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Ethanol and Its Discontents



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Years’ worth of billions in subsidies and import tariffs apparently are just not enough to keep afloat the boondoggling bust that is corn ethanol. “The Renewable Fuels Association, the industry lobby, is seeking $1 billion in short-term credit from the government to help plants stay in business and up to $50 billion in loan guarantees to finance expansion,” reports today’s Wall Street Journal.

The commodity bust has clobbered corn ethanol, whose energy inefficiencies require high oil prices to be competitive. The price of ethanol at the pump has fallen nearly in half in recent months to $1.60 from $2.90 per gallon due to lower commodity prices, and that lower price now barely covers production costs even after accounting for federal subsidies. Three major producers are in or near bankruptcy, including giant VeraSun Energy.

So here they go again back to the taxpayer for help. . . . The lobby would also like Congress to ease the 10% limit on how much ethanol can be added to gasoline for conventional cars and trucks — never mind the potential damage to engines from such an unproven mix.

Of course, the ethanol industry wouldn’t even exist without the more than $25 billion in taxpayer handouts over the past 20 years. Congress only recently passed energy and farm bills that further greased ethanol production with a 51 cent a gallon tax credit, corn subsidies, plus increasingly stringent biofuel mandates.

Corn ethanol is a failed experiment; and, unlike the alleged “consensus” on anthropogenic global warming, the acceptance of ethanol’s folly is becoming more and more widespread. Why? Because we’re not talking centuries-hence computer projections and doomsday scenarios but rather actual results (or lack thereof), wasted subsidies, land clearing and its resulting carbon debt, an energy-inferior fuel, and harm to global food prices.

But on the heels of the federal stimulus package’s $17 billion in alternative-energy handouts, the president-elect’s links with the ethanol industry, and his plans to revolutionize our economy with green/clean/alternative energy jobs, don’t expect the fat lady to sing her ode to ethanol quite yet.




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