Bravo for Roscoe! (Roscoe Bartlett Votes No on Energy Bill based on Ethanol Mandate Expansion)

Roscoe Bartlett seems to always be 2 steps ahead. For several years now he has been speaking, often to only a few Members, on the issues surrounding Peak Oil and our nations need to change our oil intensive way of life. Now, as House leaders are lauding a new Energy Bill (details of which Robert Rapier highlighted here) that will create agricultural jobs and make us depend on the 'Midwest instead of the Middle East", Congressman Bartlett is again ahead of the pack. Knowing that all energy is not created equal, and that biofuels have large costs in terms of energy, water demands, pesticide and fertilizer use, as well as competition for food, the science-trained Congressman voted nay on the Energy bill which included a more than doubling of corn ethanol production over the next decade. He references the National Academy of Science report on The Implications of Biofuel Production on US Water Supplies, and is looking ahead to where we really need to change - efficiency, conservation and new ways of structuring our society. Below the fold is the press release from the Congressmans website.

Congressman Roscoe Bartlett (R-6-MD) supports a change in America’s energy policies to encourage conservation of finite fossil fuels, increase efficiency and promote development of alternative domestic renewable resources. However, today, he voted NO on amendments to H.R. 6 because of the Senate’s addition to expand the biofuels ethanol mandate. Congressman Bartlett was an original cosponsor of H.R. 6 when it was introduced in January 2007 and voted to support final passage of the previous comprehensive House energy bill, H.R. 3221. Both excluded expansions in the ethanol mandate. The Economist magazine reported today that U.S. subsidies for ethanol are raising food prices worldwide reversing historical trends.

“I welcome the Senate’s addition to strengthen CAFÉ standards to increase gas mileage of new cars and trucks,” said Congressman Bartlett said, “However, the hype that using food crops for fuel, such as corn ethanol or soy biodiesel and the hope that cellulosic ethanol could achieve independence from imported oil is extremely harmful.”

Congressman Bartlett explained, “With mounting evidence of the harmful effects of the 2005 Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) mandate for 7.5 billion gallons of corn ethanol, I could not in good conscience vote to double that mandate. Corn ethanol and soy biodiesel can never replace more than a drop in the bucket of our gas and diesel use. However, corn prices doubled due to the 2005 mandate which harms Maryland’s dairy and chicken farmers and raises the price of food which hurts low income people. That is why livestock farmers and food manufacturers oppose expanding the corn ethanol and soy biodiesel mandate in this bill.”

Congressman Bartlett noted, “The U.S. has only 2 percent of known oil reserves. We use 25 percent of the world's oil and import two-thirds of what we are using. We pump our reserves four times faster than the rest of the world. There will be a day after tomorrow and we have to slow down the depletion of America’s oil and natural gas to preserve some for future generations. I hope the Senate will make changes in this bill that will allow me to support it.”

Congressman Bartlett pointed out that in June 2006 the National Academies of Science (NAS) released a study that concluded there was a very limited potential from corn ethanol and soy biodiesel. Discounting for fossil fuel inputs, Americans would replace only 2.4% of gasoline consumption if the entire U.S. corn crop was devoted to corn ethanol. Similarly, if the entire soybean crop was used to make soy biodiesel, that would replace only 2.9% of Americans’ diesel consumption. (source). Two of the NAS study co-authors wrote in the Washington Post on March 25, 2007 that Americans could save more gasoline if we kept our tires inflated and our car engines tuned.

A March 26, 2007 study prepared for the Dairy Farmers of America found 11% of America’s corn crop was used for corn ethanol in 2005. That grew to 18% in 2006/07 and is projected to increase to @25% of corn crop 2007/08. The National Cattlemen's Beef Association projects the doubled mandate for 15 billion gallons of corn ethanol would require roughly 41 percent of U.S. corn production.

Congressman Bartlett said

“there is a lot of hope but little evidence that cellulosic ethanol could replace gasoline. If all of our corn and all of our soybeans grown on our best land replaces just a fraction of our gasoline and diesel, I seriously doubt what contributions can be provided by cellulosic ethanol which is still in development. We might mine our soils of organic matter to make fuel for a little while, but I don’t think that’s sustainable.”

