Ethanol Boondoggle, by Bob Livingston

Boondoggle is too kind a word for this country’s ethanol “policy.” Swindle is more appropriate. From Bob Livingston at

Like every master salesman, Donald Trump loves to tell his audience exactly what it wants to hear.

Last week, at a campaign rally in Iowa, Trump gave Iowa farmers just the political fodder they wanted. He even acknowledged that that was what he was doing when he made his statement. According to The Wall Street Journal:

“And my Administration is protecting ethanol, all right? That’s what you want to hear,” Mr. Trump said at a rally in Iowa on Tuesday, and give him points for political candor. Mr. Trump then announced that his Administration will now allow fuel with 15% ethanol to be sold all year long. The Clean Air Act sets standards for fuel volatility, and E15 hasn’t been allowed in the summer because it can cause smog. Most blends contain 10% of ethanol.

Ethanol fuel is a boondoggle that benefits Big Agra, corn farmers and refiners and no one else. From its creation in the 1970s stemming from the manufactured energy crisis, untold billions of dollars have been dumped into subsidizing the production of corn ethanol.

Subsidies for corn ethanol litter the tax code, which is a case of government “carrot-and-stick” policy that modifies behaviors and distorts the free market. Gas stations get or have gotten over the years massive tax incentives to install pumps to distribute biodiesel or 85 percent ethanol gasoline blends.

As a result, corn, a staple used in many foods and also animal feed, is being diverted by government subsidies into biofuels. In 2000, about 6 percent of U.S. corn production was processed into ethanol. Today 40 percent of our corn becomes fuel instead of food.

Making fuel from corn produces only 30 percent more energy than it takes to produce the fuel itself, according to the government and corn industry sources (some are even more optimistic, claiming up to 67 percent net energy gain). But a study published in 2005 by Dr. Walter Youngquist, Ph.D., Emeritus Chair of the Department of Geology at the University of Oregon at Portland, said that “Ethanol is a net energy loss — it takes 70 percent more energy to produce than is obtained from the product itself.”

And fuel produced from corn waste, called cellulosic biofuel, is worse for the environment than gasoline. A $500,000 study funded by the Federal government reported in the peer reviewed journal Nature Climate Change that biofuels made with corn residue actually release 7 percent more greenhouse gases compared with conventional gasoline.

Diverting corn into fuel instead of food reduces food supplies and raises the cost of feed for livestock, which in turn increases the price of meat, milk, butter, eggs and other essential foods. Land that would be used to grow food crops is instead planted in corn for ethanol, which reduces the amount of food produced and likewise raises prices.

Additionally, ethanol fuels damage motors and reduce fuel mileage by anywhere from 5 percent to 7 percent.

A 2011 study by the Environmental Protection Agency found that E15 releases higher amounts of the pollutants nitrous oxides, hydrocarbons, sulfur dioxide, particulate matter, ground-level ozone, and ethanol-vapor emissions into the air than lower ethanol blends or traditional gasoline. That’s one reason E15 blends are not sold in summer months.

And testifying before Congress in 2016, Michigan professor John DeCicco told Congress in 2016 that his research found that biofuels such as ethanol actually increase the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere when compared to regular gasoline.

So Trump’s announcement last week that his administration will allow E15 ethanol to be sold year-round — something he is unable to do constitutionally, not that it matters to anyone anymore — is fiscally and environmentally foolhardy and collectivism and corporate welfare wealth redistribution on a mass scale.

But Republican voting farmers — who claim to hate socialism, except for the socialism that lines their pockets — love it. And Republican voters — who claim to hate socialism, except for the socialism that lines their pockets — shrug.

Meanwhile, we’re all poorer for it, because our food, cars and gasoline are more expensive. But the money printers the moneyed elite make out like bandits.


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