The Ethanol Pushback

So too much of a good thing IS possible. Or at lest, that is how it seems after digesting a buffet of anti-ethanol media lately. From Rush Limbaugh to John Stossel, pundits across the country are tarnishing the name long touted to be the big answer to imported oil. In the latest scathing editorial, Stossel reminds us of my observation of ethanol as a political scapegoat:


“Ramp up the availability of ethanol,” says Hillary Clinton.


“Ethanol makes a lot of sense,” says John McCain.


“The economics of ethanol make more and more sense,” says Mitt Romney.


“We’ve got to get serious about ethanol,” says Rudolph Giuliani.


And the media love ethanol. “60 Minutes” called it “the solution.”


Clinton, Romney, Barack Obama and John Edwards not only believe ethanol is the elixir that will give us cheap energy, end our dependence on Middle East oil sheiks, and reverse global warming, they also want you and me — as taxpayers — to subsidize it.


Stossel goes on to outline what he and the CATO institute deem the “bakers’ dozen” ethanol “myths.” He hashes out every anti-ethanol talking point I’ve ever heard from the alleged energy imbalance where anti-ethanol forces claim it takes more energy to produce ethanol than ethanol actually provides, to the claim that ethanol actually puts off more greenhouse gases than regular unleaded.


I don’t think the likes of Stossel actually care if we produce ethanol or not – I think they chafe at the notion that Congress has allowed the fledgling industry to be subsidized. Fiscal conservatism is a great thing – but the vitriolic angst with which some attack corn producers and ethanol refiners unsettles me a bit. After all, the relatively small federal dollars spent either subsidizing corn production or the processing of ethanol is a pittance when compared to even the bevy of pork barrel projects commandeered by long-serving legislators suffering from Beltway Fever. Spending should be cut by the Federal Government, but I would suggest we need to start looking else where within the bloated entitlement system rather than trying to disembowel an agricultural safety net that keeps the world well-fed.


The one good thing to come from Stossel’s column, however, is a clever graphic from the uber-talented Cox & Forkum called “Corntopia.” Check it out for a good chuckle. On the other hand, my dear friend and college roommate Jesse Buxton had an interesting point to add:
Neither ethanol nor bio-diesel is an immediate solution to a growing problem. We have been researching these for a long time, but we are still in its adolescence when it comes to development. I can see twenty or thirty years from now having a viable infrastructure for alternative fuel in place, and thats a liberal estimate.


At any rate, ethanol is becoming one of those issues that engenders a fair amount of rancorous contention. We seem to have a lot of those anymore…