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Thursday, May 01, 2008

Apocalyspe Soon

It must be if I agree more with Ted Kennedy than a Republican.
Senators Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) told Cybercast News Service on Wednesday that they believe there is a connection between federally mandated consumption of ethanol, a gasoline additive made from corn, and world food shortages.

...Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho) expressed a different view.

"I don't see the link between hunger and our requirements that ethanol be mixed into our gasoline," Craig told Cybercast News Service . "We are still exporting food to the world. The world hunger movement is also tied to the environmental movement. Environmentalists have decided that ethanol is bad and so liberals are arguing that it's connected with food and therefore it is all bad. There has to be a balance."
First of all... didn't Larry Craig promise to resign from the Senate months ago? Yeah, well...

OK... so Senator Craig says that liberals are behind the "ethanol is connected to food shortages" message. hmm... well... here are some scientists (granted, I have no clue what their political bent is, and it could be liberal) who have made the connection. More importantly, they've discovered that their glorious plan to save the environment isn't working- in fact, it could very well be making it worse.

Then we have my own anecdotal evidence. Since the Energy Act of 2005 provisions concerning ethanol went into effect, my grocery bill has gone up, my gasoline bill has gone up, and supplies of many grain products have gone down.

The whole biofuels scheme started as an environmentalism boondoggle. Once they got the media, the farmers and some politicians on-board, they could manipulate the sheeple into believing they needed ethanol NOW. Once the sheeple were in a panic, it was easy to coerce the other politicians into passing harmful legislation that had no scientific backing. The environmentalists used several arguments- oil is not a renewable resource (if that's so, then why do we keep finding more), fossil fuels are killing the planet (which is why the US uses the most and is one of the cleanest countries on the planet), biofuels can stop global warming (which seems to have stopped on its own, thankyouverymuch). Congress bought it hook, line, and sinker, and we're stuck with the aftermath. (This is probably one of the easiest to understand- and funniest- explanations of climate change out there, if you're interested.)

Doesn't it make sense (which is why I'm confused as to why Senator Kennedy agrees with me) that if farmland is being used to grow corn for ethanol, then it's not being used to grow food? Given a choice between getting subsidies to grow food or larger subsidies to grow corn for ethanol, what farmer wouldn't grow the greater cash crop? Granted, ethanol isn't the only reason for the food shortages- drought, global demand, and speculators contribute to the problem, just to name a few. But ethanol is a reason- one that we can eliminate.

Yes, I actually have a plan. It's not even a terribly original plan (I've talked with several friends about this over the years, and this is the current amalgamation of our thoughts.) It would require politicians to actually have backbones installed, so I'm not holding out much hope. First, the President would, by Executive Order, suspend most of the rules that prevent oil companies from building new refineries and suspend any and all ethanol mandates. Then offer the oil companies tax incentives to get the refineries built yesterday. Start drilling in ANWAR. Streamline (IOW severely cut back) the environmental impact statements necessary to start drilling for oil offshore and onland. (Seriously- the Alaska pipeline, according to environmental impact statements, was supposed to kill the caribou. Instead, the caribou herds are growing thanks to the pipeline. EISs are exaggerated at best.) Ditto for the EISs for nuclear power plants. Once we get all of that up and going, then we can talk about researching alternative energy reasonably and not knee-jerk.

But, wait. There's more. One of the reasons in favor of ethanol that Senator Craig cited was that it dropped the gasoline price by $.20. I can do better than that. One little known reason for gasoline prices being as high as they are is the number of blends on the market. Each state (and even some cities) has their own pet standards for what blend can be sold in their area. (This study found at least 45 blends). At certain times of the year, the kind of acceptable blends changes, and refineries need to switch from one set of blends to another set, causing brief spikes in gas prices and occasionally supplies. Here's my plan- The oil companies go to each state legislature and offer a compromise of... let's say 6 blends (3 summer, 3 winter- what gas station offers more than 3 blends, anyway?). They can even tailor the blends to the most demanding standards in the nation (which would make the other 49 states actually have better blends than by their original mandate). By producing only 6 blends instead of the 45+boutique blends, refineries will be able to crank out more product for less cost. (Sure... areas who need to nitpick and meddle will be taken care of by smaller boutique refineries... at a higher cost, of course.)

Did you notice one little detail in the last paragraph? At no time did I say, "the federal government should..." Funny that. Oil companies will make more money this way, and consumers will pay less- it's private sector compromising with state legislatures to get the job done. What a concept... if the state legislatures would climb on board, that is. Come to think of it, except for the tax incentives to jump start the rest of my plan, my plan calls for less government interference, not a government fix.

Which is why it will never happen...

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