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Lawmakers Out To Kill the Corn-Based Ethanol Mandate 314

Posted by Soulskill
from the i'm-all-ears dept.
mdsolar tips this report: "Teams of lawmakers are working hard on bills to cut corn-based ethanol out of the country's biofuel mandate entirely, according to National Journal. It's the latest twist in America's fraught relationship with biofuels, which started in 2005 when Congress first mandated that a certain amount of biofuel be mixed into the country's fuel supply. The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) was then expanded in 2007, with separate requirements for standard biofuel on the one hand and cellulosic and advanced biofuels on the other. The latter are produced from non-food products like cornstalks, agricultural waste, and timber industry cuttings. The RFS originally called for 100 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol in 2010, 250 million in 2011, and 500 million in 2012. Instead, the cellulosic industry failed to get off the ground. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was forced to revise the mandate down to 6.5 million in 2010, and all the way down to zero in 2012. The cellulosic mandate has started to slowly creep back up, and 2014 may be the year when domestic production of cellulosic ethanol finally takes off. But then last month EPA did something else for the first time: it cut down the 2014 mandate for standard biofuel, produced mainly from corn. And now Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) and Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) have teamed up on legislation that would eliminate the standard biofuel mandate entirely."
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Lawmakers Out To Kill the Corn-Based Ethanol Mandate

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @04:03PM (#45717873)

    Maybe this corn used for ethanol can be used for food again?

    Or, at the least animal feed, so the price at the grocery store isn't as bad, and farmers/ranchers are not as pinched as before.

    • by jellomizer (103300) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @04:08PM (#45717931)

      I applaud them for trying. I also applaud them louder for realizing it didn't work and ending it.

      The problem in this stupid political landscape, You can't go back and say, It seemed like a good idea at the time, however I stopped it after we found out it didn't meet expectations. Which is really stupid, because it creates bad policies that just keep going on and on creating more harm, and making political leaders afraid to try something new.

      • by dpilot (134227) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @04:19PM (#45718077) Homepage Journal

        Blasted flip-flopper!

        (Sarcasm alert)

        In "Earth" David Brin tried to come up with 3 culturally neutral definitions for sanity. One was the ability to be satiated - to say you have enough of something, and stop. Another was the ability to evaluate how things are going, and change your plans and actions based upon events and results. I forget the third. I once went back and located it again, trying to remember it. I forgot it, again.

        • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @04:31PM (#45718207)

          Lifted from [peterkaminski.com]
          Sanity, he suggests, is "when a person is adaptable and satiable, capable of realistic planning and empathizing with his fellow beings." In the book, he expands on these traits:
          flexibility -- to be able to change your opinion or course of action, if shown clear evidence you were wrong.
          satiability -- the ability to feel satisfaction if you actually get what you said you wanted, and to transfer your strivings to other goals.
          extrapolation -- an ability to realistically assess the possible consequences of your actions and to empathize, or guess how another person might think or feel.

          • by CanHasDIY (1672858) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @05:01PM (#45718591) Homepage Journal

            Lifted from [peterkaminski.com]
            Sanity, he suggests, is "when a person is adaptable and satiable, capable of realistic planning and empathizing with his fellow beings." In the book, he expands on these traits:
            flexibility -- to be able to change your opinion or course of action, if shown clear evidence you were wrong.
            satiability -- the ability to feel satisfaction if you actually get what you said you wanted, and to transfer your strivings to other goals.
            extrapolation -- an ability to realistically assess the possible consequences of your actions and to empathize, or guess how another person might think or feel.

            Huh.. so I live in a world populated mainly by insane people...

            That explains a lot, actually.

      • by icebike (68054) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @04:27PM (#45718159)

        Well, I applaud them for trying to end it, but it was never wise to turn over the best food growing land to fuel production.
        It was known from the beginning that it took more energy than it produced.

        Cellulose is the only way to go. One of the most promising sources is switch grass [ornl.gov], which can be grown on much more marginal land, and pretty much re-plants itself (due to deep roots).

        Had an equal amount of money been put into cellulosic ethanol we wouldn't be stuck with a corn industry that is driving up food prices, and depleting prime agricultural soils. Nor would be have a bunch of corn processing facilities that will require significant work to convert to anything else.

        This has been an expensive failed experiment, about what you would expect when you rush something into production rather than letting the science and the industry develop. The problem was they didn't set it up to allow competition between sources. They went full funding and full legislative mandate for a single solution before they even did much research.

        • It's not just the corn; it's the ethanol. Ethanol is a poor excuse for a bio-fuel: low energy and not well-suited for pipelines because it is corrosive and absorbs water.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by icebike (68054)

            It's not just the corn; it's the ethanol.

            Ethanol is a poor excuse for a bio-fuel: low energy and not well-suited for pipelines because it is corrosive and absorbs water.

