The Environmental Dangers of Ethanol

Initially, ethanol seemed like a good idea, presented as a viable and renewable alternative fuel source. Unfortunately, the corn-based biofuel has not lived up to environmental expectations and may present more significant challenges. Ethanol blends produce air pollution, reduce fuel efficiency, increase corn and related food prices, and potentially cause engine damage to the vehicles which use them, according to this year’s report from the Environmental Protection Agency.

Environment Impact of Biofuels

In June, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released Biofuels and the Environment, a second triennial report to Congress which reported these findings and concluded corn-based biofuels are likely not the best approach for ensuring environmental health. Specific conclusions from the report include:

  • Land Use

Approximately 90 million acres are used annually for growing corn, with more than 40% dedicated to producing corn-based ethanol. This increased demand for corn cultivation creates a lack of biodiversity, deforestation, and competition for land.

  • Air Quality

Emission impacts of ethanol production and distribution should include considerations for volatile organic compounds, particular matter, and nitrogen oxides.

  • Water Use

Growing corn requires water, and the increased demand for corn-based ethanol is stressing aquifers and surface watersheds.

  • Soil and Water Quality

Biofuel feedstocks negatively impact soil and water quality through erosion, loss of nutrients, and excessive use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

  • Invasive Species

Due to genetic modifications, herbicide-resistant feedstock, and associated herbicides, cultivation practices within the biofuel industry are creating herbicide-resistant weeds.

EPA’s Plan of Address

Recognizing a critical need for a plan of action, the EPA proposes several mitigation factors, including:

  • More research to better understand land use changes due to biofuel feedstock production
  • A federal effort to improve efficiency and sustainability in the biofuel supply chain
  • A complex evaluation of the impact of environmental and natural resources through biofuel production
  • Improving understanding of changes locally to enhance information resources for mitigation of adverse impacts
  • Encourage, incentivize, and promote conservation and sustainability in agriculture.

Learn More

At Central Metal Fabricators, we see the value in environmental care, EPA guidelines, and appropriate actions for conservation. As a leader in gas turbine silencing equipment since 1948, CMF produces a wide range of products used by both the standard fuel and biofuel industries.

To learn more about our initiatives and expansive line of products, please contact us. Stay current with the latest industry trends by following our blogTwitter, and connecting with us on LinkedIn.

Wind & Solar Energy Versus the Electric Grid: What’s the Best Energy Source When It Comes to Manufacturing?

As renewable energy sources, namely solar and wind energy, increase in popularity, many manufacturers are wondering where this leaves them.

What is the Dilemma?

As an industry, manufacturing is a large energy consumer. The paramount worry for many in the field is that their own energy sources will be siphoned off by grid operators when solar and wind drop short of expectations. The unreliable true nature of renewables is an unfortunate reality; if it is not a sunny or windy day, then neither energy source is strong.

From a manufacturing standpoint, the growing number of large-scale solar and wind facilities makes for an unreliable grid and reduces power quality, all of which are worrisome because they can equate with safety and reliability issues at the manufacturing site. These risks lay squarely on the shoulders of the energy consumers, with some of the biggest being manufacturers. While the eco-friendly nature of solar and wind as power sources are plentiful, there are issues with adopting them across the board.

Recently, the Industrial Energy Consumers of America (IECA) spoke to the Washington Examiner. As per IECA CEO and President Paul Cicio, “Industrials are not in the business of generating and selling power. We are in the business of producing manufactured products.” Cicio adds that manufacturers cannot meet internal demands for power or steam if they act like a consumer power plant.

Looking for Solutions

It is the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), federally chartered regional transmission organizations, and self-regulating system engineers of these markets that look over the issues. But the FERC’s latest Primary Frequency Response notice of proposed rulemaking will likely only serve to exacerbate the problems and put more responsibility on manufacturers. Unfortunately, utility operators and mechanics often do not have in-depth experience of manufacturing processes, thus not understanding the reliability that is vital for manufacturers.

Currently, the North American Electric Reliability Corporation is assessing the situation based on manufacturers’ grievances and any changes will occur through the standards design process.


Central Metal Fabricators

As a leading manufacturer of gas turbine silencing equipment, it is our responsibility to bring awareness to various circumstances that influence the manufacturing industry.

Here at Central Metal Fabricators, our experts will continue to keep you abreast of developments as we fabricate, assemble, and install top-quality gas turbine silencing equipment and related metal products.

Contact us today for your next order, and follow our blog, as well as connecting on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Understanding The Clean Power Plan

By now, you’ve likely heard of the Clean Air Act: a law designed by the federal government, under which the EPA must create and enforce regulations that reduce contaminants that are deemed harmful to people and the planet.

Under that sweeping, umbrella Act, there’s the Clean Power Plan, one of the EPA’s answers to that charge; the plan involves new standards aimed at reducing carbon emissions from power plants.

Of course, most Americans want less pollution and cleaner air—in essence, a healthier planet. But many aren’t sure exactly what the Clean Power Plan does, and others in varying industries wonder how it will affect them. Let’s break it down:

What is the Clean Power Plan?

Under the plan, there are specific carbon emissions rate reduction targets, and they vary by each state. Each state has flexible options by which to achieve these goals, with options ranging from making efficiency upgrades at fossil fuel plants to utilizing more renewable energy resources. States can use these options however they choose, and can submit their own individual courses of action. If all goes according to plan, emissions from the electricity sector, for instance, would be reduced by 30% by 2030.

How Will it Affect Plants?

