The government aims to boost ethanol without evidence that it saves money or helps the environment

President Donald Trump has promised his supporters in Iowa that the federal government will take a step that may increase corn ethanol sales.

This plant-derived fuel, which comprises about 10 percent of the 143 billion gallons of gasoline Americans buy each year, is a kind of alcohol made from corn. The industry first emerged in 1980s with government support, after interest in making the country less reliant on imported oil surged in the 1970s. It later acquired a second purpose: lowering greenhouse gas emissions.

I have spent the last 24 years studying alternative fuels and fuel blends. Based on my research, and as a consumer, I can say that increasing the amount of ethanol blended with gasoline creates problems with older engines and potentially increases air pollution due to increased fuel evaporation while doing little to curb climate change.

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E10 and E15

Americans have been mixing ethanol and gasoline since Henry Ford touted the potential of biofuels. His Model T could run on gasoline or ethanol or a combination.

But ethanol use only took off in the 1970s following the energy crisis. Its use expanded greatly during George W. Bush’s administration, with the advent of the Renewable Fuel Standard in 2005. This federal program mandated that increasing amounts of renewable fuels be mixed with gasoline and diesel. The program has set a target for the domestic consumption of 15 billion gallons of corn ethanol since 2015.

Ford made its first flex-fuel car a century ago.

Most engines can safely run on a blend of 90 percent gasoline and 10 percent corn ethanol, the standard formulation known as E10 that is available at most American gas stations. E15 is a blend containing 15 percent ethanol. This blend is not available in every state.

And where E15 is sold, it isn’t currently available year-round.

That’s because the additional 5 percent of ethanol, combined with summer heat, would increase the tendency of blended fuels to evaporate The evaporated emissions from fuels can contribute to the formation of ozone, a major component of smog. In hotter weather, ethanol can exacerbate pollution problems in cities. Trump’s proposal would eliminate the existing summer ban on E15 sales.

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Winners and losers

Removing the ban would probably boost ethanol sales, aiding farmers who grow the corn used to make the roughly 16 billion gallons of it the U.S. produced in 2017, including exports, and the ethanol industry overall.

Because a higher percentage of ethanol means a lower percentage of petroleum, using more ethanol hurts petroleum refiners. It would also pose a logistical challenge. Ethanol cannot go into oil or gas pipelines because it absorbs excess water and impurities within pipelines. That means rail cars and tanker trucks transport all ethanol.

Although ethanol proponents say its use cuts carbon emissions, the evidence is mixed.

The government has determined that corn ethanol is much less effective than other biofuels at reducing carbon emissions, producing only 1.5 to 2.1 units of energy for every unit used to produce it. This is much less efficient than biodiesel made from soybean oil, which produces 5.5 units of renewable energy for every unit consumed in production.

The ethanol Brazilians make from sugarcane residues does a much better job of shrinking that country’s carbon footprint. Converting sugarcane wastes into ethanol produces more than 9.4 units of energy for every unit that producing this fuel consumes.

Flawed arguments

One of the original goals behind mandating ethanol blends was to reduce oil imports. While corn ethanol does directly displace gasoline consumption, other efforts to reduce oil imports have had far more impact.

The share of oil the U.S. imports has fallen in recent years, but that decline is largely due to a domestic production boom brought on by hydraulic fracturing, often called fracking, horizontal drilling and other technological advances. Increased domestic output has displaced 54.5 billion gallons of imported oil
annually – more than three times the roughly 15 billion gallons of oil per year ethanol is displacing.

Biodiesel and renewable diesel, made from vegetable oils and animal fats, are displacing another nearly 3 billion gallons of diesel derived from petroleum per year.

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A TV commercial I’ve seen during football games touted two other flawed arguments in favor of increasing corn ethanol production: that E15 will mean “cleaner air” at a “lower cost.”

The problem is that blending ethanol with other fuels lowers their energy content, slightly decreasing fuel economy. It may cost a bit less to fill up your tank but based on my calculations the decrease in miles per gallon that E15 would yield will mean it makes no difference on your wallet.

Likewise, the claim that E15 leads to cleaner air is not justifiable.

For one thing, all vehicles made since 1975 have catalytic converters that remove unburned hydrocarbons and other airborne pollutants. For another, the Energy Department has not detected any across-the-board reduction in tailpipe emissions associated with ethanol use. Instead, it has observed that using more ethanol may slightly increase the tailpipe emissions of aldehydes, which are respiratory irritants.