The Chamber of Commerce recently reported, “The bill supposedly calls for a renewable fuels mandate of 36 billion gallons by 2022, with 21 billion of these gallons to be met with "advanced biofuels," or non-corn-based biofuels. The bill does not, however, adequately address such critical issues as: (1) where the U.S. intends to secure enough water (from an already-scarce supply) so that it may grow enough corn and other biomass to meet the mandate; (2) how the nation will protect against formation of "dead zones" of oxygen-depleted water caused by increased farming and irrigation to meet the mandate; (3) how the U.S. intends to transport 36 billion gallons of ethanol, given that current pipeline systems are not compatible; and (4) the effect the increased burning of ethanol will have on background levels of ozone, a pollutant currently regulated by EPA under the Clean Air Act.”

Congressman Bartlett said, “I recommend everyone read a speech given fifty years ago on May 14, 1957 by the father of America’s nuclear navy, Admiral Hyman Rickover. He was so prescient. He pointed out that fossil fuels aren’t forever and that we have a moral obligation to leave younger generations some oil and natural gas.” The entire speech (pdf) is posted on Congressman Bartlett’s website here. Excerpts:

“Our civilization rests upon a technological base which requires enormous quantities of fossil fuels. What assurance do we then have that our energy needs will continue to be supplied by fossil fuels: The answer is - in the long run - none.
…In the face of the basic fact that fossil fuel reserves are finite, the exact length of time these reserves will last is important in only one respect: the longer they last, the more time do we have, to invent ways of living off renewable or substitute energy sources and to adjust our economy to the vast changes which we can expect from such a shift. Fossil fuels resemble capital in the bank. A prudent and responsible parent will use his capital sparingly in order to pass on to his children as much as possible of his inheritance. A selfish and irresponsible parent will squander it in riotous living and care not one whit how his offspring will fare.”

Congressman Bartlett said, “In that same speech, Rickover warned that using food for fuel was unrealistic and short-sighted:

“Wood fuel and farm wastes are dubious as substitutes because of growing food requirements to be anticipated. Land is more likely to be used for food production than for tree crops; farm wastes may be more urgently needed to fertilize the soil than to fuel machines.”

Additional information and resources about energy from Congressman Bartlett’s website are available at


Roscoe Bartlett - a scientist, and my kind of politician - thinking smartly about the future and willing to discuss hard truths.

Ethanol is explained here decently:

Ethanol is a net energy loser.

This should be a no-brainer, but for politicians, perhaps not.

While most of the bill doesn't do enough to mitigate peak oil.

... the ethanol section makes the problem worse!

The fact that it is an energy loser is a red herring. If we could create a very marginal energy gainer, or even slight energy loser which had inputs that were abundant and minimal externalities it could very well be viable. But low energy gain combined with INCREASED water, chemical, land, etc. use seals the deal on corn ethanol. I sincerely hope these second generation biofuels live up to the environmental hype.

Wait, we're trying to SOLVE energy problems:

The net loss is 6X!

From the article I cited:

"Patzek published a fifty-page study on the subject in the journal Critical Reviews in Plant Science. This time, he factored in the myriad energy inputs required by industrial agriculture, from the amount of fuel used to produce fertilizers and corn seeds to the transportation and wastewater disposal costs. All told, he believes that the cumulative energy consumed in corn farming and ethanol production is six times greater than what the end product provides your car engine in terms of power."

If some ethanol technology exists that isn't a loser,
Please cite the thermodynamic analysis.

And of course, I agree that the FURTHER waste of water and land is downright insane.


I believe Nate was referring to something like Brazil which gets a 8 to 1 EOR for its biofuel investment.

I have heard that photosynthesis is only 1% efficient. PV is 15% or more. Better to use the existing roof tops for solar than land to grow energy crops.

Photosynthesis is a bit higher than that but yes, PV is way more efficient and getting more so each year. Photosynthesis efficiencies varies widely depending on plant type, ranging from 0.1% on some to as high as 8% on rare others (such as sugarcane). (See reference.)

So logically the best investment by far is putting PV on rooftops rather than turning biomass into "fuel" (which also further robs soil quality causing need for more fertilizer).

People may not like this answer but the immediate way out of our energy problems involves nuclear, solar, wind, geothermal, and hydro. It also involves reorganizing our lifestyles. Until people around the world and particularly Americans (which includes Canadians and some Mexicans as well) are willing to change how they live, we won't see much progress in solving our energy problems. We must change. But once we begin to change, we already possess a wealth of technologies that can give us adequate energy. Our problem remains one of choosing the solution that already exists or allowing ourselves to fall on our collective rear ends instead. And so far, we appear to be mightily trying to fall on our butts.

It is frustrating to see the political classes have such a fundamental misunderstanding of the energy supply situation that they believe that a law of congress can overide the laws of physics and the laws of economics by mandating the production of bio-fuels.

