News from the NRDC blog: Senate votes overwhelmingly to end corn ethanol subsidies —
- The amendment will end three decades of subsidies to the corn ethanol industry and save taxpayers several billion dollars.
- The VEETC (Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit) [cost] taxpayers $6 billion this year alone and [gave] almost nothing in return in domestic ethanol production or industry jobs above and beyond what is already mandated by the Renewable Fuel Standard
- [The VEETC] comes at the expense of developing the new and cleaner advanced biofuels we need to create jobs, increase our energy security and address global warming.
We wanted to see if Michael Pollan had written anything recently about ethanol subsidies, and read this article from 2006:
- The way we grow corn in this country consumes tremendous quantities of fossil fuel: Every bushel of corn grown in America has consumed the equivalent of between a third and a half gallon of gasoline.
- Corn receives more synthetic fertilizer than any other crop, and that fertilizer is made from fossil fuels — mostly natural gas.
- Corn also receives more pesticide than any other crop, and most of that pesticide is made from petroleum.
- To plow or disc the cornfields, plant the seed, spray the corn and harvest it takes large amounts of diesel fuel
- To dry the corn after harvest requires natural gas.
- Distill[ing] the corn into ethanol, an energy-intensive process that requires still more fossil fuel. Estimates vary, but they range from two-thirds to nine-tenths of a gallon of oil to produce a single gallon of ethanol. (The more generous number does not count all the energy costs of growing the corn.) Some estimates are still more dismal, suggesting it may actually take more than a gallon of fossil fuel to produce a gallon of our putative alternative to fossil fuel.
- According to the Wall Street Journal, it will cost U.S. taxpayers $120 for every barrel of oil saved by making ethanol.
- The federal government offers a tax break of 54 cents for every gallon of ethanol produced
- At the same time, the government protects domestic ethanol producers by imposing a tariff of 54 cents a gallon on imported ethanol
- Ethanol is just the latest chapter in a long, sorry history of clever and profitable schemes to dispose of surplus corn: there was corn liquor in the 19th century; feedlot meat starting in the 1950’s and, since 1980, high fructose corn syrup.
This all reminds us of a t-shirt we saw recently: http://www.goodjoe.com/Store/Product.aspx?id=66. It’s not clear from the creator’s description if she is making a statement about the large quantity of corn products found in the composition of the average American body…