Old cars and chainsaws

All cars since model year 2001 can operate safely on E15, but not older cars. Vehicles manufactured before 2001 could suffer fuel system or engine damage if they’re run on E15. The government requires the labeling of all E15 fuel pumps to prevent accidental use for this reason.

A bipartisan bill is pending in Congress that would take this notification further by making the labels bigger and mandating that they warn consumers to check their owners’ manuals.

Another problem is that concentrations of ethanol in excess of 10 percent can hurt non-automotive engines, the Energy Department has found. These include, for example, the motors in lawn and garden equipment, motorcycles and speedboats.

Smaller engines lack computer controls able to adjust to operation on ethanol blends. If, say, the chain on your chainsaw engages without you intending it to, you could be in real danger. This malfunctioning can potentially cause accidents in which people lose fingers or even limbs.

Even once manufacturers redesign their weed-whacker and chainsaw engines to become compatible with higher ethanol blends, consumers who own older equipment would remain at risk of having them break down due to changes in fuel composition if E15 becomes the norm at filling stations.

People who own lawn and garden equipment and speedboats would have to go out of their way to avoid this problem by buying “pure gasoline.”

In short, year-round sales of E15 probably aren’t going to do much to reduce oil imports or trim the nation’s carbon footprint. It would take more ambitious and strategic energy policies to achieve those worthwhile goals.The Conversation

André Boehman, Professor of Mechanical Engineering; Director, W.E. Lay Automotive Laboratory, University of Michigan

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

How to Keep the US Natural Gas Boon Going

America is becoming a major liquefied natural gas exporter. According to the latest statistics, the U.S. liquefied natural gas exports quadrupled from 0.5 billion cubic feet of gas per day in 2016 to 1.94 billion in 2017.

Of U.S. liquefied natural gas exports last year, 53 percent went to Mexico, South Korea, and China, with the largest share, 20 percent, going to Mexico.

A growing share of American liquefied natural gas exports is headed to Europe, too. Since the arrival of the first U.S. liquefied natural gas carrier in the Portuguese port of Sines in April 2016, the European Union has increased its imports of America’s liquefied natural gas from 0 to 2.8 billion cubic meters. NATO members, particularly Poland and Lithuania, have built new liquefied natural gas import terminals.

Given that the global liquefied natural gas market has become increasingly fluid and competitive, the value of U.S. liquefied natural gas exports is expected to be almost $5 billion this year. With plentiful reserves and innovative technologies that have unleashed an energy renaissance, the United States is the world’s leading natural gas producer and exporter and has a vital interest in protecting and expanding world energy trade.

In a welcome move at their July meeting in Washington, President Donald Trump and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker agreed to strengthen U.S.-EU strategic cooperation on energy trade, through which the EU would import more U.S. liquefied natural gas to diversify its energy supply and make it more secure.

However, U.S. law still requires prior regulatory approval for liquefied natural gas exports and constrains the timely expansion of much-needed energy infrastructure. These restrictions need to be addressed sooner rather than later so that energy companies can capitalize even further on America’s liquefied natural gas abundance and Europe’s energy demands.

The U.S. needs to make sure it does not get in its own way by keeping outdated and onerous restrictions. Regrettably, more than a dozen export facilities are awaiting permit approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. In fact, it has been three years since the commission last approved a new liquefied natural gas export terminal.

Heritage Foundation energy policy expert Nick Loris made the case for reformsuccinctly in a recent paper:

[A] burdensome environmental review process and an unnecessary public interest determination made by the Department of Energy slows the process of shipping [liquefied natural gas] to the desired destination. Both administrative and legislative reform will stimulate investment in energy in the U.S. and increase supply diversity for America’s allies, providing greater choices for consumers and creating a more mobile natural gas market. Further, empowering the states would create different and more efficient options for permitting, reducing the time frame in which [liquefied natural gas] reaches the market.

While strengthening relationships with trading partners around the world, America’s liquefied natural gas exports, supported by the timely expansion of much-needed energy infrastructure, would provide an additional boon to the economy and create more jobs.

That means, as The Economist has opined, “a cleaner world and a richer America.” The time to act on that is now.

Commentary by Anthony Kim. Originally published at The Daily Signal.

4 Ways the New ‘Climate Change Report’ Fakes Science

If you’re like me, you’re happy the White House released the latest version of the National Climate Assessment on Black Friday. Publishing the 1,700-page report the day after Thanksgiving saved me from unwanted dinner conversations about our planet’s impending climate doom.

