Ted Cruz Cozies Up To “Big Ethanol” In Iowa


Pity the poor Ted Cruz. A successful candidate today has to be as nimble as a Nureyev and as changeable as a chameleon to get enough votes to win election. Cruz  has gone on record opposing the Renewable Fuel Standard. That’s the requirement farmers shoved down the throats of American motorists 30 years ago that requires ethanol be added to our gasoline.
Corn raised for ethanol

According to Mother Nature Network, Cruz says he favors a “free and fair energy marketplace.” That means “We should embrace all of the energy resources with which God has blessed America: oil and gas, nuclear, wind, solar, and biofuels and ethanol. But Washington shouldn’t be picking winners and losers.”

In theory, ethanol will help reduce carbon emissions and shower us with a panoply of other wondrous benefits. In fact, according to a United Nations report, it doesn’t do any of that stuff. Instead, it reduces fuel economy at a time when the government is pushing car makers hard to raise the average miles per gallon of the cars they build.

The Energy Information Agency reports that when ethanol content was increased from 2% in 1993 to 10% percent in 2013, it resulted in a decline of about 3 percent in the average energy content per gallon of gasoline over that 20 year period. If the government is serious about improving our national gas mileage, it should eliminate the Renewable Fuel Standard, whose only real purpose is to put money in the pocket of corn farmers.

Iowa has a lot of farmers and they grow a lot of corn. They love forcing ordinary citizens to buy all their lovely corn. They are none to pleased with a presidential candidate who is open to reducing the amount of ethanol American drivers are required to buy. According to the Washington Post,

“The ethanol lobby is bird-dogging Cruz everywhere he goes. Upset by his pledge to phase out the Renewable Fuel Standard, employees of an industry funded group — which is run by the son of the popular Republican governor — follow Cruz everywhere he goes in a camper. They hand out flyers attacking him to people at his event. They have a field operation, run attack ads, and plaster voters who might be amenable to Cruz with mailers.”

Cruz is no dope. As a result of the pressure, he has now changed his tune, at least in Iowa. He published an op-ed piece in the Des Moines Register on January 6 entitled “I’m Fighting For Farmers Against Washington.

In it, he not only supports the Renewable Fuel Standard, he calls for eliminating the “blend wall” in the current policy which limits the amount of ethanol to no more than 15%. “If allowed full market access, mid-level ethanol products like E25 or E30 could prove quite popular with American consumers, who are increasingly concerned with fuel economy,” Cruz wrote in the Register.

Sure, Ted. That makes perfectly good sense. If 10% ethanol reduces average fuel economy by 3%, let’s make the blend 30% ethanol and reduce mileage by 9%. Way to go, Senator. That’s the kind of leadership on important issues America needs! The problem will be solved one day, when Americans no longer use gasoline to power their cars. Then Iowa farmers will have to find a way to force America to make electricity from corn.



About the Author

I have been a car nut since the days when Rob Walker and Henry N. Manney, III graced the pages of Road & Track. Today, I use my trusty Miata for TSD rallies and occasional track days at Lime Rock and Watkins Glen. If it moves on wheels, I'm interested in it. Please follow me on Google + and Twitter.
  • Erocker

    Cruz is the best we have so far to stopping this welfare program. Trump is OK with pandering and I think it will back fire as the election go on. Sanders seem concerned about the fact that corn ethanol causes more CO2 than just using regular gasoline so he may come around on this issue.

    • Steve Hanley

      I don’t know how anyone can stand being a politician today. The pressures from special interest groups are intense. You almost have to be a two faced son of bitch to get anywhere.

      I wonder why the car companies are not pushing for an end to ethanol. They would KILL to find a 3% improvement in fuel economy, one would imagine.

      Thanks for your comment.

      • Fletch

        Corn ethanol subsidies and import tariffs ended in 2011 and E10 is > 10% cheaper than E0 to buy so cutting your cost per mile by a net of >7% is a good thing.

        The car companies indeed are looking at building the engines with the best fuel economy on the face of the earth. Guess which fuel it has to be?

