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EPA rejects Perry plea on ethanol

Brett Clanton, Houston Chronicle
The Bush administration made clear Thursday it has no intention of easing federal quotas for corn ethanol in the nation’s fuel supply despite a challenge from Texas Gov. Rick Perry and a broad alliance of industries hurt by high corn prices.

In a move that did little to quell the debate, the Environmental Protection Agency denied Perry’s request to reduce by half this year’s U.S. ethanol requirement — to 4.5 billion from 9 billion gallons.

Perry said the waiver was needed because rising U.S. ethanol output is inflating corn prices, wreaking havoc on the state’s massive livestock industry and boosting grocery bills for American families.

But on Thursday, EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson said Perry’s request had not proved the Renewable Fuel Standard, which sets ethanol quotas, is causing “severe economic harm,” a requirement needed to justify a waiver.
(8 August 2008)

Experts clash over viability of biofuels, alternative energy

Heather Knight, San Francisco Chronicle
Pre-eminent UC Berkeley scholars clashed Saturday over whether biofuels will help solve the energy crisis – or whether biofuel supporters are duping themselves and everybody else with empty promises.

The university’s College of Natural Resources hosted a panel discussion called “The Future of Biofuels?” and it became clear early on why the question mark was tacked onto the title.

Biofuels are fuels derived from biological material such as corn or soybeans, and are seen by many as the answer to rising oil prices and global warming.

They hold particular significance at UC Berkeley because the university recently teamed with oil giant BP to discover better biofuels and research other alternative energy sources.

Tad Patzek, an outspoken critic of the biofuels industry and a geo-engineering professor who’s leaving Cal to take a post at the University of Texas at Austin, said biofuels are vastly overhyped. He asked the members of the audience to imagine themselves as proponents of the notion that 2+2=22, rather than 4.
(3 August 2008)

Burgers or biofuel?

Frances Cerra Whittelsey, The Nation
Only three years ago there was such a surplus of corn in the Midwest that it became a joke. Someone pasted the image of a skier into a photo of a mountainous pile of the stuff, labeled it ” Ski Iowa,” and e-mailed it around the Internet to hand everyone a laugh–except the farmers, of course. At the time, turning all that unwanted corn into ethanol to replace gasoline seemed like a great idea…

…But it’s false to frame the biofuel debate as a choice between people or SUVs. While there are daily references in the media to the diversion of corn to fuel-making, there’s hardly ever a mention of the fact that feeding our livestock uses 50 percent to 60 percent of the American corn crop. Here are the calculations used by the US Agriculture Department’s Economic Research Service for how much corn animals must be fed to produce a pound of meat for retail sale: seven pounds of corn equals one pound of beef; six-and-a-half pounds of corn equals one pound of pork; two and six-tenths pounds of corn equals one pound of chicken. (Meat industry estimates are lower but generally refer to the amount of corn necessary to make the live animal gain a pound, not the amount necessary to get a pound of food in the meat case.) Corn is a dietary staple in parts of the world like Mexico, but not here in the United States, where the answer to “What’s for dinner?” is supposed to be “beef.” Talk about feeding SUVs or people is deceptive, since it masks the intermediate step of feeding animals a whole lot of corn to get one steak dinner…
(4 August 2008)
For a great analysis of the relationship between corn and the US diet ready Michael Pollen’s ‘Omnivore’s dilema’. He floats the view that corn has manipulated man to create a position of dominance.-SO