            True, but the energy density of ethanol [wikipedia.org] is low hanging fruit. You can get there relativity easily. And for the standard automobile, E10 can be burned with minimal detrimental effects, zero changes in equipment, and minimal-to-zero engine re-tuning.

            Changing out the physical engines in a country's entire automotive fleet is cost prohibitive, so what ever is synthesized as a fuel stretcher must be easy to manufacture and not require extensive or expensive engine changes.

            • by dj245 (732906)

              It's not just the corn; it's the ethanol.

              Ethanol is a poor excuse for a bio-fuel: low energy and not well-suited for pipelines because it is corrosive and absorbs water.

              True, but the energy density of ethanol [wikipedia.org] is low hanging fruit. You can get there relativity easily. And for the standard automobile, E10 can be burned with minimal detrimental effects, zero changes in equipment, and minimal-to-zero engine re-tuning.

              Changing out the physical engines in a country's entire automotive fleet is cost prohibitive, so what ever is synthesized as a fuel stretcher must be easy to manufacture and not require extensive or expensive engine changes.

              You must be joking. E10 Ethanol drops my MPG by more than 10%. It is actually worse than a neutral nonreactive filler.

              • Citations needed. Seriously.

                I run an engine produced in 1981. It's a Honda GL500. I've documented every drop of fuel that has been burned in the engine. Sometimes I stop at stations that only sell 100% pure gasoline, sometimes I burn the E10 available everywhere. I also belong to the CX/GL500 forum on the internet. Others have documented their fuel usage, and the results of burning E10.

                It seems that those people who actually document their fuel usage find no difference in performance, fuel mileage, or

        • by CanHasDIY (1672858) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @05:02PM (#45718613) Homepage Journal

          Cellulose is the only way to go. One of the most promising sources is switch grass [ornl.gov], which can be grown on much more marginal land, and pretty much re-plants itself (due to deep roots).

          I've heard similar things about hemp, with the added benefit of hemp being useful for more than 1 thing.

          • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

            by Anonymous Coward
            you mean like making rope and nice comfy shirts?
            • by hubie (108345) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @05:28PM (#45718907)
              When I was in college I was always impressed with how concerned the dredlock crowd was about the rope industry. Usually those guys got tagged with an anti-business label, but in reality they were really looking out for the small rope manufacturer.
            • by kimvette (919543)

              Hemp, or Cannabis, has many uses: ethanol or biodisel production (and can be further refined into a gasoline replacement), clothing, paper pulp, rope, hemcrete, insulation, it provides a hypoallergenic (making it better than soy!) vegan protein source, it can treat a host of health and mental issues (morning sickness, PMS, nausea, vomiting, migraines, chronic pain, epilepsy, glaucoma, crohn's disease, colitis, diabetes, anxiety, adhd, neuropathy, insomnia, depression, Multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer's, can ba

        • by Hatta (162192)

          Cellulose is the only way to go. One of the most promising sources is switch grass, which can be grown on much more marginal land, and pretty much re-plants itself (due to deep roots).

          Indeed. Notice how little corn [wikipedia.org] is grown in Coburn's home state of Oklahoma. Oklahoma's top crops are winter wheat and hay, switchgrass would fit right in there.

        • by Guppy (12314) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @07:36PM (#45720375)

          Cellulose is the only way to go

          To borrow an old joke: Cellulosic Ethanol is the fuel of the future -- and always will be.

          From a chemistry or molecular biology perspective the concept looks great -- similar Hexose sugar units are in Sugar / Starch / Cellulose, so why not use the most abundant and cheapest material? The problem looks different from the perspective of evolutionary biology, however. Naturally occurring Cellulase enzymes, sourced from a wide range of different organisms, have each undergone a long process of optimization through evolutionary history. Yet every enzyme remains extremely slow and inefficient (compared to enzymes that process sugars and starches). Why is that?

          I believe the reason is that Cellulose (or rather, the Cellulose-in-Lignin composite matrix that plants use) is the end result of a very long evolutionary arms race between plants and their consumers. It has evolved to be resistant to microbial degradation -- never totally resistant, but just tough enough to ensure no critter gets a free lunch out of digesting it.

          Of course, not all Cellulosic Ethanol need be derived from purely microbial techniques; chemical and chemical/biological hybrid processes might break the evolutionary deadlock. Others have suggested engineering the starting material itself, starting with plants designed to produce more easily digestible Cellulose (which brings up the problem of how well they would defend themselves against insects and pathogens). Unfortunately, in each of these alternate solutions, the amount of work needed is enormous, and it is possible we are simply out of time, with regards to the funding for this sort of research.

      • by bigpat (158134) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @04:43PM (#45718337)
        There really should be sunset provisions on all laws. If it is a good idea, then it can be renewed.
        • by thaylin (555395)
          Or not renewed because the other side does not want to support something the first side implemented...
          • by icebike (68054)

            Or not renewed because the other side does not want to support something the first side implemented...

