Common Tragedies

Thoughts on Environmental Economics

Cob mentality

Posted by Evan Herrnstadt on October 19, 2007

According to Greenwire (subscription req’d), Barack Obama and Tom Harkin have proposed a new bill that would expand the national Renewable Fuels Standard:

The Obama-Harkin bill would require use of 18 billion gallons of ethanol and other renewable fuels by 2016, with 3 million gallons coming from “advanced” biofuels like cellulosic ethanol.

This already passed in the Senate version of the broader energy bill, but with interhouse talks stalling, the two senators decided this baffling mandate was too urgent to wait on.

Why does Congress feel we need to require the nation produce more ethanol? We subsidize both the source crop and fuel itself and, as I pointed out in an earlier post, our shipping infrastructure is already strained. If we’re going to try to pick winners in the great carbon abatement technology race, why do we insist on betting heavily on one that is so marginally beneficial? If you looked at our policies in a vacuum, it would appear that the U.S. government is more interested in throwing money at corn farmers than in reducing carbon emissions.

Oh, right.

I used to be proud of my home state, Iowa, and our prolific corn production (lots of great sweet corn as a child will do that to you). Feeding the nation, we were. These days, we simply retard the development of economically viable and sustainable fuels. Arrrgh.

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