Newt Answers Critics Over Ethanol Comments

posted at 2:55 pm on February 4, 2011 by Jazz Shaw

Newt Gingrich got himself in a bit of hot water in some conservative circles recently with his support of Ethanol subsidies. It drew the scorn of the Wall Street Journal editorial board, who implied that the former speaker might have more than a passing financial interest in propping up King Corn. On Thursday Newt took to the “letters” pages of the WSJ to fire back. In the interest of fairness, we should allow him to make his case.

Second, I am not a lobbyist for ethanol, not for anyone. My support of increased domestic energy production of all forms, including biofuels and domestic drilling, is born out of our urgent national security and economic needs. It is in this country’s long-term best interest to stop the flow of $1 billion a day overseas, in particular to countries hostile to America. Think of what $1 billion a day kept in the U.S. economy creating jobs, especially energy jobs which cannot be outsourced, could do. Hence, I have supported measures to increase domestic energy production throughout my career in public life.

For instance, in 2008 at American Solutions, we launched a petition drive that gathered 1.5 million signatures in support of lifting the moratorium on new offshore drilling in America. I also wrote a book, “Drill Here Drill Now Pay Less,” and co-produced a movie with my wife, Callista, “We Have the Power,” that argued for an “all of the above” energy strategy which would maximize all forms of domestic energy production.

Nevertheless, the Journal attempts to equate my career-long commitment to increased American energy production with the anti-energy agenda of President Obama. This is a laughable charge, especially considering I have been one of the most vocal opponents of the president’s energy policies since he took office.

In 2009, I testified before Congress against the Obama administration’s cap-and-trade energy-tax scheme. I have also spoken out against the administration’s move to use the EPA to regulate carbon and the new barriers to offshore energy development imposed by the administration since the Deepwater Horizon accident last summer.

There are many areas of energy policy that Newt Gingrich gets right, and he takes great pains in this letter to point them out. For those he should be applauded. Unfortunately, the reader is left wanting after reading this defense.

The meat of the subject is not whether or not Newt favors energy independence and stands opposed to the president’s drilling permitoreum. That’s never been in question as far as I know. The specific issue which the Wall Street Journal broached was his support of ethanol additives and subsidies. To this, Mr. Gingrich seems to offer short shrift, saying only that he’s in favor of an “all of the above” policy.

I’ve also been in the “all of the above” camp, but we have to be realistic about the science, and after many years and hundreds of billions of dollars, ethanol’s use as a major energy source has turned out to be limited at best and rife with unique problems of its own. Newt fails to address any of the specifics in his rebuttal.

By the same token, being perceived as having gone off the beam on one issue out of so many is hardly reason to throw the baby out with the bath water. But I would definitely like to hear more from him with specifics as to why he’s staying in the ethanol camp.

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darwin-t on February 4, 2011 at 11:57 PM

Ethanol production is a scam and bad public policy. It’s disappointing to hear Newt continue to support this wasteful boondoggle. DD would transfer the wealth of Americans to farm owners and agri-giants, while wasting the energy that it took to produce ethanol.

Jaibones on February 5, 2011 at 12:00 AM

“My support of increased domestic energy production of all forms, including biofuels and domestic drilling, is born out of our urgent national security and economic needs.”

So, we import oil to make fertilizer to grow corn, we use tractors using imported oil to plant and harvest corn. We use oil in the transport of the corn and the ethanol. In the end we spend extra money on creating this ethanol when we could have spent it on something more productive to get a fuel that is just as heavy as gasoline but contains 20% less energy. All of these misallocated resources distort the market, not only for energy, but for food. More land is cleared for corn production, less land is available for all the other food we need. Price increases in corn increase prices of other food, as more demand is made for the cheaper products, eventually bringing the prices to equilibrium.

Newt has an entire think tank working for him, in his name, and he knows all of this, but political hackery of the calculus of Iowa demands that he throw America under the bus so that he does not damage his possibility of winning there. This man has no morals any more, if he ever did have any. Put it to rest Newt, there is no way in hell your going to be President, and almost no chance of you being vice president. I will not just not vote for you, but I will vote for Obama as a protest vote. No man who sat next to Nancy Pelosi talking about the need to destroy our economy in order to stop the phantom menace of globull warming will sit in the White House espousing the ideal that he is the conservative.

astonerii on February 5, 2011 at 12:38 AM

I just don’t know what to think of Newt. Just such a freaking shame.
The man is a genius. I wish I had his grasp of history. But somewhere in there he just cracked from the pressure or something.

