News and analysis about energy in California with an eye toward renewables.

Bill Bars Corn Ethanol From State Alt Fuels Program

Not welcome in California bioofuels | Photo: jster91/Flickr/Creative Commons License

Among the flurry of action -- or inaction -- on renewable energy bills in the last days of the state's legislative session comes a striking but largely unheralded statement of policy from the state of California. Last week, Governor Brown signed into law a bill that excludes corn-derived ethanol fuel from the state's Alternative and Renewable Fuel and
Vehicle Technology Program.

Assembly Bill 523, authored by Republican assembly member David Valadao, excludes ethanol made from the edible parts of corn from any loans, grants or incentives included as part of the alternative fuel program. Ethanol from stalks, husks, cobs and other non-edible ag waste isn't affected by the law.

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It's an interesting law because ethanol production from corn is more or less a political third rail in many other parts of the country, especially the midwestern states where much of the nation's corn is grown. Corn ethanol has long been criticized for consuming as much or more energy to produce than it provides, and for pushing the retail price of corn higher when increasing numbers of people are hungry.

That last criticism is the rationale Valadao offered for his bill, but a look at a list of the bill's supporters offers a bit of nuance. In addition to predictable endorsements from the Sierra Club and the Union of Concerned Scientists, AB 523 had heavy support from California's agricultural sector. High corn prices don't benefit California agriculture, as relatively few farmers here grow corn. Instead, farmers here generally buy corn as feed for livestock, meaning that high prices due to ethanol production cut into their bottom lines. AB 523's endorsers thus included cattle ranchers, dairy producers, and poultry and egg farmers: a politically powerful force in California, especially in Valadao's very conservative San Joaquin Valley district. Politics makes strange bedfellows, and so, at least in California, does corn.

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About the Author

Chris Clarke is a natural history writer and environmental journalist currently at work on a book about the Joshua tree. He lives in Joshua Tree.
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It is reported that corn along I-5 south of Sacramento California uses lots of water to grow corn for GMO ethanol for my gas tank.

Should Governor Brown consider a waiver supported by the UN?

Is fed EPA confused when a Lodi, California bread baker is taken to federal court to collect $625,000.00 fine for generating ozone from the ethanol made by baking bread while mandating GMO corn fuel ethanol in our gas that may be a bigger deal than MTBE to our ground water supply.

Do water folks check for ethanol in our drinking water?
Drinking ethanol maybe rated as causing cancer but MTBE never has.

Does ATF audit for the payment of the $17 tax of food grade corn ethanol from fuel refiners?

Let's see, a 5,000 gallon tanker truck can move around a $85,000.00 tax and a reported $0.50 cent per. gallon process can move fuel grade to food grade.