Newt Gingrich’s Dumbest Idea

by William Yeatman on November 14, 2011

in Blog

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Newt Gingrich, currently campaigning for the GOP Presidential nomination, rightfully regrets appearing in a 2008 advertisement with then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in which they both exhort political leaders to fight global warming (presumably by enacting a cap-and-trade policy that would ration energy use). The ad, which is available here, was produced by a global warming agitprop non-profit founded by former Vice President Al Gore.

According to the Daily Caller’s Jeff Poor, Gingrich last week told a panel on Fox’s “Special Report,” that the ad “is probably the dumbest single thing I’ve done in years.” I agree with him that the ad was a bad idea, but I don’t think it’s the dumbest thing he’s done in years. The dumbest—and also the greediest and most inhumane—of Gingrich’s recent actions is his having shilled for ethanol.

This year, U.S. farmers will divert about 35% of the American corn crop into ethanol production. This boost in demand is great for corn farmers. I should know, as my family has almost 700 acres of excellent farm land in northeastern Arkansas, on which we grow corn and soy. It’s been boom times ever since the Congress enacted Soviet-style ethanol production quota in 2007. Corn prices have remained high, despite a faltering global economy, and the reason is ethanol. While this is great for my father, it stinks for the world’s poor. The American corn crop is the largest in the world, and it sets the global price. Expensive corn here, therefore, means expensive corn everywhere.

It gets worse. By propping up the price of corn, Congressional ethanol policy also pushes up the price of other foodstuffs. Farmers respond to higher corn prices by growing more corn, and less of other crops, which means their price increases, too. The deleterious impact of expensive food on the international market is felt most acutely by the world’s poorest citizens. A recent peer-reviewed study in the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons by Dr. Indur Goklany calculates that global ethanol production resulted in 192,000 excess deaths in developing countries in 2010.

Ethanol kills, and Gingrich supports subsidies for the industry. In addition to being unethical, ethanol subsidies are also nonsensical. Demand for ethanol is established by law: This year, American consumers must purchase 13 billion gallons or corn-ahol. Why does ethanol merit subsidies, in addition to a mandate that forces people to buy it? Gingrich has a reputation of being a policy wonk, so he must know this. Yet he supports the subsidies. Why? The likely answer was provided by an analysis of Gingrich’s tax returns by the Center for Public Integrity, which showed that his consulting firm received $300,000 from Growth Energy, an ethanol business. The global warming ad was dumb, but shilling for ethanol is dumber.

Sasha November 14, 2011 at 3:37 pm

This is unreal.

Ethanol is not starving the world. I’m surprised the son of a farmer doesn’t have his facts straight on one of the most misunderstood and misrepresented industries today. If you look at the years of past production, you’ll see that corn was being produced at a surplus. Ethanol was a great solution to our excess amount of corn. The farmer FINALLY started being able to farm and make a profit that didn’t come from the government, rural economies started to thrive, we reduced up to 10% of our dependence on foreign oil (you know, the oil we get from countries who like to terrorize the United States), it burned cleaner and costs less than oil. Shall I go on?

Oh, and what about the 40% of the corn crop used in ethanol production that goes back into animal feed? In case you don’t already know, those are called distillers grains. It’s the part of the corn that can’t be converted into ethanol (the protein and fiber) and it’s MUCH healthier for animals to eat.

And about people growing corn now instead of other things, my father, also a farmer, has farmed corn and soybeans as long as I can remember. And as long as I can remember, even when the price of corn went up, he still rotated his crops every year because the soil requires it. I’m personally not a farmer, but I’m pretty sure that’s how it works. The farmers are not stupid, the still have to take care of the land to produce the best quality of crop they can year after year. If they didn’t take into consideration land wear and tear, how could they have land left to farm?

I am shocked that people continue to not support ethanol as part of the solution to our energy crisis.

Dennis Smith November 14, 2011 at 4:44 pm

Pelosi and others have heard detrimental language. If you really want to beat Obama, all you have to do start this talk to the public; Due to the NATIONAL EMERGENCY in the USA-CAll for a CAP of all fuel pump price of $2.00 a gallon, diesel, gas, and bunker oil.
TAX ALL OIL, GAS IMPORTS, REFINING, DEPLETIONS, AND A $2 MILLION FINE FOR HOLDING OFF MARKET DAILY. The oil god dictators pay all state, local, federal pump tax. Remember Lybia, The US, England, And France destroyed a civil war action, BUT will not touch Iran or Syria. Guilty, All the wars today is fought, by American money, dead soldiers, disabled, for the oil gods. If you buy fuel, you never know what the fuel price will be tomorrow. NO AMERICAN POLITICAN WILL FIGHT THE GODS AND THEIR DICTATORSHIP. Remember Canada wants to by sect the USA with a pipeline to the gulf of Mexico, the gods are selling gas to South America. Join the Occupiers march and set your tent on PUBLIC NOTICE OPINION.
Just imagine all American truckers, aircraft, workers, vacationers, cooking-heating oil ONLY $2.00 FOR A GALLON OF FUEL. I do not mind on-off shore drilling, refining, I like it with proper checks and ballances, legality, accountabillity. I even advocate NATIONALIZATION.

