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Strange Bedfellows Fight Ethanol Subsidies

kdawson posted more than 7 years ago | from the no-way-to-energy-self-sufficiency dept.

Power 552

Reader Actual Reality sends us to Business Week for a tale of the strangest political coalition to be seen in a while — greens, hippies, libertarians, and livestock producers uniting to get ethanol subsidies reduced or killed. The demand for the alternative fuel is driving up corn prices and having big impacts on other parts of the economy. Not many other issues are capable of getting left-leaning economist Paul Krugman and the Cato Institute on the same side.

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Business advice (4, Insightful)

91degrees (207121) | more than 7 years ago | (#18412351)

But he worries that they'll face mounting pressures in the industry, particularly because of the soaring price for corn, which the business depends on to feed the livestock. In the past year, corn prices have doubled as demand from ethanol producers has surged.

Start growing corn then.

Re:Business advice (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18412365)

Well, quite.

Consumer Reports (5, Informative)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 7 years ago | (#18412395)

recently came out and said that, even with only a 15% ethanol/85% gasoline mixture - your mpg (due to ethanol's lower power density) gets reduced to the point that $3.20 gallon of pure gas becomes a $3.99 of the mixed type.

So financially and environmentally, it is good to fight the push for ethanol.

Re:Consumer Reports (4, Funny)

changling bob (1075587) | more than 7 years ago | (#18412413)

Y'see, in the UK we pay approximately $6.40 a gallon of petrol. I don't think you have that much of a right to complain.

Maybe you should complain (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18412465)

Gee Bob, maybe you should complain - I always thought you folks on that side of the pond had some balls! - or was that the Scots?

Re:Maybe you should complain (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18412523)

Complain to who? And why? There's actually a fair amount of support for high taxes on fuel. It reduces car use, therefore reducing pollution, and raises a lot of money for other purposes.

Re:Maybe you should complain (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18412585)

The Fuel Tax Protests of 2000 brought virtually brought the entire country to standstill. So people do complain: it just doesn't make any difference.

Re:Consumer Reports (3, Insightful)

GundamFan (848341) | more than 7 years ago | (#18412599)

That's really beside the point isn't it?

I think everyone getting screwed here is entitled to complain, and especially since the US and Brazil seem to be looking to form an ethanol monopoly not to mention use a more expensive and potently more polluting in the way of exhausted farm land and what ever they plan to burn to heat the still.

If we aren't careful we will end up slaves to new masters and little more.

Re:Consumer Reports (1)

marcosdumay (620877) | more than 7 years ago | (#18412941)

Wouldn't that be an oligopoly? But that is besides the point, because such oligopoly is not possible. Brazil can at most supply 20% of the fuel used on the world nowadays, more than that, it would need to reduce other crops. USA is on a much worse situation, it can't even supply 10% of the world needs, even if it adopts modern crop technologies, what seems unlikely nowadays. Those are 2 huge players, but far from supplying the majority of the market.

The situation is even better because there are LOTS of countries that can supply 1% - 10% of the world's demand, and togheter they don't need Brazil or USA.

The only problem is that those figures are calculated with today's consuption. Who knows what may happen tomorrow...

Re:Consumer Reports (-1, Flamebait)

nietsch (112711) | more than 7 years ago | (#18412951)

If we aren't careful we will end up slaves to new masters and little more.

nice alarmist tone you got there, I like it. I bet you only feel safe driving your gas-guzzling hummer 120 on the highway.

Re:Consumer Reports (2, Interesting)

AvitarX (172628) | more than 7 years ago | (#18413165)

Brazil grows ethonal from sugar cane.

Sugar can produces 8 times the energy consumed while corn produces 1.5 times the energy consumed. Also with current petrol prices sugar based ethonal can be cost effective.

The problem is not ethonal, it is the subsidies causing it to be artificially competitive (in the US)and the laws requiring it to be put in gas requiring the subsidies to be in place (so people don't realize the cost of the "summer blend").

Re:Consumer Reports (1)

Detritus (11846) | more than 7 years ago | (#18412803)

Those are largely self-inflicted wounds.

Re:Consumer Reports (1)

changling bob (1075587) | more than 7 years ago | (#18413119)

Those are largely self-inflicted wounds.
If you define "self-inflicted" as "forced upon us by the government", then yes, yes it is. The US has had far cheaper fuel than here since forever. On the other hand, I expect our cars are a lot more efficient, as we don't want to waste the fuel we're spending so much on, especially compared to the US. Give the world our cars and your fuel and the environmental lobby would love it.

Re:Consumer Reports (3, Interesting)

CapsaicinBoy (208973) | more than 7 years ago | (#18412619)

Are you sure about those numbers? I don't have a consumer reports subscription so I can't double check but I think you may have transposed the 2 numbers.

E10 (E10% EtOH/90% gasoline) and E85 (85%EtOH/15% gas) are the common blends sold in the US. The first can be used in any conventional spark ignition engine while the latter requires a flex-fuel vehicle. Some states require that all gasoline sold is actually E10 - if I remember correctly CT, NY, HI and MN are some that come to mind.

Anyway, yes, E85 contains about ~30% less energy per gallon than straight gasoline, so yes, it requires more to go the same distance. However, E85 also has an octane rating of 105, meaning you can tune the engine to run on E85, as Saab did with the 9-5 Biopower. It has a 2L turbocharged inline 4 producing 180hp optimized to run on E85.