I swear the real Newt keeps getting abducted by aliens or something. I think a spaceship landed back in 96 or 97 and took the real Newt to examine his brain and replaced him with an android Newt so no one would suspect. But they got the programming wrong on the android Newt. Probably because they don’t fully understand our society. So they programed android Newt with some leftist crap by mistake. The real Newt gets released from time to time and doesn’t understand why all these conservatives suddenly hate him for something he didn’t say (see, he doesn’t know anything about android Newt of course, so he’s all dumbfounded and mad at conservatives and has to constantly explain he never said what he’s being accused of saying).

I’m sure it’s something like that. The real Newt just couldn’t possibly believe all this garbage the android Newt is saying. Man, it would be so weird if they met by accident face to face.

JellyToast on February 5, 2011 at 1:45 AM

Although the comments on this thread tend to be a “fact-free” zone, I will buck this trend.

A recent report done at the Argonne National Laboratory concluded that with today’s production techniques ethanol returns 34% more energy than it takes to produce it. However, since a substantial portion of that energy is in the form of natural gas (used to produce fertilizer, run irrigation wells, and complete the distillation), the real return of liquid fuel used to produce the ethanol was actually a net gain of 6.24 BTU of energy for every BTU of liquid energy used. If you haven’t noticed, practically every vehicle in this country runs on liquid fuel, and we have trillions of dollars invested in this infrastructure. While you can run cars on compressed natural gas, their range is very limited and there is only limited support for them at this time. For instance Honda makes a very nice car for this fuel system, but you could not drive from Denver to Kansas City because you would run out of fuel before the next refueling system.

Ethanol increases the octane of gasoline it is mixed into. Much of the poor gas mileage would be offset if car engines were properly compress to run on high content ethanol fuel, due to the increased performance of I.C. engines. Think of diesel engines, they get much of their superior mileage performance strictly due to the high compression ratios that they operate at, though a secondary factor is the slightly higher BTU’s in the fuel.

For instance normal gasoline contains 114,000 BTU, while 10% gasoline/ethanol contains about 112,000 BTU. How is that possible when ethanol only contains 76,000 BTU? Well if you mix 9 gallons of gasoline with 1 gallon of ethanol, you only end up with 9 1/2 gallons of E10 fuel due to the unique properties of the ethanol molecule. So with a change from 114,000 to 112,000 BTU are you going to see any real change in gas mileage? No, because modern automotive engines now have “knock sensors” as part of their ignition controllers, and what they do is advance the spark timing as much as possible to achieve the most power on the least fuel. So since the octane is a couple points higher with E10, your mileage may even improve slightly.

When you process corn to make ethanol, all you are doing is removing the carbohydrates. What is left from your original 56 lbs of corn (one standard bushel) is 18 lbs of protein. If left wet, this is shipped to local feed yards to feed cattle. If dried out, is can be shipped to anywhere in the world as animal feed. There is a real shortage of protein in the world, while carbohydrates are easy to find locally (native grasses). I should also mention that in that original 56 pounds of weight, there is also slightly more than 8 pounds of water. Currently you produce about 2.7-2.8 gallons of ethanol with each bushel of corn. Anyway, it is much more cost effective to ship dried distillers grain than whole grain when you consider the net amount of protein. Not so important in a rich country, but very important to the third world.

Finally, the money paid to farmers generally stays in the country. It takes a lot of very expensive equipment to run a modern family farm and it tends to wear out over time. Most of that equipment is produced in the United States by companies like John Deere, and Case to name large companies. But there are also many small companies involved also. Perhaps as many as 10% of all jobs in America are related to agriculture. Unlike most of America, agriculture has recovered from the recent recession and can help the rest of the country through our buying power.

Highplains on February 5, 2011 at 2:09 AM

A recent report done at the Argonne National Laboratory concluded that with today’s production techniques ethanol returns 34% more energy than it takes to produce it.