            You sunset things far enough into the future such that they will be proven successful or a failure. No party kills off something
            that is a clear success, simply to snipe at the competition. Doing so pisses off the voters.

            It was known going in that ethanol from corn was not a great investment.

            This came about because 10% blend was mandated, AND the only projects that were funded were corn-to-ethanol. Had they funded cellulostic ethanol with the same level of funding it would be king right now. But nobody lo

        • by mutube (981006) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @04:56PM (#45718517) Homepage

          Er, no. Sunset clauses are a terrible waste of government time. Just think about it - if every law you pass gets a sunset clause, that means cumulatively over time you're spending a bigger and bigger portion of your time renewing previous laws to make them still active. You end up with situations like the US "fiscal cliff" - which miraculously every other mature democracy on Earth manages to avoid.

          Any good law will be a good law for a long period of time. If it becomes not a good law, repeal it. If you're not sure it's a good enough law to last, don't pass it.

          • by CanHasDIY (1672858) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @05:09PM (#45718693) Homepage Journal

            Er, no. Sunset clauses are a terrible waste of government time. Just think about it - if every law you pass gets a sunset clause, that means cumulatively over time you're spending a bigger and bigger portion of your time renewing previous laws to make them still active.

            Huh? That makes no sense.

            So, basically, you're saying that it takes more time to buy (or not buy) a car someone built than it would take for you to engineer and build a car yourself. That's nuts, yo.

            No, sunset clauses are easy to deal with; it goes down like this:

            Senator Bob: Hey, this law is in sunset phase. Was it a good idea, and do we want to keep it, yea or nay?

            As opposed to months of 'closed doors' meetings, secret deals with lobbyists, writes and re-writes and re-re-writes, etc.

            You end up with situations like the US "fiscal cliff"

            That had nothing to do with sunsetting laws, and everything to do with the fact that our Congress is made up of, essentially, narcissistic 5th graders.

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward

            > which miraculously every other mature democracy on Earth manages to avoid.

            It's a little off topic to bring this up, but your assertion isn't remotely true. The fiscal cliff is a metaphor for a specific set of economic conditions. I'm not even sure you understand what you're talking about, so I'm going into a little pedantry here. Democracy is a soft term at best so if you can be more specific, you can narrow the large list of examples...but let's take the ones that I specifically remember and you can e

          • by drnb (2434720)

            ... cumulatively over time you're spending a bigger and bigger portion of your time renewing previous laws to make them still active ...

            No. Uncontroversial laws that seem to be working can be put into a single renewal bill to be voted upon.

            • by mutube (981006) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @06:05PM (#45719319) Homepage

              Like the Constitution?

              Just to clarify - I'm not against sunset clauses in all cases. But I am against the idea (expressed in the original post) that "There really should be sunset provisions on all laws." Some things don't need regular repeal - some laws are just that good. Like laws against murder. Similarly, short term laws to cover things (like getting back on topic corn subsidies) make sense as a short term financial instrument. There sunsetting makes sense - and gives a defined end point for companies that depend on the subsidy.

              What I can't agree with is applying sunset clauses to laws that are intended to last. The solution to "Some laws are bad" is not "Let's make laws last for less time and then renew them!" it's "Let's make better laws". If a law is so bad you can't bear to enact it unless it is automatically repealed in 5 years - it's probably not a very good law. All this accomplishes is feeding short-termism, allowing politicians off the hook for their crap. "Hey I passed a law! (But don't worry it won't do any real harm because it'll be off the books before we see the consequences)."

              Bundling these things into cumulative bills would mean they'll get so little oversight that they may as well be permanent. They're hardly read the first time, what makes you think anyone will pay attention to what the law says when it's on page 543?

          • by mrchaotica (681592) * on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @06:00PM (#45719281)

            You make the implicit assumption that government creates more good laws than bad ones. I suspect that the person who proposed expanded use of sunset laws doesn't believe that to be the case.

            (Personally, I agree with him -- the goal of the government should be to have the minimum amount of laws and regulation necessary.)

        • Like the budget!

      • by 93 Escort Wagon (326346) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @04:56PM (#45718525)

        I applaud them for trying. I also applaud them louder for realizing it didn't work and ending it.

        I'm not against government mandates per se - the clean air / clean water acts were hugely necessary. I'm all for minimum fuel efficiency standards. I also believe government has a necessary role in funding stuff which requires a long-enough term investment that the private sector is unlikely to find it worthwhile to get involved.

        BUT I don't like it when the government says "here's how you're going to accomplish this goal", because they just about ALWAYS screw that up.

        This is a perfect case in point. They certainly identified the problem correctly... but then they had to meddle because there was just too much political hay to be made. Even when this corn ethanol program started, it was already pretty well established that corn was the wrong source material to use for fuel. As I recall, there was already a near consensus among researchers that switchgrass was probably the way to go. But they let some powerful legislators from the midwest shape the program in a manner designed NOT to be good for the country's long-term interests, but good for their short-term political gain. And, predictably, now many people see the whole idea in a negative light - it raised the price of food, it raised the price of fuel, and in the end it didn't work.