Re:Business advice (4, Interesting)

Technician (215283) | more than 7 years ago | (#18412515)

Start growing corn then.

Maybe we can finaly stop paying farm subsidies. Quit growing tabacco and grow corn as a cash crop. Maybe a farmer can make a living again. The beef industry hates it of course because of higher costs. Expect prices to rise at the local hamburger joint due to rising costs.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agricultural_subsidie s [wikipedia.org]

Re:Business advice (4, Insightful)

TykeClone (668449) | more than 7 years ago | (#18412683)

Cattle do just fine with distillers grains - the leavings after ethanol is made. Hogs and poultry don't - they like corn.

I think that we may see a shift in the production of livestock in the United States. Much of the existing beef production takes place outside of Iowa, while much of the ethanol production takes place within the state. Iowa is also a major producer of pork - I expect that many of those operations will switch to feeding out cattle instead of hogs - especially if they can get distillers grains at a decent price compared to the corn that hogs require.

Re:Business advice (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18412825)

How about we let the cows eat grass like they were intended to?

Re:Business advice (4, Informative)

phoenixwade (997892) | more than 7 years ago | (#18412981)

How about we let the cows eat grass like they were intended to?
Because you produce more cows per acre when you feed them feed as compared to free roaming the cattle. then here is that little thing about feeding bessy during those Wyoming winters. It's a little difficult for the cows to get to the grass when they have to dig through a few feet of snow.
    However, there are producers out there who will supply you with free roaming beef if that's your taste.
    If you really want to fix things, start controlling the number of people on the planet. We're eating up resources at a prodigious rate, technology is helping, but not fixing it.

Re:Business advice (2, Insightful)

got2liv4him (966133) | more than 7 years ago | (#18413161)

If you really want to fix things, start controlling the number of people on the planet. We're eating up resources at a prodigious rate, technology is helping, but not fixing it.
Brilliant, let's start with you and yours and all the other who feel like this is a good idea!

Re:Business advice (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18413189)

Ever heard of hay? It's like grass, just drier!

Re:Business advice (3, Insightful)

Kohath (38547) | more than 7 years ago | (#18413067)

Yeah, because "Ethanol subsidies" are so much different than "farm subsidies".

How about if farmers just get off the welfare?

Liberals... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18412369)

When government FINALLY steps in to try and end fossil-fuel dependance, they start singing the praises of the "free-market" WOW, flip-flop much? Any arguement is a good one when it comes to getting what they want. COnservatives have been singing "free-market" for years...

Re:Liberals... (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18412419)

COnservatives have been singing "free-market" for years...

Singing to the corn farmers, who have been given so much cash that things like sugar farming are being driven out of the country? Ask yourself why we're using corn for ethanol when Brazil has shown that sugarcane can be used much more efficiently?

Down here in Texas, corn farmers struggle to convince their corn crops to live over the summer, but that's ok, because the feds will happily shell out cash for irrigation systems that weren't needed back when sugar was grown here. Up north, sugarbeets (also superior to corn for ethanol) used to hold sway, but increasingly farmers have been lured to the free money (on TOP of the rising corn prices).

The only tune conservatives (or liberals, or libertarians, or...) sing is "vote for me!"

Re:Liberals... (1)

powerlord (28156) | more than 7 years ago | (#18412797)

Also might be interesting to chart the rise in the use of "Corn Syrup" over traditional sugars in the U.S. against the rise in Obesity.

Re:Liberals... (1)

TheMadcapZ (868196) | more than 7 years ago | (#18412849)

True enough. It is amazing that one industry feeds the country corn syrup which makes the nation fat and causes diabetes, In turn this feeds the drug industry who are now doing more harm than good with each new drug that comes out. Restless Leg Syndrome? Are they fucking kidding us??

Re:Liberals... (1)

Technician (215283) | more than 7 years ago | (#18413061)

Up north, sugarbeets (also superior to corn for ethanol) used to hold sway, but increasingly farmers have been lured to the free money

Since your from Down here in Texas, I can see you may be uninformed in what we grow up here. This is Apple, Grape, and Wheat country. Other crops include Mint, Beets, Hops, Potatoes, Cherrys, Flowers, Grass seeds, and Cranberries. Potato country is in Eastern Washington, Oregon and in Idaho along with Wheat.

Oregon and Washington both grow lots of grapes for wine. We already are producing ethanol from something other than corn, but we don't put it in the tank. We put it in a bottle. ;-)

but increasingly farmers have been lured to the free money
News to me.. any refrences? Sugar Beet country is turning into Wine Country.

Re:Liberals... (1)

JohnsonJohnson (524590) | more than 7 years ago | (#18413117)

Ask yourself why we're using corn for ethanol when Brazil has shown that sugarcane can be used much more efficiently?

Because sugarcane doesn't grow in Iowa?

Allow me to explain (4, Insightful)

kahei (466208) | more than 7 years ago | (#18412427)


Nobody is trying to end fossil-fuel dependence here. Nobody is subsidising ethanol production, except in a rather technical sense. If people wanted to end fossil-fuel dependenence and make ethanol production easier, they could fund, subsidize, and promote any number of solutions.

