Paul Epley: The ethanol myth

Unfortunately, many governments - the U.S. government in particular - have emerged as the driving force behind one of the most environmentally and culturally destructive policies ever promulgated in the name of environmental and cultural sensitivity - the addition of ethanol to motor fuels in the name of environmentalism. While ethanol's addition to gasoline is touted as an environmental boon and a savings of fossil fuels, the truth is that it is environmentally unsound, economically unwise, and little more than a direct subsidy to major corporate agricultural interests.

As the Cato Institute's energy expert Jerry Taylor said on a recent "Myths" edition of "20/20," the case for ethanol is based on a baker's dozen of myths:

n "If ethanol's so good, why does it need government subsidies? Shouldn't producers be eager to make it, knowing that thrilled consumers will reward them with profits? But consumers won't reward them, because without subsidies, ethanol would cost much more than gasoline."

n Using ethanol will save energy is another myth. "It takes a lot of fossil fuels to make the fertilizer, to run the tractor, to build the silo, to get that corn to a processing plant, to run the processing plant," Taylor says, "and because ethanol degrades, it can't be moved in pipelines the way that gasoline is. So many more big, polluting trucks will be needed to haul it. More bad news: The increased push for ethanol has already led to a sharp increase in corn growing - which means much more land must be plowed. That means much more fertilizer, more water used on farms (500,000 gallons per year per acre of corn) and more pesticides."

To put this in terms we Americans are familiar with, it takes about 25,000 kilocalories together with 1,700 gallons of water to produce one gallon of ethanol with an energy equivalent of 19,400 kilocalories - or a negative energy return of 29 percent. Simply put, it takes roughly 30 percent more energy to produce a gallon of ethanol than we actually get out of it in our cars. Further, corn causes more soil erosion than any other crop grown in this nation, approximately 4 to 6 tons of soil per acre.

And the cultural costs? The two major sources of ethanol are corn and sugar. The cost of these two food staples have been driven beyond the reach of countless millions worldwide who were already teetering on the brink of malnutrition. This is the direct result of the billions of dollars currently used to subsidize the production of ethanol. Sadly, of the approximately $7 per bushel tax subsidy being handed out to companies like Archer, Daniels & Midland, less than 2 cents is reaching the farmer.

Well then, is ethanol good for anything other than making booze? Yes! It seems to be the 'Manna' for vote-hungry presidential hopefuls. Iowa is a key state in the presidential nomination sweepstakes. Sen. Clinton voted against ethanol 17 times until she started running for president. Coincidence?

"It's no mystery that people who want to be president support the corn ethanol program," Taylor says. "If you're not willing to sacrifice children to the corn God, you will not get out of the Iowa primary with more than 1 percent of the vote. Right now, the closest thing we have to a state religion in the United States isn't Christianity, it's corn."

Paul Epley is a long-time Routt County Conservative activist, holds a PhD in biology from the University of Southern California, and is a director of the Conservative Leadership Council of Northwest Colorado.

Community comments

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(Anonymous) beentheredonethat says...

This is the first time I can agree with Paul Epley. He is right about ethanol.
Good for you Paul, keep writing about science and stay away from politicking.

Posted 16 September 2007, 7:02 a.m. Suggest removal

(Anonymous) llookhere says...

INFORMATION ALERT: Judicial Department employees may not hold office in a political party, nor may they promote one political party or candidate over another in partisan political elections. . . (This notice is posted prominently in various locations on the Colorado Judicial Branch website regarding qualifications for employment in the court system).

From the Pilot: Although Monday was Doucette's last day as chief district judge, he will preside over cases in the 14th Judicial District through January. "He's just going to go ahead and continue on with his cases," Routt County Clerk of Court Tracey Epley said."

From the Routt County Assessor website:

Reception Number Book Page Sale Date Sale Price Doc Type Doc Fee
571407 10/18/2002 738,300 WD $73.83
Grantor Name Grantee Name

From the Colorado Secretary of State Election Finance report for Contribution Detail

Id: 20065612684
Report For: 07/31/2006 - 09/02/2006 Due: 09/07/2006

Date: 08/02/2006
Contributor: PAUL EPLEY
PO 771981
Original Amount Reported: $160.00
Actual Amount: $160.00
Total Amount,this cycle: $160.00
Monetary: Yes
Contributor Type: Individual
If membership organization, number of member donors:
Description: LDD

Id: 20065612684
Report For: 07/31/2006 - 09/02/2006 Due: 09/07/2006

Found 5 matching record(s). Viewing page 1 of 1. # Contributor City, State Amount Date In kind?
SPRINGS, CO $90.00 08/02/2006 No
SPRINGS, CO $50.00 08/02/2006 No
3. NANCY STAHOVIAK OAK CREEK, CO $100.00 08/02/2006 No
SPRINGS, CO $160.00 08/02/2006 No
5. SAM HASLEM HAYDEN, CO $100.00 08/02/2006 No

From today's Pilot:

"I doubt he can find his condo without the help of his Realtor," said Paul Epley, a Hayden resident and White's former campaign manager for the representative's first two successful runs at the state House. "It's a straight political thing to get him into the district."

Posted 16 September 2007, 11:03 a.m. Suggest removal

(Anonymous) thecondoguy1 says...

this article is an excellent essay of the facts surrounding ethanol, I am making a killing on fertilizer, it takes natural gas to manufacture nitrogen, on and on, typical wealth shifting circle jerk, long live ethanol, I missed the oil boom...................

Posted 17 September 2007, 8:09 a.m. Suggest removal

(Anonymous) JQPUBLIC says...

llookhere..... so your point is?...Are you suggesting we should douse all republicans with ethanol and set them ablaze since ethanol is what this article is about?

Posted 18 September 2007, 9:53 a.m. Suggest removal

(Anonymous) llookhere says...

We hear what these people say and read what they write. We can look up the laws and regulations they are required to obey. Their actions documented in public records show what they actually do. I am posting verifiable facts from the public records. Draw your own conclusions or look further if you are interested.

Posted 18 September 2007, 12:28 p.m. Suggest removal

(Rick Akin) rakin says...

Under this username and the others that you appear to have used, it is apparent that you have an ax to grind with Tracey Epley. I do not know anything about the merits of your beef with her, but you should probably be aware that Paul and Tracey have been divorced for some time.

Posted 19 September 2007, 2:36 p.m. Suggest removal

(Anonymous) id04sp says...

I think the facts speak for themselves.

Employees of the Court are prohibited from actively engaging in partisan political activity. This fact appeared in a job posting for some sort of "assistant" for the court, and was placed by Ms. Epley within the past few weeks. It appeared on the State Judicial Department website.

Property was deeded over to Al White for the sum of $10.00 during a period which, referencing dates published in the Pilot and public records, occurred while Ms. Epley was working as a clerk of the court. Paul Epley was, apparently, also engaged with Mr. White on political matters during this time.

Whether Ms. Epley's actions violate the requirements of her position is a matter for the state court system to decide.

Clerks of the court are custodians of important public records. Those records affect the lives and income of people who have been through the court system.

Maybe the importance of handling records properly and keeping them up to date and accurate is the issue here, eh?

Posted 19 September 2007, 4:44 p.m. Suggest removal

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