        If the government is going to do this sort of thing, they should stick to setting broadly-stated targets. If they want to say "XX% of your energy/fuel must come from renewable sources by 2030", that's fine with me. But don't dictate that it has to be ethanol, or wind, or solar, or geothermal, or whatever. Let the private sector figure out how best to get to the goal - but don't relax the standards for them when they whine!

      • by mrchaotica (681592) * on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @05:03PM (#45718625)

        In principle, I agree with the sentiment that trying something out, realizing that it doesn't work and stopping it is good.

        However, the underlying problem is that they set themselves up for failure because they didn't just say "we want ethanol fuel, and we'll let industry figure out the most efficient way to produce it," they said "we want ethanol, and we're going to subsidize a stupid way of producing it."

        Now the question is, will they understand that they failed at regulation, or will they (mistakenly) think biofuels failed as a solution?

      • by Dorianny (1847922)
        It comes down to a fundamental problem with the representative democracy system itself. While ethanol from corn provides little benefits to the nation and it costs quite a bit, it has been quite a boon for the Midwest Corn Belt which encompasses a good chunk of the nation. The elected representatives have the very difficult job of trying to strike a balance between the best interests of the nation as a whole and the best interest of the people they were elected to represent. When a program grows to a size w
    • by jedidiah (1196)

      > Maybe this corn used for ethanol can be used for food again?

      Most of the corn grown in this country is already unsuitable for use as food. Rolling back the ethanol mandates won't really change that.

      Might make soda marginally cheaper, or not. Corn is already heavily subsidized anyways.

      • by GameMaster (148118) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @04:26PM (#45718151)

        Uh, no. You're taking a half-remembered fact and mangling it. Almost all of the corn raised in this country is usable for food. However, the fact you are mis-remembering is that most of the corn isn't edible by humans straight off the stalk. Just because you can't eat it without processing doesn't mean it isn't still food. Even discounting corn syrup (which is still food) there is hominy, corn meal, etc. Even the stuff used as animal feed is still part of the food chain and increasing it's price still increases the cost of human food.

        • Uh, no. You're taking a half-remembered fact and mangling it. Almost all of the corn raised in this country is usable for food. However, the fact you are mis-remembering is that most of the corn isn't edible by humans straight off the stalk. Just because you can't eat it without processing doesn't mean it isn't still food. Even discounting corn syrup (which is still food) there is hominy, corn meal, etc. Even the stuff used as animal feed is still part of the food chain and increasing it's price still increases the cost of human food.

          So we grow more sweet corn instead of field corn. Done. Edible right off the stalk. Literally.

    • by Valdrax (32670) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @04:28PM (#45718169)

      Maybe this corn used for ethanol can be used for food again?

      Better yet, maybe land can be set aside or used for other things than corn again. [nwf.org]

    • Or, at the least animal feed, so the price at the grocery store isn't as bad, and farmers/ranchers are not as pinched as before.

      That's why you see "Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) and Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK)" working on gettign rid of the corn/ethanol requirement. The requirement is raising the cost of corn so much that it is becoming cost prohibitive for ranchers to use corn to feed their cattle.
  • There's little ghg impact to eliminating corn ethanol. It's so energy intensive to produce and there are big impacts from indirect land use change. The climate change champion in me says yawn. Cellulosic is much more exciting.

    • by afidel (530433)

      The only problem is that the investors getting burned by the reduction in corn ethanol production are extremely unlikely to invest in cellosic plants if they feel it's likely the government will pull the indirect and direct subsidies on a whim like they are planning to with corn ethanol. These are capital intensive efforts and if halfway into your payback period the government pulls the rug out from under you you're unlikely to invest in a similar setup.

      • by borcharc (56372) * on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @04:43PM (#45718343)

        I looked at several ethanol proposals back in the 2000's, every single one I took a pass on investing in because it was obvious that I would loose my shirt the second the government pulled the rug. These things, just like wind, have never been or never could be profitable without the subsidy. Anyone who was dumb enough to invest in these things deserves to lose their shirt. I completely gave up on renewable energy in 2008 when it was clear to me that no one wanted real solutions, just government handouts. I saw several technologies and processes never built because they were profitable on their own and everyone wanted something with a government handout attached.

        Another major issue is with renewable power generation that isn't wind or solar. I can list off 10 projects that the utilities conspired to kill because they would be able to drive down the price of electricity in an area forcing them to shut down their legacy generation due to oversupply. The wind/solar mandate is the culprit in many of these cases as they have no choice but to buy X amount of wind/solar and they have to buy at the public market (electricity is traded electricity on a market based system in regional markets) so anything other than what they have and the feds require is a major threat for them.

        • by ultranova (717540)

          I can list off 10 projects that the utilities conspired to kill

          Please do so, then?