What IS going on here is another huge subsidy for the very powerful corn industry. This particular subsidy is wearing a paper hat that says 'ethanol', which is enough to fool:

0% of people who know anything about energy markets.
25% of lawmakers
95% of the public
100% of all the libertarian slashdotters who have already jumped in and gone 'OMG teh socialism sux lol!!'

Now, repeat after me: ETHANOL is one thing, ETHANOL FROM NORTH AMERICAN CORN is another thing. You want energy, subsidize the former. You want money for corn growers, subsidize the latter.

Re:Allow me to explain (1)

Paulrothrock (685079) | more than 7 years ago | (#18412547)

Ethanol (and the hydrogen pipe-dream to a lesser extent) are more about maintaining our current fuel distribution system than about finding real alternatives. The idea that we need to pipe fuel from distant places is a 19th century concept. Tesla would be disappointed that we're not using electricity to provide energy, and he'd be even more disappointed that we're charging money for it.

Re:Allow me to explain (1)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 7 years ago | (#18412929)

Ethanol (and the hydrogen pipe-dream to a lesser extent) are more about maintaining our current fuel distribution system than about finding real alternatives. The idea that we need to pipe fuel from distant places is a 19th century concept. Tesla would be disappointed that we're not using electricity to provide energy, and he'd be even more disappointed that we're charging money for it.
Agreed. Ethanol is no better for the environment than oil -- in fact, it may be worse when you consider that the cheapest crops that are grown to produce it, like corn, strip the soil of nutrients and make it useless for growing other things.

The problem, though, is producing enough electricity. Right now, the cleanest way we have a producing electricity at the amounts required is through nuclear fission -- a process that makes toxic waste that will have to kept locked up for at least 10,000 years or more depending on the material used. Solar and wind power each have their associated problems that cause them to not be viable in certain parts of the world and they don't produce enough electricity to power all of the cars on the road -- nor will they with our precious land resources drying up. Hydroelectric power is promising, but right now there aren't nearly enough dams, and even then, dams can be quite damaging to the ecosystem.

Re:Allow me to explain (4, Insightful)

CapsaicinBoy (208973) | more than 7 years ago | (#18412699)

Now, repeat after me: ETHANOL is one thing, ETHANOL FROM NORTH AMERICAN CORN is another thing. You want energy, subsidize the former. You want money for corn growers, subsidize the latter.

Quoted for truth.

This is why a petroleum tax is the way to go. Government sucks at picking the winning technologies whereas markets are quite good at it. The solution? Ditch technology specific subsidies in favor of technology agnostic user fees that incentivize the desired goal, namely reduced petro use.

Now most people don't like taxes, but really it is the fairest way to let the market select the best renewable technology. If you tax petroleum, then biodiesel, ethanol, wind/pv plug-in HEVs, and transit all compete via market forces.

And before the libertarians get their panties in a bunch, we don't have anything close to a free market currently. The market is, and has been, slanted toward petroleum via foreign, domestic and tax policy for the the last 50-75 years. I'm just suggesting we use a petroleum tax to level the field a little.

Re:Allow me to explain (1)

Technician (215283) | more than 7 years ago | (#18413125)

I'm just suggesting we use a petroleum tax to level the field a little.


No need for that. Peak Oil will take care of the field on it's own thank you. Peak Oil will simply give you a longer transition time adjust instead of the swift kick in the pants to disrupt your markets.

Amazing (1)

nietsch (112711) | more than 7 years ago | (#18412895)

It's amazing the way you take a technical subject and immediately turn it into a political fight to bash your political enemies. Where would you be without a nice enemy to complain about daily? It is a sad state your society is in if it promotes such negative behaviour.
I am starting to think that every human has a specific spot in them for unbounded hate, but that your society stimulates people to fill that spot with some socially accepted image (reps, dems, libs) rather then the more un-PC images(blacks, jews, lepers, texans, homosexuals). Why not try to stop hating?

Subsidies are stupid, go figure. (-1, Flamebait)

Azghoul (25786) | more than 7 years ago | (#18412377)

Sometimes an idea is just so stupid that people on both sides of the aisle can agree. Unfortunately, those socialists on the left only figure it out once in a while. :-D

Oh, good (5, Funny)

LarsWestergren (9033) | more than 7 years ago | (#18412393)

Not many other issues are capable of getting left-leaning economist Paul Krugman and the Cato Institute on the same side.

I'm sure all Slashdot posters will quickly reach a friendly consensus too, it being an environmental and economical issue that also mentions left vs right wing politics. I'm looking forward to the thoughtful and informative debate.

Deceptive disagreement (5, Insightful)

swb (14022) | more than 7 years ago | (#18412827)

While I occasionally enjoy Krugman's columns, it's only window dressing that Krugman and the Cato institute are on opposite sides. They really represent a duopoly of opinion that relies on "the other side" to give "their side" some sort of validity.

Periodic ideological alignment is necessary to demonstrate that both "sides" are willing to engage in creative problem solving and aren't just part of an ideological game.

Re:Oh, good (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18412907)

Interesting that Krugman merely gets tagged as 'left-leaning' whereas the folks at the Cato institute are branded as full on 'free-market fundamentalists'. Some good natured hyperbole on the writer's part or left-wing dominated Big Media conspiracy of the HILLARY MACHINE??!?!?!

