Someone needs to explain to me why we are still hyping ethanol as the savior of the economy and as the greatest energy product since sliced bread. I was reading a post by Country Thinker that already had me thinking about this. That was followed up by an article on Fox News. For years, the American taxpayer has been subsidizing ethanol, to the tune of about $6 billion each year. For those of you who don’t understand what that really means, here is a translation. We have propped up an industry to make it profitable for those who are producing ethanol. After all, it is a clean energy solution and must be kept alive. I’ll explain how untrue that is in a moment.
Supposedly, the $6 billion subsidy has expired, but it has been replaced by a mandate from the all-powerful Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). They are now requiring 37% of all corn grown in America to be used for ethanol. Need I explain why I feel this is another example of the EPA sticking their noses where they don’t belong? These are the same people who want to regulate dust on farms, so this should be no surprise to anyone who is paying attention.
Let’s look at the product that is called ethanol for a moment. Coming from someone who works in the automotive repair and service industry, I can tell you how bad ethanol really is. Maybe it does burn clean, but it is not efficient. Tests have proven it takes a larger amount of a greater octane ethanol to produce the same energy you can get out of a smaller amount of a lesser octane gasoline. Ethanol does not work as well as gasoline. Remember, this is a food product we are talking about.
Not only is ethanol less efficient than gasoline, it can also damage an engine. It is especially bad on small engines, such as a lawn mower, but it can also be bad for automobile engines. Yes, I know many of the new engines are supposedly built to run on fuel that can contain up to 85% ethanol, but that doesn’t always work out. I can not count the times we have had a vehicle in our shop that was running like a two-legged dog and the culprit turned out to be too much ethanol.
Most of the stores that sell gasoline in our area have a sign on their pumps that tell the customer the fuel can contain as much as 10% ethanol. In reality, it has much more. Our technicians have performed tests on the vehicles in question and found them to be running on gasoline that contained larger amounts of ethanol. Care to guess what happens when we drain the fuel tank and refill it with fuel that has no ethanol? They run like a top. Keep in mind that these are vehicles that are supposedly designed to run on a mixture of gasoline and ethanol. The truth is, many vehicles do not run as designed on that mixture.
You may ask, how does all of this affect us as a country? Why is it bad for America? First, we have propped up an industry that produces a product that is not reliable and is very expensive. If left to itself, it would have never gotten off the ground. Instead, our government had to interfere and once again show themselves to be in the business of picking winners and losers. They have made the ethanol industry successful, when in fact, it is not.
Once that was accomplished, do you really believe the people who produce large amounts of ethanol are going to let it slip through their fingers? There are these people called lobbyists whose job it is to make sure that does not happen.
Indeed, ethanol mandates have won favor in the corn belt — where corn prices and profits have set records in recent years. As evidence of that, more corn now goes to the production of ethanol than to the production of food and cattle and poultry feed. Many of those same corn belt states, including Iowa, Ohio, and Michigan, happen to be key swing states in the upcoming presidential election.
Even if there were political will to challenge the mandates, the ethanol industry has now become an entrenched player in Washington.
“Once it’s entrenched, you have a locked-in lobby that won’t let you pry it out,” Green said. “No matter that your environmental groups have walked away from it, international groups have walked away from it. Everybody has acknowledged it’s bad public policy, but it’s dug in like a tick.”
Never mind that corn prices have went up 60% this summer. Never mind that this price increase is driving the price of food products that contain corn. Don’t mention that corn is the main ingredient in the feed that is fed to the cattle, sheep, hogs, and chickens that many of us enjoy for supper. Do you suppose the high price of corn might have something to do with the high price of the meat? Does it not stand to reason that this is causing many families to have trouble making ends meet on their food budgets?
This is a prime example of how government interference has trickled down to affect every American household. These effects are much larger and greater in scope than any of us realize. Instead of allowing free markets to rule, they have artificially driven up the price of a product that does not work. What happens if someone comes up with an energy product that is a good alternative to gasoline and ethanol? Remember those lobbyists I mentioned earlier? Do you believe for one moment that they will allow another product to cut into their profits? That is highly doubtful.
I say it is time to end all subsidies and mandates for ethanol and let it stand on its own two feet. If it fails, then so be it, but the American taxpayer should no longer prop it up.