It takes a lot of very expensive equipment to run a modern family farm and it tends to wear out over time.

Highplains on February 5, 2011 at 2:09 AM

When you add in the energy needed to make the extra farming machinery, the energy is needed to produce ethanol is about equal to the energy you get out it. So a lot of people can make money off of it, the only one that loses is the taxpayer.

Every study concludes that switchgrass or some other economically unviable product would be better, but let’s use corn for now. Why not skip the corn fraud and wait until something actually beneficial comes along? Sure some jobs would be lost, but the reason we don’t have real jobs is because costs here are too high. Government wasting of money keeps prices high and keeps everyone dependent on the government.

pedestrian on February 5, 2011 at 3:35 AM

When you add in the energy needed to make the extra farming machinery, the energy is needed to produce ethanol is about equal to the energy you get out it. So a lot of people can make money off of it, the only one that loses is the taxpayer.

So instead let’s involve 90% of the population and get them to spend most of their time to grow food and relive the glorious 19th century? First off, you need to limit the global population to about one billion people, because without NH3 fertilizer that is all that could be sustained. You can thank Haber-Bosch for the process and the fine German chemists of the early 20th century.


What everybody would be without liquid fuels.

BTW, the total world wide consumption of oil is currently around 27 billion barrels each year. If place together it would be a volume of oil that is 1.03 cubic miles, or a mile square that is 5,438 feet tall. Sounds like a lot, but if you spread all that oil uniformly across the entire surface of the Earth, it would take 12 years of the total world’s consumption of oil spread over the entire Earth’s surface to be as thick as a single sheet of standard copier paper.

The USDA pegs average corn production at about 160 bu/acre, or about 0.2 lbs/sq. ft. That minor amount of corn would contain 1400 BTU’s of energy. Certainly more energy than a thin film of oil. The world’s entire consumption of energy is roughly equivalent to the amount of energy the sun produces in 500 pico Seconds. Or if you will, the length of time it takes light to travel 6 inches (speed of light is 186,000 miles/second). The total amount of energy that falls on the Earth is over 6000 times the amount we consume of “fossil fuels” as well as hydro and wind and solar combined. Agriculture is a very cost effective solar collector.

Ethanol subsidies go to ethanol producers and fuel processors (read that as big oil companies). I would agree that the oil companies don’t really need the subsidies, but you should also understand it takes about two gallons of crude oil to deliver one gallon of gasoline to your car. The other huge cost of oil is the amount of the defense budget that is spent on making sure the oil can get here from the middle east.

Highplains on February 5, 2011 at 4:30 AM

The hidden costs of ethanol: engine damage.

Rotten hygroscopic ethanol: big repair bills.

Does ethanol damage engines? YES.
Does phosphate-free detergent mess-up dishes? YES.
Do CFLs suck? YES.

Breaking windows to make work for glazers won’t fix this economy. Gingrich should know that.

Liberalism: wrecking everything for everyone everywhere. It’s an easy job, so idiots have to do it.

Feedie on February 5, 2011 at 4:55 AM

Newt, a brilliant unprincipled man is like a 500 HP race car without a driver. “Brains for sale” is one big hell of a waste of God’s gift.

Don L on February 5, 2011 at 6:23 AM

real return of liquid fuel used to produce the ethanol was actually a net gain of 6.24 BTU of energy for every BTU of liquid energy used.

So with a change from 114,000 to 112,000 BTU are you going to see any real change in gas mileage? No, because modern automotive engines now have “knock sensors” as part of their ignition controllers, and what they do is advance the spark timing as much as possible to achieve the most power on the least fuel.
Highplains on February 5, 2011 at 2:09 AM

Two issues. The study you refer to compares liquid input with (liquid output plus energy credits)to arrive at the misleading 1:6.4 BTU increase. Not an apples to apples comparison. The 2002 USDA study found at calculates an input energy requirement of 77,228 BTU and estimates the Low Heat Value of Ethanol as 76,000 BTU and the high heat version as ~84K BTU. Since cars use the lower heat method of energy extraction the input to output comparison is 77,228:76,000 or a net energy loss. Using the by-products as cattle feed makes economic sense, but is not germane to the energy discussion. The energy credits mentioned above are derived from feeding the byproducts to cattle, not actual energy production.