Let the thoughtful and informative debate begin! :)

Lobbies not environment (5, Insightful)

edwardpickman (965122) | more than 7 years ago | (#18412411)

This was never about reducing oil dependence it was about subsidizing one of the most powerful lobbies the corn lobby. Corn alcohol requires large amounts of energy to produce so it actually increases the use of coal and oil. The current administration is also fanatical about hydrogen because most hydrogen is produced from fossil sources. Yes it can be produced by electrolysis from wind or solar but it won't be. It's like "clean coal". Yes coal can be burned more cleanly and the CO2 sequestered but there isn't a single clean coal plant in operation. There are better sources for alcohol but they lack powerful lobbies.

Re:Lobbies not environment (1)

sckeener (137243) | more than 7 years ago | (#18412563)

Yes coal can be burned more cleanly and the CO2 sequestered but there isn't a single clean coal plant in operation.

For me, I think it comes down to whether I want pollution in a single place (the plant) or multiple places (cars.) I think I'd prefer it in a single place far from me.

Re:Information on CO2 Sequestered (1, Informative)

Technician (215283) | more than 7 years ago | (#18412565)

and the CO2 sequestered

Q; Please tell me more. Where does it go?

A; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon_capture_and_st orage [wikipedia.org]

Re:Information on CO2 Sequestered (1)

rlp (11898) | more than 7 years ago | (#18412789)

Q; Please tell me more. Where does it go?

Coke and Pepsi

Re:Lobbies not environment (4, Informative)

bigdavex (155746) | more than 7 years ago | (#18412647)

Corn alcohol requires large amounts of energy to produce so it actually increases the use of coal and oil.

Corn isn't especially good for this purpose, but I believe this claim is false. Berkley's study [berkeley.edu] computes the whole process at a 1.3x net fuel gain.

Re:Lobbies not environment (2, Informative)

marcosdumay (620877) | more than 7 years ago | (#18412809)

"Corn isn't especially good for this purpose, but I believe this claim is false. Berkley's study computes the whole process at a 1.3x net fuel gain."

Now compare that with the 10x net fuel gain of canae...

Re:Lobbies not environment (1, Insightful)

jonwil (467024) | more than 7 years ago | (#18412685)

Remember also that an increasing chunk of that corn is Genetically Modified corn.
And even where farmers don't want to grow GM corn, companies like Monsanto are using dirty tricks to get them to grow the GM corn anyway. And if that doesn't work, Monsanto heavies raid the farm and "find" GM corn that the farmer hasn't paid for (some of the things Monsanto heavies do would probably make the BSA look good)

Why do you think the US is the only country in the world that uses corn sweetener instead of sugar (beet or cane) in Coca-Cola?

Re:Carbon + Oxygen (-1, Offtopic)

Technician (215283) | more than 7 years ago | (#18412725)

Yes coal can be burned more cleanly and the CO2 sequestered

Remember that in the process of storing away a unit of carbon an element, you also store away two units of oxygen another element. Since we are a carbon based life form dependant on oxygen, is oxidizing our carbon by combining it with oxygen and storing it away a good idea simply because we think a little CO2 leads to run away global warming? In the process of capturing and sequestering the CO2 you use even more of the carbon and oxygen.

Face the facts..
A bicycle on the beach leaves 2 tire tracks that tend to wander together just like temprature and CO2 levels track on earth. Careful analysis of both can show which track leads the other. The fact they track together is not proof the behind one leads the front one. CO2 and Temprature track closely like bycicle tire prints on the beach. Often ignored is Temprature leads CO2 levels, not follow it. We are trying to steer temprature by pushing the effect instead of the cause. For the cause look to the sky. Now track the histroy of the Mars Polar Ice cap. Can't blame their global warming on burning fossil fuels on Mars.

I'm sorry to break the news, but the Inconvienent Truth missed a few facts.
The Great Global Warming Swindle http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XttV2C6B8pU [youtube.com]
Mars Polar Ice Caps http://www.newscientist.com/article.ns?id=dn1660 [newscientist.com]

Do your research instead of follwing the latest pollitical stance on the subject.

I do presume the truth is inconvienent for Al Gore.
I don't believe burying our Oxygen is a good idea.

Re:Lobbies not environment (1)

j00r0m4nc3r (959816) | more than 7 years ago | (#18412777)

There are lots of foreign sources of ethanol, namely South America, but we levy huge tariffs on their import. They should ditch the tariffs on ethanol import, which would give us an instant supply.

Re:Lobbies not environment (1)

gatzke (2977) | more than 7 years ago | (#18413205)

Yes it can be produced by electrolysis from wind or solar but it won't be.
Right, this is a stupid way to go since electrolysis is very inefficient, on the order of 10-15%.

We can generate clean H2 using chemical high temp nuclear cycles (not electrolysis) and keep a high efficiency, but nuclear scares people.

Plus H2 storage densities are low and the infrastructure is not there.

Old-school electrochemical batteries are probably the best way IMHO. Plug-in hybrids and full electric with drag-along IC trailers for long distance.

Batteries, the technology of yesterday, today!

