Cellulosic ethanol is purportedly the future of biofuels, at least if you listen to ethanol’s supporters. While the topic of cellulosic ethanol is a subject of some interesting research, digging around the internet for information mostly turns up flag-waving lobbyists seeking more help from the federal government.
In a recent news release, ethanol producer POET Energy announced that the director of it’s Project LIBERTY would be giving a project status update on the planned cellulosic ethanol plant at a pair of Iowa-based events. (Project LIBERTY has its own website which talks a lot about energy dependence and independence and includes a lot of stars and stripes, red-white-and-blue imagery.)
The news release included a link to “a documentary about POET’s pilot cellulosic ethanol plant“, which I thought might be interesting. As it turns out it was interesting, though more for what it revealed about the reliability of its content than for what it said about ethanol.
About one-third of the way through the POET video, in the context of discussing criticism of ethanol policies and specifically when discussing the effect of grain ethanol on food prices, it said, “Many claimed the diversion of corn to make fuel drove up food costs, a myth later disproved by independent economists.”
As the narrator read the bolded phrase, the video flashed an image that looked like a newspaper column. It went by so fast the first time I couldn’t read more than the first few words of the headline: “Big Food’s Smear Campaign….”
Curious who these independent economists were, I stopped the video and scrolled back to the image (at about the 3:41 minute mark). The full headline said, “Big Food’s Smear Campaign Exposed by New Group of Ethanol Producers.” The subhead said, “Growth Energy formed to promote clean, green, high-tech, homegrown biofuels.” Turns out the column was just a Growth Energy news release.
Growth Energy also has a website, which sports more flag-waving imagery, and describes the group in more detail. Is this group the source of the purported “independent economists”? The Washington, D.C., based group was, as advertised, formed and funded by the subsidized ethanol industry. I don’t think “independent” means what POET thinks it means.
For a little more insight into how ethanol is grown in Washington, D.C., and perhaps insight into the current administration’s commitment to science-based public policy, read Timothy Carney’s column in the Washington Examiner: “Obama EPA’s ‘science’ pleases powerful ethanol lobby.”
Growth Energy has a video, too. It begins with a flag, fades to a baseball stadium, and soon enough the Statue of Liberty. If I would have stuck with it a little longer I’m sure I would have got a picture of apple pie, Mom, and probably a boy scout or ten marching in a Fourth of July parade somewhere in America’s heartland. But I had had enough.
Flag-waving by lobbyists in pursuit of government-granted privileges always turns my stomach.