Friday, January 11, 2008

The Curse of E-85

This week, The Gazette had an E85 editorial:

To appreciate this fuel, one has to adopt compassion for wealthy beneficiaries of corporate welfare. Alternatively, one must believe all of the following: 1. We’re threatened by global warming; 2. human activity causes global warming; and 3. ethanol results in a net carbon emissions decrease that will reduce the problem.

Belief number three requires a wild imagination or wishful thinking, considering the fact American ethanol is made mostly from corn. Just to harvest this low-energy crop requires behemoth diesel-burning combines. Unlike high-energy crude — often transported through more eco-friendly pipelines — low energy corn must be shipped for processing by diesel-powered trucks or trains. In a 2005 issue of the journal Critical Reviews in Plant Sciences, University of California-Berkeley geo-engineering Prof. Tad Patzek showed that up to six times more energy is used to make ethanol than the final product contains.

The damage doesn't stop there:

The conundrum rests partly in the fact that most small-business owners live by the natural rules of a free and fair market, while others don’t have to. Jack the price of a penne pasta dish too high, and customers won’t buy it. Conversely, if an entrepreneur wants to build a multi-million dollar plant to refine ethanol that nobody needs, he can do so without fear. The federal government [ prodded by Mark Udall and Ken Salazar ] will pay him to sell a product that makes little sense, and in this case, the ripple effect inflates food costs.

How much does it inflate food costs? Mark Udall, Bill Ritter, Ken Salazar, and John Salazar don't believe that 4.5% inflation is enough. To them, it is just another excuse for more income redistribution:

The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported in December that 2007 saw the largest increase in food prices since 1990. The agency expects prices to rise at least another 3 percent this year. Products made with wheat and soybean oil are expected to inflate so much that the cost of home cooking will increase 4.5 percent. We can logically expect the price of corn fed beef to continue soaring.

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