Bio-Ethanol Voted "Stupidest Policy Ever"

Stein X Leikanger
by Stein X Leikanger
bio ethanol voted stupidest policy ever

A while ago, James Fallows at the Atlantic Monthly asked readers to submit suggestions for "the stupidest policy ever." He rigged the deck by taking The Gulf of Tonkin resolution off the table, but the winner, by a landslide, is the blind support our "independent" politicians gave to the bio-ethanol scam. (And you're the victim.) The mag gave two of the winner's proponents, Justin Cohen and his father Reuben, special mention for their comprehensive summation of all that's wrong with bio-ethanol. "I think bi-partisan support for ethanol is more stupid [than the McCain-Clinton 'gas tax holiday' plan], because it's actually harmful and because it not only panders to the public… worse it panders to a special interest group (Midwest farmers and their regional politicians). It's harmful because: 1) it helped to catalyze higher levels of food inflation, 2) it consumes as much energy to make and distribute as it provides, 3) it deflects attention from developing/trying sound policies to enhance our energy security, 4) it didn't allow for removal of taxes on the import of truly energy efficient ethanol produced in Brazil from sugar, and 5) it's a such an extreme example of government dysfunctionality it causes people like me to become truly disillusioned with the political process."

Join the conversation
4 of 19 comments
  • Shaker Shaker on May 07, 2008

    The "Dirt-Poor" Midwest "Farmers" are just a cover for big "Agribusinesses" (ADM, Cargill) that benefit in a big way from this boondoggle. Food prices were actually stagnant for some time until the biofuel "cash cow" came along. Once again, our "free market" demonstrates that it's only "free" to powerful lobbyists.

  • Mj0lnir Mj0lnir on May 07, 2008
    EJ_San_Fran : May 6th, 2008 at 10:51 pm With the right incentives, such as California’s RFS, I’m optimistic that will work out just fine. Then spend your money on R&D and get rich. Don't take money (tax dollars) out of my pocket to finance your vision. That's the part you don't get- if ethanol is the wave of the future go get GE or someone to invest in it. Why should I be forced to subsidize research for multinationals? How about you lower my taxes and make them pay for their own R&D?

  • Grinchsmate Grinchsmate on May 07, 2008

    i love it because it means my dad makes a huge amount of money from his canola. in every other way it is insane. another thing that should be on the list is that it disguises the subsididing of farmers and so makes it less likly that we will get a truly free market. and to EJ_San_Fran second generation everything is better but we still havent seen second gen nuclear power, gmo's, solar, antiviruses, antibiotics so what makes you think we will get second gen biofuel any time soon.

  • Engineer Engineer on May 07, 2008
    And let’s just recognize switchgrass for the boondoggle that is. The administration must still be giggling with amusement for having even suggested it, in all seriousness. Yes, but no. Yes: Switchgrass is a boondoggle, much like telling the nation we need to go shopping after 9/11 - no sacrifice required. And talking of the administration: I doubt they have the attention span to even remember what they said about switchgrass, leave alone be giggling about it. But no: 2nd gen biofuels CAN be done right, but will it? One promising technology: the German company Choren, developed, as it happens, with private funds. Note: no ethanol, just the same hydrocarbon fuel we are all so used to. For biofuels to work in the short term, it needs to be based on waste products (the bulk of landfill waste is paper, 57% of landfill waste is renewable, 83% is organic). Converting waste->fuel is adding value, unlike say food->fuel. You are right about any biofuel based on an energy crop, excluding perhaps algae. But that conversation can wait until we have figured out how to recycle the bulk of our landfill waste into fuel. By then we would actually understand what is required of a good energy crop. And yes, replacing 85 million bbl/d (and counting) with the next big thing may be unrealistic. Not to worry. At $120/bbl (and counting) conservation becomes a virtue few would want to do without...