        See here:

        THE INDY 500:

        In 2005, the IRL used 100 percent methanol in their tanks. The fuel worked well and was more efficient than straight gasoline, but IRL officials believed there was room for improvement. In 2006, they moved to a 10 percent blend of ethanol and methanol, which was then changed to 100 percent ethanol for the 2007 season…

        …The switch to ethanol also allowed the racers to carry less fuel and make fewer pit stops, thereby increasing efficiency even more. “When the cars ran on methanol tanks had to hold 30 gallons to accommodate the fuel requirements of the cars,” Vervynckt says. “After getting the engines to perform at their full potential, there was a significant gain in mileage. Indy cars now have 22-gallon tanks. When a driver pulls in to change out his tires, he can fill up. Teams were able to match their tire and fuel stops exactly, instead of stopping for tires only, or fuel only.”

        FROM THE EPA:

        An important step toward increasing alcohol fuel demand, then, may lie in providing economical engine technology options that utilize such fuels more efficiently, to compensate for the lower fuel energy density. The FFVs produced today, however, use fairly typical gasoline engines, which, because they must retain dual-fuel capability, are not able to take full advantage of the favorable combustion characteristics of alcohols. Engines optimized for alcohol fuel use, on the other hand, may yield efficiencies that exceed that of state-of-the-art diesel engines—or, about one third higher than that of FFV engines. In earlier engine research at EPA with neat methanol and ethanol [1], for example, over 40% brake thermal efficiency was achieved over a relatively broad range of loads and speeds, with peak levels reaching over 42%.


        …These data show that on ethanol, the US FFV fleet averages about a 3% increase in the gasoline equivalent fuel economy on both driving cycles.

        FYI, the gasoline equivalent ratio also takes into account the power with the fuel economy.


        Compared to production gasoline engines:

        Fuel efficiency is ~15 – 20% improved for various drive cycles.

        Full load performance is significantly improved, and comparable to production diesel engines.


        The new federal CAFE standards are calling for a doubling of fuel mileage performance, which, Vint says, is going to send OEM’s looking for high octane numbers to improve efficiency and ethanol is the best source. Ricardo, an engineering firm with over 100 years in the business of engine design, has developed an extreme boosted direct injection engine (EBDI) to optimize ethanol blends. The 3.2 V6 gasoline engine rivals the power and torque of a much larger GMC Sierra 6.7 diesel, he said, and it delivers 3.5 percent better fuel economy than the diesel.

        FROM SCANIA:

        Scania has a number of products available for running on bioethanol – e.g. buses, trucks and waste collectors. Scania is the only vehicle manufacturer to date that has successfully produced bioethanol applications for heavy transport. Our engines adapted for bioethanol fuel have the same energy efficiency as a standard diesel engine and fulfill the Euro 5/ EEV emission level.


        According to Cummins, it delivers the power (up to 250 hp) and peak torque (up to 450 lb. ft.) of gasoline and diesel engines nearly twice its displacement…

        …Using corn derived E-85, the high thermal efficiency and power-to-weight ratio of this engine results in 50 to 58 percent lower well-to-wheels CO2 emissions compared with the gasoline engine baseline. Using second-generation, lingo-cellulosic derived E-85, the power train’s efficiency features deliver 75 to 80 percent lower well-to-wheels CO2 emissions, depending on the drive cycle.

        • Steve Hanley

          That is a LOT of good information. Thank you for sharing.

          I confess I am skeptical of all biofuels, based on my understanding of the UN report cited and linked to in the story. However, a mind is like a parachute – it only works when it is open. So perhaps I need to be open to other points of view, suc as yours.

          Again, I appreciate you taking the time to post all that information.

          • bioburner

            Looking at fuel consumption is only a minor issue with ethanol. The fuel is also a potent octane booster which allows oil companies to produce some really low quality gasoline ( for cheap) and blend in a bit of ethanol to improve the octane. Ethanol is also a powerful oxidizing agent which reduces carbon monoxide and unburned hydrocarbons in the exhaust of an ICE engine. This emissions cleanup also acts when the engine is cold and the catalytic converters are too cold to function.
            Many ethanol detractors only look to the ends of their own noses and see a slight drop in mileage and have determined its bad.

          • Steve Hanley

            I am learning a lot from this thread. Hopefully others are too. Thanks for sharing what you know with us, even though none of it will convince me to vote for Ted Cruz! ; – )

          • Fletch

            Exactly, there are more gallons of gasoline at 84 octane in a barrel of oil than there are at 87 octane along with the extra energy that would have to be used to refine it up that high so adding the 10% ethanol makes more than just 10% more fuel per barrel of oil.

          • Keep in mind, also, that the equivalent octane gains can allow for greater compression and boost in a properly optimized engine, which increases thermal efficiency and can, as a consequence, mean more HP per MPG (sorta).