Second, with regard to gas mileage, Consumer Reports tested e85 in a 2007 Tahoe. The money line:

Fuel economy, however, dropped across the board. In highway driving, gas mileage decreased from 21 to 15 mpg; in city driving, it dropped from 9 to 7 mpg. You could expect a similar decrease in gas mileage in any current FFV.

Consumer Reports link:

Corn ethanol production does not make economic sense and will not make economic sense until technology changes the ratio of input to output to a net positive with a multiple of at least an order of magnitude.
Newt, by claiming to embrace an “All of the Above” energy policy is actually advocating wasting economic resources on boondoggles such as this. For that, the Anthropogenic Global Warming stance, and sitting with Nancy on the couch (a crime against humanity itself) he will not receive my vote. I do like his “Drill Here, Drill Now, Pay Less” strategy.

instugator on February 5, 2011 at 7:55 AM

“There are lies, damn lies, and statistics.” – Disraeli

Regardless of the minutiae of energy production and usage outlined by Highplains and others, and the concomitant discussion of the relative merits of ethanol and oil, the fact remains that our energy markets are terribly distorted by our incessant government meddling through regulations, restrictions, and subsidies. Fascistic crony “capitalism” must be eliminated in toto so that the markets can reach a true sustainable equilibrium. Does Gingrich advocate this? That should be all that matters!

The US has no need of Middle Eastern oil. There are significant domestic sources, as well as other energy alternatives, in this hemisphere. As has been the case since WWII, the US taxpayer is forced to subsidize the production and protection of Middle Eastern oil not for our own use, but for the use of our European and Asian “allies”. The on-going fifty year Middle Eastern conflict has been created by our foreign policy choices, aided and abetted by a Democrat-driven claque of international “One World Order” fascists and Marxists and their RINO colleagues. Does Gingrich advocate the elimination of all this? I don’t think so!

Anyone who sympathizes with the “Global Warming” hoax would certainly not be an advocate for free markets, neither would they be staunch supporters of American liberty and freedom!

blackelkspeaks on February 5, 2011 at 8:19 AM

Newt fails to respond to WSJ’s criticism of his comments about ethanol. I for one do not support all of the above as an energy policy.

Corn ethanol is a proven failure. At the very best fossil fuel energy in equal energy out. Greenies are starting to realize ethanol does more harm than good. Food cost is impacted by using food for fuel.

TomLawler on February 5, 2011 at 8:59 AM

I swear the real Newt keeps getting abducted by aliens or something.

JellyToast on February 5, 2011 at 1:45 AM

Bill Clinton(IIRC): Newt is from Mars
Tony Blankley’s retort: Bill Clinton is from Uranus

During the 1995 budget negotiations there was this anecdote where Newt would tell the House Repubs he would stand strong against Clinton, then meet with Clinton in the White House, and come back and rave about Clinton’s ideas. At which point John Kasich would take his pencil out and hold it in his fist over his head like a doctor’s examining flashlight, pointing it at Newt’s eye, and look at Newt quizzically, pretending to question his sanity.

Paul-Cincy on February 5, 2011 at 9:46 AM

the U.S. ethanol industry now produces the equivalent of more U.S. oil than is imported from Saudi Arabia, so ethanol has become important to U.S. oil security.

I’ve run ethanol in every pickup, car, boat, bike, lawnmower, auger motors, chainsaws for now over 20 yrs without problems. I see the ave city man now blaming his own poor maintainance on ethanol.

Food prices are not high. Prepared food and speciality foods are high priced. The food industry is given consumers what they want. Convenience and they are paying dearly for it.
a large part of their food bill is PROCESSING and PACKAGING ( microwave ready and single serve, maid service as I like to call it) and the farmers share is nickles to them. We can’t raise theif food bill much and we can’t lower it much.
It doesn’t cost much to buy a pork roast a few spuds and a can of sweet corn. Mighty fine eating for a few dollars…..Applebees 6 nights a week costs money.

sbark on February 5, 2011 at 10:25 AM

If the Telegraph article is true, then there better be an investigation by Congress. This can’t possibly be ignored by the lame stream media much longer.

