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Front Page » June 24, 2008 » Opinion » Drill here, drill now, bring down gas prices
Published 2,311 days ago

Drill here, drill now, bring down gas prices


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By LOU SANSEVERO
Guest Writer

Energy Independence is a national security issue and should be taken more seriously than Congress is taking it. It's sickening to see the burlesque going on in Washington as millionaire Senatorial/Congressional representatives cynically "grill" their multi-millionaire, oil executive buddies trying to ascertain "if" the oil companies are gouging the American people and just who's the cause of the current energy crisis.

Of course they're gouging us. Anyone who can't see that has to be blind, there is simply no other truthful, non weasel-worded way to explain their consistent, record setting profits in a time of record breaking oil prices; but they are not the cause of our present crisis they are only exploiting the mega profit opportunity handed them. The real cause for this fuel/economic crisis we are facing is Congress.

According to Harris Poll #34, April 23, 2007 only 5 percent of adults say they are active environmentalists yet Congress has allowed this minority to dictate to the other 95 percent of the population what we do with "our" natural resources and have made the ethanol scam a national priority. This scam has caused massive amounts of acreage to be diverted from other staples to corn production and the majority of that diverted production to be further diverted to energy (ethanol) production from the animal feed and human food chains.

These diversions have resulted in an exponential rise in the price of corn and has resulted in skyrocketing food costs in this country and food shortages throughout the world while simultaneously exasperating the fuel crisis by diverting economic resources away from realistic solutions.

As we speak the Cubans, Chinese, and British amongst others are exploiting some of the richest oil reserves in our hemisphere while we are banned from despoiling the natural splendor of the Gulf of Mexico. Likewise we are banned from developing vast oil reserves off the east and west coast of the U.S. not to mention those lying offshore under the sea floors of the Beaufort and Chukchi seas off Alaska or the litany of dry land reserves which have been put "off limits" all to preserve the riparian aspirations and sensitivities of the small, self proclaimed saviours of the earth.

Full exploitation of our own resources combined with a renewed initiative to construct new facilities to refine our oil will immediately resolve our present crisis and give us "breathing time" to explore realistic and practical permanent solutions to our transportation needs. Ethanol is not either.

With the possible exceptions of "Global Warming" and its cousin "Carbon Credits" ethanol is possibly the greatest scam ever foisted on the American people. I know, that's blasphemy; ethanol produced primarily (in this country) from corn is, supposedly, the great saviour of America. It's a renewable source of high energy fuel, cleaner than fossil fuels and "Earth friendly", and cheaper than fossil fuels or at least that's what the corn producers lobby, the environmentalist, and those individuals who maybe invested in corn futures would have us believe. But are these claims factual?

The first premise is that ethanol from corn is a renewable source of high energy fuel. Well it's renewable, that much is true but how about some facts like; one gallon of ethanol contains about 76,000-84,000 BTUs (British thermal units) of potential energy. Producing that gallon of ethanol from corn takes about 98,000 BTUs (do the math, it takes 29 percent more energy to produce the ethanol than the energy we get out of it).

By way of comparison one gallon of gasoline contains 116,000-125,000 BTUs of potential energy, producing that gallon of gasoline requires about 22,000 BTUs (again do the math, we get about 527 percent more energy out of one gallon gasoline than we use producing that gallon of gasoline). Additionally, in case you've missed it, ethanol is an inefficient fuel; a gallon of gasoline contains 116,000 to 125,000 BTUs of potential energy, while one gallon of ethanol contains 76,000-84,000 BTUs of potential energy (in other words a gallon of ethanol only contains 2/3 the amount of energy as a gallon of gasoline, simply put it would take 1 and 1/3 gallons of ethanol to go as far as you can go on one gallon of gasoline).

The second premise is that ethanol is cleaner than fossil fuels. According to Worldwatch Institute (Biofuels for Transportation: Global Potential and Implications for Sustainable Energy in the 21st Century, May 4, 2006), ethanol is not environmentally friendly. Biofuels produced on a large scale from low-yielding crops such as corn "have the potential to generate as much or more greenhouse gas emissions than petroleum fuels do."

Additionally while it is arguably true that while carbon monoxide emissions may be reduced in vehicles using ethanol, VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) which are dangerous to lungs are higher in ethanol than in gasoline; add to this the particle pollutants released into the air from producing ethanol and you are contributing to, not reducing, pollution of the planet.

The third premise is that ethanol is "Earth friendly". According to David Pimental, a leading Cornell University agricultural expert "Corn production in the U.S. erodes soil about 12 times faster than the soil can be reformed, and irrigating corn mines groundwater 25 percent faster than the natural recharge rate of ground water. The environmental system in which corn is being produced is being rapidly degraded. Corn should not be considered a renewable resource for ethanol energy production especially when human food is being converted into ethanol."

The fourth premise is that ethanol is cheaper than gasoline. Even if we choose to ignore the fact that it takes 1/3 more ethanol to go the same distance that one gallon of gasoline will take you the numbers don't support the premise. According to the Congressional Research Service ("Agricultural-Based Renewable Energy Production" May 18, 2006) in February of 2006 gasoline was $2.23 per gallon while the price of ethanol, converted to a gasoline energy equivalent gallon, was $2.75 and this price of ethanol does not even take into account the $1 billion in taxpayer subsidies and supports.

In about the same time frame a study by the International Institute for Sustainable Development found that ethanol subsidies amount to as much as $1.38 per gallon, taking this into consideration the actual price per gallon at the time would be $4.13 or almost twice that of gasoline. Today the average price of gasoline is about $3.80 or 72 percent higher than in 2005, it is altogether reasonable to presume that the price of ethanol has increased correspondingly which would make the unsubsidized cost of a gallon ethanol $7.15 today. These numbers do not even take into consideration the hidden cost of this ethanol boondoggle.

What hidden costs? How about the increased cost of every item in the human food chain from bread to steaks caused by the diversion of farm lands from other grain crops to increased production of corn and the diversion of corn from the animal feed/human consumption to fuel. No, ethanol is not a cheaper fuel.

If ethanol is not cleaner, if it's not a more efficient fuel, if it's not cheaper, and if it can't provide energy independence then why bother? The short answer is that the whole point of corn ethanol is not energy independence or to solve America's energy crisis; its point is to produce one of the greatest political boondoggles in our history. In election year politics ethanol subsidies represent corporate handouts to big agribusinesses thinly veiled as energy innovation.

As I look at my grandchildren today I see the very real possibility that, with the possible exception of the great depression, they will be the first generation of American children whose standard of living and quality of life will be not only measurably and materially less than that of their parents but measurably less than their grandparents. This is unacceptable.

It's time for you to tell the 5 percent who are "active" environmentalist that their bullying of the other 95 percent of us is over . . . We will begin drilling here, we will begin drilling now, and we will bring down the cost of fuel today.

Send a letter or email to all your elected officials and demand that they become part of the solution and not continue to be part of the problem. Until each of us take action the 5 percent will continue to run the country.

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June 24, 2008
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