German Ethanol Requirement Turns Into A Debacle

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The media today in Germany are filled with the news of the ethanol debacle.

The government has mandated that super grade gasoline be sold with a minimum content of 10% ethanol in Germany, so-called E10 gasoline. But as always, when the wishes of the government clash with the wishes of the markets and citizens, then you get chaos. That’s the case today in Germany.

Never mind that burning ethanol is an environmental debacle that leads to the destruction of forests and food shortages that lead to higher prices and more hunger worldwide, but it also burns less efficiently and causes damage to many cars. It is yet another well-intentioned program that is making things only worse. Nobody in Germany wants the stuff – neither the drivers nor the environmentalists.

WDR public TV has a report here (in German), which interviews an expert from the environmental group Bundesumwelt- und Naturschutz, Werner Reh, who calls the whole program “stupidity”:

Laws are passed where ethanol percentage requirements are mandated without even knowing where the quantities are going to come from. They have to be certified. A 35% reduction of CO2 has to be shown. Yet the indirect impacts on landuse are not even included in the calculation, and if you do that, then the entire CO2 reduction is wiped out completely.”

But German consumers are not avoiding ethanol for those reasons. Many are simply afraid that the 10% ethanol content will damage their auto engines. So what is the result? They aren’t buying the fuel blend and are opting for the more expensive super premium gasoline instead, paying about €0.40 per US gallon more.

Petrol stations aren’t selling the unwanted ethanol blended fuel. So with unsold E10 gasoline piling up, refineries will soon find themselves scaling back production and will incur additional costs, which eventually the consumer will have to bear.

Gas stations that are still offering the fuel will continue to do so. But the rest are refusing to order it. Holger Krawinkel, energy expert of the Federal Association of Consumer Centres (that’s the best translation I can come up with) offers a brilliant observation, read here:

With biofuels, the costs of CO2 savings are very high.”

Unfortunately that’s the case with almost all renewable energy forms, and not just with biofuels. And we should again ask ourselves what are these high costs for?

A couple of tenths of a degree less warming over 100 years.

Further Reading:
http://www.science-skeptical.de/blog/ich-tanke-super-plus/004057/
http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/0,1518,749199,00.html

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26 responses to “German Ethanol Requirement Turns Into A Debacle”

  1. Steve Koch

    It is a shame to put that nasty stuff in German cars.

    40% of the USA corn crop goes into ethanol. It has already raised food prices in Mexico (they use corn in tortillas a lot). Since Mexico is already having very serious problems with corruption and the drug lords (IIRC, there are more violent deaths in Mexico than Iraq), it is a shame that the USA is creating even more problems for Mexico.

    The Republicans will try again this year to cut out the subsidy for ethanol production.

  2. PeterF

    Note that the “Deutsche Welle” – a sort of government-radio – is adding another twist to the debate: it calls the 10% ethanol in E10 gasoline an “organic fuel” and the other 90% a “super fuel”, and further enriches the article with a foto of a sun flower stuck in the filler neck of a regular gas tank. Well, the sun flower is an oil crop, and its oil is sometimes used to produce Biodiesel to replace Diesel fuel, which has nothing to do with Super fuel or ethanol.

    And then quotes a minister complaining that “clarity was desperately needed…”.

    http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,,14888490,00.html

    1. DirkH

      Oi. “Organic petroleum”. Didn’t know things were that bad at the Deutsche Welle.

    2. Bernd Felsche

      I’m not putting that stuff in any of my cars.

      I want one of us to be sober on the way home. 😉

  3. DirkH

    O/T How strange. Global warming was said to be caused mostly by increased CO2 concentrations plus positive water vapor feedback. Weren’t we sure about that, especially K. Trenberth? Now, a UNEP study “”Integrated Assessment of BlackCarbon and Tropospheric Ozone” says we can delay Global Warming by 0.5 deg C until 2050 by just reducing black carbon emissions.
    Deutsche Umwelthilfe wants filters in all construction machines:
    http://nachrichten.t-online.de/un-studie-belegt-russpartikel-schaedigen-klima-schwer-/id_44749626/index

    I’ve got nothing against that particular idea, as it would make construction sites beautiful, clean places; but what i find stunning is how quickly the AGW movement can shuffle the blame around. So the order of the day becomes “eradicate black carbon”; tomorrow something else, only one thing is certain (or “highly likely”) – that it will become very warm Real Soon Now. We have the madmen churn out drivel for 30 years now and they still change their ideas every other day.

    1. Brian G Valentine

      Such people have been around since the dark ages, probably in the same proportion in the population, the difference today, is a hyperventilating media to promote them

      1. DirkH

        And that we call it science now.

  4. Ed Caryl

    We drive across the US corn belt once a year to Michigan. I’ve noticed that corn is crowding out the other grains: soy beans, oats, wheat, and barley. The corn subsidies are probably impacting vegetable crops also. It’s a huge distortion of the economy for nothing.

  5. GreenRon

    I do understand the doubts a lot of owner-drivers have with E10, but actually it is not that difficult to find out, if your car engine can deal with the 5% ethanol more in the engine. There are many lists which sum up, if your car is prepared for the new biofuel blend.

    Of course if you changed something like a pipe yourself or had some bigger repairs, then you should be more careful.

    Nevertheless I do not understand, why the recent problems with the E10 immediatly lead to the old demons the biofuel sector is facing since many years. I mean it is just an alternative to the fossil fuels and of course it has problems like the conveyance of oil also has. If you sum up all the environmental facts together probably some biofuels are not better and even worst than fossil fuels.

    BUT most biofuels (especially the 2. and 3.generation) is much better for the environment and isn’t a competitor for food. AND biofuels mean a lot of advantages for the national economy, because it keeps a much bigger part of the value chain in the country where it is produced – so it means more independency from oil and more jobs in this country.