Since this is slashdot... (0)

HateBreeder (656491) | more than 7 years ago | (#18412415)

By "strange bedfellows" I assume you mean women?

Re:Since this is slashdot... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18412631)

Speak for yourself. Your "strange bedfellows" are probably the guys you picked up downtown last night.

Re:Since this is slashdot... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18412763)

That could also cover Close Encounters of the Third Kind. (Maybe not. Even with alien technology, it's hard to get the probe equipment down basement stairs.)

Libertarian speaking here (5, Interesting)

CmdrPorno (115048) | more than 7 years ago | (#18412429)

Why not lobby to drop all farm subsidies, not just the ones for ethanol? It would take the same amount of effort and do even more good, as large, corporate farms are the ones who mainly benefit from them.

Re:Libertarian speaking here (3, Insightful)

Undertaker43017 (586306) | more than 7 years ago | (#18412559)

Why stop at farm subsidies? Lets get rid of all corporate subsidies. Governments shouldn't be giving tax payer money to any corporations, if corporations can't make it on their own, then maybe their business plan wasn't as good as they thought.

Re:Libertarian speaking here (5, Insightful)

dylan_- (1661) | more than 7 years ago | (#18412607)

Why not lobby to drop all farm subsidies, not just the ones for ethanol?
Because food is cheaper to import than produce locally so all the farms would go out of business. And you don't want to depend on other, potentially unstable, countries for food.

That's why we have tariffs. (0)

iceperson (582205) | more than 7 years ago | (#18412765)

Re:That's why we have tariffs. (1)

dylan_- (1661) | more than 7 years ago | (#18412833)

No, it's why you have subsidies. Maybe the subsidies should be replaced with tariffs (it might prove politically problematic) but subsidies are what currently keep the farms running.

Re:That's why we have tariffs. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18413089)

There is another problem here which is that farmland that's been converted to other uses is extremely hard to turn back into farmland. It's in our long term best interests to have a lot of excess farmland. It provides insurance against population growth or farmland being suddenly a lot less productive for some unforseen reason.

Also, a lot of other industries currently recieve huge subsidies. Either directly from the government, or in the form of externalities, costs they aren't required to pay for. Many externalities are environmental in nature. This again works against farmers and farmland because it tends to artificially diminish their economic importance leading to, yet again, a shortage of farmland.

Tariffs can't protect against internal economic forces that would reduce the amount of farmland we have below 'safe' levels, so we can't rely on just them to protect ourselves.

So, of all the subsidies our government hands out, I think some of the most justifiable ones are agricultural.

I'm not saying this out of blatant self interest either. I'm a city dweller and I have no friends or relatives who have ever been in the farming business.

Re:Libertarian speaking here (4, Insightful)

rlp (11898) | more than 7 years ago | (#18412801)

And you don't want to depend on other, potentially unstable, countries for food.

Or energy

Re:Libertarian speaking here (1, Troll)

darjen (879890) | more than 7 years ago | (#18412865)

Because food is cheaper to import than produce locally so all the farms would go out of business. And you don't want to depend on other, potentially unstable, countries for food.
I don't see anything wrong with using these cheap food sources. If they ever dried up we could always go back to growing our own food. Also, if we really cared about impoverished countries, buying food from them instead of producing it ourselves might be more effective than any type of foreign aid, which is usually wasted by governments anyway.

Re:Libertarian speaking here (1)

bigdavex (155746) | more than 7 years ago | (#18412959)

Because food is cheaper to import than produce locally so all the farms would go out of business. And you don't want to depend on other, potentially unstable, countries for food.

I think that's very unlikely. There's a price of land at which American farmers can compete. Farm subsidies keep the price of land high, because owning land is way to collect subsidies.

Farmers are often (but not always) land owners, so a sudden drop in subsidies would be very painful. But don't get the idea that without subsidies that all the American farmland would be used for more Starbucks.

Re:Libertarian speaking here (1)

dylan_- (1661) | more than 7 years ago | (#18413197)

I think that's very unlikely. There's a price of land at which American farmers can compete
I'm not really sure what the price of land has to do with it. If there was an open, unsubsidised food market, American farms simply wouldn't make enough money to keep going. Food is too cheap. You either need to raise the price of food (with tariffs, for example) or subsidise the farms.

Re:Libertarian speaking here (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18412681)

Hear-hear! An idea with merit, let's stop paying American farmers not to farm in an economy where profit can be made.

NO! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18412441)

This needs to continue until they put real sugar into my soda, then they can change whatever they like, but I like the current trends.

How about..... (2, Funny)

alexhard (778254) | more than 7 years ago | (#18412443)

Not many other issues are capable of getting left-leaning economist Paul Krugman and the Cato Institute on the same side.
How about killing babies?

Re:How about..... (2, Funny)

yada21 (1042762) | more than 7 years ago | (#18412509)

How about killing babies?
If the market price for dead babies is greater than the cost of live babies plus the labor involved in killing them, then killing babies is a perfectly rational decision and no true supporter libertarian would infringe an individual's right to pursue happiness by the method of infanticide.

Re:How about..... (0, Flamebait)

Timesprout (579035) | more than 7 years ago | (#18412521)

No,apparently killing babies is ok with them both if its done in a carbon neutral manner.

