I think the big question here is what are boaters to do? Are we all going to have to spend thousands to replace our fuel tanks and other components that have issues? I believe there needs to be a push to make ethanol free gas available.
Ethanol is somewhat corrosive, but it won't "eat" aluminum. It may cause alluminum to corrode faster, but it's doubtful that the effect would even be noticeable.
The feds mandated the addition of an "oxygenate" in fuels a number of years ago. This was either MTBE or ethanol. MTBE was found to cause serious pollution issues (contaminated groundwater or some **** like that) so it was banned or is in the process of being banned. Therefore 10% ethanol is mandated by default.
One of the oil companies had a big tank of MTBE leak into the ground water at Lake Tahoe, contaminating the lake and all of the wells in South Lake Tahoe.
Unfortunately, Lake Tahoe is in the middle of the the tree hugger Sierra Club country. MTBE was banned shortly after in California, then the rest of the country followed.
They should have been more vocal about the effects of ethanol. It should be on every pump. Everybody knows cigarettes cause birth defects, but they still put it on the package.
Hopefully, this suit - amongst other backlash - will quell this stupid mandate for ethanol usage:
Fuel Choices, Food Crises and Finger-Pointing
By ANDREW MARTIN
The idea of turning farms into fuel plants seemed, for a time, like one of the answers to high global oil prices and supply worries. That strategy seemed to reach a high point last year when Congress mandated a fivefold increase in the use of biofuels.
But now a reaction is building against policies in the United States and Europe to promote ethanol and similar fuels, with political leaders from poor countries contending that these fuels are driving up food prices and starving poor people. Biofuels are fast becoming a new flash point in global diplomacy, putting pressure on Western politicians to reconsider their policies, even as they argue that biofuels are only one factor in the seemingly inexorable rise in food prices.
In some countries, the higher prices are leading to riots, political instability and growing worries about feeding the poorest people. Food riots contributed to the dismissal of Haiti’s prime minister last week, and leaders in some other countries are nervously trying to calm anxious consumers.
At a weekend conference in Washington, finance ministers and central bankers of seven leading industrial nations called for urgent action to deal with the price spikes, and several of them demanded a reconsideration of biofuel policies adopted recently in the West.
Many specialists in food policy consider government mandates for biofuels to be ill advised, agreeing that the diversion of crops like corn into fuel production has contributed to the higher prices. But other factors have played big roles, including droughts that have limited output and rapid global economic growth that has created higher demand for food.
That growth, much faster over the last four years than the historical norm, is lifting millions of people out of destitution and giving them access to better diets. But farmers are having trouble keeping up with the surge in demand.
While there is agreement that the growth of biofuels has contributed to higher food prices, the amount is disputed.
Work by the International Food Policy Research Institute in Washington suggests that biofuel production accounts for a quarter to a third of the recent increase in global commodity prices. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations predicted late last year that biofuel production, assuming that current mandates continue, would increase food costs by 10 to 15 percent.
Ethanol supporters maintain that any increase caused by biofuels is relatively small and that energy costs and soaring demand for meat in developing countries have had a greater impact. “There’s no question that they are a factor, but they are really a smaller factor than other things that are driving up prices,” said Ron Litterer, an Iowa farmer who is president of the National Corn Growers Association.
He said biofuels were an “easy culprit to blame” because their popularity had grown so rapidly in the last two or three years.
Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa, called the recent criticism of ethanol by foreign officials “a big joke.” He questioned why they were not also blaming a drought in Australia that reduced the wheat crop and the growing demand for meat in China and India.
“You make ethanol out of corn,” he said. “I bet if I set a bushel of corn in front of any of those delegates, not one of them would eat it.”
The senator’s comments reflect a political reality in Washington that despite the criticism from abroad, support for ethanol remains solid.
Representative Jim McGovern, Democrat of Massachusetts, said he had come to realize that Congress made a mistake in backing biofuels, not anticipating the impact on food costs. He said Congress needed to reconsider its policy, though he acknowledged that would be difficult.
“If there was a secret vote, there is a pretty large number of people who would like to reassess what we are doing,” he said.
According to the World Bank, global food prices have increased by 83 percent in the last three years. Rice, a staple food for nearly half the world’s population, has been a particular focus of concern in recent weeks, with spiraling prices prompting several countries to impose drastic limits on exports as they try to protect domestic consumers.
While grocery prices in the United States increased about 5 percent over all in the last year, some essential items like eggs and milk have jumped far more. The federal government is expected to release new data on domestic food prices Wednesday, with notable increases expected.
On Monday, President Bush ordered that $200 million in emergency food aid be made available to “meet unanticipated food aid needs in Africa and elsewhere,” a White House statement said.
His spokeswoman, Dana M. Perino, said the president had urged officials to look for additional ways to help poor nations combat food insecurity and to come up with a long-term plan “that helps take care of the world’s poor and hungry.”
Skeptics have long questioned the value of diverting food crops for fuel, and the grocery and live- stock industries vehemently opposed an energy bill last fall, arguing it was driving up costs.
A fifth of the nation’s corn crop is now used to brew ethanol for motor fuel, and as farmers have planted more corn, they have cut acreage of other crops, particularly soybeans. That, in turn, has contributed to a global shortfall of cooking oil.
Spreading global dissatisfaction in recent months has intensified the food-versus-fuel debate. Last Friday, a European environment advisory panel urged the European Union to suspend its goal of having 10 percent of transportation fuel made from biofuels by 2020. Europe’s well-meaning rush to biofuels, the scientists concluded, had created a variety of harmful ripple effects, including deforestation in Southeast Asia and higher prices for grain.
Even if biofuels are not the primary reason for the increase in food costs, some experts say it is one area where a reversal of government policy could help take pressure off food prices.