It msut be heart breaking for Congressman Bartlett to get part of the way only to have a most objectionable techno fix thrust in as the silver bullett. I applaud his courage and integrity in being willing to vote no to a bill which would create more problems tha n it solves. It looks like President Bush will veto it anyway, just not for the right reasons.

Its not just the political classes, add in the entertainment/chattering classes which misinform the bulk of the public. Most politicians, even when they know better will act as if the prevailing myths are true. Roscoe is a rare exception.

Before reading his reasoning for rejecting the energy bill, I was GOING to say that it's a lot easier for him to say "no" to a bill being pushed forward by the democratic majority. But, after reading his reasoning, it's clear to me that he's not going by party-line on this issue, and is sticking to principle. Good for him, he has nothing to lose and likely only a couple of decades left on this earth to speak his truth.

Roscoe Bartlett has been speaking his mind and his principles for quite some time. His special sessions are worth a look.

The article above mentions near empty House chambers...well, anyone familiar with Congress knows that the chanmbers are nearly empty most of the time and only buzzes when there is a vote or quorum call.

The resistance to fundamental changes is summarized quite nicely by Rickover, particularly in these two sentences:

"A prudent and responsible parent will use his capital sparingly in order to pass on to his children as much as possible of his inheritance. A selfish and irresponsible parent will squander it in riotous living and care not one whit how his offspring will fare.”

The opposition to fundamental change does not want it noted that they are behaving as the latter.

Barlett is my man in the House.
He is looking at the numbers and using his (plus someone else’s) calculator and understands the simple answers … The answers says ; This is not going to work the way some says, and that’s just what he’s trying to convey, but yet to no avail …

The ultimate answer will come back and haunt us though, it’s not changing, but it’s just concealed by still abundant and cheap fossils … for some more time..

Sorry I can't concur. Yes, he is right about corn based biofuels. Perhaps all biofuels although I am agnostic on that point. But in my view it is posturing. It is taking one issue and using it as a fig leaf to stay on the right side of his caucus. Is this thing flawed? Sure. But in my view it is a huge improvement over what has been passing for energy policy over the past fifty years. There will be plenty of time to attack the weak parts without going back to business as usual.

Well there is that angle. For myself, I've looked at this predicament 6 ways to Sunday and I fall on the side that baby steps got us into this mess but won't get us out. Yes the Energy Bill is much better than we have had on the books for decades. But it's not enough, not now. And my bigger concern is we are spending our major efforts on increasing supply, rather than restructuring society to use/need/want less energy. And I should clarify that I am speaking for myself and not the rest of TOD staff


I'm with you on supporting Bartlett on his stance. But, I do think that reality is going to intervene on the biofuels mandate. I spoke for a while with Mary Frances Repko, Congressman Hoyer's lead aide on energy issues. I admit that I tiptoed a bit because she pressed on biofuels. It is true that Maryland can grow hulless barley in the winter which helps reduce nitrogen runoff and does not get in the way of most food crop rotations. So, it is a fairly good source for ethanol. There is some place for biofuels. But, I did try to restate my warning I gave to the Congressman last April as we were leaving his home. The food vrs. fuel issue is going to be a big problem and needs to be dealt with. Congressman Bartlett is making the problem quite clear.

But, we don't need nearly the land area to reach the mandate that he is anticipating. I riff a bit on a paper by Agrawal et al. published this year in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in this Real Energy Blog post. Their idea is to do Fischer-Tropsch using renewable energy to provide the hydrogen for the process and only use the plants as a carbon feedstock. They get the needed land area down to a square 625 miles on a side to produce the entire transportation sector energy use. As you'll see in the post, you can go quite a bit smaller than this if you skip the plants. The main thing is that it is possible to throw energy at the problem and so keep on using liquid hydrocarbon fuels. It won't make any sense, with plug in hybrids, to do much of that kind of thing, but it could be done. That is different from impossible.


I riff a bit on a paper by Agrawal et al. published this year in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in this Real Energy Blog post. Their idea is to do Fischer-Tropsch using renewable energy to provide the hydrogen for the process and only use the plants as a carbon feedstock.

This sounds amazingly like the H2CAR process which has far worse energetics than just taking the non-carbon energy and running EVs with it.

That is it exactly. You'll see in the link that I use it rather differently. I notice in your link that you object to using solar power for the process on cost grounds. I think that this is not such an issue. At your $2/Watt installed cost, solar power costs less than 4 cents per kWh so that even at 40% process efficiency you beat the current price of jet fuel. As you well know, we spend substantially more on energy than your $15.7 trillion over the course of 30 years, so throwing around big numbers is not all that helpful.

