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    Subsidizing Ethanol: Sci-Fi Nightmare

    05/04/2011

    The government is continuing to seek out alternative energy sources, but the solutions should not come at the expense of the American consumer. Government subsidies of ethanol can only have negative consequences. It will continue to destabilize our fragile economy and raise food prices to benefit a few politicians and corn lobbyists, while doing nothing to further the search for effective alternative energy.


        In the midst of a shaky economy, Congress is trying to trim as much waste as possible, yet they are continuing to support subsidies for corn ethanol . The US Department of Agriculture will soon be offering “grants and loan guarantees”  to gas station to install “blender pumps”. These pumps will supply fuel with higher ethanol content . The new pumps will support a growing number of vehicles that run on E85 fuel, or gasoline with 15% rather than the current standard 10% of ethanol mixed in .


        Corn ethanol subsidies will only damage American food supply by raising prices. The grain is an American staple, consumed in plant form, processed into corn syrup, and used as such in numerous packaged foods . The current ethanol subsidies have already “pushed prices of the grain to new heights”, asserts US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. The subsidies will continue to hurt livestock producers, and drive the cost of animal products up even higher . Ethanol producers are slated to consume 5 billion bushels of corn, almost as much as the 5.2 billion bushels that are used to feed livestock .   


        The ethanol subsidies are not for the benefit of the American people. They are purely political decisions. Many politicians choose to support ethanol subsidies to garner support in the corn-rich Midwest, where several key swing states and Iowa – the first state to choose a candidate in a presidential election – are located.


        President Obama is pushing for an increase in oil taxes, and a significant reduction in oil importation while maintaining ethanol subsidies. The president argues that it is unfair for oil companies to be making a substantial profit while the consumer struggles to foot his gasoline bill. Yet the increased taxes and import restrictions will only decrease supply and propel the price of oil up further. Ethanol subsidies can only make the energy situation worse, as ethanol is expensive to produce and generates a low return, increasing the consumer’s pain at the pump.


        To continue governmental ethanol subsidies will only shake our unstable economy further. Possible 2012 GOP nominee Tim Pawlenty has supported legislation to increase the percentage of ethanol in gasoline, declaring that "this is a country that needs to get much more serious about Americanizing our energy sources and doing everything we can to develop our own energy here and add more supply," . Governor Pawlenty is correct in admonishing the government to diversity our energy sources, but we should do so with an effective energy source. Not one that is inefficient, costly, and damaging to the American food supply.