But if your aunt calls you up this week spouting claims of mass deaths, global food shortages, economic destruction, and national security risks resulting from climate change, here’s what you need to know about this report.

1. It wildly exaggerates economic costs.

One statistic that media outlets have seized upon is that the worst climate scenario could cost the U.S. 10 percent of its gross domestic product by 2100.  The 10 percent loss projection is more than twice the percentage that was lost during the Great Recession.

The study, funded in part by climate warrior Tom Steyer’s organization, calculates these costs on the assumption that the world will be 15 degrees Fahrenheit warmer. That temperature projection is even higher than the worst-case scenario predicted by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. In other words, it is completely unrealistic.

2. It assumes the most extreme (and least likely)climate scenario.

The scary projections in the National Climate Assessment rely on a theoretical climate trajectory that is known as Representative Concentration Pathway 8.5. In estimating impacts on climate change, climatologists use four representative such trajectories to project different greenhouse gas concentrations.

To put it plainly, Representative Concentration Pathway 8.5 assumes a combination of bad factors that are not likely to all coincide. It assumes “the fastest population growth (a doubling of Earth’s population to 12 billion), the lowest rate of technology development, slow GDP growth, a massive increase in world poverty, plus high energy use and emissions.”

Despite what the National Climate Assessment says, Representative Concentration Pathway 8.5 is not a likely scenario. It estimates nearly impossible levels of coal consumption, fails to take into account the massive increase in natural gas production from the shale revolution, and ignores technological innovations that continue to occur in nuclear and renewable technologies.

When taking a more realistic view of the future of conventional fuel use and increased greenhouse gas emissions, the doomsday scenarios vanish. Climatologist Judith Curry recently wrote, “Many ‘catastrophic’ impacts of climate change don’t really kick at the lower CO2 concentrations, and [Representative Concentration Pathway] then becomes useful as a ‘scare’ tactic.”

3. It cherry-picks science on extreme weather and misrepresents timelines and causality.

A central feature of the National Climate Assessment is that the costs of climate are here now, and they are only going to get worse. We’re going to see more hurricanes and floods. Global warming has worsened heat waves and wildfires.

But last year’s National Climate Assessment on extreme weather tells a different story. As University of Colorado Boulder professor Roger Pielke Jr. pointed out in a Twitter thread in August 2017, there were no increases in drought, no increases in frequency or magnitude of floods, no trends in frequency or intensity of hurricanes, and “low confidence for a detectable human climate change contribution in the Western United States based on existing studies.”

It’s hard to imagine all of that could be flipped on its head in a matter of a year.

Another sleight of hand in the National Climate Assessment is where certain graph timelines begin and end. For example, the framing of heat wave data from the 1960s to today makes it appear that there have been more heat wavesin recent years. Framing wildfire data from 1985 until today makes it appear as though wildfires have been increasing in number.

But going back further tells a different story on both counts, as Pielke Jr. has explained in testimony.

Moreover, correlation is not causality. Western wildfires have been particularly bad over the past decade, but it’s hard to say to what extent these are directly owing to hotter and drier temperatures. It’s even more difficult to pin down how much man-made warming is to blame.

Yet the narrative of the National Climate Assessment is that climate change is directly responsible for the increase in economic and environmental destruction of western wildfires. Dismissing the complexity of factors that contribute to a changing climate and how they affect certain areas of the country is irresponsible.

4. Energy taxes are a costly non-solution.

The National Climate Assessment stresses that this report “was created to inform policy-makers and makes no specific recommendations on how to remedy the problem.” Yet the takeaway was clear: The costs pf action (10 percent of America’s GDP) dwarf the costs of any climate policy.

The reality, however, is that policies endorsed to combat climate change would carry significant costs and would do nothing to mitigate warming, even if there were a looming catastrophe like the National Climate Association says.

Just last month, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change proposed a carbon tax of between $135 and $5,500 by the year 2030. An energy tax of that magnitude would bankrupt families and businesses, and undoubtedly catapult the world into economic despair.

These policies would simply divert resources away from more valuable use, such as investing in more robust infrastructure to protect against natural disasters or investing in new technologies that make Representative Concentration Pathway 8.5 even more of an afterthought than it already should be.

The Trump administration is coming under criticism for publishing the report on Black Friday. To the extent that was a conscious strategy, it certainly isn’t a new tactic. The Obama administration had frequent Friday night document dumps in responding to congressional inquiries about Solyndra and the Department of Energy’s taxpayer-funded failures in the loan portfolio. The Environmental Protection Agency even released its Tier 3 gas regulations, which increased the price at the pump, on Good Friday.

No matter what party is in charge, the opposite party will complain about their burying the story. Regardless, the American public would be better served by enjoying the holiday season and shopping, rather than worrying about an alarmist report.

Commentary by Nicolas Loris. Originally published at The Daily Signal.

Zinke: One-third of Interior employees not loyal to Trump

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said Monday that nearly one-third of employees at his department are not loyal to him and President Donald Trump, adding that he is working to change the department’s regulatory culture to be more business friendly.

Zinke, a former Navy SEAL, said he knew when he took over the 70,000-employee department in March that, “I got 30 percent of the crew that’s not loyal to the flag.”

Read more at The Washington Times.

Despite rhetoric, Trump still not pulling US out of UN climate scheme

There is only one way to eliminate the threat posed by U.N. schemes.  Click here to tell Congress to GET THE UNITED STATES OUT OF THE UNITED NATIONS! -ABE

Over the weekend, to the shock of many observers and loyal members of President Donald Trump’s base, The Wall Street Journal reported that the administration was seeking to avoid withdrawal from the Paris climate accord.

Top White House economic adviser Gary Cohn quickly sought to squelch these rumors, saying, “We are withdrawing, and we made that as clear as it can be. I don’t know how to say it any more clearly.”

Cohn’s assertion of U.S. withdrawal is encouraging, but if the Trump administration wants to end all internal and external speculation over Paris, it should withdraw from the entire United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Moreover, if the administration wants to achieve its goal of 3 percent economic growth and give the coal industry an opportunity to compete, withdrawal from Paris and the Framework Convention is critical.

When President Barack Obama joined the Paris accord in 2016, he avoided sending the agreement to the Senate for advice and consent as the Constitution requires for treaties. The agreement committed the U.S. to reducing greenhouse gas levels across the entire economy by 26-28 percent below 2005 levels by the year 2025, all without legislative consent.

Following through to meet these targets would require the Trump administration to enforce a number of costly Obama-era energy regulations. Trump has promised to end such regulations—indeed, they would make no noticeable impact on global temperatures.

While the Paris Agreement is nonbinding, remaining in the agreement would provide justification for a future administration to pile additional climate regulations on the energy industry—on top of those that the Obama administration promulgated. Thus, it is essential to withdraw.

Trump campaigned on “canceling” the global warming agreement and then followed through by announcing his intensions to withdraw from the Rose Garden in June. Foreign leaders immediately slammed the decision, calling the move “a major fault against humanity and against our planet.”

Yet these criticisms proved to be an act of hypocrisy. According to a recent article in Nature“All major industrialized countries are failing to meet the pledges they made to cut greenhouse-gas emissions.”

And that’s just the industrialized world. To achieve any meaningful reduction in warming by reducing greenhouse gases, developing countries would have to remain de-developed or meet their growing energy needs without coal, oil, or natural gas.

Conventional fuels will be essential to meeting future energy needs in the developing world, where more than 1.2 billion people (17 percent of the global population) do not have access to reliable electricity. Pretending otherwise is simply ignoring reality.

The German environmental and human rights group Urgewald projects that 1,600 new coal-fired generation plants are either under construction or planned, resulting in 840,000 megawatts of new capacity.

It estimates that these new plants represent a 43 percent global expansion of coal spread across 62 different countries, 14 of which previously have not had any coal power at all.

For countries that do not have access to reliable power, the imminent threat of energy poverty is much more pressing than reducing carbon dioxide emissions. The Paris Agreement is not just poor economic and climate policy for the United States—it’s poor policy for the rest of the world, too.

To formally leave Paris, the U.S. must wait until November 2019 to submit a notice of withdrawal. The U.S. would then officially exit the agreement one year later.

Having such a large window of time leaves more opportunities for discussions of avoiding withdrawal, or potentially seeking a renegotiation of the accord. But renegotiating the agreement is a nonstarter, as there are no terms that could possibly assuage the economic concerns posed by the deal or achieve any meaningful climate benefit.

Rather than wait, there is a shorter, more effective solution than just withdrawing from Paris. Trump could end all speculation by officially withdrawing from the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, which includes the Paris Agreement.

Withdrawal from the Framework Convention would enter into force one year after the secretary-general of the United Nations receives notification.

Such a withdrawal would send a clear signal throughout the U.S. government, to the business community, and to every foreign leader that the current international approach to climate change is costly, ineffective, and unworkable.
Commentary by Nicolas Loris. Originally published at The Daily Signal.

Trump admin wasting tax dollars on new feel-good eco nonsense

(EPA.gov release ) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently awarded $75,000 to the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, as part of the General Assistance Program (GAP). The tribe will use the funds to administer their environmental program and assist in the development of multimedia programs to address environmental issues. The GAP program protects the health of the Cherokee Nation by safeguarding the environment through awareness and environmental program development.

“The Cherokee Nation has been recognized for their leadership in environmental services,” said Acting Regional Administrator Sam Coleman. “We are pleased to support our tribal partners in sustaining environmental protection endeavors.”

“These GAP dollars support all of the environmental work that we do here at the Cherokee Nation. Our partnership with the EPA benefits both the Nation, and all of northeast Oklahoma,” Sara Hill, Secretary of Natural Resources for Cherokee Nation said.

The grant will provide support for the Cherokee Nation Environmental Protection Commission (EPC). The commission is a five-person board that oversees environmental programs. The EPC regulates areas such as solid waste including the Cherokee Nation Landfill and underground storage tanks, toxic and hazardous substance control, and water quality. The EPC also promulgates rules, conducts enforcement actions, issues permits, approves facility plans, and conducts oversight of environmental review activities and procedures for handling complaints.

The primary purpose of GAP is to support the development of core tribal environmental protection programs. Other activities to be carried out under the grant include, but are not limited to, attending environmentally related training and conducting community outreach.   

In 1992, Congress passed the Indian Environmental General Assistance Program Act which authorizes EPA to provide GAP grants to federally-recognized tribes and tribal groups for planning, developing, and establishing environmental protection programs in Indian country, as well as for developing and implementing solid and hazardous waste programs on tribal lands.

The Cherokee Nation’s Office of Environmental Services is a member of the Inter-Tribal Environmental Council (ITEC), which is an organization that was developed by Cherokee Nation to protect the health of Native Americans, their natural resources, and their environment as it is related to air, land and water. This organization is designed to provide support, technical assistance, program development and training to member tribes.

Interior Secretary to make proposal on Bears Ears monument

By Valerie Volcovici

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is due to make a recommendation to the White House on whether to rescind or resize Utah’s Bears Ears monument, setting the tone for the administration’s broader study of which lands protected by past presidents should be reopened to development.

The 1.35 million-acre monument, created by former president Barack Obama at the end of his term and named after its iconic twin buttes, is the first of 27 national monuments that will be evaluated by the Department of the Interior after President Donald Trump ordered the review in April.

The deadline for Zinke’s recommendation on Bears Ears is June 10, though an Interior Department official did not say when the recommendation would be made public.

Trump had argued that previous administrations “abused” their right to designate national monuments under the U.S. Antiquities Act of 1906, and put millions of acres of land, mainly in western states, off limits to drilling, mining, logging and ranching without adequate input from locals.

Conservation groups, meanwhile, have called Trump’s effort to alter existing national monuments illegal and irresponsible, and have vowed to challenge him in court.

“Whatever comes out of these recommendations will give us an insight into how this administration takes its responsibilities to protect public lands and uphold conservation mandates,” said Nada Culver, senior counsel of the Wilderness Society, an environmental advocacy group.

 

HEATED DEBATE

The review taps into a heated national debate over Washington’s role in America’s wildest spaces: environmentalists and tribal groups support federal oversight, but many state political leaders, conservatives, and industry groups say the lands should be generating money for business, creating jobs, or yielding revenue for education and other public services.

Bears Ears was created after years of lobbying by a coalition of five tribes, who say the area is sacred. Republicans, like Senator Orin Hatch of Utah, have argued, however, that Obama’s designation of the Bears Ears monument had weakened education funding in the state through its School and Institutional Trust Lands system – which delivers revenues from land development to schools.

While the land encompassed by the Bears Ears monument is not believed to contain huge amounts of coal, oil or gas, several other monuments on Zinke’s review list do – making the Bears Ears decision important symbolically to industry groups.

“Who is to say that, in the future, a president couldn’t just put a whole basin under monument designation,” said Kathleen Sgamma, president of the Western Energy Alliance, representing oil and gas companies.

 

(Writing by Richard Valdmanis; Editing by Andrew Bolton)