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The American Spectator: Voice of Big Oil?

August 30, 2010


The August 27 blog post "Corny Capitalism" on the American Spectator website begs the question: When did The American Spectator stop fact checking?  In fact, with the outdated information used in this story, one has to wonder how long it sat on the shelf waiting for a slow, sleepy week in summer to be dusted off and electronically published.  And what is Matt Purple and The American Spectator's answer to ending this country's dangerous – both in terms of human life as well as the environment – addiction to foreign oil?  It would appear that they would prefer to continue the status quo of sending billions and billions of dollars to hostile countries like Iraq and Venezuela.  Why create American jobs, why spare the lives of our armed forces, why give our children a cleaner environment when we can continue funding dictators? Is that really your alternative to a proven and innovative green biofuel? Today Americans are using over 170 billion gallons annually of transportation fuels.  Millions of Americans are out of jobs and our Gulf states are suffering the environmental and economic effects of the worst oil spill in our history.  Is The American Spectator so determined to be the voice of Big Oil that it wants to pick a fight over 12.5 billion gallons of biodegradable ethanol which is supporting 400,000 American jobs across the economy?  Most of the jobs are in small rural communities that have been hit hard by the economic slowdown and where new jobs are especially challenging to create.  What consolation would you offer these employees who believe in their product and its patriotic, positive green mission? Perhaps the author should have read the decision and pursuant media coverage a bit better.  An initial decision from the EPA is expected in September, not November.   His allegations of wild inefficiency and corn taking over a fifth the United States land mass show a deep East Coast elitist misunderstanding of agriculture and its constant innovation.  The United States has more than enough corn for food, feed and fuel.  In fact, last year's record breaking crop of 13.2 billion bushels required seven million fewer acres than the previous record crop of 13 billion bushels in 2007 according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Purple also fails to mention that one third of every bushel used to create ethanol is returned the market as a high protein livestock feed product knows as dried distillers grain. (DDG)  The demand for DDG is growing domestically and internationally.  Its use is expanding beyond traditional livestock – cattle, chickens, hogs – to include sheep, goats and farm-raised catfish. What's inefficient about an industry that has reduced its water requirements by 26% percent with many biorefineries requiring less than three gallons of water to produce both ethanol and DDG?   Water use needs to be addressed in context.  For example, it takes 40 gallons of water to produce one cup of coffee.  Four gallons for a pound of hamburger.  300 million gallons to produce just one day's worth of newspapers across this country...and a heck of a lot more to extract oil from tar sands. [why don't we focus on how much water it takes to produce other kinds of energy – 97 gallons to produce one gallon of gasoline - Ethanol and Water - truth about ethanol and water myths]
  • Some other USGS statistics that might be of interest and add perspective:
    • It takes 1,500 gallons of water to produce a barrel of beer
    • It takes 1,851 gallons of water to refine a barrel of crude oil
    • It takes 62,600 gallons of water to process a ton of cane sugar to make processed sugar.
    • It takes 62,600 gallons to make a ton of steel.
    • It takes 2,075 gallons of water to make four tires. (To see more water trivia and facts, follow this link:
If you are going to quote the World Bank on the topic of ethanol's impact on food prices, let's at least use the most current World Bank report. It recently concluded that ethanol's impact on corn prices and food prices was minimal, compared to the impact volatile energy prices and Wall Street speculation. The bank noted on July 30, 2010 that ethanol's impact on corn prices during the 2008 spike in prices was "not as large as originally thought."  The report goes on to state that "worldwide, biofuels account for only about 1.5 percent of the area under gains/oilseeds." Therefore, "This raises serious doubts about claims that biofuels account for a big shift in global [grain] demand." And nowhere in this article is there any mention of the fact that science has proven that ethanol reduces greenhouse gasses by 40 to 60% such the University of Nebraska study published in January 2009. Last year, the addition of 10.6 billion gallons of ethanol in the American fuel supply resulted in a 16.5 million metric ton reduction of GHG emissions from motor vehicles.  That is the equivalent of removing 2.7 million vehicles from the road. Oddly, the article also fails to mention the July 2010 study, "Securing Foreign Oil:  A Case of Including Military Operations in the Climate Change Impacts of Fuels", by University of Nebraska Professors Adam Liska and Richard Perrin in which they stated "...military activity to protect international oil trade is a direct production component for importing foreign oil—as necessary for imports as are pipelines and supertankers—and therefore the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from that military activity are relevant to U.S. fuel policies related to climate change."  Including such a study would, of course, undermine the mission of preserving the status quo oil dependency of this country. I'll debate the virtues of ethanol any time, any place.  All I ask is that The American Spectator use current information, correct facts, and clearly state its alternative to domestic ethanol for reducing our dependence of foreign oil, saving the lives of Americans in uniform, creating American jobs at home, and protecting and enhancing our environment.