Posted January 16, 2015
Pacific Standard magazine (PS) has an interesting longread on honeybees in its January issue. While this is not our area of expertise and we can’t judge the veracity of the entire article, there was one part that we had, unfortunately, seen before:
Over a million acres of grassland were converted to crops in five Midwestern states from 2006 to 2011, according to a study by South Dakota State University. … Across the region more than 99 percent of what was originally prairie has been converted, mostly to corn and soy for animal feed, ethanol, and sweetener … Now the entire Midwest, several beekeepers told me, has become a “corn desert.” This has wrought devastation on most anything that used to live in the fields. Monarch butterflies no longer have milkweed for laying eggs. Birds no longer have insects to eat or prairie to shelter in. Native bees are disappearing.
The years 2006 to 2011 are not a coincidence, as the Environmental Working Group (EWG) explains:
After the federal Renewable Fuel Standard was signed into law in 2007, many corn growers decided to plant corn year after year to profit from higher prices, rather than switching between corn and soybeans, for example. This transition has greatly harmed air and water quality.
And apparently bees. But not to worry, the federal government is on the case.
Posted December 22, 2014
A new peer-reviewed study of transportation fueling options generated a pretty good buzz last week, basically for the finding that electric vehicles might not be as good for the environment as previously thought. Another of the study’s conclusions also is worth underscoring: the negative environmental impacts of corn ethanol in fuels.
A team of University of Minnesota researchers assessed life-cycle air quality impacts of 10 alternatives to conventional gasoline vehicles. On corn ethanol:
We find that powering vehicles with corn ethanol or with coal-based or “grid average” electricity increases monetized environmental health impacts by 80% or more relative to using conventional gasoline.
Posted December 8, 2014
Chicago Tribune Editorial: Last summer the Chicago City Council briefly considered an ordinance that would require gas stations in the city to sell a blend of fuel called E15, which has the potential to damage your car engine.
An E15 mandate is a patently bad idea. Changing pumps to sell a fuel blend of 15 percent ethanol — what you buy now has 10 percent — would be a big expense for gas stations. And E15 isn't safe for use in many older engines, from cars to trucks to boats to lawn mowers.
The idea seemed to die last summer. You might think the aldermen decided to put their constituents before the ethanol industry lobbyists who are pushing this fuel mandate. If you did, chalk that up to a triumph of hope over experience. This is, after all, the Chicago City Council.
Posted November 5, 2014
A couple of quick observations on issues related to the flawed Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).
First, the ethanol use requirements for 2014 now are 11 months late. The requirements from EPA were supposed to be issued by Nov. 30 of last year, so that refiners could plan this year’s operations to comply with the RFS’ ethanol mandates. Instead, they’ve been forced to try to divine what EPA might require. Now, with roughly 330 of the year’s 365 days passed, the guessing game turned absurd long ago.
Posted October 20, 2014
The Obama administration is trying to balance its support for renewable fuels with awareness of infrastructure constraints at gas stations as it finalizes targets for 2014 biofuel use, agency officials said on Tuesday. But with only 11 weeks left in the year, the administration also needs to weigh oil refiners' ability to comply with the long-delayed requirements, one official told the Reuters Global Climate Change Summit.
The article goes on to quote Janet McCabe, who leads EPA’s division overseeing the biofuels program:
(McCabe) acknowledged that delays in setting the targets, formally called the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), should be taken into account. "We need to be mindful of where we are in the year," McCabe said …
Reuters reports that EPA had proposed lowering ethanol mandates for 2014 because the U.S. was on a collision course with the 10 percent blend wall – the point where RFS mandates will require ethanol to be blended into gasoline at levels higher than the 10 percent fuel (E10) for which most of today’s vehicles were designed.
Posted September 9, 2014
If you’re keeping track at home – and we sure are – EPA is now nine months late in issuing ethanol-use requirements under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) for 2014. That’s no typo. EPA is nine months late with its ethanol rule for this year.
By law EPA was required to set 2014 ethanol-use levels last November, 2013. You know, so that folks obligated under the RFS to blend ethanol into the nation’s fuel supply could actually plan to comply with the law
Posted September 5, 2014
Greeley Tribune: A study by an energy initiative at Duke University shows that Colorado’s booming oil and gas industry has had a positive impact on public finances to date.
“Our research indicates that the net impact of recent oil and gas development has generally been positive for local public finances,” states the report, conducted by Daniel Raimi and Richard Newell of the Duke University Energy Initiative. “While costs arising from new service demands have been large in many regions, increased revenues from a variety of sources have generally outweighed them or at least kept pace, allowing local governments to maintain and in some cases expand or improve the services they provide.”
In Colorado, besides some harsher impacts on the Western Slope, the industry’s impact was a net positive, the study found, meaning that the benefits of the industry outweighed the costs of supplying services to support the industry.
Posted August 29, 2014
New York Times: THREE RIVERS, Tex. — Whenever overseas turmoil has pushed energy prices higher in the past, John and Beth Hughes have curbed their driving by eating at home more and shopping locally. But the current crises in Ukraine and Iraq did not stop them from making the two-hour drive to San Antonio to visit the Alamo, have a chicken fried steak lunch, and buy fish for their tank before driving home to Corpus Christi.
“We were able to take a day-cation because of the lower gas prices,” said Ms. Hughes.
The reason for the improved economics of road travel can be found 10,000 feet below the ground here, where the South Texas Eagle Ford shale is providing more than a million new barrels of oil supplies to the world market every day. United States refinery production in recent weeks reached record highs and left supply depots flush, cushioning the impact of all the instability surrounding traditional global oil fields.
Posted August 25, 2014
Because she relies so much on her lease checks from Greka Energy, she's concerned about Measure P and how it could affect her income. The voter-driven initiative to ban oil extraction methods of hydraulic fracturing, better known as fracking, cyclic steaming and well acidization in Santa Barbara County is on the November ballot.
Posted August 15, 2014
Helmets off – as in motorcycle helmets – to the Renewable Fuel Association (RFA) for conducting an E10 fuel giveaway at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally earlier this month in South Dakota.
We know Big Ethanol prefers ethanol in stronger doses than E10 (up to 10 percent content), but RFA must realize its efforts to get more of the higher ethanol-blend E15 into the nation’s fuel supply has risks with certain audiences.
Take motorcycle enthusiasts. The American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) has been direct in its concerns about E15 in the fuel marketplace:
Inadvertent misfueling with E15 (15 percent ethanol by volume) fuel is a significant concern to AMA members. E15 use can void manufacturers’ warranties, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has acknowledged that E15 can damage engines. Although the EPA has approved its use in 2001-and-newer light-duty vehicles – which include cars, light-duty trucks and medium-duty passenger vehicles – the EPA has not approved its use in the estimated 22 million motorcycles and ATVs currently in operation. … Preventing these inadvertent misfuelings has been one of the AMA’s main concerns, because a vast majority of motorcycles and ATVs on the road and trail in the United States today are not designed to run on ethanol blends higher than 10 percent. And many older machines favored by vintage motorcycle enthusiasts have problems with any ethanol in the fuel.