PoliGraph: Klobuchar energy claim wrong

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Recently, DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar teamed up with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Gov. Mark Dayton to talk about alternative fuels.

“We are making almost as much biofuels now as we import oil from Canada,” Klobuchar said during an April 20, 2011 news conference.

Klobuchar got this one wrong. The United States imports a lot more oil than the biofuel it produces.

The Evidence

The most recent annual data on oil imports and ethanol production is from 2010. According to the Energy Information Administration, U.S. companies produced a daily average of 883,000 barrels of ethanol and biodiesel combined. Meanwhile, the nation imported an average of 1.88 million barrels of oil from Canada.

So, Canadian oil imports are almost twice the amount of biofuel we produce.

Klobuchar based her calculation on the actual gasoline produced from oil imported from Canada, says spokesman Linden Zakula. Generally speaking, a 42 gallon barrel of oil makes about 20 gallons of gasoline. “In the future she looks forward to using the more exact term,” Zakula said.

Among other sources, Klobuchar’s staff points to a report put together by Growth Energy, a Washington, D.C.-based group that represents ethanol producers, which shows that in 2009, the U.S. made about 750,000 barrels of ethanol daily and imported a little over 1 million barrels of gasoline from Canada.

But even then, energy experts point out that a gallon of ethanol doesn’t contain as much energy as a gallon of gasoline. They say comparisons among fuels are more accurate when they’re based on energy content.

The Verdict

Klobuchar said that we make nearly as much biofuel as we import oil from Canada. In fact, the U.S. imports about twice as much Canadian oil as domestically produced alternatives.

Her claim is false.


YouTube, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on biofuels, April 20, 2011

Minnesota Public Radio News, USDA chief discusses renewable energy in Minn., by Tom Scheck, April 20, 2011

The Energy Information Administration, Fuel Ethanol Overview, March 2011

The Energy Information Administration, Biodiesel Overview, March 2011

The Energy Information Administration, Monthly U.S. Net Imports from Canada of Crude Oil (Thousands of Barrels per Day), accessed April 27, 2011

The Energy Information Administration, Biofuels in the U.S. Transportation Sector, February 2007

The Energy Information Administration, Crude Oil and Total Petroleum Imports Top 15 Countries, March 30, 2011

Growth Energy, Ethanol: America’s Growth Energy, accessed April 26, 2011

U.S. Department of Energy, Gasoline Gallon Equivalent (GGE) Definition, accessed April 26, 2011

Interview, Linden Zakula, spokesman, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, April 26, 2011

Interview, Chris Thorne, spokesman, Growth Energy, April 26, 2011

Interview, Steven G. Grape, U.S. Energy Information Administration, Office of Oil, Gas, and Coal Supply Statistics, April 26, 2011

Interview, Elizabeth Wilson, Associate Professor of Energy and Environmental Policy and Law at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, April 26, 2011


The Humphrey School

  • Karl

    How much in campaign cash has Klobuchar taken from Big Ag and the ethanol industry?

    Follow the money.

  • If, as PoliGraph suggests, we are to compare energy content, then grain ethanol is a winner over gasoline. The USDA’s research shows we get 2.3 Btus in energy from every 1 Btu put into ethanol production. That’s a better than 2 to 1 net gain with ethanol — more than twice what you get from conventional gasoline.

    Further, in comparing fuels, we could compare social values. Would a fuel that creates US jobs, cuts emissions by 59 percent and reduces our dependence on foreign oil be desirable? Of course it would. And we have that with ethanol.

    I’m sad to say I find this report kind of nitpicky. Clearly Sen. Klobuchar intended to compare ethanol to gasoline. And clearly, in that regard, she was ultimately correct in her findings.

  • Jason V

    @ Chris Thorne

    Your point about energy in vs energy out in ethanol is not the correct comparison. Energy density of ethanol when being burned is lower then gasoline, hence the significantly lower mpg of flex-fuel vehicles when running on E85.

    Also: the claim of lower emissions has been thoroughly debunked. See for example:


  • Kevin Gilbertson

    There is nothing positive about the production of ethanol or biofuels except for the farmers receiving the bloated price of grains used to produce it and the producers of the fuel who get the government subsidies to produce a fuel nobody wants.

    It would be nice if more Minnesotans would take the blinders off and see Senator Klobuchar for the spend, spend liberal she truely is.

  • @Jason V

    Here is the USDA report proving that ethanol is a net energy gain:


    Also, your analysis rests on assumptions that are quickly going out of date, particularly as more high-compression engines replace low-compression engines in automobiles. Ford, GM and others are recognizing that by moving to high-compression engines designed to better use ethanol’s higher octane, higher-oxygen fuel properties, they are getting better mileage and are making strides toward meeting CAFE standards.

    Auto-engineering firm Ricardo LLC has the design for an engine that is optimized for ethanol — delivering better mileage than gasoline, with torque equal to diesel. Read more here: