Ethanol Energy Extravaganza

December 4, 2009
By Anonymous

We negate the resolution that, by 2040, the federal government should mandate that all new passenger vehicles and light trucks sold in the United States be powered by alternative fuels. We believe that while alternative fuels will eventually be necessary, a vague government mandate will only lead us down the wrong path. Since the resolution does not specify which fuel will need to be used, we believe that the car companies making these cars will get to decide. Given this, we should look at the most probable choice of car manufacturers. Under the laws in place, we believe the end result of this mandate would be a ethanol solution that ends up pleasing no one. We negate the resolution because ethanol is the inevitable end result of such a mandate, ethanol is detrimental to our natural resources, and a massive change to our infrastructure is impractical.

First, ethanol is the inevitable result of this mandate. Currently, the US government has shown strong support for cars that run on ethanol. As the University of Pennsylvania points out on May 28, 2008, ethanol played a feature role in the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) which called for a five-fold increase in ethanol production by 2022 and provided tax incentives and grants to ethanol producers and users. The California Energy Commission wrote in January of 2004 about some of the support ethanol gets from the federal government. Car companies and related industries would stand to benefit from infrastructure tax credits, parallel income tax credits, energy investment tax credits, grant programs, rebate programs, loan programs, property tax exemptions, excise tax exemptions, business tax exemptions, permit process exemption, fuel tax exemption, and billions in subsidies. By forcing companies to produce cars that run on alternative fuel, we encourage them to use ethanol above any other option because of the incentives in place. The National Science Foundation notes on October 9, 2007 that when it comes to incentives among alternative fuels, nothing has come even close to ethanol in government help. While there sometimes is money for research on other fuel sources, they never have a chance to truly compete with ethanol, and are projected to largely be expensive cars out of most American’s price range if they are ever made at all. We know ethanol will be the solution car companies find most profitable, now we must prove why ethanol would be a bad thing for America and the world.

Second, ethanol wastes our natural resources. We see this most clearly in our food supply. Josette Sheeran, executive director of the United Nations’ World Food Program wrote on April 22, 2008 that ethanol causes starvation and ultimately death in the hundreds of millions. The World Bank of August 2008 says that when you isolate the effect of subsidies to ethanol in the US, we can observe that they have caused a 75% increase in global food prices. This is because when we put food in our gas tanks instead of our plates, the demand for food is skewed resulting in the poor no longer getting it. Beyond just food, ethanol has a different, ironic wasted resource: oil. David Pimentel from Cornell University says on May 5, 2008 that it takes 1.29 gallons of petroleum or petroleum equivalents to produce one gallon of ethanol. In other words, you would have used less gasoline had you just put it right in your car and skipped the step of producing ethanol. Even so-called “second generation,” or cellulosic forms of ethanol, which also have heavy subsidies, are only more of a problem. Ulku G. Oktem, a senior research fellow at Wharton argues in May of 2008 that you do not return any part of the plant back into the soil, which means you have to feed more nutrition to the crops -- and that means more fertilizer. More fertilizer means you have to use more energy, specifically from oil, to create it. One has to look at the full life-cycle of ethanol production. Ultimately, there is more oil wasted from ethanol than from the fuel we currently use. Any benefits about energy independence are fallacious, and the problem of limited resources still exists.

Third, a massive change in our infrastructure is impractical. Gas stations would need to be a thing of the past. Instead, we would have alternative fuel stations. This brings up a variety of new problems. The Los Angeles Times of July 19, 2008 points out that the government has already started to shell out anywhere from 90,000 to 165,000 dollars per pump to install ethanol stations. That is per pump, not per station. The cost for each gas station in America on pumps alone would be in the millions if placed on a mass scale. This has a dangerous effect on our budgets. Using the US Census Bureau’s 2006 findings (came out on June 27, 2008) that there are over 115 thousand gas stations in the United States; the cost on the US government would be over 120 billion dollars. Even if our opponents somehow prove that ethanol is not the only solution, our economy could not withstand the economic hurt. In fact, if we somehow did end up with something different than ethanol, FuelMaker Corporation, a business that builds gas stations, points out on January 28, 2003 that for that vast majority of other alternative fuels, filling up the tank will be a completely different experience. Only 10 to 20% of the gas stations currently in America would need to exist, largely due to the fact that most alternatives would use in-home systems much more heavily than gasoline. This means 80 to 90% of the 910 thousand gas station employees would be out of a job. Clearly, such change cannot occur quickly. Given our current economic state, we would be starting in a bad place and just making it worse.

For these reasons, we urge a con ballot.

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