April 7, 2008
End the Ethanol Scam
By James Wilson
Today's Downsizer-Dispatch . . . Change the political environment. Recruit more Downsizers. Share this message with others.

Quote of the Day:

"Democracy means simply the bludgeoning of the people by the people for the people."
-- Oscar Wilde "The Soul of Man Under Socialism," 1891

Fact of the Day:

British dentists have been forced to go on holiday because they've fulfilled the annual work quotas allotted to them by the National Health Service. The dentists are denying treatment to patients because the government will not pay them to do the work. More than 7 million British citizens are unable to find an NHS dentist. Universal access?

Subject: End the Ethanol Scam

The politicians want us to burn more ethanol in our cars. Like most plans concocted by politicians, this one is a terrible idea that is having devastating consequences. Here are the facts about ethanol . . .

Ethanol consumes more energy than it produces. A study by Cornell and UC Berkeley found that corn converted to ethanol consumes 29% more energy than it creates. Most of these energy losses come from the burning of extra fossil fuels. Energy losses from other sources of ethanol, such as switch grass (45%) and wood (57%) are even worse.

Strike one for ethanol.

Burning ethanol in our cars emits less carbon dioxide (CO2) than burning gasoline, but this hardly matters given the net energy loss involved in ethanol's production. Burning extra fossil fuels to create ethanol adds more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere than we save by using ethanol as a partial substitute for gasoline. Overall, ethanol increases CO2 emissions, raising the risk of global warming.

Strike two for ethanol

When farmers use their land to grow crops for ethanol production, instead of food, the food supply drops and the price of food rises. Increased food prices create an incentive to plow new land to replace the missing food crops. Expanding the acreage used for agriculture also adds extra CO2 to the atmosphere. A study reported in the journal "Science" indicates that, depending on the crop used to create the ethanol, it could take tens or even hundreds of years for ethanol to make up for the CO2 surge caused by plowing more land for agriculture.

Strike three for ethanol. If we were playing baseball ethanol would now be on its way back to the dugout, but we aren't done yet . . .

Ethanol increases the cost you pay for food. A University of Iowa study indicates that ethanol production increased the average food bill by about $47 over the last six months of 2007. This increase in food prices is also having knock-on effects on food prices around the world, devastating consumers in under-developed nations.

Strike four for ethanol.

Ethanol also makes your fuel prices rise. Politicians mandated that refineries add 4 billion gallons of ethanol to your gasoline in 2006, in spite of the fact that ethanol is twice as expensive as gasoline. This is part of the reason it costs you so much to commute to work.

Strike five for ethanol.

Ethanol has also been sold as a way to make our fuel supply more secure, but an examination of this claim by scholars from the Cato Institute (published in the Washington Post) indicates that corn crops are far more variable than the world oil supply. The more we depend on ethanol the more likely we are to have fuel shortages after a bad harvest.

Strike six for ethanol. Having struck out twice, you might think that it's time for ethanol to retire from the field, but there's still more to come . . .

Ethanol has also been sold as an important part of achieving energy independence, but this is another myth. Even if we used ALL the corn produced in the U.S. to make ethanol, and NONE of it for food, U.S. gasoline consumption would drop by only about 12%. This wouldn't even make us independent of the oil we import from the Middle East (which is about 14% of our total consumption), let alone the oil we import from other parts of the globe.

Strike seven for ethanol.

Ethanol makes it more likely that you will burn to death in your car. Neither water nor conventional foams work on ethanol fires. Ethanol fires require special materials and training to extinguish.

Strike eight for ethanol.

The ethanol program is really a government program of corporate welfare. In "Archer Daniels Midland: A Case Study In Corporate Welfare," James Bovard shows how big agri-business corporations have used government subsides and tax breaks, like those for ethanol, to loot billions of dollars from taxpayers and consumers. Our government's ethanol policies are a major culprit. Bovard estimates that every $1 of profit earned by ADM from its ethanol operation has cost taxpayers $30.

Strike nine for ethanol. We have now retired the side.

The case is clear. All government mandates, subsidies, and tax breaks for ethanol production must end, immediately. If we can achieve this goal we will improve the environment, reduce government spending, and make it easier to balance the federal budget. Better yet, all of this can be achieved while also lowering your fuel and food prices.

Please send Congress a message instructing them to end all subsidies and mandates for the production and use of ethanol. You can do so here.

Please also consider starting a monthly pledge to make Downsize DC grow larger faster. We achieved a new record for pledge support in March, $7,707. Please help us exceed that mark this month. Your monthly pledge could be as little as $5, or you could decide to become our top pledger, by donating more than $235. Or you could choose an amount in between. You can start your monthly pledge here.

One-time donations are also helpful. Jack Mullen, the Chairman of the Downsize DC Foundation, has pledged to donate $1,000 this month, if 10 other Downsizers will donate $100 each. Contributions higher or lower than that would also help. You can contribute here.

Thank you for being a part of our growing Downsize DC Army.

Jim Babka
President, Inc.
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