Kinda surprised no reaction from the WH yet. Too busy preparing for the Super Bowl party!

tomshup on February 5, 2011 at 11:29 AM

Read the report for yourself.

Their results were 1 BTU of energy in, 1.34 BTU out
and more important 1 BTU of liquid energy in, 6.34 BTU out in the form of liquid energy.

My numbers on BTU/gallon and mileage was based on using E10 fuel, not E85. The reason that the fuel mileage is so poor running E85 in the Consumer Reports is because of the low compression flex fuel engine that has to run on low octane (87) gasoline as well as E85. Simply make no sense from a thermodynamic point of view, to operate the engine at a 9:1 compression ratio when the fuel (E85) is capable of operation at 14:1. Doing so is completely biased against ethanol. So no, don’t ever use E85 fuel in a flex-fuel engine if you can avoid it.

If you compare the fuel mileage of a typical diesel powered car to the equivalent gas powered car, the diesel powered car will get about 25% more mileage. However diesel fuel only has 10% higher energy than gasoline. The extra mileage is due to the thermodynamic efficiency of operation at a higher compression ratio.

Highplains on February 5, 2011 at 11:31 AM

Highplains on February 5, 2011 at 2:09 AM

The length of your post gains no additional credibility with me.

If Ethanol is such a great idea, why do we have to subsidize it and force people to use it???

The only way one can support ethanol is to ignore all of the portable energy alternatives, ignore the true costs to the consumer, and accept the premise that “cost is completely unimportant”.

landlines on February 5, 2011 at 1:55 PM

If ethanol is so great, why do we ban the import of cheaper ethanol from sugar cane?

It’s a SCAM to enrich ADM, Conagra, and other big producers.

I will never vote for anyone ever again who supports this theft of taxpayer money to pay off Iowa.

Adjoran on February 5, 2011 at 2:02 PM

It would be futile to argue against evidence that Newt is not one of the most intelligent opportunists ever born in America.

That Newt would fleece the flock of humanity for his own personal profit, touting Global Warming despite his knowledge that it was a hoax, is reason for everyone to NEVER vote for Newt back into public office where he absorbs tax funds for his pork faster than taxes can be collected.

House Speaker Newt Gingrich personally destroyed the 1994 Republican Conservative Revolution in Congress. His agenda is all about amassing his own power and profits, and given his legislative knowledgeable expertise, TAKING FROM TAX PAYERS is easier for him than having to EARN his own private income. Newt was the one who set into play the crooked House legislative protocol that prevents votes on bill prior to submitting bills to the potus to sign into law — the very practice that proved America’s utter downfall with the manifestation of ObamaCare containing unconstitutional federal mandates, etc. It takes an evil genius to accomplish so much destruction, particularly while hiding under the guise of some sort of “conservatism” –that being NEOCONSERVATISM and now most recently RECONSTRUCTED NEOCONSERVATISM, aka progressive statist authoritarianism a la Republican Party elitist establishment.

maverick muse on February 5, 2011 at 2:41 PM

The more I hear from the Republican potential potus candidates, the more obnoxious they prove to be.

maverick muse on February 5, 2011 at 2:45 PM

portable energy alternatives

And these are what?

Highplains on February 5, 2011 at 3:11 PM

If ethanol is so great, why do we ban the import of cheaper ethanol from sugar cane?

That would be money going out of the country, might as well just use more oil. It might be good for their farmers and their companies that make equipment, but not so good for jobs in this country.

Highplains on February 5, 2011 at 3:14 PM

I aints in tha mood tahday. (Aunt Erma burned the Opposum Pie).

Ain’t Newt that RINOwretch that left his dying wife and then whined about being on tha back of the plane fur that funeral over in Israel?

Can’t these stinkin Republicans dues any better?

PappyD61 on February 5, 2011 at 4:24 PM

Highplains on February 5, 2011 at 11:31 AM

That study did not include the energy needed to for capital equipment for the farm of ethanol plant. The fact that only a small amount of liquid fuel is needed, but the net output of energy is about equal to the input, means that ethanol is basically a means to convert coal into a liquid fuel. That’s fine, because direct coal liquefaction methods are not yet cost effective.

