With gas prices nearing $3 a gallon and oil topping $70 a barrel, network newscasts in the past week have looked at how new federal requirements for ethanol additives in gasoline are actually adding to the price at the pump.
On the April 11 World News Tonight and Nightly News, ABCs Dean Reynolds and NBCs Kevin Tibbles respectively reported that transport problems for ethanol combined with a low supply were driving up gasoline prices.
CBSs Wyatt Andrews issued a similar report a week later on the April 18 Evening News citing the Energy Departments March warning that because of transport problems, ethanol, which is already blended into a third of the gas supply, could actually raise gas prices this summer.
But while ethanols problems are news to the media, conservative critics of ethanol subsidies have pointed out the fuel additives deficiencies for years.
On April 8, 2005, The Heritage Foundations Ben Lieberman warned that ethanol sales have not grown quickly enough to satisfy the ethanol industry or its allies in Congress. Lieberman warned that an ethanol mandate being debated in the Senate would raise the cost of gasoline, running against the original purpose of the energy bill.
[T]he only reason ethanol needs federal help from taxpayer subsidies, Lieberman noted, is that it is too expensive to compete on its own. Whether 5 billion, 6 billion, or 8 billion gallons, an ethanol mandate would mean significant cost increases for the driving public.
The American Enterprises Blake Dvorak  similarly warned against ethanol as a solution for high gas prices in a Dec. 9, 2003, article, calculating the heavy cost of production and the energy wasted in developing the alternative fuel source.
Using research by Cornell University scientist David Pimentel, Dvorak calculated that To plant, grow, and harvest the corn takes about 140 gallons of fossil fuel and costs about $347 per acre, while even before the corn is converted to ethanol, the feedstock alone costs $0.69 per gallon of ethanol.
More importantly, Dvorak wrote that about 29 percent more energy is required to produce a gallon of ethanol than is stored in that gallon in the first place.