Let's not use alternative fuel... (5, Insightful)

endersshadow7 (972296) | more than 7 years ago | (#18412459)

...just because it's alternative. Ethanol has the only advantages that it's not oil and that it's renewable. Environmentally and financially it's foolish, as a previous poster pointed out. But one shouldn't be all that surprised to find us Libertarians aligned with anybody. It's the Party of Principle for a reason: Libertarians do their best to stay out of partisan politics and make public policy about what's actually best (gasp!).

In this case, Libertarians are against any and all forms of government subsidies, and it's rather obvious why if we're absolutely pro-free market. Nobody should read this article and say, "Wow, that's surprising that they're working together!" Rather, they should read it and really wonder why these different groups oppose subsidies for ethanol and whether or not ethanol is a viable choice for an alternative fuel.

After all, alternative != better.

Re:Let's not use alternative fuel... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18412843)

Libertarians do their best to stay out of partisan politics and make public policy about what's actually best (gasp!).
If they stay out of partisan politics, then they don't make any policy.

Never mind, ethanol does not solve the problem ... (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18412477)

... as the Scientific American special on the environment a few months ago concluded.

Ethanol production does not save anything, because current production methods, storage and distribution use as much energy (mostly natural gas, and fuel) as it saves.

The money would better be spend on R+D into new forms of ethanol production than buying votes in the mid-west ...

Re:Never mind, ethanol does not solve the problem (1)

FudRucker (866063) | more than 7 years ago | (#18412549)

mod parent up, there has to be alternatives to corn for ethanol production, sugarcane, sugarbeets, sawdust/wood pulp, lawn clippings, whatever, i agree with the point that raising more corn would help but raising the price of corn will have a bad effect on many peoples, even the price of corn tortillas has doubled in Mexico = lots of poor hungry people down there that need to eat...

How about ending ALL Agribusiness subsidies? (1)

Nova Express (100383) | more than 7 years ago | (#18412485)

There's no justification for what s essentially an income transfer program from the poor to the rich (the most money always goes to the biuggest producers while prices supports driving up the prices of bread and milk) that damages the environment, screws taxpayers and benefits the most politically well-connected. All agribusiness subsidies should be eliminated immediately, not just ethanol, though that's certainly a good place to start. I guess poor little Fortune 500 companies like ADM will just have to make money in the free market like everyone else...

2nd law of thermal-dynamics (1)

hrieke (126185) | more than 7 years ago | (#18412505)

We're all trapped in entropy, but as long as we're going down the drain, we should just be as efficient about it as possible.

That said (and sorry for the downer message so early in the morning), the articles (follow the links) are correct- that it should be up to the markets to pick the winner, and not by politicians seeking favor and higher office.

Re:2nd law of thermal-dynamics (1)

tomstdenis (446163) | more than 7 years ago | (#18412775)

Problem is the market isn't always informed and can take far too long [re: never] to come to its senses.

Not that I'm a fan of reactionary policies, nor do I think politicians are always on the ball. Couple that with I don't really know the stats on ethanol vs. standard gasoline efficiency and well there ya have it.

I think ethanol should be promoted as an alternative, but not at the cost of the existing farming market. On the otherhand, they already use corn for sugar substitutes already, usually with crappy tasting effects [cola anyone?]. So it's not like the farmers haven't been given a free ride already.

Tom

Re:2nd law of thermal-dynamics (1)

Undertaker43017 (586306) | more than 7 years ago | (#18413005)

In this particular case the market is informed about ethanol and they know it's a bad deal (too costly to produce and the result, due to lower power, is that it costs more than gasoline). This is why the government needs to subsidize it (force the market), if ethanol were the right choice, it wouldn't need subsidizing.

The money spent on subsidizing ethanol could be better spent finding the right solution.

Re:2nd law of thermal-dynamics (1)

tomstdenis (446163) | more than 7 years ago | (#18413047)

Agreed. But researching how to make ethanol work could lead to a solution.

Though yeah, forcing reactionary policies doesn't help.

Tom

Feed prices (5, Interesting)

imrec (461877) | more than 7 years ago | (#18412543)

Holy crap, an "I work there" situation for ME!
Working for a corn refiner, I can tell you that though there is an increasing demand and price for corn due to ethanol plants spinning up, the glut of distillers grain/feed from their spent corn will be putting tremendous downward pressure on the animal-nutrition side of the market. In a wet mill, we depend on our co-products (corn hull, fiber, gluten, spent germ, everything but the starch really) prices rising and falling with the price of corn. Now we're having competition in the feed market from ethanol plants whos business models don't typically include needing to sell their feed. Granted, distillers grain is kind of gnarly (not as finely tuned as a wet mill's products) but typically farmers more interested in lower cost nutrition. And they're going to get it.

Effect in the Developing World as Well (1)

geoffrobinson (109879) | more than 7 years ago | (#18412587)

Increased corn prices isn't good for areas where corn is a staple. That may not be a justification for eliminating the subsidy as higher prices would lead to more corn being grown.

Diversion of corn to ethanol is also a cause (4, Informative)

wiredog (43288) | more than 7 years ago | (#18412591)

Of the tortilla crisis in Mexico [bbc.co.uk] .