I just wonder if all the eco-weenies supporting ethanol are aware it is just a way to power cars by using coal.

pedestrian on February 5, 2011 at 6:28 PM

You can run a carburetor car on most anything

Injected, not so much.

Caststeel on February 5, 2011 at 8:12 PM

Newt, you convinced me. Ethanol is just a wonderful fuel. So let’s stop the subsidy.

Fred 2 on February 5, 2011 at 9:11 PM

Newt is unreliable. He raises your hopes only to dash them again and again. Sorta like the Washington Redskins thru the years. He is wrongheaded on the ethanol issue no matter his excuse memo. Newt! Stop drinking your product, you little hamster you!

Sherman1864 on February 6, 2011 at 6:50 PM

Highplains on February 5, 2011 at 2:09 AM

Your MPG calculations do not match even the ethanol industry study done here. Note the summary statistic of 1.5% lower fuel mileage using E10 as opposed to using standard unleaded.

Furthermore, note the description of cost associated with blending. I doubt we are seeing any of the claimed decrease in cost due to ethanol, given what has happened to the price of corn. Also, the costs are based on a math description of the relative costs of unleaded gasoline and ethanol, not the at pump price we consumers see.

We have a Government-mandated program which, if the industry were left to its devices, it would not implement. If the government needs to mandate something, you can bet it’s expensive to someone.

unclesmrgol on February 6, 2011 at 9:24 PM

Note the summary statistic of 1.5% lower fuel mileage using E10 as opposed to using standard unleaded.

Let’s see regular gasoline 114,000 BTU
E10 112,000 BTU
112/114 means 1.75% less energy but you only have 1.5% loss in mileage. Sounds like the engine runs slightly better on E10. Raise the compression ratio and it would improve again.

Highplains on February 6, 2011 at 11:34 PM

Another interesting tidbit.

Due to the 113 octane rating of Ethanol, refiners can squeeze an additional 3.2% more gasoline out of a barrel of oil.

Highplains on February 6, 2011 at 11:48 PM

Newt is a RINO and his years in Washington didn’t do anything to change him. He is just as guilty of pork as any of them and can only think of ways to spend more money foolishly. If he had actually cut spending and brought the GOP around to conservative ideals, he might be a contender, but as it stands he is nothing but a posing Huckabee look alike.

flytier on February 7, 2011 at 6:25 AM

blink on February 7, 2011 at 9:46 AM

Plus, I thought that the big problem with ethanol was moisture absorption… which is why it has to be trucked instead of pumped through our underground pipes.

Where is any mention of transport costs? Semi tanker trucks still burn diesel, right?

dominigan on February 7, 2011 at 11:59 AM

Um, you’re going to have to explain this one. Are you claiming that refiners can get more gasoline without any loss in diesel, jet-fuel, etc. yield?

Yes, since the ethanol has a much higher octane value (113), it allows the refiner to use more of the stuff they crack out of a barrel of oil and still get 87 octane gas. Doesn’t change the amount of diesel or jet fuel coming out of the process since those are higher end products. Just allows them to use more of the crap at the bottom.

I was surprised too.

Highplains on February 7, 2011 at 1:44 PM

Now, how on earth can you say that something which yields 85% less mpg makes the engine run better?

I’m using real numbers of the BTU energy in the fuel. And assuming the 1.5% loss in mileage is correct. So with slightly less energy the mileage drop should be the same, but instead you get greater mileage than what the BTU ratio alone would indicate. I attribute this slight improvement to the knock sensors advancing the ignition timing ever so slightly.

Often people make claims of huge mileage drops, but fail to factor in all the variables. For instance cold weather causes a big drop off in mileage, because the air is denser, so the engine is using more air with each stroke, thus need additional fuel, the oils in the transmission and differential are thicker, thus have higher losses no doubt dozens of other factors at work. In some places, the onset of winter with it’s colder operation is the same time the Ethanol fuel is switched for regular gas due to it’s oxygenated effects to mitigate air pollution.

Highplains on February 7, 2011 at 1:57 PM