Want to feed the world? Stop burning ethanol

Mixing ethanol with gasoline is a bad idea – for many reasons.  But there is one reason in particular that should worry you.

A recent AT blog post by S. Fred Singer titled "Trump and the end of the 'Oil Crisis'" reasoned that it might be time to remove the ethanol mandate:

My hope is that Congress, at some point, will remove the requirements for gasoline additives, especially for the corn-based bio-fuel ethanol.

This is long overdue, and Singer lists some good reasons to remove that mandatory blending.  In researching an article years ago, this reporter stumbled over a shattering revelation that makes the use of ethanol seem completely unacceptable.  The question was posed: "Just how much food value are we burning up for the sake of  this federally imposed silliness?"

The answer was found in a paper by D.K. Albino, published by the New England Complex Systems Institute: "The total amount of ethanol produced in the US in 2011 was 13.95 billion gallons, enough to feed 570 million people that year."

Now, that number is so large that it does not seem real.  So your humble narrator made his own research to find "the real number."  (Don't worry – multiplication and division is as tough as the math gets, and we will not "show our work.")

Begin with the final product: ethanol.  While it is not your typical staple food, its caloric content is well known, being 20,607 calories per gallon.  A warning is appropriate here that even pure ethanol produced for fuel is "denatured" to avoid taxation as liquor.  That is just another way of saying "poisoned."  So nobody is actually going to live on ethanol alone.

We know that about 1,500 calories are a daily minimum for the average man (1,200 for women).  We will average those to at 1,350 calories/day.  So 13.95 billion gallons are enough calories to feed 583 million people for that year.  Thus, we have confirmed the number from Albino, et al. to within 2.2 percent!

The point can be made that alcohol is not food – especially when denatured.  So shall we look at the corn before it is brewed and distilled?  Each gallon of ethanol requires 2.8 bushels of corn.  Each bushel provides 86,800 calories.  The corn used to make those same 13.95 billion gallons – in 2011 – of ethanol would feed 878 million people – again, for that entire year! 

Obviously, the process of distillation is far from perfect, and one would expect a loss.  The process also has a leftover (about 10% by weight), called distiller's grain, which is used for cattle feed. 

In conversations on this subject, objections are brought up about the type of grain used for ethanol.  It is called "field corn" and is, indeed, different from sweet corn that you find in the stores.  Nevertheless, field corn is used to make cornmeal and corn oil, which people also consume.  To quote Mr. Spock, "a difference that makes no difference is no difference."

There is no way around this conclusion: burning that much food is simply not acceptable, and it should stop.  By the way, in 2017, there were sixteen billion gallons of ethanol produced for fuel, and those numbers are 669 million people for ethanol itself and one billion people for the corn.  Remember, this does not include any other fuels.  Biodiesel is made from a variety of other foods – 11.6 billion gallons in 2017.

Destroying food is never a good idea.  Is this reporter the only one whose mother told him (long, long ago), "Eat all your food!  People are starving in Europe!"?  This is a horrible statistic!  We are burning (in the U.S. alone) enough food to feed one of every eight people in the world!  How can even the "environmentalists" let this go on?  Stop it!

If you experience technical problems, please write to helpdesk@americanthinker.com