The first differentiating factor to consider is how the plan will affect new plants versus modified and existing ones; there will be differences between the two, with more emphasis on change for existing plants. The reason, according to those in charge, is that existing plants are the largest source of national carbon dioxide emissions, with much of it coming from older coal power plants. Newer coal plants are considered much more efficient.

Existing natural gas plants will also be affected and will be expected to make significant changes, but as they are typically newer than coal plants, and emit about half the amount of greenhouse gases as coal, they can possibly expect fewer drastic changes.

Either way, changes will not be expected to happen overnight: states will have a year to come up with a specific plan once the EPA’s final proposal is presented (probably mid-2015). Specifically, changes will be expected to come through improving energy efficiency, upgrading and updating plants, and other ways that state leaders agree upon.

Renewable Energy

Within the overall plan, a very large emphasis is being placed on renewable energy and encouraging states to make use of it. Those who work in or with the wind and solar energy industries will see a major boost—this includes manufacturers making parts or equipment used by these industries.

While changes are coming, you can rest assured they’ll most likely be gradual, and we can hope they’ll be for the best.

Fracking’s Past, Present, And Future Success

Chances are, most American have heard the term “fracking” by now. Whether they live in an area where fracking is currently being done, or have no idea what it actually is, what all people should be made aware of is this: according to many experts, fracking “has created a revolution in U.S. oil and natural gas production.”*

Oil Derrick

One of these experts is H. Sterling Burnett, a senior fellow with the National Center for Policy Analysis. In addition to the quoted statement above, Burnett points out these facts:

  • Growth of natural gas reserves is unprecedented
  • The U.S. is producing oil at rates not seen since the 1970s
  • Natural gas—the “fuel of choice for generating base load electricity” —could not play this role without fracking
  • Just 10% of the 516 trillion cubic feet (TCF) of natural gas located between NY and West Virginia
  • Could satisfy two years of total U.S. consumption
  • The Marcellus shale reserve, called “the Saudi Arabia of natural gas” by geologists, could contain over 410 TCF of gas

Burnett also points out that the Marcellus reserve is just one shale formation; there’s the California’s Monterey Shale, Eagle Ford, Barnett, and more. Assuming the lowest projected recovery rates for Marcellus still leads to the estimation that that reserve could meet the country’s demands for at least 14 years.

What’s more? Fracking has already proved to be revolutionary; in just the past few years, crude oil production has increased by two million barrels each day. Our increasing oil and gas independence, coupled with lower prices, has proved to be an across the board economic and industry booster, even playing a major part in bringing manufacturing back in a very big way.

In short, fracking is a huge part of the country’s past, present, and future economic success, and its potential is infinite, as long as it continues as its proponents hope it will.


The Clean Power Plant Rule: 3 Questions and Answers

With the EPA’s proposed Clean Power Plant Rule hearings now in the final stage, there are many questions surrounding them. There’s also plenty of controversy. Spanning a range of industries and locations, many people wonder how it will affect them; some are in favor, while others h2ly oppose.

In the interest of clarifying some confusion, we’d like to offer some information and help answer some questions regarding what you need to know.

How will coal-dependent states be affected?

Should the rule pass, many fear that the price of electricity will rise, especially for coal-dependent states. However, in actuality, some of the least coal-dependent states, including Maine, California, and Idaho, have the lowest electricity bills. At the same time, states such as West Virginia, the most coal-dependent, have much higher electricity bills. States like Iowa, with its nation-leading percentage of renewable electrons, have the lowest prices of electricity in the country.

How will electricity consumers be affected, overall?

The proposal aims to make states reach emission reductions through the most economical ways possible, while eliminating wasteful spending. By investing in renewables, focusing on efficiency, and balancing being clean with affordable, the goal is to make the cost to electricity consumers negligible, and in the future, lower than it is now.

Is this a purely partisan/Obama plan?

The short answer is no. Actually, George Bush proposed a “four pollutant” clean-up plan in 2000, but it was squashed due to opposition. Furthermore, the Supreme Court has ordered Obama to regulate carbon emissions following the Clean Air Act. The proposal, therefore, is not original to Obama, nor is it purely partisan. Both sides have tried to make it happen, and now the president must act on it. Supporting it is not supporting a party or a politician, and if all goes as planned, the hope is that it’s good for everyone.

Greenhouse Gas Regulations Will Once Again Be Reconsidered

In what “just may be the biggest environmental case to reach the Supreme Court in years”, the Coalition for Responsible Regulation v. EPA will reach the courts on September 30. The coalition is challenging the EPA’s greenhouse gas regulations under the Clean Air Act.


The act regulates carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles, and was first challenged by the state of Massachusetts (and other states and cities) in 2007, and subsequently upheld. Since then, the EPA added more rules and regulations, including emissions standards for cars and trucks, stating that greenhouse gases are dangerous and contribute to climate change. In a controversial decision, the EPA also included “emitting facilities,” adding additional rules that could lead to great economic challenges to those forced to comply.

Following many petitions and challenges, the issue will be revisited this month, with many anxiously awaiting the decision.

While we are in no way opposed to a clean environment—in fact, just the opposite—we are opposed to over-regulation. With these rules we believe they are trying to regulate issues that are not currently possible.  The regulations included in this act are many steps beyond working toward a cleaner environment, and make it extremely costly for the industry. As a result, many current plants will be forced to shut down, which will put Americans out of work while also raising the future cost of electricity for everyone.

We hope that the court’s decision is the right one for the industry and the American people.