Siphoning Off Corn to Fuel Our Cars
April 30, 2008
Interesting article in the Washington Post on the consequences of pushing for more ethanol in gasoline. Keeps the price down for cars (good for votes) and makes farmers richer (the "corn lobby" is very strong in the US).
Link: Siphoning Off Corn to Fuel Our Cars - washingtonpost.com.
Across the country, ethanol plants are swallowing more and more of the nation's corn crop. This year, about a quarter of U.S. corn will go to feeding ethanol plants instead of poultry or livestock. That has helped farmers like Johnson, but it has boosted demand -- and prices -- for corn at the same time global grain demand is growing.
This is part of a series. The article refers to a publication in Science (Feb 29/08):
Although ethanol was once promoted as a way to slow climate change, a study published in Science magazine Feb. 29 concluded that greenhouse-gas emissions from corn and even cellulosic ethanol "exceed or match those from fossil fuels and therefore produce no greenhouse benefits." By encouraging an expansion of acreage, the study added, the use of U.S. cropland for ethanol could make climate conditions dramatically worse. And the runoff from increased use of fertilizers on expanded acreage would compound damage to waterways all the way to the Gulf of Mexico.
An abstract of the article is here, and a link to the podcast -live or transcript, is here.
New Scientist has a good summary of this too, here.
The New York Times has a related Op-ed - "Dumb as we wanna be" - discussing the proposal by Clinton and McCain to just cancel Federal gas excise taxes for the summer. Would stave off rising food prices somewaht, and also let American's drive to the cottage worry free this summer. Crisis? What crisis? Article says in part:
It is great to see that we finally have some national unity on energy policy. Unfortunately, the unifying idea is so ridiculous, so unworthy of the people aspiring to lead our nation, it takes your breath away. Hillary Clinton has decided to line up with John McCain in pushing to suspend the federal excise tax on gasoline, 18.4 cents a gallon, for this summer’s travel season. This is not an energy policy. This is money laundering: we borrow money from China and ship it to Saudi Arabia and take a little cut for ourselves as it goes through our gas tanks. What a way to build our country.
When the summer is over, we will have increased our debt to China, increased our transfer of wealth to Saudi Arabia and increased our contribution to global warming for our kids to inherit.
The NYT also has an article on Obama's postition that this is only a short term fix:
Mr. Obama derided the McCain-Clinton idea of a federal tax holiday as a “short-term, quick-fix” proposal that would do more harm than good, and said the money, which is earmarked for the federal highway trust fund, is badly needed to maintain the nation’s roads and bridges.