        • Jim Smith

          and no mention of how destructive to the environment the massive increase in pesticide, fertilizer, water, and energy use to grow the crops. Ethanol is a complete and total scam, just like hydrogen. All farm and ethanol subsidies should be eliminated immediately.

          • That assumes corn ethanol is the only source. Florida is using switchgrass and landfill waste to generate ethanol.

          • Fletch

            Most corn is rain fed and we grew 84.6m acres in 1976 before ethanol and 88.9m acres this year. Getting rid of ethanol will not get rid of corn. We grew >113m acres of corn in 1932.

            http://www.ers DOT usda DOT gov/media/521667/corndatatable.htm

            Corn and all grains are in huge surplus and lower than 2007 while we make over three times as much ethanol:

            2007 WEIGHTED CORN PRICE =$4.20 WITH 4.7B GAL MANDATE
            2014 WEIGHTED CORN PRICE =$3.70 WITH 14.4B GAL MANDATE
            2015 WEIGHTED CORN PRICE =$3.65 WITH 15B GAL MANDATE

            Most all corn is cattle feed and corn ethanol uses the part that cattle can not digest and leaves the feed intact. The feed is actually enhanced to be healthier and more productive.

            http://www.distillersgrains DOT org/files/feedsource/beef_Klopfenstein_DDG.pdf

            More meat with fuel and healthier cattle as bonuses, who can be against that?

            There is a new movement towards soil health and cover cropping in agriculture that is growing. The cover crops sequester fertilizer, manufacture natural fertilizers, increase rain infiltration, increase beneficial insects, suppress weeds, and pretty much cure all the ills you mentioned that exist with or without ethanol. Getting rid of ethanol will cure none of those.

            Unlike hydrogen, ethanol(which is just as clean) is cost competitive and easily integrated into our cars and delivery infrastructure as Brazil and Sweden have already illustrated.

            Corn ethanol subsidies and import tariffs ended back in 2011 and ethanol is cheaper to produce than gasoline is. E85 is most often >1/3 cheaper than gasoline E0. e85prices DOT com

            There are huge other waste sources of ethanol waiting to be tapped which would be needed if we are to go above E20. There are huge amounts of food thrown away every single day that can make ethanol(food processing plants, restaurants, bakeries, etc). There is a huge amount of grass clippings and other things hauled to landfills than could be made into ethanol.

            Sewage treatment plants that grow cattails are cheaper than conventional ones and could make massive amounts of ethanol. They can even make ethanol from the straight sewage itself. There are thousands of abandoned oil platforms in the dead zone of the Gulf of Mexico which distilleries could be built with floating nets growing kelp that could make lots of ethanol and feed or natural fertilizer as a byproduct. We could get the ethanol to shore on their abandoned oil pipelines.

            If anything the 2005 ethanol mandates crashed farm subsidies as the chart illustrates. BTW, ethanol producers are somewhat insulated from corn price. If corn is high, they make it up with high distillers byproducts. If corn is low, they lose with cheap distillers grains and byproducts.

            The ethanol mandates have been blown away by actual demand by the oil companies for ethanol 6 of the 9 years they have existed. The CBO had a study done on the mandates that concluded that ethanol use would not change much with or without the mandates. There does not exist a cleaner, cheaper, and more concentrated octane booster than ethanol. Oil companies can take cheap sub grade very low octane gas and make it into grade with 10% ethanol.

        • Kevin

          One of the problems with petrol ICE is that Ethanol has less mileage simply because they are trying to make the O2 sensor, and catalytic converter, happy, so they dump the 23% more Ethanol into the engine rather than re-calibrating the O2 sensor for closer to 9:1 instead of always keeping the A/FR at 14.65:1.
          I find blending E85 increases my fuel mileage, and performance (not to mention the octane boost).
          Note: I do not recommend anyone use E85 in a non-E85 rated engine.

          • PrezNixon

            Kevin — The A/FR issue isn’t as bad when the vehicle is equipped with a turbo, because A/FR isn’t the only target anymore. With turbo cars that give the knock sensor priority, timing advance makes up much of the difference.

            I’m going to guess that if you are getting a boost in MPG, and performance with an E85 blend, that you probably drive a Subaru WRX?

            If so, that is a prime example of an engine taking advantage of other qualities of a fuel besides just energy content. Turbo cars can make up for some of the lower energy content by advancing timing.