          • by cnaumann (466328)

            Lets see...

            There was the 100MPG carburetor,
            the water-powered dune buggy,
            the overunity generator,
            cold fusion,
            and at least 6 of Tesla's inventions.

      • Um, no, actually this doesn't hurt venture capital that much. The stock market will pull away from it, but that's not money going to the business; it's just trading paper and pink slips.
  • by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @04:09PM (#45717947) Homepage Journal

    Congress mandated technology that doesn't exist and it didn't magically materialize?

    Full disclosure: I know people who own a large, politically-connected cellulosic ethanol company and am roughly familiar with the challenges of scaling the technology. It's coming, some day; these things are hard.

  • the fuel mix we have been using is crap it turned out ethanol mixed with gas is actually worse then pure gas it also causes rust in metal gas tanks if not kept full.
    • Re:reasons for it (Score:4, Informative)

      by mhajicek (1582795) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @04:19PM (#45718075)
      It also damages two-stroke engines.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Ralph Wiggam (22354)

        Good. The fact that two stroke engines are still allowed to be sold is a disgrace. Running a weed whacker for an hour causes a lot more pollution than driving a Hummer for an hour.

        • by lgw (121541)

          That's a problem with emissions controls, not with two-stroke vs four-stroke vs rotary engine design. Two-stroke engines are lighter for the same power, so they're common in tools, as is the lack of emissions controls of any sort, but the latter is the real problem.

  • by cold fjord (826450) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @04:16PM (#45718019)

    Probably a good thing. Using corn or other edible crops has been linked to rising food prices that have been painful in the third world, the US, and Europe.

    Record Food Prices Linked to Biofuels [technologyreview.com]
    How biofuels contribute to the food crisis [washingtonpost.com]
    Biofuel rule puts turkey farmers in fret over corn costs [washingtontimes.com]
    EU votes on crucial cap on biofuels made from food crops [theguardian.com]

    There are other ways to do it.

    'Biofuel from non-food crops within 15 years' [telegraph.co.uk]
    U.S. to Pay Farmers for Non-Food Crops for Biofuels, Vilsack Says [bloomberg.com]
    Quest for cheap, nonfood biofuel starts with a brewery [eenews.net]

    Of course it may not be popular is some states.

  • Good (Score:5, Funny)

    by hduff (570443) <hoytduff AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @04:16PM (#45718035) Homepage Journal

    GrumpyCatGood.jpg

  • Diesel engines are twice as efficient at extracting energy from fuel as are gas engines. The US should do what Europe has done and basically fully embrace diesel fueled vehicles for their efficiency.

    No, you won't be breaking any 0-60 records, which might make it difficult for the MURKA! FUCK YEAH! crowd to accept, but when you can drive from Bakersfield to Baltimore on 100 gallons of diesel, it's worthy of serious consideration.

    I am dismayed that this administration is so openly hostile towards diesel techn

    • I think in the last few years they mandated that all diesel fuel (at least for on-road vehicles) be of the low sulfur variety. Prior to that we had high sulfur diesel which wasn't much good for the newfangled diesel engines that you see now becoming available in Audis and BMWs, but existed in Europe.

      I'd like to see a Chevy Volt with a diesel instead of the gas engine.

      • by 0racle (667029)
        Change the Volt to a Hybrid VW TDI and I would run down to the dealership right now screaming "TAKE MY MONEY!"
      • by timeOday (582209)
        Technically diesel would be a great match with how the Volt engine is operated (steady at the optimal RPM). But given diesel prices nowadays, is it still a win over gasoline in miles per dollar?
        • by swb (14022)

          Really, does anything compete in terms of miles per dollar against a shitbox car with a 1.xL gas engine? They all seem to get well over 40 MPG, but who wants to drive one? They've got the comfort and appeal of a cardboard box.

          I'm not sure I'd want to own a Volt myself (or any hybrid, really), but I find the Volt most appealing of all the hybrid and electric cars because it is so flexible, even though the gas-only mileage is only 35 MPG (which is still pretty good). I'd bet with the right diesel engine i

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        High-sulfur diesel is great for all engines, even modern ones. But it's not good for catalysts, and that's why it's gone now. It's more expensive to add other lubricity agents, but that's what they've done. Biodiesel has more lubricity, but gels in cold weather. Then there's green diesel, which needs lubricity agents again. You could cut it 10% with biodiesel, though, and it would be a pretty much ideal carbon-neutral fuel (if the cracking energy came from someplace carbon-neutral.)

        Sadly, they changed the o

      • US diesel fuel has been "low sulfur" (500 PPM) for quite a while now. Recently -- and by "recently" I mean since 2006, not "a few years" -- the US switched from "low sulfur" to "ultra-low sulfur" (15 PPM).

        By the way, you know biodiesel? 0 PPM sulfur.