Agrawal et al. answer the question "is it possible to produce all our hydrocarbons for transportation with biomass?" with a yes. That is important. We know that we don't need all those hydrocarbons as do they but the demonstration that it is possible shows that energy independence can be achieved now based on renewables without changing our current transportation modes. The manner in which we do it will obviously be different. Right now, only the aviation sector has a fundementally irreducible need for hydrocarbon fuel so most of our effort will in fact be put towards reducing our use of the ICE. But it is clear that some of our effort will be put towards powering jet turbines; this is a direct national security priority. In the context of Agrawal et al.'s work, we can say that aviation can be powered renewably with very little impact. It would appear to me though that more work in Diels-Alder and perhaps plasma quenching processes is needed to produce additives that raise flash points to naval aviation requirements.


It is interesting how ethanol opponents are so concerned about water usage in ethanol production but not in oil production. Surely water is rendered polluted and useless when it is injected into oil wells to increase the pressure and thereby get more oil out. Posts here often talk about a 90% water cut or even 99%. So where is all the outrage about water usage in oil production? Hypocrites.

Water used in oil well stimulation is brine that is a byproduct of oil production or is sea water. Injection of fresh water will damage the producing formation and ruin the

Thats correct - the brine isnt freshwater. I have JUST this hour completed a paper on EROWI - here is one stat:
"This implies that the most water-efficient fossil electricity source we discovered yields almost 600 times as much energy per unit of water invested as does the most water efficient biomass source of electricity reviewed by Berndes (12)."

Corn ethanol uses over 2,000 gallons of fresh water in the fields via irrigation as well as a 4-7:1 water:ethanol output stream in the biorefinery (see my last post).Its a very water intensive fuel (in your area it may not seem so)

Practical - Im not against you being a farmer and making money -your land and your efforts are very important - but hopefully soon the salespeople, politicians and seed companies will figure out a way to use less key inputs (water, energy ,etc) to get out more valuable outputs (energy, food, etc.) And then you might be VERY happy to grow something different than corn - it will be better for the country AND better for you - I dont think many farmers know there are other options on the horizon yet.

Thanks, Nate,

Apologies if I've missed this - are you going to post your paper on TOD? (And/or do you have your papers posted somewhere else - on a website or some place)? (In other words, do you write more than you post here? And, if so, any way to find those?)

Hello Nate,

Thxs for this keypost--Kudos to Bartlett!

Yep, just keeping our tires safely inflated--sad, but true. I have posted before how lots of teenage volunteers could make decent pocket change for their school clubs or other charities by pumping gasoline, checking and/or inflating tire PSI, cleaning windshields, checking, then adding engine oil at self-serve gasoline stations. I see incredible #'s of vehicles driving around on low PSI tires in my Asphalt Wonderland.

It could also prevent static-electricity fuelfires because the driver wouldn't be getting out of their vehicles to spark the pump off during inclement weather. Many of the gas stations in my area don't even have air-compressors, or you have to pay to use them. Lots of times the brass input valve/gauge is just stolen. Such is life.

Bob Shaw in Phx,Az Are Humans Smarter than Yeast?

thanks for your support of Representative Bartlett. :)

so realistically speaking Bush vetoes it and the next preesident comes in in 1/20/09 with a true and real enrgy crisis due to depletion and this is just all forgotten and Bartlett is the big star and everybody listens to his every word. We can hope that this will happen and a new bill will get passed called "Powerdown America".

Different feedstocks create different biofuels.

I agree that CORN based ethanol is not a solution; its expensive, doesn't help reducing CO2 emissions and has a almost negative energy balance.

But what about SUGARCANE ethanol?

Why not to remove the tariff and open up the market for Brazilian ethanol to compete with gasoline?

Energy Balance is Positive: for each energy unit of fossil fuel used on production, sugarcane ethanol generates 8 energy units!!

Cheapper: in Brazil, without subsidies, ethanol is competing with gasoline and consumers driving flex-fuel-vehicles can choose at the pump what to use. Ethanol is sold for half of the price of gasoline! Production cost of sugarcane ethanol in Brazil is less than US$ 1.20/gallon...

Reduce CO2 emissions: estimated reduction of CO2 emission using sugarcane ethanol is around 60-70%!!!!

No harm for the environment: currently Brazil uses less than 0.5% (yes, this is correct Zero point five percent) of its agricultural land (important; agricultural land means an area suitble for agriculture, so it is not the Amazon!)

What are the reasons for the tariff?????

Hello mp,

There may be many reasons for the tariff.

