Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Insanity of Ethanol

Makes more sense than paying to convert it to ethanol.

I am waiting for a Republican candidate to renounce ethanol tax breaks and subsidies. In the meantime, I reiterate the shear insanity of the policy of burning food as a motor vehicle fuel. I have made many of these arguments before. The insanity of our current policy of providing tax incentives to turn corn into ethanol are many:
  1. Ethanol yields 30% less energy per gallon than gasoline, so it harms fuel efficiency.
  2. It is not clear whether or not the production of ethanol actually produces more energy than it consumes. Regardless, it produces less energy than drilling for oil.
  3. It is heavily subsidized. That means the free market has determined that ethanol is not an efficient way to produce fuel for vehicles. Subsidies are almost always a waste of taxpayer dollars, ethanol is no exception.
  4. Ethanol subsidies increase the price of corn, which in turn increases the price of meats. Essentially, we are burning food and driving up its price. World food prices are rising, increasing starvation. Ethanol has been fingered. This is a moral issue as well.
  5. Ethanol isn't good for the car engine of the most fuel efficient car in my family. So any purported benefit is mitigated by the damage it does to fuel efficient vehicles.
  6. Corn is not the most efficient way to produce ethanol. Switchgrass is more efficient.
  7. Drilling for domestic oil reserves would reduce dependency on foreign oil far more effectively than ethanol subsidies. The foreign oil dependency argument is the favorite one advanced by conservatives.
  8. And lest we not forget, conversion of farmland to subsidized corn production crowds out barley production, raising the price of beer.
More expensive, thanks to Iowans.

The only reasonable explanation for the continuation of the policy is that it favors Iowa, which holds the first test of Presidential electoral strength due to its first in the nation caucuses held in January of each election cycle. Who will be the candidate of principle to announce his or her disdain for ethanol in Des Moines?


  1. Don't hold your breath.

    SoCons, folks are willing to offend-- but corn farms?

  2. Re: #8. Though, true, I've it on pretty good authority that the real cost drivers for breweries especially micro-breweries are labor, equipment and lease.

    But, yeah, eff ethanol.

  3. Wouldn't legal compliance be a pretty big cost, too? (although that includes labor, equipment and lease.....)

  4. Small question, slightly off topic: What do you think of Daniels saying he "isn't ready to debate Obama an foreign policy?" I think we need to have another Beer Summit soon and do another straw poll.


  5. You can't make a good sour mash whiskey without corn.