Resistance Begins at Ohm!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

What Were They Thinking?!?

You just have to wonder. The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), is a mandate that requires a certain amount of ethanol be blended into gasoline every year at increasingly greater amounts.

Under the RFS, 15.2 billion gallons of renewable fuel must be blended into transportation fuel in 2012, eventually ramping up to 36 billion gallons in 2022. Of that 36 billion number, the United States must produce 16 billion gallons of cellulosic ethanol, 15 billion gallons of traditional corn-based ethanol, 4 billion gallons of advanced biofuels and 1 billion gallons of biodiesel.

You first have to wonder about those product-specific targets. The EPA doesn't just want ethanol, they want cellulosic ethanol. The idea behind cellulosic ethanol is to turn municipal and farm waste into fuel.  I certainly am no proponent of corn-based ethanol. It is really one of the dumbest ideas we've cooked up since it takes as much (or more) energy to produce as it provides, and from all the wrong sources (e.g., coal). But where does the cellulosic ethanol come from? The target for 2010 was 5 million gallons. The amount actually made was less than 1 million. The target for 2011 was 6.6 million and that was significantly lowered by EPA  below the law's requirements. How many commercial sources for the product? Zero.

How they are going to get from 1 million gallons to 36 BILLION gallons, an increase of 36,000%, is unknown. DoE and EPA just figure if they say so, you will build it. While I think manufacturing (e.g., value added activity) is the way out of the economic mess we are in, I am certainly not convinced that we can ramp up for this requirement, and besides, the product isn't for export anyway. We just become our own energy hostages.

Next you have to wonder what happens if the fuel blenders cannot meet the targets? The are required to purchase cellulosic biofuel waiver credits. Ummmhumm, a tax or penalty for not buying what doesn't exist.  So much for turning shit to shinola.  Let me flog your wallet for failing to buy enough of my non-existent crap-carbs.

NY Times

Renewable Fuel Standard: Potential Economic and Environmental Effects of U.S. Biofuel Policy (2011) 

BioEnergy Wiki

And for my next example of "what were they thinking," I offer California's  Low Carbon Fuel Standard, which has been enjoined by the U.S. District Court in Fresno. This collection of CARB rules establishes a cap and trade policy, establishes fuel economy standards and renewable energy requirements. The rules are based on life-cycle analysis, which considers factors such as land use, transportation and manufacturing costs and the carbon contribution of the energy used to create the renewable energy. These are summed to come up with a carbon intensity score. Which is pretty much why the judge threw it out - it treats electricity produced in the mid-west differently than electricity produced in California and penalizes producers based on their distance from the consumer, which of course discriminates against interstate commerce. So, chemically identical biofuel from Iowa has a carbon index higher than biofuel from Fresno. What is a biofuel manufacturer to do in order to have a competitive CI? Well of course, buy surplus low-carbon fuel credits.

What about that life-cycle formula for arriving and a carbon index? Sounds reasonable on the face of it, but when you dig into the life cycle factors and how they are weighted, you find many opportunities for political and economic corruption. CARB’s life-cycle analysis “calibrates CI scores so that they regulate, among other things, deforestation in South America, how Midwest farmers use their land, and how ethanol plants in the Midwest produce animal nutrients.” For example, CARB “imposes a substantial penalty — more than 30% of the CI score for corn ethanol — for ‘indirect land use.’ That penalty is used to discourage farmers around the world from converting nonagricultural land into farmland to enter the corn market.”

You can see how this "model" can be arbitrarily used to discriminate against any particular source, government, economic factor or simply to collect money for carbon credits where a target is impossible to achieve. One can only hope that the result would be manufacturers outside of CA would simply sell their products elsewhere and leave CA to its own resources. Of course, CA has neither the agriculturally viable land, surplus electricity nor water to fend for itself. You can also see how trying this on a state-by-state or regional basis is just going to create a carbon credit bubble much like playing commodity futures, default credit swaps and all the other ways that government can force money to exchage hands with no value added.

Global Warming Org article
I am providing both the current like to Gary Harwick's presentation on this and the cache version since I keep getting a 504.
Low Carbon Fuels Policy
Low Carbon Fuels Policy - cached

WSJ Editorial
Alarmism over climate is of great benefit to many, providing government funding for academic research and a reason for government bureaucracies to grow. Alarmism also offers an excuse for governments to raise taxes, taxpayer-funded subsidies for businesses that understand how to work the political system, and a lure for big donations to charitable foundations promising to save the planet.
16 international scientists who dare to show their skepticism publicly.

I always think I can just write a short blurb and then end up with an essay. If you made it this far, thanks for listening.

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