    • by borcharc (56372) *

      People need to stop projecting their values and worldview on valueless lying politicians whose worldview is you could never imagine. Many smart and decent people assume that politicians (usually the ones on the team they support) are also smart, decent, and share their values. Where in fact they may be smart, they are not decent and care nothing for the greater good, only their own good disguised as the greater good, open your eyes.

      • I know someone in my church who is a state delegate, and is a member of the opposite party. Doesnt change the fact that hes generally smart, decent, and shares a lot of my values.

        Your comment is waaaay too overbroad. I would wager that you do not personally know even a significant number of politicians.

    • by GrahamCox (741991)
      No, you won't be breaking any 0-60 records

      I recently hired a car and it was a Diesel, the first I've ever driven (VW Golf 2.0 Tdi bluemotion). I was amazed at the performance, it had excellent acceleration, more than enough speed for general use and at the end of two weeks of moderately hard driving turned in a fuel consumption of under 4.8 litres/100km (that's about 50miles per US Gallon)

      Cars like that would work perfectly well in the USA, and be a lot easier to park as well. I have no idea why you l
      • I recently hired a car and it was a Diesel, the first I've ever driven (VW Golf 2.0 Tdi bluemotion). I was amazed at the performance, it had excellent acceleration,

        I think you might be getting models confused, but it looks like a typical VW Golf diesel does 0-60 in about 10 seconds [zeroto60times.com], which isn't amazing, but it's not horrible, either.

        Cars like that would work perfectly well in the USA, and be a lot easier to park as well.

        'Parking difficulty' is really only a concern (in the USA) in the middle of an extremely crowded urban area. People who live in those places do tend to buy smaller cars, if they have them at all.

        No wonder GM and Ford are dying.

        They aren't, Ford has been profitable since 2009 at least

        • by GrahamCox (741991)
          According to the very same page you linked, the model I hired (or closest to it on that chart; it was the 2013 model) does 0-60 in 7.9 seconds.

          But I think what impressed the most was how torquey it felt - very flexible and would pull strongly from very low revs. It was a manual transmission of course, another thing I vastly prefer to the typical US or Aussie monster.
          • But I think what impressed the most was how torquey it felt - very flexible and would pull strongly from very low revs.

            Oh yeah, that is an element of a car that can feel just as good as raw acceleration.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I'm sorry, but Diesel is not a panacea.

      I'm sick of hearing people say Diesel is clean. It's not.

      For a Diesel engine to run at proper efficency, it has to be warm. In colder climates this means Diesel engines idling for absurd amounts of time while they "warm up", or to prevent them from cooling down too much. During the "Warm-up", they are terrible polluters, spewing noxious fumes and particulates like crazy. This is due to the ineffencies caused by the cold engine. Catalyic converters and such help some, b

      • by caseih (160668) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @06:37PM (#45719703)

        You're right about startup. But that can be mitigated with block heaters in cold climates, which are already widely used. Especially on little tiny engines. As well it's not nearly so hard to turn over a tiny engine, so I think the cold start problem is no worse than gasoline. A small engine will warm up fairly quickly.

        I stood next to a big rig the other day when it was -40C (I was loading it), and it had no smell of diesel at all. Just a vague ammonia steam whiff occasionally. This is of course after it's warmed up. In my mind diesel is the only alternative in the future as it's the only engine capable of running without modifications on a myriad of biologically-derived oils. Heavier oil biofuels made by algae and waste digestion seem to be better bets than ethanol.

    • by mlts (1038732) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @04:45PM (#45718381)

      You won't be breaking 0-60 records anywhere near a metro area anyway.

      Believe it or not, diesels are getting embraced in the US. The Mercedes Sprinter van is a hit, and both Ford and Fiat (er, Chrysler) are both trying to get some type of decent diesel engine in a van that can compete. This is important because of fleet use of these vehicles.

      The "grocery getter" (i.e. half-ton) pickups are getting diesels as well, starting with the Chrysler RAM 1500.

      As for hybrids or electric vehicles, I've wondered about just having a pure EV drivetrain, then using a generator from Onan or Kohler mounted onboard with a fuel tank. This would require less time to design around, because the generators are already pre-made, and could be easily replaced if a part fails. Most motorhomes have an onboard genset, usually mounted underneath the rig, and if mounted properly with shock mounts and an exhaust resonator, are not loud.

      • I rather like diesels myself, but part of the problem that I've seen is the price premium associated with them. Most trucks will command an additional $3-4000 for a diesel option, and having just glanced at the Chevy Cruze, it looks like there's about a $6K difference between the starting prices of the gas and diesel models with a 6-speed automatic. That's not going to start paying for itself until you get around 60,000 miles on the car (($6000 / $3.50/gal) * 35 mpg), and even that's not factoring in the
        • by mlts (1038732)

          Agreed. The one mitigating factor is that the trade-in value is higher, similar to having 4WD in a pickup.