Let me just address this point:

"No harm for the environment:...important; agricultural land means an area suitble for agriculture, so it is not the Amazon!"

1) Some facts on the Amazon:

2) Regarding agriculture and the Amazon:

"Logging roads are used by landless farmers to gain access to rainforest areas. For this reason, commercial logging is considered by many to be the biggest single agent of tropical deforestation.

Apart from its direct impact, logging plays a major role in deforestation through the building of roads which are subsequently used by landless farmers to gain access to rainforest areas. These displaced people then clear the forest by slashing and burning to grow enough food to keep them and their families alive, a practice which is called subsistence farming. This problem is so widespread that Robert Repetto of the World Resources Institute ranks commercial logging as the biggest agent of tropical deforestation.”

Agriculture - Shifted Cultivators
'Shifted cultivators' is the term used for people who have moved into rainforest areas and established small-scale farming operations. These are the landless peasants who have followed roads into already damaged rainforest areas. The additional damage they are causing is extensive. Shifted cultivators are currently being blamed for 60% of tropical forest loss (Colchester & Lohmann).

The reason these people are referred to as 'shifted' cultivators is that most of them people have been forced off their own land. For example, in Guatemala, rainforest land was cleared for coffee and sugar plantations. The indigenous people had their land stolen by government and corporations. They became 'shifted cultivators', moving into rainforest areas of which they had no previous knowledge in order to sustain themselves and their families (Colchester & Lohmann).

Large-scale agriculture, logging, hydroelectric dams, mining, and industrial development are all responsible for the dispossession of poor farmers.
"One of the primary forces pushing landless migrants into the forests is the inequitable distribution of agricultural land" (WRI 1992, Colchester & Lohmann). In Brazil, approximately 42% of cultivated land is owned by a mere 1% of the population. Landless peasants make up half of Brazil's population (WRM).”

3) The above also implies potential of (further) harm to the human species.

... and the President saw... he saw corn in the Midwest and saw sugarcane down in Brazil ... and he saw it was good … and then he said ; Let there be fuel, a lot of fuel ….
And the people praised the President -

Sugarcane is a horrendous crop. It's got great payback, but the damage plantations do to the environment is huge.

I'm not versed in environmental externalities on sugar cane - what info/links do you have? Thanks

Ethanol CAN be part of our energy solution! We just need to supply it in such large quantities to our idiot elected representatives that they will stay so stone-cold drunk that they will be incapable of passing any stupid, idiotic legislation that gets in the way of our doing what we have to do, or making a bad situation worse.

CAFE Standards?
Tire Inflation??
Engines Tuned????

Are humans smarter than yeast?!

An evolving species might burn the drivers licenses
en masse, then refactor existing infrastructure under
the new set of constraints.

How unfortunate that Madison Avenue has solidly conditioned
the industrialized population to equate vehicular mobility
with successful reproduction.

As an upper bound, I predict that our automobile-centric
species is no smarter than salmon.

Hi Red,

re: "...our automobile-centric
species is no smarter than salmon."

Actually, perhaps not even :)- salmon apparently know where they're going. (Sigh.)

"A very complex interaction occurs between the tiny salmon and its environment. Stimuli from the water actually program the salmon to return to the home stream."

Bartlett is hardly a peak oil angel. Dispite all his peak oil talks in Congress, he proudly displays (small pdf) the multimillion-dollar earmarks he got passed, most of which are for highway construction.

Where's HIS energy bill?

He does have 2 renewable/energy projects in that list:

Construct a demonstration building powered by sustainable renewable energy sources (solar, wind, geothermal, ect) Frostburg State University


Technology research such as hydrogen fuel systems, advanced nano-film solar energy conservations and affiliated issues.

It would be nice to see a light rail system going down I-270 to the Metro instead of more roads.

Senate debating ethanol and RFS vis-a-vis Farm Bill, right now on C-Span

12:30 EST Ah forget it, it's stream of consciousness day on the Floor.

If you really want to burn out your eyeballs, you can read the text of the Energy Independence and Security Act by going to the Library of Congress web site, THOMAS, and search on the bill, which is H.R. 6.

Eric Swanson

LOL. I literally burned out one of my eyeballs 23 years ago in a laser 'incident'.

I actually haven't found the bill with all amendments yet, so is it published? I understand it's > 1000 pages. Long live the person who came up with 'Find on this Page'.

Well, if you put the phrase "H. R. 6" in the search window and click the Bill Number button, you will see a list of various versions of the bill. The one at the bottom is the one which has been voted on, or, to use the language of Congress, "engrossed". You may then select whatever section of the Bill you want to see, instead of trying to sort thru the whole mess. The GPO will eventually have the thing available as a PDF file, but that usually takes a while after some Floor Action occurs, such as the latest amendments.

