Common Tragedies

Thoughts on Environmental Economics

The NY Times is now free, and ethanol (for cars) is still a bad idea

Posted by Daniel Hall on September 19, 2007

The New York Times editorial page celebrates its newly decreed non-excludable status by noting what a bad idea corn-based ethanol is:

American corn-based ethanol is expensive. And while it can help cut oil imports and provide modest reductions in greenhouse gases compared to conventional gasoline, corn ethanol also carries considerable risks. …
The distortions in agricultural production are startling. Corn prices are up about 50 percent from last year, while soybean prices are projected to rise up to 30 percent in the coming year, as farmers have replaced soy with corn in their fields. The increasing cost of animal feed is raising the prices of dairy and poultry products. …
Meanwhile, the environmental benefits are modest. A study published last year by scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, estimated that after accounting for the energy used to grow the corn and turn it into ethanol, corn ethanol lowers emissions of greenhouse gases by only 13 percent.

What’s actually better news than the opening up of the editorial page is the opening up of the archive.

In other newspapers-as-public-goods news, there is speculation that the Wall Street Journal will make it’s news content free in the near future, much to the glee of many bloggers. Megan McArdle seems to doubt that the WSJ will actually do this though. The gist of her argument — if I understand it* — seems to be that if the NYT and the WSJ were high school girls, the NYT is the one who puts out while keeping her opinions to herself (or at least she used to) while the WSJ is the one who won’t even let you cop a feel (and says crazy things in the hallways all the time to boot). It’s clear who has more to lose by changing their stance.

*And let’s admit it, it’s entirely possible that I don’t.

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