Ethanol Subsidies (3, Informative)

MrCopilot (871878) | more than 7 years ago | (#18412655)

Ethanol Subsidies should be exclusive of corn subsidies. If you get federal money for corn you are ineligible for ethanol credits.

Problem solved. Of course we would have never got the subsidies in the first place it wasn't for the ADM lobbyist. Now that we got them making them exclusive solves the issue.

Research has shown ethanol produced from corn is less efficient and carbon positive. Alternative stock materials that require less fertilizing planting, etc. are the answer.

Growing food is hard. Growing grass is hard not to do.

Stupid ethanol gas (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18412691)

That stupid frickin 10% ethanol shit gives me about 15% worse gas miliage (I went from 26 MPG to 22) and eats up the components of my fuel system, what's the point?

In terms of raw energy (including the government subsidising corn) ethanol gas is more expensive to us than regular gas. Worn fuel components, worse gas miliage, subsidies, increased corn prices, etc. all cost us money. The whole thing is totally stupid and was rammed down our throat because of rising fuel prices dispite the fact that this costs more money in the long run. Obviously someone got paid off or is making a ton of money on this because rationally it doesn't make any sense for the general population.

Corn doesn't even make that much sense as a crop (it's not the most energy dense, easiest, or healthy to eat). Why do we have so much of it? Is it because the farmers have already invested in so much corn based infrastructure?

Re:Stupid ethanol gas (3, Funny)

freedom_india (780002) | more than 7 years ago | (#18412773)

U need to have your engine retuned along with fuel lines.
Ethanol and Gasoline are NOT same just like Goat's milk and Cow's milk are not same.

Ethanol benefits farmers who can now send their wards to colleges.

Gasoline benefits S.A which sends our way more 9/11 attackers...

If i were Bush (supporting ethanol) i would argue in this way.

Would we want to send our money to support terror or would we want to send our children to school?
If you don't support ethanol, you support terror.

Not even that green (1)

sergeantmudd (647674) | more than 7 years ago | (#18412749)

Corn ethanol isn't even that green. Sure, the ethanol itself is carbon-neutral, but the production of the corn leads to alot of pollution. The gas that goes into the tractors, the herbicide for the vast rolling fields, the enormous amounts of fertizilers, a huge chunk of our country having absolutely no biodiversity, the transportation costs of the corn. These all leave really big footprints. Corn ethanol only exists because government subsidies allow it to exist. Brazil can do it cheaper and with less footprint, and the import tax on their ethanol proves this is all about subsidies and nothing about environmental concerns

Ethanol is not renewable (4, Informative)

Tofof (199751) | more than 7 years ago | (#18412753)

This isn't surprising. Among all the many other reasons mentioned here, let me add one more. Corn-based ethanol is not a solution to the issue of depleting nonrenewable resources. Simply put, midwestern topsoil is being depleted at a faster rate than the supply of oil and coal. I can't find the study by the Illinois EPA that I learned this from, but it's not hard to find sources [fs.fed.us] explaining that "On human time scales, fertile topsoil is not a renewable resource."

Whatever happened to the "free market" (1)

jonwil (467024) | more than 7 years ago | (#18412769)

If you cant produce corn at a profit without the government paying you, you should produce something else that CAN turn a profit.

If there were no farm subsidies in this world, the world would be a better place.

Re:Whatever happened to the "free market" (2, Interesting)

uncleFester (29998) | more than 7 years ago | (#18412925)

If you cant produce corn at a profit without the government paying you, you should produce something else that CAN turn a profit.

remember that when you're sitting there starving because your imported grain is suddenly cut off because of some crisis or turmoil external to your country.

i grew up on a family farm. i helped my dad through college until he retired. all the small/medium farmers work their ass off at great risk (you live or die by the weather.. try basing your livelihood on that as a variable) and you get little in return to keep you moving forward. many farmers do not like subsidies themselves but a) have little choice due to increasing operating costs and decreasing return on product at market* & b) it's kinda hard to NOT enter some programs when the government is basically waving money in your face to not produce as much.

-r

*compare the market prices of corn/soybeans now to 1980, 1970, 1960, etc.. now compare the costs of equipment, fertilizers, taxes, etc.. for those same years. the only variables in the farmer's favor is the yield (bushels/acre) increase.. but put it all together it's a very razor-thin margin.

Corn Prices (4, Informative)

hsmith (818216) | more than 7 years ago | (#18412779)

Corn prices are fucking OUT of control. They were ~$2/bushel, but they have gone up a dollar or more since the bush admin enacted the fucking ethanol mandates. Ethanol is highly inefficient when mixed with gas, so you lose efficiency in your MPG, so that causes you to buy more fuel, so it is a nasty little cycle.

My great uncle is a corn farmer, he is salivating at the lips at the prospect the gov't is going to build all of these ethanol plants, a nice payday for him off our backs if it goes through. That is all it is, a payday, it isn't worrying about the environment. Sugar ethanol is much more efficient, 4x much so I believe. We aren't using that because we have subsidies and trade protections for the sugar farmers. HA!

Re:Corn Prices (1)

tetrahedrassface (675645) | more than 7 years ago | (#18413105)

I have often wondered how much more efficient Cane Sorghum [uga.edu] would be to convert over to ethanol than corn. It is easier to grow than Cane Sugar, and could be planted in a lot of areas in the United States. Its sugar content is high, and seems to me would make a great candidate for feedstock..
Anyone have any thoughts on this?

