You Don’t Say?

By Ron Lamberty | January 16, 2013

Several years ago, a reporter who described himself as “concerned with the environment” asked me, “Why should I use ethanol, if it’s only 16 percent cleaner than gasoline?” 

I answered, “Well, because the 16 percent calculation is bogus, but, even if it were correct, you should use it because it’s 16 percent cleaner than gasoline! Hell, you should use it if it’s one percent cleaner.”
It was an odd opportunity for both of us. We both realized that the question, “compared to what?” was not being asked. Anywhere. 

One of the most frequently used arguments against ethanol has been it can’t replace all the gasoline we use in the U.S. Have you ever heard similar concerns that all of the new oil they’re finding can’t replace ethanol? The fact that oil and other energy prices have three to four times the impact on food prices than corn does doesn’t seem to make the news.

So, maybe it shouldn’t be surprising that recent energy outlook reports from the International Energy Agency and the Energy Information Administration have been incredibly selectively reported by big oil sycophants in the media and those who do Big Oil’s bidding in Congress. 

The Wall Street Journal took a look at the IEA report and wrote a gushing editorial entitled “Saudi America,” which actually included this sentence: "Historians will one day marvel that so much political and financial capital was invested in a green-energy revolution at the very moment a fossil fuel revolution was aborning."

Revolutionary fossils? Really? Finding more of the stuff you’ve always had hardly seems like some sort of moonshot to me.  And “aborning?” Did some out-of-work romance novelist get hired to write editorials for WSJ?  I was waiting for a description of gas-fired heat melting “limpid pools” of sandy black Canadian sludge. The subhead of the article was “The U.S. will be the world's leading energy producer, if we allow it.” That was a remarkably incomplete description.  A more accurate subhead would have been, “The U.S. will be the world's leading energy producer for 10 or 11 years, if we and OPEC allow it (and by 'it' we mean drilling and fracking wherever Big Oil wants us to, and if we’re OK with the earth’s temperature increasing by about 5.5 degrees).”  They probably didn’t have room.

The report also predicts that as North America aggressively depletes its oil, OPEC’s control over the world’s oil supplies would increase to nearly 50 percent.  Conservation is the major factor behind the prediction of energy self-sufficiency for the U.S., and IEA projects a four-fold increase in renewables across all energy sectors. Somehow those parts of the report received scant mention.

When the EIA’s “Annual Energy Outlook” came out, the reaction was similar. Many of the news stories were again about increased oil production, but another portion of the report—the part that predicted cellulosic ethanol would not meet the schedule in the renewable fuel standard (RFS)—received far more media attention. Again, no mention that the report predicts ethanol will reach 30 billion gallons, and no explanation that EIA makes its projections based on market conditions (including Big Oil resistance) and existing technology.

Ten years ago, the EIA outlook said we could only make 3.4 billion gallons of ethanol in the U.S. by 2020. Big Oil used those projections to demand the RFS be limited to 5 billion gallons. Congress deemed that unacceptable, passed the RFS, and we produced almost four times that much ethanol two years ago—10 years ahead of schedule.

The facts are still on the side of ethanol, but Big Oil and their toadies in the media and Congress aren’t going to share those facts with anyone. Unfortunately, the media doesn’t appear inclined to tell the entire story, so if we don’t say it—often—it won’t be said.


Author: Ron Lamberty
Senior Vice President,
American Coalition for Ethanol