          My biggest complaint about modern US diesels is that they will self-destruct (more realistically, brick themselves) if taken out of the US or Canada, due to the ultra low sulfur versus low sulfur fuels and the new emission systems. Take a Freightliner [1] Sprinter to Mexico and fill it up on low sulfur diesel, and the vehicle's computer will be throwing a code almost immediately, perhaps going into li

    • by mrchaotica (681592) * on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @05:47PM (#45719165)

      No, you won't be breaking any 0-60 records, which might make it difficult for the MURKA! FUCK YEAH! crowd to accept

      Dude, the "MURKA! FUCK YEAH!" crowd does 11-second quarter mile drag races in their 1000+ HP Cummins Dodge Rams.

      This isn't the '80s; diesels are not like those old shitty Oldsmobiles anymore. Even my lightly-modded MK4 Volkswagen diesel can beat a stock Mk4 GTI in a drag race. (And before you say "but that's modded" keep in mind that a new VW diesel has 140 HP, which is the same as a Civic, but has way more torque.)

    • by Solandri (704621)

      The US should do what Europe has done and basically fully embrace diesel fueled vehicles for their efficiency.

      The U.S. has embraced diesel. Nearly all of its trucks (which account for about half the country's petroleum consumption for transportation) run on diesel.

      See, when you refine a barrel of petroleum, you get a certain amount of diesel, and a certain amount of gasoline. You can tweak the refining process to get more gasoline, or more diesel, but it becomes more expensive. The most cost-effecti

  • Thanks, Obama! (Score:2, Informative)

    by Overzeetop (214511)

    This just seemed like a good place for this meme.

    • Ya, but it was Bush who signed a paper somewhere at some point in time hence, you're wrong, um...so there.
  • by bobbied (2522392) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @04:42PM (#45718327)

    This NEVER made sense environmentally, economically or technically.

    Technically, we hit the "blend wall" at about 10%. Above that amount, gasoline engines start to have issues with Ethanol. Rubber seals, hoses and plastic parts in fuel systems start having reduced lifespan. Above 10% some engines start having other internal issues. Gas mileage is reduced because Ethanol has a lower energy density. Ethanol is a water magnet, it mixes with water easily and is hard to keep "dry" so rusting and corrosion becomes more common in fuel systems.

    Environmentally, the production of ethanol doesn't really reduce emissions of C02 when you count the whole process of growing, harvesting, storing, transporting, processing into ethanol, transporting, blending and transporting the product again. It was at best a wash. Then when you consider how much more fertilizer, pesticides and tilling add to the environmental impact it clearly becomes a negative.

    Economically, the case is even worse. The whole process of producing ethanol is both labor and capital expensive. It is obviously more expensive as a motor fuel. Then when you consider what has happened to food prices as corn (a base part of much of what we eat as well as feed for animals we use for food) prices have gone up.

    But what about or dependance on foreign Oil imports? It helped, but was it worth it? T Boon Pickens has the answer to that. He thinks that we are stupid to convert food into fuel when we could be using abundant Natural Gas for a motor fuel. Converting gasoline engines to use natural gas is not that hard (albeit harder than 10% Ethanol) it works great with reduced range due to energy density. Refueling times can be comparable to gasoline and a large distribution network already exists in much of the nation.

    It's time. Do away with this mistake.

    • by couchslug (175151) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @05:04PM (#45718643)

      NG engines are easy to do and well understood, but the infrastructure issue means it's a fleet-use only item.

      Folks who work with NG generators report very long life and low wear. If I had a convenient source of CNG I'd convert at least one of my trucks to bi-fuel as "gas and gasoline" systems can co-exist. Ford is going to offer a CNG option on the extremely successful F-150. (That would make a great option for a work truck since CNG can be used to run cutting torches, generators, and so forth. Standard hardware could easily connect them.)

      http://www.forbes.com/sites/joannmuller/2013/07/31/ford-f-150-to-get-natural-gas-engine-option/ [forbes.com]

      • by swillden (191260)

        NG engines are easy to do and well understood, but the infrastructure issue means it's a fleet-use only item.

        An inexpensive home CNG compressor could fix that. A very large percentage of the US has CNG piped to the home; if that could be leveraged for safe and convenient in-home refueling, then the infrastructure problem is mostly solved.

        Note that I have no idea how difficult it is to build a small, safe, inexpensive CNG compressor. It doesn't seem like it should be too difficult, though.

        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          Note that I have no idea how difficult it is to build a small, safe, inexpensive CNG compressor. It doesn't seem like it should be too difficult, though.

          You would need regular inspections to make sure people didn't blow up their neighborhood. It's a lot more leak-prone than your range.

      • by bobbied (2522392)

        Distribution infrastructure already exists in most of the nation was my point. I understand that stations catering to NG refueling don't exist in most places. But the distribution network for NG is almost everywhere. Going from the pipe in the street, you buy a compressor or two, a storage tank and the equivalent of a fuel pump and you are in the business of selling CNG.

