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The Corn Craze!

It’s “Ethanol Schizophrenia”. . . that’s what I call the current mad rush to corn-based fuel. The way politicians have wrapped their arms around it you’d think it was the one great solution to the nation’s energy problems. But logic says otherwise. 
The large ethanol subsidies (51-cent-per-gallon federal) doled out by Congress are a boom for the farmers. The price per bushel of corn is giving marijuana a run for the “top cash crop” title!  Last year, nearly 5 billion gallons of ethanol were produced. It’s  supposed to quickly increase to 12 billion gallons due to the current building boom in ethanol plants. There will soon be 200 of them. This triggers marine industry fears that the gas/ethanol ratio could be pushed up to 80/20 or higher from the current 90/10 ration and that would create major problems for us.

However, a look at some basic facts indicates it’s more likely that we will not see an increase above the current 90/10 ratio. A battle is shaping up over the amount of ethanol in this country and it will revolve around corn. Here are a couple of examples:

As the need for corn for ethanol rises, so will the price of corn.  As such, there will be less available for feed and food needs and the prices will rise more. Will consumers quietly pay more and more at the dinner table? Not likely.

In addition, President Bush has called for increasing ethanol to 35 billion gallons annually over the next 10 years. But to do that, some estimates say we’d have to use virtually all the corn grown in the nation. No more feed or food at all? Again, not likely. Now, add in the fact that ethanol, feed and food aren’t the only demands for corn. There’s competition. How about plastics? For example, today literally billions of petroleum-based plastic water bottles are pouring into our landfills. They’ll never degrade.

Relief, however, is in sight. Cargill has developed a bio-degradable polymer. The packaging industry has jumped on it. Only one problem – it’s a corn-based plastic! More competition for the corn!

The bottom line of these, and more, demands for corn is that we will not likely have enough corn to see ethanol rise to a higher ratio than the current 90/10. If America is going to lower its dependency on foreign oil, we’re going to have to look to more than corn and the marine industry can breath a little easier about the subject.

That’s how I see it, how about you?


4 comments on “The Corn Craze!

  1. Jim Wood

    This ethanol thing is another government, feelgood boondoggle. Poorly thought out and based on global warming fear mongering. Consider this. It takes more energy to produce ethanol than it provides. I recently took a 4000 mile road trip in a a v-10 powered vehicle (well its painted green)…in California where regular is 87 octane and laced with ethonol I average 15.1 miles to the gallon highway……… Idaho, Woming, Montana where regular is 84 octane I averaged 16.2 miles to the gallon including crossing the rockies three times and meandering through Yellowstone. As soon as I hit Oregon and back into California……..the mileage dropped. Oh, one other thing…..The roads in Those states seemed to be well maintained at 2.70 a gallon as opposed to our pothole Highways in California where we pay 3.20-3.50 a gallon due to heavy air emmission taxes. Burn more fuel, pay more taxes, be less efficient, Makes sense to me.

  2. ken evans

    Bio fuel is not as efficient as dino fuel. I have a diesel Landcruiser and trying to be a good citizen moved to a 40% Bio blend. The cost saving per gallon for the Bio mix here in Australia is about 15 cents. The fuel ecconomy was such that it actually cost more per 100 kilometers than Dino straight Diesel.
    I am now back to the real thing.

    As for E10 Gas, its got lots of problems in a marine enviroment. It obsorbs water, forms a barrier layer if left for any amount of time (a few weeks of less), this layer is corrosive and will eat Alloy and Fiberglass fuel tanks. The water will fall to the tank bottom, generally where the pick up is, so the engine gets a dose of water. We all know how good that is for an engine.
    Basically we in the marine industry and our customers need to be aware of all this. It has the potential to be a major negative to people buying boats.

  3. jim cassidy

    I fear that somewhere down the road (waterway) there may be serious injuries and perhaps even a fatality or two when a boat engine suddenly dies due to ethanol caused problems with the onboard fuel storage and delivery system. Any boat in a treachereous sea-facing inlet, which loses power when the wind or the waves are “up”, will be in serious peril. If a boat is offshore and cannot, in the face of impending heavy weather, make it to safe haven due to engine fuel system problems, disaster can result. If any such situations arise, and the cause is ethanol attacking the fuel system components, will the politicians who passed the short sighted ethanol mandate be held responsible ? I doubt it, but they ought to be.

    Another question is, who is to pay for all the conversion costs to ethanol safe fuel sysem components which are being incurred by thousands of boaters? We know the answer to that. The boat owners must pay to change their boats’ components over. Imagine if all car owners had to do the same. The public outcry would be deafening but boat owners and the marine industry weren’t even given a thought when the well intended but uninformed and short sighted politicians ballyhooed ethanol use.

    It would seem that the only real benefit side to the ethanol issue is tthe corn farmers and ethanol producers. They must have one heck a strong and effective lobbying staff on Capitol Hill !

  4. David Sheriff

    We make ethanol from corn because the corn and sugarcane farm lobbies push things in that crazy direction. If we made our ethanol from sugarcane, which the Brazilians do and we could too, it would make energy sense.

    10% Ethanol is not likely to disappear from gasoline given the alternatives. We have to learn to live with it. Is anyone is still manufacturing boats that could be damaged by ethanol? That would be stupid. What a good reason to buy a new boat. Isn’t converting tanks and fuel systems in the existing boat inventory profitable? Have to scrap that 35 year old boat? Maybe that’s not such a bad thing in all cases. Who’s driving a 35 year old car?

    Just because we have to deal with ethanol doesn’t mean people will stay off the water.

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