Corn Growers compile list: Myths still dog new ethanol efforts

There have always been questions about the effects of using ethanol as a gasoline additive. However, since June when the EPA denied California's request for an oxygenate waiver, it seems many are trying to prove ethanol will cause all forms of problems.

The National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) has compiled 10 of the most common myths concerning ethanol, along with the facts:

Myth No.1: Ethanol will raise the cost of gasoline in California up to 50 cents a gallon.

Fact: Ethanol will not. It is unthinkable that California refiners would suffer price discrimination at the hands of Midwest ethanol producers. Prices of ethanol in California will reflect Midwest ethanol prices plus transportation costs.

Midwest refiners have already demonstrated their ability to produce ethanol-blended reformulated gasoline at competitive prices; California should be able to do the same.

Myth No. 2: Ethanol actually adds to air pollution

Fact: When ethanol is used to make reformulated gasoline, the law says there can be no increase in emission. That is because the Clean Air Act mandates that reformulated gasoline meet specific performance standards regardless of which specific compounds are used to produce the fuel, so charges that using ethanol will increase emissions in reformulated gasoline are baseless.

Also, ethanol reduces carbon monoxide emissions by as much as 25 percent. Carbon monoxide is a poisonous gas that also contributes to ozone formation. For that reason, EPA has determined that ethanol-containing fuels be credited with their ability to reduce carbon monoxide pollution.

Toxic pollution is also a major issue in all gasoline. Ethanol reduces overall toxic pollution by diluting harmful compounds found in gasoline such as benzene and other aromatics. These compounds also produce potent emissions that cause cancer and other diseases. Ethanol helps reduce the production and potency of toxic emissions.

Myth No. 3: Ethanol will harm car and truck engines.

Fact: Cars built since the 1970s are fully compatible with up to 10 percent ethanol in the mixture. Today, every major automobile manufacturer recommends the use of fuels containing as much as 10 percent ethanol by volume and fully warrantees its use in all of their vehicles.

Ethanol also:

  • Provides fuel with additional oxygen, thereby raising the air/fuel ratio.

  • Eliminates the need and expense of adding a gas line anti-freeze by absorbing more water than a small bottle of isopropyl.

  • Prevents burning of engine valves because ethanol burns cooler than gasoline

Myth No. 4: Ethanol contributes to global warming.

Fact: Because the energy balance for ethanol is positive, 1.35 to 1, greenhouse gas benefits of ethanol are also positive. The Argonne National Laboratory has demonstrated that using ethanol produces 32 percent fewer emissions of greenhouse gases than gasoline for the same distance traveled. Ethanol reduces emissions of other harmful pollutants like carbon monoxide and displaces components of gasoline that produce toxic emissions.

Myth No. 5: Ethanol takes more energy to produce than it contributes.

Fact: Ethanol facilities are extremely energy efficient. A recent study by the Argonne National Laboratory found that for every 100 BTUs of energy used to produce ethanol, 135 BTUs of ethanol are produced. The difference comes from the fact corn plants are very efficient solar panels, collecting and storing energy. USDA analysis has found corn farmers use about half the energy to produce a bushel of corn than they did just 25 years ago.

Myth No. 6: Ethanol is a waste of corn that could be used for food.

Fact: Two general types of processing facilities, known as wet mills and dry mills, produce fuel-grade ethanol in the United States. Wet mills are also known as corn refineries.

These facilities produce starch, ethanol and corn sweeteners, along with corn oil, corn gluten feed and corn gluten meal. Corn gluten feed and meal are sold into the animal feed market.

Dry mills use simpler technology to produce ethanol and distillers dried grains (DDG) sold as high-quality feed ingredients. Products for human and animal consumption are co-produced with ethanol.

There is no shortage of corn. In 2000, U.S. farmers produced more than 10 billion bushels of corn and only 600 million bushels are currently used in ethanol production. There's still room to grow the ethanol market significantly without limiting the availability of corn.

Myth No. 7: Ethanol does not benefit farmers.

Fact: The ethanol industry opens a new market for corn growers, which allows them to turn a higher profit. Demand for grain from ethanol production increases net farm income more than $1.2 billion a year. The resulting boost in the agricultural economy cuts farm program costs and taxpayer outlays.

Not only that, ethanol creates jobs. Ethanol production has been responsible for more than 40,000 jobs, or more than $1.3 billion in household income. It also directly and indirectly adds more than $6 billion to the American economy each year by boosting surrounding economies.

Myth No. 8: Oil companies can make fuel that meets the reformulated gasoline (RFG) program without oxygenates.

Fact: Studies submitted by the NCGA and the Renewable Fuels Association show that eliminating oxygenates from RFG will lead to more mass toxic emissions with greater disease-causing potential. NCGA has done extensive analysis on the use of oxygenates in California gasoline and concludes that completely removing oxygenates from the gasoline pool would be detrimental to air quality throughout the state and would likely have a negative impact on the gasoline supply.

The same is true for the nation as a whole. The current RFG program without an oxygen requirement would not deliver equal environmental benefits and the gasoline supply would be significantly smaller.

Myth No. 9: There is not enough ethanol capacity to supply the needs of the state of California.

Fact: Ethanol supplies are more than adequate. The ethanol industry will produce 2 billion gallons of ethanol this year, up from 1.6 billion gallons last year. Ethanol production in 2000 used 600 million bushels of corn from a 10 billion bushel crop. With corn stocks in excess of 1.7 billion bushels, there is plenty of corn to produce ethanol.

The nation's corn growers are investing in the nation's energy strategy by building more ethanol plants — plants that produced 40 percent of the 1.6 billion gallons of ethanol made in 2000. Plus, there are dozens of ethanol projects in various stages of development throughout the Corn Belt that are attracting additional grower-investors.

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