According to the BBC, Bush’s new ethanol deal with Brazil is being called “a new moment for the car industry, fuel production and humanity in general” by Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. I guess now we know where “humanity in general” falls on the priority list. Humanity: We’re number 3!
Anyway, it doesn’t look like there’s much to love in the new agreement. Corn-based ethanol subsidies in the U.S. are spectacularly goofy boondoggles, a boost to farm states and a hindrance—not a help—to our overall energy industry. Consequently, a lot of people have looked to Brazil’s far more efficient sugar-based ethanol program as a model. But while it might make sense to drop the current tariff on ethanol imports and bring in cheap ethanol from Brazil, thus saving drivers some money at the pump, it doesn’t make sense to try to replicate their sugar-based production model here. We don’t have Brazil’s sugar-friendly climate and soil, and Brazil’s ethanol program, having been massively subsidized over the years, is hardly a free-market model. And yet, in refusing to drop the import tariff and talking up energy alternatives, it looks like that’s what Bush is doing.
Also worth noting is that, as this Washington Post story points out, environmentalists—who’ve long pushed for alternative energy research and cleaner burning fuels like ethanol—have decided that ethanol isn’t so good after all.
“The U.S. government must take a giant leap forward quickly in order to make the necessary steps to combat global warming,” said John Coequyt, an energy specialist with [Greenpeace]. “An aggressive focus on ethanol, without a federally mandated cap on emissions, is simply a leap sideways.”
Which just goes to show that there’s really no appeasing these folks: If you feed them your foot, they’ll soon want your leg.