        Personally, I'd LOVE to have a NG powered car. I have NG service so I could easily put a compressor in my garage and refuel overnight. C

      • by bobbied (2522392)

        I just found this.. There are over 600 existing stations serving CNG customers already.

        http://www.afdc.energy.gov/fuels/natural_gas_locations.html

        They are not everywhere, but they sure are where I'm accustom to going.

    • by Solandri (704621)

      Economically, the case is even worse. The whole process of producing ethanol is both labor and capital expensive. It is obviously more expensive as a motor fuel. Then when you consider what has happened to food prices as corn (a base part of much of what we eat as well as feed for animals we use for food) prices have gone up.

      It made sense economically the way it was first implemented. See, the U.S. overproduces food. Ever since the Dust Bowl of the 1930s and its widespread food shortages, the U.S. has i

  • AFAIK, this bill would only end the mandate. It would not end subsidies for corn ethanol production. Lots of ethanol would still be used for fuel because with subsidies ethanol is often competitive.

    • by Artagel (114272) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @05:50PM (#45719191) Homepage

      Remember, that ethanol is present as an oxygenate to prevent carbon monoxide and soot. The discontinuation of the use of MBTE (methyl tert-butyl ether) left ethanol the primary one. Methanol is even worse for engines than ethanol. Whatever the shortcomings of ethanol from an engineering basis, it is non-toxic in reasonable quantities.

  • by mdsolar (1045926) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @05:06PM (#45718675) Homepage Journal
    In his new book "Full Planet, Empty Plates: The New Geopolitics of Food Scarcity" Lester Brown writes: "Between 2005 and 2011, the grain used to produce fuel for cars climbed from 41 million to 127 million tons—nearly a third of the U.S. grain harvest. (See Figure 4–1.) The United States is trying to replace oil fields with corn fields to meet part of its automotive fuel needs. The massive diversion of grain to fuel cars has helped drive up food prices, leaving low-income consumers everywhere to suffer some of the most severe food price inflation in history. As of mid-2012, world wheat, corn, and soybean prices were roughly double their historical levels."

    He is pessimistic about cellulosic ethanol: "The unfortunate reality is that the road to this ambitious cellulosic biofuel goal is littered with bankrupt firms that tried and failed to develop a process that would produce an economically viable fuel. Despite having the advantage of not being directly part of the food supply, cellulosic ethanol has strong intrinsic characteristics that put it at a basic disadvantage compared with grain ethanol, so it may never become economically viable." http://www.earthpolicy.org/books/fpep/fpepch4 [earthpolicy.org]
  • First we mangle the Constitution with prohibition, grow an organized crime culture then repeal it. Now we lay down a mandate and then back peddle. It's like we are getting thrown across the shoulders of a gin-soaked barroom queen all the time.
  • Biofuel from food crops (food crops being things like corn, sugar beets, etc);
    Bad idea as it takes up arable land and the food produced is not going into the food supply causing food price increases.

    Biofuel from non-food crops (non-food crops being things like hay, trees, etc that are planted and harvested)
    If this uses land that could produce food then it is no better than using food crops as less food enters the food chain.
    If it uses land that is unsuitable for growing food than it is very good. Care must

  • by BenJeremy (181303) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @05:23PM (#45718865)

    Switchgrass, Sugar Cane, and Hemp all provide more sustainable, easier-to-convert alternatives to creating ethanol, which, even with the subsidy, was more expensive per mile to operate vehicles with when made using corn.

    These alternatives cost about 30% less to convert and are easier to grow.

    • by BenJeremy (181303)

      Just a quick note... sugar cane ethanol costs about US$0.22 per liter to produce in Brazil, or about US$0.83/gallon.

      IF E85 was less than $2/gallon, it would be viable to use, but since E85 has about 80% of the mileage rating as "regular" gasoline, I think it has to be even cheaper per mile to buy, since I am trading fuel range as well for the cheaper biofuel alternative. I might be willing to make more gas station stops for cheaper gas.

      The last time I calculated it, it was still more expensive per mile to b

  • by FudRucker (866063) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @05:38PM (#45719029)
    lets turn all that ethanol producing infrastructure in to booze making infrastructure, that should keep the cost of booze down, and the liquor stores well stocked
  • It's about time. This thing has been an absolute environmental disaster. I've got family in Nebraska that talk but land being plowed up that's not seen a plow since the dustbowl, and because of the dustbowl. My environmentalist sister-in-law working up around Chicago talks about how terrible the extra planting has been for the Mississippi and Gulf. Too many nutrients getting into the water causing problems.

    Just stop with the subsidies for this and it will work out fine.
  • by codeusirae (3036835) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @06:07PM (#45719343)
    So what's news, the OIL lobby pays politicians to shutdown ethanol production as this would cut into their profits.

    '"This issue affects chainsaws and chain restaurants," Rob Green .. said at a lunch hosted by the American Petroleum Institute, the oil industry's top lobbying group`. ref [huffingtonpost.com]

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