gasoline are produced from a barrel of oil. That means that about 7.2635 billion gallons of ethanol per year will replace (by volume) the gasoline produced by 1,000,000 barrels per day or 365 million barrels per year. Eight billion gallons of ethanol replaces (by volume) about 400 million barrels.

    The ethanol industry statement was that the new renewable fuel standard would save 2 billion barrels of imported oil over a decade. See link for direct source:
    http://www.ethanolrfa.org/leg_position.shtml
    The statement also anticipates the creation of 234,840 jobs and the addition of $43 billion to US household income along with other benefits.

    Regarding mileage, first, it is pretty weak to take a single data point and extrapolate it across the board and into the future. Second, it is possible to optimize vehicles for E85 so that they get equal or better fuel economy to a straight gasoline vehicle.
    http://running_on_alcohol.tripod.com/id12.html

  3. That comment about the loss during refinement is interesting, but I’m curious what they do with the rest. Sure, some of it is burned off, but I imagine that the byproducts are also used in vehicles in some way?

  4. Anonymous said…

    “Does it pollute less? Is there less of an environemental impact in general? Does it support terrorism like oil does?”

    Since you’d use at least as much oil producing and distributing ethanol, the obious answer to all of the above is no. It won’t save a drop of oil — the oil just goes to farmers and truckers and fertilizer manufacuters and, always, ADM. This assumes it’s made out of corn, but that’s the poltical and technical reality.

    “Alan Reynolds stated that a barrel of oil contains 42 gallons. Yes it does, but it’s 42 gallons of OIL. That’s why they call it a barrel of OIL. Actually, about 19.9 gallons of gasoline are produced from a barrel of oil.”

    If I wrote something that dumb,I too would call myself anoynmous, out of shame. As I wrote in an earlier column on oil prices(www.townhall.com), most crude is used to produce other stuff, like plastic toys, vaseline and jet fuel. That certainly does not mean we waste half a barrel in refining. Mabye 5 percent, no more. You’d waste nearly 90 percent (of OIL) producing ethanol — it takes 7 to make 8, remember? My ex-CIA critic said, that, not me, and he and Sen. Richard Lugar headed a US energy commission.

    “The ethanol industry statement was that the new renewable fuel standard would save 2 billion barrels of imported oil over a decade.”

    Oh? That’s not what the journalist I cited wrote (he said not a word about a decade), but it’s still wildly wrong.

    “Regarding mileage, first, it is pretty weak to take a single data point and extrapolate it across the board and into the future. Second, it is possible to optimize vehicles for E85 so that they get equal or better fuel economy to a straight gasoline vehicle.”

    Unless you’re a corn farmer or a PR guy for Archer Daniels Midland it’s not possible to make any sense of those two sentences.

    I gave the source for U.S. government data which say mileage with E85 is roughly 31 percent worse than with gasoline. That’s not really debatable but please keep trying because it’s amusing.

    Somebody, perhaps this same fellow who’s been drinking ethanol, reminded me that crazy folk in L.A. have long been drag racing with it for years. Actually, that’s methanol with an “m” (close but no cigar) and it’s dangerous stuff. The dragsters that use it are called “meth monsters” for good reason.” You “optimize” one of those by raising the compression ratio – to about 11 to 1 in my hot rodding days in L.A. But today’s cars with compression ratios nearly that high(my BMW) — or effectively higher due to turbos or superchargers — run just fine on 93 octane gasoline, and their mileage is still at least 30 percent better than the same engine on ethanol (with an “e” not an “m”).

    Get serious. The ethanol lobby is just highway robbery, period.

  5. If we use nuclear or renewable energy sources to create the ethanol, then we’ve taken oil out of the picture. Eventually, gas may be expensive enough that this will make economic sense.

    As an aside, I wonder which will make sense first: alternative fuel, or exploiting oil shale.

  6. “Efficient fuel? Check the official mileage estimates at http://www.fueleconomy.gov. A Dodge Stratus gets 20 miles to the gallon in city driving on gasoline, but that drops to 15 mpg on E85 (the 85 percent ethanol fuel) — and highway mileage drops from 28 mpg to 20 mpg.”

    Apples and oranges. For an apples to apples comparison lets convert:

    E85 (85% ethanol 15% gasoline)

    20 miles per gallon or in other words 1/20th of a gallon per mile

    so .15/20 gallons of actual gasoline per mile, which equals 133 mpg in todays cars.

    133mpg? That’s a LOT better than the average american car. I’m not a big fan of ethanol but you are making a false comparison by not recognizing that efficiency in this case means less gas used per unit travel, not less liquid used per unit traveled.

  7. 133 mpg! Wow! If only that were true. Tlaloc forgot, in his apples to apples comparison, that it takes gas (or oil) to make ethanol – like 7 gallons per 8 gallons of ethanol. If you use his logic of .15 gal gas per 20 miles (.0075 gal/mi) and add in (.85 gal ethanol/20 miles)x(7 gal gas/8 gal ethanol)= .74375 gal gas/20 miles or .03719 gal gas/mile, then you get his .0075 plus the additional .03719 which is a total of .04469 gal gas/mile or 22.4 mpg. This is still about 20 percent lower than the original 28 mpg figure quoted. I can’t see that a reduction in gas mileage of a net 20 percent is very helpful.

    Now, if you could come up with a way to make ethanol without using 7 gallons of gas per 8 gallons of ethanol, then we might have a winner. Doesn’t look good to me using the current figures.

  8. “133 mpg! Wow! If only that were true. Tlaloc forgot, in his apples to apples comparison, that it takes gas (or oil) to make ethanol”

    You don’t have to use gas to make it but yes the current method does. As I said I’m not a fan of ethanol but to claim that an ethanol fuel mixture is not as efficient as regular gas is an outright fabrication.

  9. Tlaloc said… to claim that an ethanol fuel mixture is not as efficient as regular gas is an outright fabrication.

    How are you defining efficient? A gallon of the 85/15 mixture contains about 82000 BTU of energy – a gallon of gasoline has 115,000 BTU. It therefore takes about 1.4 times as much of the mixture to move the vehicle a given distance as it does with gasoline. If they charge me the same amount for the 85/15 stuff as they do for real gasoline (and they will and will probably charge a premium), then I’m getting a very raw deal. I don’t see anything efficient about that.

    And, yes, you don’t have to use gas to make ethanol, but you still need energy from some source, and determining where it comes from and whose pocketbook gets padded opens up an entirely new can of worms.

  10. You’ve been hammered straight up here, Tlaloc. Maybe you should be a little more selective in disagreement with anything and everything posted.

  11. “Does it pollute less? Is there less of an environemental impact in general? Does it support terrorism like oil does? These are all important questions. Sure, our wallets are important as well, but they’re not the most important thing.”

    I support Ethanol, just not dumb advocates that realy just care about this “does it support terrosim like oil does?”

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