Jasper Smith

Commentary on politics, economics, culture and sports.

The biggest reason Iowa shouldn’t be first

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Thus saith John Stossel:

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.

When everyone in politics jumps on a bandwagon like ethanol, I start to wonder if there’s something wrong with it. And there is…

The claim that using ethanol will save energy is another myth. Studies show that the amount of energy ethanol produces and the amount needed to make it are roughly the same. “It takes a lot of fossil fuels to make the fertilizer, to run the tractor, to build the silo, to get that corn to a processing plant, to run the processing plant,” Taylor says.

And because ethanol degrades, it can’t be moved in pipelines the way that gasoline is. So many more big, polluting trucks will be needed to haul it.

More bad news: The increased push for ethanol has already led to a sharp increase in corn growing — which means much more land must be plowed. That means much more fertilizer, more water used on farms and more pesticides.

This makes ethanol the “solution”?

But won’t it at least get us unhooked from Middle East oil? Wouldn’t that be worth the other costs? Another myth. A University of Minnesota study [http://www.pnas.org/cgi/content/full/103/30/11206] shows that even turning all of America’s corn into ethanol would meet only 12 percent of our gasoline demand. As Taylor told an energy conference last March, “For corn ethanol to completely displace gasoline consumption in this country, we would need to appropriate all cropland in the United States, turn it completely over to corn-ethanol production, and then find 20 percent more land on top of that for cultivation.”

OK, but it will cut down on air pollution, right? Wrong again. Studies indicate that the standard mixture of 90 percent ethanol and 10 percent gasoline pollutes worse than gasoline.

Well, then, the ethanol champs must be right when they say it will reduce greenhouse gases and reverse global warming.

Nope. “Virtually all studies show that the greenhouse gases associated with ethanol are about the same as those associated with conventional gasoline once we examine the entire life cycle of the two fuels,” Taylor says.

With solutions like this, who needs problems?

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Written by Jasper

May 23, 2007 at 7:19 pm

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