Ethanol’s Growing List of Enemies


Businessweek reports on an unlikely group of allies united againt the ethanol craze:

The ethanol movement is sprouting a vocal crop of critics. While politicians including President George W. Bush and farmers across the Midwest hope that the U.S. can win its energy independence by turning corn into fuel, Hitch and an unlikely assortment of allies are raising their voices in opposition. The effort is uniting ranchers and environmentalists, hog farmers and hippies, solar-power idealists and free-market pragmatists.

They have different reasons for opposing ethanol. But their common contentions are that the focus on corn-based ethanol has been too hasty, and the government’s active involvement — through subsidies for ethanol refiners and high tariffs to keep out alternatives like ethanol made from sugar — is likely to lead to chaos in other sectors of the economy.

"Corn ethanol has failed to prove itself as a reliable alternative that can exist without huge subsidies," says Demian Moore, senior analyst for the nonprofit Taxpayers for Common Sense.

Photo: Todd Ehler/Flickr

  • TG

    Absolutely true. But there’s nothing wrong with Ethanol as a fuel, just our countries misguided policies being used to promote it. Ethanol from non-corn sources holds great promise, both environmentally and economically.

  • Ian

    As The Economist pointed out (link below), the least dangerous way to deal with this is not by subsidies, but rather by cap-and-trade emmissions reduction schemes, or alternatively a carbon tax. This allows industry to innovate and find the most effective and economic way to solve the issue of greenhouse gas pollution.

    Despite the effectiveness of this approach, however, it is not politic; it meets current consumers of fossil fuels head-on, which is a fight the environment can never win; the costs are concentrated in a few firms that can lobby hard, while the benefits are distributed throughout the economy. Instead we end up with the usual pork-pandering to specific alternative big-business industries, including auto manufacturers, solar panel producers, and corn growers. This approach, despite its wasteful result, meets with low resistance because the costs are distributed throughout the economy while the benefits are concentrated in a few parties.

    Economist article here: http://economist.com/opinion/displaystory.cfm?story_id=E1_RRVPSNV

  • I agree that we should not be depending on corn as the only feedstock for the US ethanol industry. I have commented on this article specifically, Ethanol Reaps a Backlash: The Power of Small Towns… . I comment regularly on the US ethanol industry from a business perspective on my blog, Energy Spin: Alternative Energy Blog For Investors Served Daily

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