Corn Ethanol, the Saga of Government Boodoggles and Impending Doom


When thinking about ethanol, I am reminded of a song my children listened to in the 90’s sang by Kermit the Frog, “It ain’t easy being green.” Selling corn ethanol as a fuel additive makes being green impossible, never mind not easy. The only thing “green” about the ethanol Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) is the billions of green it takes from taxpayers and consumers to fund politicians, who pass the green to corporate giants, who then return some of that green as campaign contributions to get those politicians re-elected, and the beat goes on.

Did you know that corn-based ethanol requires 2,500 to 29,000 gallons of freshwater per million Btu’s of energy? This is a pretty scary statistic as we witness places like California go through one of the most serious droughts in history. But still, the corporate cronies keep insisting we reach the goals of the RFS and that federal law requires that the ethanol mandate must keep rising: from 9 billion gallons of ethanol in 2008 to 14 billion now and 36 billion gallons by 2022.

Now ask yourself, where does all that water go and what’s in it? Much of it is nitrogen fertilizers that get washed off the land and into waterways that drain into the Gulf of Mexico, where they cause giant summertime algae blooms. When the algae die, their decomposition consumes oxygen in the water creating enormous low and zero-oxygen regions that suffocate marine life that cannot swim away.

The RFS in all its Tom foolery would lead you to believe that gas would cost more if it was not blended with ethanol. This is rubbish. Ethanol is 30% less efficient, which results in we the consumers shelling out more money for fewer miles driven. I can’t even begin to estimate the economic loss caused by damage to our lawn mowers, snow mobiles, four wheelers and every other vehicle. Ethanol collects water, gunk’s up fuel lines, corrodes engine parts and to boot it must be delivered in stainless steel tankers that are filled with diesel fuel.

Then we have another big problem. MAN WHO BURNS HIS FOOD GOES HUNGRY! U.S. corn prices went higher than an elephant’s fanny from $1.96 per average bushel in 2005 to as much as $7.50 in autumn 2012 and $6.68 in June 2013, before dropping in 2014 due to record yields and lower demand for corn and ethanol.

Since the inception of this boondoggle, the cost for feed for chicken, turkey and pig farmers has risen by $100 billion, that is billion with a capitol B. The guaranteed income to grow corn is an incentive for farmers to convert land that would otherwise be used for wheat and rye or used as conservation or pasture land, and again, corn requires huge amounts of irrigation, fertilizers, pesticides and lots of gasoline and diesel fuel.

Now if that doesn’t tick you off to a fairly well extent, maybe this will twist your knickers into a knot.

I believe is the biggest flat out lie we have been told is that corn ethanol produces cleaner air quality. It does not. The only thing it has done is substitute one set of pollutants for others. In the early stages of examining this, the standards imposed from the Clean Air Act of 1990 have not been met, nor have the goals proposed in the RFS been met.

Think hard about that statement. Perhaps they were never intended to be met, and perhaps no one thought about the ramifications from really bad policy. That happens in government, a lot. Never mind Shades of Gray, there could be a best seller called Shades of Green, and it could be killing us and driving up our health care costs.

The combustion of ethanol creates increased acetaldehyde in the air we all breathe. Vehicle and factory exhaust can create a chronic exposure source to those who live near heavily trafficked areas or who spend hours commuting on highways. Acetaldehyde contributes to smog formation when it reacts with other volatile substances in the air. Open car windows increase exposure, as does breathing in acetaldehyde-containing fumes near gas pumps. Auto exhaust research has shown that low dose chronic exposure to acetaldehyde may still be sufficient to gradually damage proteins, enzymes and other cellular structures in the brain and other organs.

Furthermore, acetaldehyde can cause a depletion of vitamin B1, B12 and B9. Even mild, chronic B1 deficiency can produce brain-related symptoms such as emotional instability, confusion, depression, fatigue, irritability, headaches, sensitivity to noise, insomnia, decreased short-term memory, brain-fog and a feeling of impending doom (I feeling I get often walking through the State House doors).

Seriously, deficiencies in vitamins B1, B12, B9 (folate, folic acid), cause issues with red blood cells. Vitamin B1 causes the red blood cell which is 7 microns in size, to harden. Capillaries are 2 microns in size. A normal red blood cell is flexible and able to change shape to go through a capillary; a hardened red blood cell requires more pressure to force it through the capillary. A red blood cell also carries oxygen to every part of the body. With deficiencies in vitamins B12 and folate, there is a decrease in red blood cells, which means less oxygen for the body to function. This results in reduced brain and heart function.

To make matters worse, acetaldehyde is heavier than air, therefore, there is now less oxygen available. The more ethanol is increased, the less oxygen that will be available, the more severe our health issues will be, including higher drug use and increased aggression.

If one looks at, (map below) you can see Iowa is the epicenter of the ethanol boondoggle. It is also the home of the first presidential primary election. Iowa has over 183 gas stations that sell ethanol-free fuel. Nationwide, over ten thousand locations sell ethanol-free fuel and Alaska has no ethanol in their fuel. Maine has six locations selling ethanol-free fuel, all are located at airports or marinas. That is probably because we can’t be having airplanes crash to the ground or boats stranded at sea when the engines start sputtering out.

corn producers for ethanol

Do you want to get rid of corn ethanol in Maine? I know I do and I need your help. Call all of your representatives at every level and call your Governor. Call your local gas stations and tell them there are no laws from preventing them from purchasing and selling ethanol-free fuel in Maine and that you would like the option to purchase it.

Ethanol manufacturer’s will balk at this and so will big Petroleum. I ascertain the reason for big oil’s aversion would be that they have contracts at places like Walmart, Target, Lowes, Ace Hardware and many other places to sell ethanol-free fuel in little 1 quart cans for about $7.88 each or $31.52 per gallon. I bet they don’t want to give up that cash cow.

The bottom line here is that corn ethanol as a renewable energy source is a science and engineering joke, not common sense energy policy, never mind wise environmental, economic or health policy, and it is time to put an end to it.