The whole U.S. produces somewhere around 15 billion bushels (BB) of corn a year at a rate of ca. 145 bushels per acre. Roughly, that’s 1/3 of the entire world production. Nearly ½ of the entire U.S. production comes from Iowa (2.7 BB), Illinois (2.3 BB), Nebraska (1.7 BB), Minnesota (1.5 BB), and Indiana (0.9 BB). Of that bountiful harvest, in the order of 25% are being converted via fermentation and distillation into ethanol, resulting in ~2.9 gallons of ethanol per bushel of corn.
This “fuel” part of the corn consumption is essentially mandated by the (IMHO, entirely misguided) “Renewable Fuels Standards” (RFS) that requires a 10% ethanol content in regular gasoline. For example, CNBC states:
Since 2007, nearly every gallon of gasoline sold in the United States is mixed with about 10 percent ethanol as part of a mandate enacted to reduce dependence on foreign oil and boost use of renewable fuels.
Neither the country nor you need the continuation of the (RFS) “ethanol mandate.” Not that it made much sense ever (chemically speaking, ethanol is partially-burnt gasoline and therefore, provides much less usable energy than an equal amount of unadulterated gasoline). Even the originator of that misguided ethanol-idea, former U.S. Vice-President Al Gore admitted to that already several years ago but continues to scare the world with his climate alarmism. IMHO, while the mandate was claimed to be a way to “protect the climate” at the time, in reality it was more or less a ruse, designed to help you, corn farmers, out at a time of depressed corn prices but sold to the public as a “climate protection” plan. Later on, Mr. Gore even alluded to that as well.
Protection – from what?
To begin with, the term CLIMATE describes a 30-year (or longer) average of the WEATHER at a certain location on earth. Therefore, the CLIMATE is a mathematical construct that bears little resemblance to what’s happening outside your domicile or office. It may be hot in summer or dangerously cold in winter; the seasons come and go as per the earth’s path around the sun. Even if that decades-spanning average would change, the weather still would be “too [whatever]” many days of the year. Mother Nature just doesn’t serve a global average of anything at any location and rarely placates any specific desire.
As recently noted by Paul Driessen, Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow:
Of course, it’s no surprise that some Senators from the corn-belt areas want to keep the “corn-to-ethanol gravy train” going for their constituents. After all, there is lot of dough in that, not only for the farmers but for them as well. The Renewable Fuels Association has interesting flow sheet diagrams of the available corn-to ethanol (C2E) conversion processes. According to their information, one bushel of corn can be converted to 2.85 gallons of ethanol. In other words, roughly one bushel of corn to fill a common pickup truck with gasoline at 10% ethanol. Neither from a corn-energy nor a carbon dioxide emissions point of view can the C2E processes be anything else but a waste of resources. Without the mandated RFS and concomitant subsidies, tax benefits, and the like, there would be little or no demand for ethanol containing gasoline. While it may have been a half-baked idea at the time of high crude oil prices and a comparatively small production then within the country, times have changed.
… corn ethanol and other biofuel mandates remain embedded in U.S. law (and) … once a government program is created, it becomes virtually impossible to eliminate, revise, or even trim fat from it.
Now, the world’s crude oil producers are feeling the pinch of an extended period of much lower prices than existed just a few years ago. The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and non-OPEC exporters alike are getting much less revenue from the “black gold” than they had become accustomed to. Even Saudi Arabia cannot balance its budget at the current crude oil prices without major deficit spending.
U.S. Oil Production
Unless I’m totally mistaken, the U.S. has in recent years become nearly self-sufficient in crude oil production and is on the way to become a significant exporter of natural gas (liquefied [LNG]). LNG-tankers with LNG loads of 170,000 cbm (m^3) have already been shipped to Europe from the Sabine Pass terminal in Texas. Both from a chemical consideration (hydrocarbons) and its energy content per unit of weight, LNG is very similar to high quality crude oil. In other words, one could view the U.S. as a non-OPEC hydrocarbon exporting country.
Why then, one might ask, does the RFS still exist at all?
Do you venerable corn-farmers in Iowa, etc., really need to continue sucking on the “public money trough,” aka RFS mandate for bio-ethanol made from corn and similar requirements for the bio-diesel content in diesel fuel?
With the unemployment rate at 4.2%, the economy strengthening, a commercial “tax holiday” in the offing, and consumer confidence at a 17-year high, perhaps it’s time to get weaned off the bio-ethanol bandwagon.