            Advancing timing until you are just short of causing pinging has been a well known way of improving fuel economy dating back to the Model T. E85’s higher octane allows for more timing advance before the engine pings, so turbo engines can take advantage of that higher octane to get better MPG than just what the energy content of the fuel would suggest.

          • Kevin

            No; 2 different Ford Tempos (I4), a Dodge Minivan (V6), a Ford Pickup (V6), and a Dodge Caliber (I4). Each has their own tolerance for how much blend before the mileage starts to come back down, but before it was $2.19 vs. $4.30, so I got more fuel for less price, a boost in mileage, and a slight increase in performance (or less laboring of the engine). Depending on the vehicle, 3 to 5 mpg better. It may be the CPU un-retarding the timing. Note: I do not recommend anyone use E85 in a non-E85 rated engine.

  • super390

    This campaign by the Iowa ethanol lobby might explain how Trump regained his lead in the Iowa polls recently. Politicians can’t even get themselves on the ballot to face the voters unless they’ve already sold out to the right coalition.

    But Cruz is getting what he deserves by spreading the myth that America was built entirely on free market principles. He’s an Ivy League graduate; he knows perfectly well that capitalists have always rigged markets and trade, and governments have always done the dirty work to make economic expansion possible from canals to genocide. And when his daddy Rafael preaches in evangelical mega-churches about a “great transfer of wealth to the righteous”, his peers surely don’t believe that God’s invisible hand is going to the be what’s taking money from rich liberal Jews and athletes and rappers and other people who dared to get rich without acting White, and showering it on the ideologically pure. Privatization always means all the valuable public goods end up in the hands of a favored circle for pennies on the dollar.

  • PrezNixon

    (Same post without links in order to avoid waiting for approval to be posted)

    Steve, which do you prefer? 3% less energy content in your fuel, brain damage, or cancer?

    While this may sound glib, the reality is that ethanol is in fuel as a
    replacement for MTBE or leaded gasoline as a fuel oxygenate. Leaded
    gasoline causes brain damage, and MTBE causes cancer.

    What most folks don’t understand, is that gasoline by itself isn’t some magical
    perfect fuel that burns perfectly in gas engines in a pure form. It
    takes additives and “Fuel Oxygenates” to get gas to burn cleanly in gas

    If we don’t have ethanol, we need some other Fuel Oxygenate to replace
    ethanol. Which fuel oxygenates would you suggest we use instead?

    You present two false narratives:

    That if we didn’t have ethanol in fuel, that the alternative is pure
    gas. That is not the case. We would still need some additive to
    replace 10% ethanol — which replaced 15% MTBE, which replaced leaded

    2) That gasoline was somehow “pure” prior to the year 2000,
    when the reality is that much of the gas burned in the US contained 15%
    MTBE. And MTBE also contains lower energy content than gas (93,500
    btu/gal. vs 115,000 btu/gal for gasoline). MTBE fuel never contained
    the amount of energy that you claim. Because 15% MTBE fuel contained
    111,775 btu/gal, and 10% ethanol fuel contains 111,100 btu/gal. Both
    M15 and E10 contain roughly 3% less energy content than gasoline. So in
    reality, we haven’t lost much energy content at all in our fuel since
    we shifted in the 2000’s from 15% MTBE fuel, to E10.

  • PrezNixon

    For the record, E30 is too high for many non-flex fuel cars that don’t have turbos. But Brazil has been successfully running E20-E24 mixes for years. E20 with the proper lubricity and anti-corrosion additives is not a problem.

    But neither E30 or E20 is needed to get past the current “Blend Wall” issue. E15 does the job just fine. And Ford, GM, Honda, Toyota,
    Audi, Jaguar, Land Rover, Porsche, Mercedes, and Volkswagen all approve the use
    of E15 starting with all (or most) of their 2015 model vehicles sold in the US. All Chrysler/Fiat’s starting in 2016. Some car makers date all the way back to 2012/13.

    The solution to the blend wall is to simply allow people with vehicles that are approved to use E15 to have the choice to buy E15 if they want, while maintaining E10 as a choice for everybody else. That coincidentally is what the current E15 laws say. Any gas station selling E15 must maintain a dedicated pump for E0-E10 gas, so nobody is ever forced to use E15 if they don’t want to use it in their cars, small engines, or boats.

    If flex-fuel vehicle owners want E30, they should be legally allowed to buy that too, since their cars consume that with no problem.

  • smartacus

    The loudest opposition to ethanol should be coming from “Big Food”
    …and small-engine manufacturers.