Sunday, November 26, 2006

C to Shining C (for Corn)

Having just been on a road trip to the great Midwest, I would like anyone who has never been on one to picture the map of the United States with all that acreage, planted in waving cornstalks. It really is like that.

In Missouri, I was particularly impressed by the billboards featuring fields of corn, with the motto "These Are Missouri Oilfields", with a farmer standing in front of the waving corn. It's a concept that has a great deal of resonance for the American tradition of farming. It's also a concept that offers a whole new view of the sources of conflict in the Middle East. We can outgrow our fixation on other countries' treasures. Literally, we can outgrow it.

Ethically, ethanol makes a lot of sense.

Technology has produced the hybrid car, and GM among others is manufacturing dual use systems that can begin now to use ethanol where it is found. For the auto industry which has been in the dumps, a new utilization of our homegrown fuels is full of promise. Go look at the Chevy Equinox Fuel Cell, if you think the auto industry is hidebound. The surging price of fossil fuels has had the impressive effect of galvanizing what had been a neglected and underestimated use of our own resources.

Of course, the resurgence of the responsible party, the Democratic forces, in this country, is one of the best signs that nature is re-asserting itself as the oil industry takes a fall. No longer devoted to failing wars to keep it in the ascendancy, the oil industry is in the disarray the press was so recently trying to impose on the Democratic party. It is scrambling to stay relevant.

Even Forbes Magazine, while keeping to its pro-business bias, has to admit that thanks to the Republican rout on Election Day, two Midwestern Democrats from the Corn Belt, Rep. Collin Peterson of Minnesota and Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa, will tackle the legislation as the new chairmen of the respective House and Senate agriculture committees.

The switch more or less guarantees a huge boost to an ethanol industry that is already roaring ahead at full throttle.

"The consensus is that this makes it even more likely that we'll have some aggressive biofuels policies adopted," says Nathanael Green, a biofuels expert at the Natural Resources Defense Council. [emphasis added]

Already, ethanol producers benefit from a constellation of government supports, including a tariff on imported ethanol, subsidies for growing corn and blending the fuel, crop insurance and a guaranteed market: The Energy Act of 2005 required refiners to ramp up ethanol use from 2.5 billion gallons last year to 7.5 billion gallons by 2012.

Now, the farm bill may lavish even more on the industry.

"You're going to have Harkin, who is as good of an advocate for the corn industry as anyone could get," says Bill Kovacs, a lobbyist at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

With the progressive use of our own resources, which incidentally are totally renewable, the scene has been set in our country for a return to American innovative growth, and an end to the pollution which carbon based fuels have inflicted on our world.

It's time for this country to resume its eminence by use of its own resources, physical and mental - and time for a halt to the oil industry and its militarization of the world in service to its moral and economic wasteland.

Corn is a beautiful sight . It has deeply valuable connotations (another good 'C'-word) for our emergence into a renewed, responsible society. The American natives had corn festivals, it's good to celebrate some of the healthy, natural roots of our country's values, and good to return to them.

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Anonymous larry said...

Brazil has had an ethanol effort for some time, originally starting with some indigenous weeds. There was a problem with people's developing cataracts from partially oxidized ethanol being released as acetaldehyde. I don't know if modern catalytic converters alleviate this problem.

8:55 AM  
Anonymous jello said...

Corn is a beautiful sight .

yes it is. and i'm encouraged by the trend towards biofuels. but i'm reminded of something bill clinton said recently at a forum. he admitted corn subsidies during the 70s lead to a glut in supply, which in turn lead to the use of high fructose corn syrup as a replacement to sugar. clinton acknowledge the body processes HFCS differently than sugar, the consequence being an epidemic in diabetes and obesity.

funny this trend of people seeing the light, or willing to speak up, only after they leave office. yes, hindsight is 20/20 and clinton's heart attack probably made him more sensitive to the issue, but this stuff about CS has been known for a long time and he did nothing to challenge it.

hopefully corn being turned into ethanol will relieve the pressure from it being used as a sugar substitute.

would have been nice if clinton had made more headway towards developing biofuels while he was in office. we have a lot of ground to make up for.

10:48 PM  

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