I noticed several changes since last I took a look at the issue. The EPA is to set the mileage standards and they have re-defined the various categories of vehicles, including a "passenger automobiles" up to a weight of 10,000. That would include SUV's, I think. They also have a category for "work trucks", with 8,500 and 10,000 pounds gross vehicle weight, which would likely be PU's. Then, there are the "commercial medium- and heavy-duty on-highway vehicle(s), which means an on-highway vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating of 10,000 pounds or more". There are other categories, including electric and plugin hybrids.

Of course, the whole bill is built on top of the present law, thus much of the bill simply lists changes to existing Code. If you don't know the existing law, it's hard to understand what they are really doing, as there's no point in putting out an complete version until after the bill has passed both the House and the Senate and then been signed into Law by the President (guess Who?)...

E. Swanson

I also found another interesting bill while searching for HR6.

H. R. 3934 Affordable Footwear Act of 2007

This relates to Peak oil also since we will all be doing a lot of walking :)

In a way, the higher price for oil is like a tax that mostly goes to OPEC countries...

(1) Average collected duties on imported footwear are among the highest of any product sector, totaling more than $1,800,000,000 during 2006.

(2) Duty rates on imported footwear are among the highest imposed by the United States Government, with some as high as 67.5 percent ad valorem.

(3) The duties currently imposed by the United States were set in an era during which high rates of duty were intended to protect production of footwear in the United States.

(4) Production of footwear in the United States has nonetheless dwindled to below 2 percent of the total United States market, and is concentrated in 20 distinct product groupings.

(5) Low and moderate income families spend a larger share of their disposable income on footwear. Any additional costs added to the purchase price of footwear constitute a disproportionate burden on these households.

(6) The United States collected $6.21 in duty on imported footwear for every $1 earned by United States footwear workers during 2006. By comparison, the United States collected 6 cents and 1 cent, respectively, in duties for each dollar earned in the automotive and sugar sectors.

Hi greg,

This is interesting. Let's see...A corp. outsources to China to save on costs/UStaxes, then the "imports" are taxed...from the consumer POV, I wonder what the consumer would pay had manufacturing remained at home? (Along w. the employment?)

Bartlet did sponsor a peak oil bill H.RES.12.

Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that the United States, in collaboration with other international allies, should establish an energy project with the magnitude, creativity, and sense of urgency that was incorporated in the `Man on the Moon' project address the inevitable challenges of `Peak Oil'.

Whereas the United States has only 2 percent of the world's oil reserves;

Whereas the United States produces 8 percent of the world's oil and consumes 25 percent of the world's oil, of which nearly 60 percent is imported from foreign countries;

Whereas developing countries around the world are increasing their demand for oil consumption at rapid rates; for example, the average consumption increase, by percentage, from 2003 to 2004 for the countries of Belarus, Kuwait, China, and Singapore was 15.9 percent;

Whereas the United States consumed more than 937,000,000 tonnes of oil in 2004, and that figure could rise in 2005 given previous projection trends;

Whereas, as fossil energy resources become depleted, new, highly efficient technologies will be required in order to sustainably tap replenishable resources;

Whereas the Shell Oil scientist M. King Hubbert accurately predicted that United States domestic production would peak in 1970, and a growing number of petroleum experts believe that the peak in the world's oil production (Peak Oil) is likely to occur in the next decade while demand continues to rise;

Whereas North American natural gas production has also peaked;

Whereas the United States is now the world's largest importer of both petroleum and natural gas;

Whereas the population of the United States is increasing by nearly 30,000,000 persons every decade;

Whereas the energy density in one barrel of oil is the equivalent of eight people working full time for one year;

Whereas affordable supplies of petroleum and natural gas are critical to national security and energy prosperity; and

Whereas the United States has approximately 250 years of coal at current consumption rates, but if that consumption rate is increased by 2 percent per year, coal reserves are reduced to 75 years: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That it is the sense of the House of Representatives that--

(1) in order to keep energy costs affordable, curb our environmental impact, and safeguard economic prosperity, including our trade deficit, the United States must move rapidly to increase the productivity with which it uses fossil fuel, and to accelerate the transition to renewable fuels and a sustainable, clean energy economy; and

(2) the United States, in collaboration with other international allies, should establish an energy project with the magnitude, creativity, and sense of urgency of the `Man on the Moon' project to develop a comprehensive plan to address the challenges presented by Peak Oil.


