Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Bush, Big Oil, Big Auto, Big Ag and Ethanol

So Bush had one of those meetings with the Auto industry big shots and white smoke came out of his ears. He's had a revalation! "Ethanol is the answer!"

We've talked about alternative energy systems on this blog before. Dr. Strangelove informed us for example that to supply our energy needs from ethanol would require dramatically increasing our cultivated land and devoting most of it to fuel instead of food. I forget the exact numbers but they were staggering.

Ethanol is also woefully inefficient. It takes a lot of energy to cultivate, harvest and transport an acre of corn (or any crop) and it takes even more energy to convert it to fuel. Let's face facts folks. We will NEVER combust our way out of our dependence on foreign oil or our environmental problems. At best ethanol merely pollutes less than gas. It's not clean it's cleaner. At best, it would only slow down our rate of damage to the atmosphere not stop or reverse it. And since it is impractical to think of this technology as a full replacement for oil, it wouldn't solve our foreign oil dependence either.

Anyone - Republican or Green or whatever - who tells you that ethanol is anything more than a cash hand out to certain sectors of our economy is just wrong. At best they are also lying to themselves but mostly they are only lying to you.

So if ethanol is such a bad idea why is Bush pushing it? Oil companies make a lot of money from their retail distribution infrastructure. Alternative fuels like ethanol and hydrogen would still require that infrastructure with only a few technological upgrades. Electric cars on the other hand would likely deliver a devastating blow to that infrastructure and retail revenue stream. If you could "gas up" in your own garage why would you need the local gas station???

Auto manufacturers have a lot invested in the internal combustion engine. Converting them to be ethanol or bio-diesel compatible is less expensive than developing and marketing a new electric car.

The benefit to big agri-industry is obvious. Increasing demand for corn is good for them. I've heard from reliable sources that the price of farm land is spiking right now because of the anticipated boom in the corn market.

Auto+Oil+Ag = Bush's base. We're talking about big money industries with bases in the South and rural Midwest. The auto industry used to be in the Great Lakes but they've been shifting a lot of production to the union-free South for years. Oil is in the South (especially Texas). Rural voters are overwhelmingly Republican - supposedly because of the social issues but also because of the massive ag subsidies Republicans deliver.

So what is the real solution? Electricity! We need to focus on a means to generate massive amounts of electricity cleanly and preferably with a decentralized power grid. We need a viable electric car. Those two things really would be the answer. It would eliminate a huge share of the combusted pollutants we put into the air.

Americans should not settle for anything else!


The Law Talking Guy said...

I'm not sure I agree with all this. Big Agriculture votes GOP, no doubt, because corporations almost always do. But I don't see subsidies as the reason rural America votes GOP. After all, the Democrats delivered the ag subsidies during their control of congress, and Republicans have actually cut them in the 1994-2006 period.

Certainly, the 2007 lineup has a return of protectionist Democrats (e.g, Sherrod Brown of Ohio) who want to protect industry and agriculture with subsidies on one side of the ledger, with the free trade ideologues concentrated on the GOP side.

USWest said...

I tend to agree with RBR. I grew up in farm country in California where farmers got all the water, tax breaks, and subsidy while we paid for all our water, food, and land. The idea of helping the small farmer is long gone. So I am adverse to subsidies in general.

As for Ethanol . . . it isn’t a fix for anything. It is a band-aid. I agree with RBR that the real answer is electricity. You could cut ethanol subsidies and use the money to pay for high quality, comfortable public transport and the public marketing campaign to get Americans to use it.

All candidates at one point or another take the "ethanol pledge". Part of Bush's big meeting in Brazil was to cut a larger deal on Ethanol since, as RBR pointed out, we won't be able to produce enough for ourselves and big oil and shipping will get to use its infrastructure.

Call me jaded, but money is at the root of all rot if not of all evil. Some people say the cure for cancer is out there, but that so much infrastructure and business is tied up in it as a disease that the cure would be devastating for special interests.

There is this great line in the film "Thank You for Not Smoking" when the chief lobbyist points out that the tobacco industry is doing the world a favor by contributing to population control while making money and providing jobs. See, everybody wins.

With logic like that in the world, what do you expect from the likes of Bush? If he is pushing it, I say run the other direction. He's too simple minded and greedy to see or care about the bigger picture.

Anonymous said...

Actually, in 2001 US ag subsidies were at record levels. I can't find documentation but I remember hearing that they were still at record levels in 2004.

I'm pretty sure it is incorrect to say that the GOP is cutting ag subsidies. They may have rearranged the subsidies somewhat and may even have cut some forms of subsidy.

And as US West points out there are additional hidden subsidies in the lower prices that farmers pay for water. In some states, they pay lower taxes on everything from real estate to cars and trucks.

There is no reason to do this other than pork barrel politics - which is a big reason (but not the ONLY reason) that rural voters support the GOP.

Ethanol is another form of ag subsidy. At least it is marginally less obnoxious than straight cash payments to farmers but it's not much better.

A big reason why ethanol is such a firmly entrenched waste of tax payer money is the Iowa Caucus. Iowa is the heart of the corn belt. Politicians, of both parties, that seek votes here have a nasty temptation to pander to the rural voters here.

But in general election, Democrats turn their attentions to urban voters. Only by pitching ethanol as an environmental solution will urban voters go for it. We need to debunk that idea for the sake of the budget and the environment.