Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Big Corn and Rent Seeking - Again

A few months back I posted about "Big Corn" and rent-seeking by the big agricultural conglomerates. Popular Mechanics has just posted an op-ed that provides further evidence that ethanol is not only not a panacea for our dependence on petroleum but may actually end up consuming more energy from petroleum to produce the ethanol than the ethanol itself yields:
"The National Renewable Energy Laboratory states that, “Today, 1 Btu of fossil energy consumed in producing and delivering corn ethanol results in 1.3 Btu of usable energy in your fuel tank.” Even that modest payback may be overstated. Skeptics cite the research of Cornell Uni¬versity professor David Pimentel, who estimates that it takes approximately 1.3 gal. of oil to produce a single gallon of ethanol."

So, why is the Congress so anxious to mandate the use of even more ethanol? The usual reason, of course:
"There’s a simple reason that ethanol is popular with politicians: money. Substituting corn ethanol for a large fraction of the gasoline we burn will mean sluicing gushers of cash from more populated states to politically powerful farm states. And a lot of that cash will wind up in the pockets of the big agribusinesses, like Archer Daniels Midland, that dominate ethanol processing—and whose fat checkbooks wield enormous influence in Washington. "

Washington barely bothers to pretend to hide its endemic corruption any more. Both parties are guilty. How can we change this? I would venture that scrapping the abomination that is McCain-Feingold and replacing it with mandatory publication on the internet of all donations from all sources of any size would open a lot of eyes about who is paying for the best government that money can so easily buy.

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