Rep Gilchrest, Wayne T. [MD-1] - 1/4/2007
Rep Gingrey, Phil [GA-11] - 1/4/2007
Rep Grijalva, Raul M. [AZ-7] - 1/4/2007
Rep Inglis, Bob [SC-4] - 1/9/2007
Rep Linder, John [GA-7] - 1/9/2007
Rep McCotter, Thaddeus G. [MI-11] - 6/5/2007
Rep Udall, Mark [CO-2] - 1/4/2007
Rep Udall, Tom [NM-3] - 1/4/2007
Rep Wamp, Zach [TN-3] - 1/4/2007
Rep Welch, Peter [VT] - 1/4/2007

Busting Ethanol Myths

Myth #1: It Takes More Energy to ­Produce Ethanol than You Get from It!

Most ethanol research over the past 25 years has been on the topic of energy returned on energy invested (EROEI). Public discussion has been dominated by the American Petroleum Institute’s aggressive distribution of the work of Cornell professor David Pimentel and his numerous, deeply flawed studies. Pimentel stands virtually alone in portraying alcohol as having a negative EROEI—producing less energy than is used in its production.

The most exhaustive study on ethanol’s EROEI, by Isaias de Carvalho Macedo, shows an alcohol energy return of more than eight units of output for every unit of input—and this study accounts for everything right down to smelting the ore to make the steel for tractors.

But perhaps more important than EROEI is the energy return on fossil fuel input. Using this criterion, the energy returned from alcohol fuel per fossil energy input is much higher. In a system that supplies almost all of its energy from biomass, the ratio of return could be positive by hundreds to one.

Myth #2: There Isn’t Enough Land to Grow Crops for Both Food and Fuel!

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. has 434,164,946 acres of “cropland”—land that is able to be worked in an industrial fashion (monoculture). This is the prime, level, and generally deep agricultural soil. In addition to cropland, the U.S. has 939,279,056 acres of “farmland.” This land is also good for agriculture, but it’s not as level and the soil not as deep. Additionally, there is a vast amount of acreage—swamps, arid or sloped land, even rivers, oceans, and ponds—that the USDA doesn’t count as cropland or farmland, but which is still suitable for growing specialized energy crops.

Of its nearly half a billion acres of prime cropland, the U.S. uses only 72.1 million acres for corn in an average year. The land used for corn takes up only 16.6% of our prime cropland, and only 7.45% of our total agricultural land.

Even if, for alcohol production, we used only what the USDA considers prime flat cropland, we would still have to produce only 368.5 gallons of alcohol per acre to meet 100% of the demand for transportation fuel at today’s levels. Corn could easily produce this level—and a wide variety of standard crops yield up to triple this. Plus, of course, the potential alcohol production from cellulose could dwarf all other crops.

Myth #3: Ethanol’s an Ecological ­Nightmare!

You’d be hard-pressed to find another route that so elegantly ties the solutions to the problems as does growing our own energy. Far from destroying the land and ecology, a permaculture ethanol solution will vastly improve soil fertility each year.

The real ecological nightmare is industrial agriculture. Switching to organic-style crop rotation will cut energy use on farms by a third or more: no more petroleum-based herbicides, pesticides, or chemical fertilizers. Fertilizer needs can be served either by applying the byproducts left over from the alcohol manufacturing process directly to the soil, or by first running the byproducts through animals as feed.
Myth #4: It’s Food Versus Fuel—We Should Be Growing Crops for Starving Masses, Not Cars!

Humankind has barely begun to work on designing farming as a method of harvesting solar energy for multiple uses. Given the massive potential for polyculture yields, monoculture-study dismissals of ethanol production seem silly when viewed from economic, energetic, or ecological perspectives.

Because the U.S. grows a lot of it, corn has become the primary crop used in making ­ethanol here. This is supposedly ­controversial, since corn is identified as a staple food in poverty-stricken parts of the world. But 87% of the U.S. corn crop is fed to animals. In most years, the U.S. sends close to 20% of its corn to other countries. While it is assumed that these exports could feed most of the hungry in the world, the corn is actually sold to wealthy nations to fatten their livestock. Plus, virtually no impoverished nation will accept our corn, even when it is offered as charity, due to its being genetically modified and therefore unfit for human consumption.

Also, fermenting the corn to alcohol results in more meat than if you fed the corn directly to the cattle. We can actually increase the meat supply by first processing corn into alcohol, which only takes 28% of the starch, leaving all the protein and fat, creating a higher-quality animal feed than the original corn.