C. Ford Runge, an economist at the University of Minnesota, said it is “extremely difficult to disentangle” the effect of biofuels on food costs. Nevertheless, he said there was little that could be done to mitigate the effect of droughts and the growing appetite for protein in developing countries.
“Ethanol is the one thing we can do something about,” he said. “It’s about the only lever we have to pull, but none of the politicians have the courage to pull the lever.”
But August Schumacher, a former under secretary of agriculture who is a consultant for the Kellogg Foundation, said the criticism of biofuels might be misdirected. Development agencies like the World Bank and many governments did little to support agricultural development in the last two decades, he said.
He noted that many of the upheavals over food prices abroad have concerned rice and wheat, neither of which is used as a biofuel. For both those crops, global demand has soared at the same time that droughts suppressed the output from farms.
Elisabeth Rosenthal and Steven R. Weisman contributed reporting.
Global warming rage lets global hunger grow
By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, International Business Editor
Last Updated: 1:08pm BST 15/04/2008
We drive, they starve. The mass diversion of the North American grain harvest into ethanol plants for fuel is reaching its political and moral limits.
"The reality is that people are dying already," said Jacques Diouf, of the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). "Naturally people won't be sitting dying of starvation, they will react," he said.
The UN says it takes 232kg of corn to fill a 50-litre car tank with ethanol. That is enough to feed a child for a year. Last week, the UN predicted "massacres" unless the biofuel policy is halted.
We are all part of this drama whether we fill up with petrol or ethanol. The substitution effect across global markets makes the two morally identical.
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Mr Diouf says world grain stocks have fallen to a quarter-century low of 5m tonnes, rations for eight to 12 weeks. America - the world's food superpower - will divert 18pc of its grain output for ethanol this year, chiefly to break dependency on oil imports. It has a 45pc biofuel target for corn by 2015.
Argentina, Canada, and Eastern Europe are joining the race.
The EU has targeted a 5.75pc biofuel share by 2010, though that may change. Europe's farm ministers are to debate a measure this week ensuring "absolute priority" for food output.
"The world food situation is very serious: we have seen riots in Egypt, Cameroon, Haiti and Burkina Faso," said Mr Diouf. "There is a risk that this unrest will spread in countries where 50pc to 60pc of income goes to food," he said.
Haiti's government fell over the weekend following rice and bean riots. Five died.
The global food bill has risen 57pc in the last year. Soaring freight rates make it worse. The cost of food "on the table" has jumped by 74pc in poor countries that rely on imports, according to the FAO.
Roughly 100m people are tipping over the survival line. The import ratio for grains is: Eritrea (88pc), Sierra Leone (85pc), Niger (81pc), Liberia (75pc), Botswana (72pc), Haiti (67pc), and Bangladesh (65pc).
This Malthusian crunch has been building for a long time. We are adding 73m mouths a year. The global population will grow from 6.5bn to 9.5bn before peaking near mid-century.
Asia's bourgeoisie is switching to an animal-based diet. If they follow the Japanese, protein-intake will rise by nine times. It takes 8.3 grams of corn feed to produce a 1g of beef, or 3.1g for pork.
China's meat demand has risen to 50kg per capita from 20kg in 1980, but this has been gradual. The FAO insists that this dietary shift is "not the cause of the sudden food price spike that began in 2005".
Hedge funds played their part in the violent rise in spot prices early this year. To that extent they can be held responsible for the death of African and Asian children. Tougher margin rules on the commodity exchanges might have stopped the racket. Capitalism must police itself, or be policed.
Even so, the funds closed their killer "long" trades in early March, causing a brief 20pc mini-crash in grains. The speculators are now neutral on the COMEX casino in New York.
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What about the California state retirement fund (Calpers), the Norwegian Petroleum fund, the Dutch pension giants, et al, pushing a wall of money into the $200bn commodity index funds?
They have undoubtedly bid up the futures contracts, but the FAO says this has no durable effect on food prices. These index funds never take delivery of grains. All they do is distort the shape of the maturities curve years ahead, allowing farmers to lock in eye-watering prices. That should cause more planting.
Is there any more land? Yes, in Russia, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan, where acreage planted has fallen 12pc since Soviet days. Existing grain yields are 2.4 tonnes per hectare in Ukraine, 1.8 in Russia, and 1.11 in Kazakhstan, com-pared with 6.39 in the US. Investment would do wonders here. But the structure is chaotic.
Brazil has the world's biggest reserves of "potential arable land" with 483m hectares (it currently cultivates 67m), and Colombia has 62m - both offering biannual harvests.
The catch is obvious. "The idea that you cut down rainforest to actually grow biofuels seems profoundly stupid," said Professor John Beddington, Britain's chief scientific adviser.
Goldman Sachs says the cost of ethanol from corn is $81 a barrel (oil equivalent), with wheat at $145 and soybeans $232. It is built on subsidy.
New technology may open the way for the use of non-edible grain stalks to make ethanol, but for now the only biofuel crop that genuinely pays its way is sugar cane ($35). Sugar is carbohydrate: ideal for fuel. Grains contain proteins made of nitrogen: useless for fuel, but vital for people.
Whatever the arguments, politics is intruding. Food export controls have been imposed by Russia, China, India, Vietnam, Argentina, and Serbia. We are disturbingly close to a chain reaction that could shatter our assumptions about food security.
The Philippines - a country with ample foreign reserves of $36bn (Britain has $27bn) - last week had to enlist its embassies to hunt for grain supplies after China withheld shipments. Washington stepped in, pledging "absolutely" to cover Philippine grain needs. A new Cold War is taking shape, around energy and food.
The world intelligentsia has been asleep at the wheel. While we rage over global warming, global hunger has swept in under the radar screen.
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