Am I the only one (1)

fredrated (639554) | more than 7 years ago | (#18412781)

that thinks the problem of not enough fuel for our cars should not be solved by using food for fuel?

Re:Am I the only one (1)

Random BedHead Ed (602081) | more than 7 years ago | (#18412901)

You're talking about riding bikes everywhere, right? Go back to China!

Re:Am I the only one (1)

MrNougat (927651) | more than 7 years ago | (#18412955)

Most of the corn grown in the US is feed corn, used as food for livestock, not as food for humans. Next is corn grown to be turned into high fructose corn syrup, to sweeten just about everything. The stuff in the grocery store, be it canned, frozen or fresh, is last in line. And last I checked, when the stores have fresh corn on the cob, they sell it for something like a dime an ear.

We got plenty of fucking corn.

Happy neighbors (1)

mulvane (692631) | more than 7 years ago | (#18412857)

I live in Brighton, IL and my 8 neighbors within 10 miles who barely make ends meet growing corn and soy are surely happy with growing corn cost. Remember, there are more people in the world than just those who consume fuel and resources. Some people have made it a way of life to help supply those things we take for granted with little to no thanks and in the past falling prices on the goods they produce. Its little to no concern for many that the American farmer is selling his land left and right so someone can build a new sub-division or a brand new super-mega-spectacular Wal-Mart. The more and more they sell, the more and more we grow dependent on foreign goods. And the problem with that is, someday they can just say 'No oil for you, we invade instead'. Ethanol is good for the American farmer. Support ethanol.

Uh,...., left leaning Paul Krugman? (2, Informative)

yanagasawa (120791) | more than 7 years ago | (#18412867)

From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Krugman [wikipedia.org] : "From 1982 to 1983, he spent a year working at the Reagan White House as a member of the Council of Economic Advisers".

I think you're confusing "willing to criticize the Bush administration" with "left-leaning".

Re:Uh,...., left leaning Paul Krugman? (1, Insightful)

bmajik (96670) | more than 7 years ago | (#18413171)

Haha.

I was going to comment on this also.. but in a slightly different way.

Are there any left-leaning economists? Economics is the study of choice, and the left hates choice. Economics is a science, with definite consequences when those who choose to ignore its principles craft policy. Willful igorance of economics is Leftist Politics 101. (Of course, the right has been following their lead for a while now :/)

We need a new rule. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18412877)

Anytime a left wing organization and a right wing organization agree completely on something, that something should be passed into law post-haste. For instance, if the NRA and ACLU agree on a law regarding guns, Congress would be forced to pass it. I think this would make our nation run a lot smoother.

go4t (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18412891)

EFNet servers. halt. Even Emacs Smith only serve would chhose to use

Corn overload (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18412903)

While we're debunking the desirability of corn as a fuel source, let's also remember that corn is a far from ideal feed for raising cattle as well ... ruminants are designed to eat grass, not corn, and feeding them corn (along with confining them in too-small pens, etc. etc.) leads to health problems that then must be treated with antibiotics, rumen buffers, supplements, and right on down the technological treadmill.

I would highly recommend the first part of The Omnivore's Dilemma for information about how corn has become a malignant force in our agricultural system...

This is dumb (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18412911)

You don't need edible corn to make ethanol.

Maize will grow in the desert.

So, the business plan goes as follows:

1. Buy a few hundred acres of desert out in California at $5/acre.
2. Plant maize (no need for pesticides, save money!)
3. Truck a bit of water out the crops every few days
4. Make into ethanol
5. Profit

Screw the farmers.

Re:This is dumb (1)

mime64 (1077951) | more than 7 years ago | (#18413031)

As an added bonus, you can set up your own solar powered ethanol conversion plane on some of your spare acres.

R.I.P. Electric Car

Cellulosic Ethanol Coming Like a Frieght Train. (2, Interesting)

tetrahedrassface (675645) | more than 7 years ago | (#18413035)

Yeah, don't forget cellulosic ethonal. There were some stories last week about the DOE or some arm of the government handing out 380 million to build 6 cellulosic ethanol plants.

If cellulosic becomes attainable, and it will, then the pressures on corn will decrease tremendously.

Link to article about the program [mongabay.com] And then there are those wacky ORNL researchers making both ethanol and hydrogen from algae.. [ornl.gov]

The future seems bright enough for ethanol production, with new ideas popping up all the time. Its pretty fun to drink too... :)

First pOst (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18413215)

Fucking market BSD's aclaimed OpenBSD guys. They rivalry. While fun to be again.

Well there's a few issues here... (1)

eno2001 (527078) | more than 7 years ago | (#18413227)

1. Stop producing and eating meat. Especially now that we're encountering the issue of the extremely dangerous quinolone family of antibiotics being approved for use on livestock. The meat in this country is and has been poisoned for decades.
2. Ethanol is not economically or technically feasible. We can't produce enough corn to produce fuel to meet the demand AND feed people.
3. We need improved mass transportation with more flexibility and a clean up of the problem riders (insane, violent, etc...)

I'm opposed to Ethanol on several fronts and I believe the only solution is the electric car powered by green energy from wind farms and solar panels. But that's me...
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