Parr Wiegel November 14, 2011 at 4:49 pm

Ethanol might be great for farmers and overstocks but because you can no longer purchase non ethanol gas in New York (except with penalty) it ruins all small 2 cycle motors. Chain saws, weed wackers, motorcycles. In 5 uses ethanol cloggs the carbs and renders the product worthless until the carb is removed from the machine and cleaned over night. Again, people thinking they have all the answers. they don’t.

Dennis Smith November 14, 2011 at 4:59 pm

Tax all petroleum imports, drilling, refining, exports, fines of $2 million daily for holding of the market, caping of productable wells. Drill, drill, drill, on-off shore with proper checks-ballances, transparent accountability. American forces are fighting-dying at our paying the bills. Our American political system are bowing to the oil gods that dictators and it is time to stand on your hind legs NATIONALIZATION IS A GOOD IDEA TO. If you cannot stand up for the public-get lost. THIS IS A NATIONAL EMERGENCY MORE SO THAN WW2.

Bobby Fontaine November 15, 2011 at 10:10 am

OK Sasha, even if that was true, which it is not, the real problem is that ethanol doesn’t work as a fuel,, let me correct myself,, hydrous ethanol is a great fuel on its own,, anhydrous ethanol added to gasoline is a total loser,, it is designed as an oxygenate that purposely causes great losses of mileage in order to create high emissions of VOC’s (volatile organic compounds – acetaldehyde and formaldehyde ). These VOC’s mix nitrogen oxide smog from coal burning and diesel engines to dissolve it into low level ozone and PAN’s ( Peroxyacetylnitrates), which is actually more dangerous to human health and the environment than the smog it replaces and has a dramatic effect on weather patterns in the regions used. But with the smog no longer visible to the naked eye, complaints about it to the EPA ended and politicians took a bow for saying they gave us cleaner air.

This goes back to the Clean Air Act of 1990 when oxygenates were required to be added to gasoline. There were two choices, anhydrous ethanol and another oxygenate called MTBE. MTBE is cheap and easy to produce. It’s made primarily from isobutylene, a highly toxic ether byproduct of oil refining that is expensive for the oil industry to dispose of. Dumping it in our gasoline to spread out around the country dissolving smog was a boon to the oil industry. The other main ingredient is methanol made from natural gas, another boon for the energy sector because deregulation allowed for the opening up of untapped natural gas resources we previously didn’t have a market for. Also because both MTBE and anhydrous ethanol mixed with gasoline cause a greater loss of mileage than the mount added to gasoline, meaning when you add 10% anhydrous ethanol to gasoline and experience a 15% loss of mileage, there is no fuel benefit from it.

You will argue that there is only there is only a meager 2-3% loss of mileage when ethanol is added to gasoline at a 10% ratio, which might be true for high octane fuel used in high compression ratio engines. But most cars on the road use regular gasoline in low compression engines. Anhydrous ethanol and MTBE have octane ratings around 120. You may say that this is taken into consideration when blended with low octane fuels so the end result is a fuel with the advertised octane rating. But ethanol is splash blended with gasoline at the fuel depot rather than refined into it so that it all becomes one fuel. If water is added to gasoline containing anhydrous ethanol, the ethanol will separate from the gasoline and dissolve to the bottom of the tank. What you have when you mix anhydrous ethanol with low octane gasoline is two fuels, one that is 87 octane regular and a separate fuel that is 120 octane,, and there is no way the ignition systems computers can make that engine ignite those two fuels at separate times and compressions so they both are converted to power. But it tries, which causes an even greater loss of power to the gasoline than if the ethanol hadn’t been added to it.

Anhydrous ethanol replaced MTBE as an oxygenate in the spring of 2006 after MTBE polluted groundwater nationwide. California took the EPA to court and proved that oxygenates actually worsen air quality in order for the state to get out of the ethanol mandate. Then the Bush administration stepped in and said it was not being required as an oxygenate but as domestic fuel additive to hedge against Americas dependence on foreign oil. No one challenged the fallacy of such a claim and ethanol supporters has been calling it a fuel ever since.

If you look at when the dollar value started the decline, which eventually lead the economy crashing in 2008, it was also began in the spring of 2006 when ethanol began to be added to gasoline. The more ethanol has been produced and used as the industry got up and running to full capacity, the more the dollar has weakened. This is not only because we are loosing so much mileage from it being added to gasoline but because we’ve taken such a large percentage of our greatest national treasure (corn) and direct it through an expensive refining process to turn it into a fuel additive that causes us to have to import even more foreign oil products in order to make up for the loss of mileage it causes on our nations highways.

I’m just scratching the surface of the problems anhydrous ethanol is causing this country,, however hydrous ethanol by itself could be used as an actual functional fuel product,, and you don’t have too make it from corn either. Studies show that you can easily produce ethanol (or simply cut to the chase and make gasoline or diesel fuel) using pyrolysis gasification from corn stalks so that no corn is diverted from food for fuel. On top of that, the byproduct of this process is a highly rich charcoal soil amenity that resides in soil for hundreds, even thousands of years, readying worthless land to become highly profitable for agricultural use while at the same time sequestering atmospheric CO2 absorbed by the corn through photosynthesis as the plants grow.

These are the kinds of energy solutions that get sidetracked by the kind of people who wind up profiting from government subsidies, which is not the farmer but Wall Street middlemen who buy up ethanol blending rights long before it hits the markets, which they then use it to lobby Washington to continue the subsidies and lie to people like you about the benefits of ethanol, which is why Newt Gingrich got pad the $300,000.

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