Music: Judy Collins
by Tom Frantz of Central Valley Air Quality citizens group.
“On Feb. 19, two plants in Wasco and one in Hanford are up for final approval before City Councils.
How a small City Council has the knowledge and gets the rights to site a major refinery or two in their
city limits is beyond me. It would be great to see a few people at Hanford where the local opposition
could use some support.
"Below is my latest fact sheet. It is a work in progress and draws from many sources.”
Smell of burning ethanol
Combustion is the culprit, Ethanol is not a cure
Fact Sheet for
Corn Ethanol Plants in the San Joaquin Valley
(Wasco, Famoso, Delano, Pixley, Goshen, Hanford, Madera, Keyes, Stockton)
• Ethanol Plants, as refineries, are dangerous, noisy, and release dangerous air pollutants
Air pollutants include volatile organic compounds such as acetaldehyde, acetic acid, acrolein, ethanol,
formaldehyde, methanol and furfural. Ethanol itself is extremely flammable and very hard to control once
on fire. The plant is noisy, the weekly trains are noisy and the hundreds of daily truck trips are noisy.
Since 2003 there have been 5 or 6 major ethanol fire disasters around the U.S.
• Ethanol Plants produce Noxious Odors.
Some of the odor is sour and reeks of stale beer. These noxious smells and other pollutants will drift all
over a nearby community on the still, bad air days already common in the San Joaquin Valley.
• Ethanol Plants Increase Local Traffic
Over 50 truck trips per day of up to 120 miles roundtrip, 365 days per year, are needed to carry away the
waste product (wet distillers grains) to dairies. Dozens more truck trips per day will carry the ethanol
product to refineries and blenders around the state.
• Ethanol Plants use Massive Amounts of Water.
Each ethanol plant uses from 750,000 to one million gallons of fresh water per day. This loss of water
forces several hundred acres of good farm land out of production. It lowers water tables which makes
pumping more expensive for everyone else. Growing corn also uses lots of water which is especially
critical where the corn fields are irrigated. It takes about 2000 gallons of water in the San Joaquin Valley
to grow enough corn for one gallon of ethanol. This water use would be justified to grow food for humans
but probably not when it is used to keep American drivers in their SUV’s.
• Waste Water Streams to Local Sewer Systems will add industrial type pollutants to a system not designed for such pollutants.
Besides producing a waste water stream very high in organic matter and expensive to treat, industrial
chemicals such as algaecides and rust inhibitors can end up in the thousands of gallons waste water
produced per day.
• Making Ethanol from Corn raises Food Prices.
Food prices have risen dramatically over the past year or two. A lot of this increase is directly attributable
to the nearly doubling of corn prices over the same period. Demand for corn to make ethanol has depleted
our corn reserves at a time when malnutrition and starvation worldwide is increasing. It is immoral to
maintain the energy intensive American way of life by stealing from the stomachs of starving people.
• Taxpayers Subsidize Ethanol Production at well over $1 per gallon.
A partial list of subsidies: there are tax credits to the producers, direct payments to the blenders, farm subsidies
to the corn growers, import tariffs against Brazilian ethanol, and local economic incentives and
infrastructure from communities who accept these plants. Without these subsidies the corn based
ethanol plant is not profitable.
• Corn based ethanol costs more to produce than the selling price.
The current commodity price of just the corn necessary to produce a gallon of ethanol is almost as much
as the selling price received by the ethanol plant (note: Futures for corn are currently $5.25 per bushel
and current prices of ethanol are around $2.40 per gallon. One bushel of corn produces around 2.5
gallons of ethanol). The other costs in transporting and producing the ethanol would leave the balance
sheet in the red except for the subsidies of over $1.25 per gallon which are enough to leave large profits
for the investors.
• Corn based ethanol uses more energy to produce than the energy it contains.
The GREET analysis the producers like to quote shows a slight gain in energy of around 30% for corn
based ethanol. But, other researchers, who include all inputs in a complete “well to wheels” analysis,
find there is no energy gain at all and a significant loss instead. Since more fossil fuel energy is used
than produced it makes no sense to continue in this way.
• Ethanol in the gas tank lowers gas mileage.
Ethanol has an energy value only 70% of an equivalent amount of gasoline. This problem will only
be more apparent as the percent of ethanol in our gas tanks increases.
• Ethanol in the gas tanks of cars makes local air pollution worse.
Ethanol evaporates much more quickly than gasoline and its combustion releases more volatile
organic compounds, hydrocarbons, and nitrogen oxides. Essentially, it makes ozone formation
worse and some areas are banning its use in the summertime. Its only benefit is a reduction in carbon
monoxide emissions which is why California started using it as a replacement for MTBE.
• The promised jobs are not what the area needs.
Unless they have high levels of technical education, the only jobs for local peopl eare truck driving
positions carrying either explosive ethanol to dangerous oil refineries and blenders or carrying stinking
waste products to stinking dairies.
• Corn based ethanol actually contributes to global warming.
Because the entire process uses more fossil fuel than what is used to produce an equivalent amount of gasoline, the result is more global warming emissions rather than less. The
California Air Resources Board is in the process of analyzing the entire “well to wheel” process
of corn based ethanol. They are also going far beyond the “GREET” analysis the advocates are
using and calculating all peripheral inputs such as farm machinery manufacturing, transportation of
corn from the Midwest to California, and transportation of the waste products. They are even taking
into consideration food vs. fuel considerations and general land use priorities. They are definitely
moving towards declaring corn ethanol schemes as unviable in the effort to reduce greenhouse gas
emissions and reach one of California’s targets of 10% less carbon in our fuel supply.