    So biofuels are not something like “ecological angels”, but also no starvation devils.

    1. Brian G Valentine

      “Biofuels” make sense if there is nothing more to do with the material or the land used. “Biodiesel” in the US is not sustainable on its own in the US in that the cost to make it exceeds the true market value of the product – even if the oil feedstock is free (like waste cooking fat etc). “Ethanol” in the US takes 80-110% more energy (mostly as natural gas) to make it than the energy derived from it. “Cellulose” ethanol takes even more energy.

      “Renewables” of all sorts only make sense regionally. If there is a lot of wind or a lot of sun and there is nothing more to do with the land anyway, then these are justified. Otherwise there is nothing more than emotional value to some (but not all, who hate to see waste)

      1. DirkH

        IMHO, in Europe there are 2 political drivers for biofuels: 1.) reduce dependency on oil-rich nations (like Norway 😉 )
        2.) keep up the price of agricultural produce to make the farmers happy so that they vote for the government that maintains this regime.

        Don’t know about the EROEI or the economics… Does anyone have some more or less objective sources?

        1. Daniel J. lavigne

          “Dirk H” asks: “Does anyone have some more or less objective sources?”

          Try http://www.dieoff.com and “energyresources”, a “Yahoo” group.
          Meanwhile . . . .
          ****************************** 

          Maintain The Rage!
          Add your voice to reason’s call.

          Join the Tax Refusal. 

          ******************************

          http://www.TaxRefusal.com
          ******************************
          And the related effort to wake the world:
          STOP YOUR ENGINES !

          http://www.StopYourEngines.com
          ****************************** 


          1. DirkH

            From http://www.dieoff.com :
            “The “market system” is the most-inefficient distribution system in the history of the planet!”

            Well, thanks for the laugh, but i think i can’t take their numbers seriously when they write stuff like that.

  6. Beano

    The Australian Government introduced Ethanol fuel a few years back. This “Ethanol” is produced from Sugar cane and not corn. The reason for the introduction of sugar cane based ethanol was purely to keep the Sugar cane farmers from going out of business. (Cheap sugar imports were ruining the farmers)

  7. Bruce of Newcastle

    “A couple of tenths of a degree less warming over 100 years.”

    More like a couple of thousandths of a degree. Another study is out, finding CO2 sensitivity is less than half the no-feedback number, and 1/7th the IPCC median estimate.

    Add it to Lindzen, Spencer and others. Its looking like 0,4-0,6 C is the range. That means lowering CO2 by biofuels is meaningless and futile, except for the poor starving Africans.

  8. Edward

    “Never mind that burning ethanol is an environmental debacle that leads to the destruction of forests and food shortages that lead to higher prices and more hunger worldwide”

    Watching the BBC/Deutsche Welle etc, they recently have been hand-wringing over the world food prices and pontificating about droughts, projected shortages in China ad nauseum, the only thing they didn’t spout on about is the REAL reason for shortages/high prices etc……… .

    Because it don’t fit the meme – [AGW, biofuels – the green lunacy of it all], it has been noted by us and others though…….

    This from the Grauniad!! [2008]: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2008/jul/03/biofuels.renewableenergy

    The elephant in the room is being ignored once more, no sh*t I hear the realists cry!!

  9. R. de Haan

    Bio Ethanol is a debacle.

    Here is why:
    http://www.fuel-testers.com/expiration_of_ethanol_gas.html

    You must really wonder how the idiots in government force us to use products like this.
    Because Bio Ethanol blended with gasoline has a limited expiration date of three months and the alcohol mixes with water in your tank, sooner or later you will have to deal with damaged fuel pumps or engines that refuse to start. Especially if you drive a cabriolet with a summer license which is garaged for six months during the winter times.

    But if you love to take risks and make your car unreliable because it makes your life more interesting and adventurous, be my guest.

  10. R. de Haan

    How Germany and the EU screw the car industry and both Government and the car industry screw the consumers.

    The EU has set maximum CO2 emissions for cars in Europe.
    In Germany the limit is set by 130 grms CO2 per km.

    The consumers however prefer to buy cars with powerful engines.

    The average emissions of Daimler were 185 grms CO2
    From VW the number was 165 grms. and Toyota 155 grams.

    If the car industry doesn’t manage to achieve the set CO2 emission targets they will be fined.

    Daimler, only for the cars sold within the German territory, would receive a fine of 1 billion Euro.

    So what did the car industry do?

    They made a deal with Angela Merkel and achieved that the bio fuel CO2
    reduction was added to the CO2 emission budget of their cars.

    So in the end the car industry, the Agro lobby, the German government and the EU are all responsible for the bio fuel debacle.

    The time has come to get rid of all the lame CO2 targets of the EU before we are forced to drive electric golf carts.

    I have planned to boycott the entire car industry and from now on never buy a new car again.

    I will import the biggest 8 cylinders money can buy and run them on LPG.

    In fact I just bought a great 8 cylinder Range Rover from 2004 imported from South Africa for very little money.
    The car is in excellent condition and only drove 36.000 km.

    Good transport for snowy roads with it’s 4WD system.

    I scored a brand new injection LPG system and two fuel tanks on the internet under 500 Euro and I will install the system myself, so when the car goes for the German Tüv to get a German plates it will include the LPG installation.

    Screw them all is my new motto and I can only advise all of you to de the same thing. Just buy good used cars and keep them running.

    There are great cars on the market with old timer status.
    Very nice American cars up to Bentley’s and Rolls Royce’s.
    All with very low milage. You don’t pay taxes and the old timer insurance premium is low.
    Drive them on LPG and you have the cheapest way of transport available.
    Classic cars if treated well and maintained in good shape won’t loose their value.

  11. R. de Haan

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