Myth #5: Big Corporations Get All Those Ethanol Subsidies, and Taxpayers Get Nothing in Return!

Between 1968 and 2000, oil companies received subsidies of $149.6 billion, compared to ethanol’s paltry $116.6 million. The subsidies alcohol did receive have worked extremely well in bringing maturity to the industry. Farmer-owned cooperatives now produce the majority of alcohol fuel in the U.S. Farmer-owners pay themselves premium prices for their corn and then pay themselves a dividend on the alcohol profit.

The increased economic activity derived from alcohol fuel production has turned out to be crucial to the survival of noncorporate farmers, and the amounts of money they spend in their communities on goods and services and taxes for schools have been much higher in areas with an ethanol plant. Plus, between $3 and $6 in tax receipts are generated for every dollar of ethanol subsidy. The rate of return can be much higher in rural communities, where re-spending within the community produces a multiplier factor of up to 22 times for each alcohol fuel subsidy dollar.

Myth #6: Ethanol Doesn’t ­Improve Global Warming! In Fact, It ­Pollutes the Air!

Alcohol fuel has been added to gasoline to reduce virtually every class of air pollution. Adding as little as 5–10% alcohol can reduce carbon monoxide from gasoline exhaust dramatically. When using pure alcohol, the reductions in all three of the major pollutants—carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, and ­hydrocarbons—are so great that, in many cases, the remaining emissions are unmeasurably small. Reductions of more than 90% over gasoline emissions in all categories have been routinely documented for straight alcohol fuel.

It is true that when certain chemicals are included in gasoline, addition of alcohol at 2–20% of the blend can cause a reaction that makes these chemicals more volatile and evaporative. But it’s not the ethanol that’s the problem; it’s the gasoline.

Alcohol carries none of the heavy metals and sulfuric acid that gasoline and diesel exhausts do. And straight ethanol’s evaporative emissions are dramatically lower than gasoline’s, no more toxic than what you’d find in the air of your local bar.

As for global warming, the production and use of alcohol neither reduces nor increases the atmosphere’s CO2. In a properly designed system, the amount of CO2 and water emitted during fermentation and from exhaust is precisely the amount of both chemicals that the next year’s crop of fuel plants needs to make the same amount of fuel once again.

Alcohol fuel production actually lets us reduce carbon dioxide emissions, since the growing of plants ties up many times more carbon dioxide than is created in the production and use of the alcohol. Converting from a hydrocarbon to a ­carbohydrate economy could quickly reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide.

TOD search results for "David Blume." Either the above is groundbreaking paradigm shattering revelation, or heap o' bunk. Blume says oil companies are subsidized to the tune of $15/barrel, which Rapier calculates as more than the US annual GDP, so get out that grain of salt.

I'm more impressed by proposals like Engineer Poet's for utilizing biomass.

You wrote:

Busting Ethanol Myths

Myth #1: It Takes More Energy to ­Produce Ethanol than You Get from It!
The most exhaustive study on ethanol’s EROEI, by Isaias de Carvalho Macedo, shows an alcohol energy return of more than eight units of output for every unit of input—and this study accounts for everything right down to smelting the ore to make the steel for tractors.

That study was for making ethanol from SUGARCANE in Brazil!!

Macedo, I. et al. Assessment of Greenhouse Gas Emissions in the Production and Use of Fuel Ethanol in Brazil (prepared for the Government of the State of São Paulo) (March 2004)

E. Swanson

Come on guys, lets get real here. Brings me back to me old deceased pappy who would constantly remind me that "figures don't lie, but liers figure"
It takes roughly 50,000 BTUs of heat energy to ferment and distill 1 gallon of ethanol which has about 70,000 btus in it. The high numbers for the eroei of ethanol from sugar are the result of using the bagasse as a heat source for these processes, while corn relies on fossil fuels. It could easily be argued that that same bagasse would be better used to produce electricity and run a high output electric motor on a car rather than a low efficiency ICE. This would reduce the eroei of sugar based ethanol dramatically. The real advantage of sugar is it's high photosynthetic efficiency and relatively low fertilizer requirement.But you could increase corn dramatically by using the corn stover in the same way. It would raise havoc with the soil but, what the hell, were only doing figuring anyway.

Well the American Solar Energy Society seems to like the new Energy bill

I can tolerate the Pork involved with the RFS

ASSUMING that we get both the 40% CAFE increase, and the 15% Renewable Electricity Standard.

If they scrap either of those, (As they are considering with the RES) all bets are off.


But yeah, even if BioFuels magically live up to all expectations, they aren't going to do much good.