Ethanol Debate -- or Squabble?

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

An article at Motherboard opens with the following promising-sounding title: "Is It Finally Game Over for Ethanol?" Unfortunately, for advocates of limited government, the reasons the article gives for the possible demise of corn-to-fuel ethanol subsidies are not so promising. In no side of this debate -- if we can even call it that -- is anyone questioning the propriety of the government forcibly taking money from individuals or of handing the loot over to others. Instead, at least as far as this article goes, it would appear that politicians are merely squabbling over immediate consequences, with those being evaluated in terms that have nothing to do with government protection of individual rights.

Note first that many of the friends of ethanol subsidies have been and are conservatives, whose reasons range from "national security" through "energy independence" to "jobs". I imagine that many of these will be suckers for the following argument:

"More than $30 billion has been invested in infrastructure and expanded production capacity, creating an industry that is responsible for nearly 400,000 jobs and contributes $44 billion to the GDP," said Bob Dinneen, president of the Renewable Fuels Association."This bill is a slap in the face to corn farmers across the country who responded to the [Renewable Fuels Standard] with increased production and yields."
Many in the "pro-business" party fail to understand that government's only proper roles in job creation are keeping criminals and foreign aggressors at bay, and being available to resolve disputes. (Many of these also seem oblivious to the Fallacy of the Broken Window, too.) "Conservative" does not necessarily imply "pro-capitalist".

And as for the subsidies' new leftist opponents, they are merely finally realizing the fallacy of the old claims about ethanol reducing carbon dioxide emissions.
In a March editorial, the Boston Globe came down like a bag of bricks on the ethanol industry: "They don't even reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide, which was always ethanol's main selling point. True, ethanol burns more cleanly than gasoline. But the growing, harvesting, and refining required for ethanol production causes large amounts of CO2 to be released, doubling greenhouse emissions over time."

Another report, this one by the University of Michigan's Energy Institute, determined that ethanol offers "no significant increase in the amount of carbon dioxide being removed from the atmosphere ... therefore, there's no climate benefit." [links in original]
These new enemies -- of ethanol subsidies -- remain fully committed friends -- of central planning, guided by adherence to the debatable conclusion that human activity is causing global warming. Even if these subsidies end -- and I won't hold my breath for even that -- others will replace them in our current political milieu

-- CAV

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