Stop Those Ethanol Subsidies

We thought ethanol from corn was a good idea but - in light of our experience - we now know it is not. Unfortunately, the corn god is powerful and holds politicians in its thrall. The corn ethanol debacle shows why we cannot trust the government to fine tune our energy policies. Government subsidies are driving up the price of food, feed, fertilizer and farm land. Your tax dollars at work.

I promise that this is the last post I will make on corn ethanol and I apologize for the rant. I just got back from the forest, where I learned that even biosolids are in short supply and price even of the worn out land that grows our pine trees if going way up. What is also going up is acreage planted in corn. It is 15% higher this year, most of this the result of high prices due to corn ethanol.

The Federal government subsidies every gallon of corn ethanol directly. It also subsidizes it indirectly by supporting corn growing in general and setting high tariffs. American gasoline refiners currently get a 51-cent tax incentive for every gallon of ethanol blended into gasoline. The government also slaps a 54-cent per gallon tax on imported ethanol. The Brazilians, who produce ethanol from sugar cane, could sell us ethanol cheaply enough to make that 51-cent subsidy unnecessary if only we would stop punishing them with a 54-cent charge to sell us renewable energy.

We live in a complex system. A distorting government program creates a lot of collateral damage, sometimes very far from the target. I am interested in forestry, so let me give you this example. Forestry is a long term investment with a low profit margin. When growing southern pine, it is hard to justify growing trees when land gets much more than $1000 an acre. It has moved well above that. There are many reasons, but one is ethanol subsidies. It gets worse. Corn is greedy for water and fertilizer. The demand for corn for ethanol has the effect of driving up the cost of fertilizer. Fertilizing pine might not pay off for 5-7 years or longer. Most of the forest soils in the south are deficient in important nutrients, but when the price of fertilizer is high and you cannot even get biosolids, you cannot justify fertilizing pines.

"So what?" you say. It depends on whether or not you like trees, fresh air, clean water and wildlife. Forests produce these things. Families and individuals, who do not have great reserves of money, own most of America’s productive forests. No matter how much you love your trees, water and wildlife, that offer from the strip mall developer becomes a lot more attractive if keeping the land in forest is a money losing proposition. Beyond that, the average forest owner is nearly sixty years old. Nobody lives forever. Even if the old guys would never divide or sell their beloved woodlands, their heirs may be less inclined to lose money and anybody may be tempted to convert the land to other uses if trees are not profitable.

There are places where forestry cannot be profitable and there may come a time when it is not profitable in more places. The future may be parking lots, strip malls ... and over-fertilized corn fields. But if this must come to pass, let it be for practical reasons and do not let our forests become collateral damage for a misguided program of government subsidies and trade protection. What did they say about that cross of gold(en corn)?

Posted by Jack at July 20, 2007 11:37 PM
Comments
Comment #227002

Corn based ethanol is a problem. My son farms and raises hogs (also a few cattle) and corn prices are stifling his ability to raise his hogs.

Then again so are gasoline and diesel prices. He’s honestly thinking about throwing in the towel and calling it quits.

The sad thing is that I can almost guarantee you that we’re headed towards a farming environment similar to the oil company environment we have now.

A few large corporations will have control of ALL our farmland, feedlots, pasture, etc. (which will also give them control over where and when wind turbines can be built) and they’ll still be subsidized with our tax dollars in spite of making record profits.

It will continue until Americans get sick and tired of the BS. As long as you keep the majority happy with bobbles and beads like I-phones and HDTV’s the markets will keep on rockin’. And we’ll keep finding someone else to blame our problems on.

Posted by: KansasDeml at July 21, 2007 12:22 AM
Comment #227004

Nice piece, Jack. You’re spot on. We definately can’t simply switch off one energy source and hop to another. It looks to me though that corn ethanol is getting its popularity because of the wealth of the industries involved. Farm industries controlling corn lands already have contracts with thousands of manufacturers, but the demand for corn ethanol is sounding the greed alarms. But wadda ya gonna do? Like KansasDem pointed out about our obsessions with the latest and greatest gadget fixations, the big farm corporations aren’t much different than the rest of Americans. All related companies are hearing “go green”, and that’s exactly what they intend to do … wallet-wise.

But I wonder about something; why don’t advances in communication technology drive the demand for travel down? Or, is it that it already has, and if the internet suddenly died, we’d really be shaking in our boots over alternative energy?

It just seems odd to me that domestic commercial flights steadily increase, while at the same time, you can have real-time meetings, fax signatures, and remotely manage day-today business wherever braodband is availible.

Go figure.

Posted by: wtc7 at July 21, 2007 12:58 AM
Comment #227010

Couldn’t agree with you more, Jack. I just learned that corn farmers, contrary to popular myth, are much wealthier than average working Americans with incomes significantly above average and assets on average of 1 million dollars.

The proposal to trade in subsidies for an insurance fund designed to assist ONLY the small number of small farmers in the event of crop failures due to natural causes, is precisely what is called for. The nation depends upon its farmers, but, no less than it depends on its janitors to keep our society functioning.

Business losses should be absorbed by previous profits, wherever possible. The concept of saving for a rainy day is not applicable only to individuals. It is high time we demand businesses and corporations to absorb their losses through self-insurance rainy day funds of their own.

ADM, Caterpillar, and S. Calif. Vineyards should not have claim to subsidies at tax payer expense. Neither, should the government require that farmer’s grow specified crops. The government has every right to inform and ask, but, to require farmers to plant what, where, and when the government dictates is not what America was ever intended to be. And the price for such a relationship is too high for the nation and the taxpayers.

The government should serve the far more useful role as adviser and data dissemination instrument for farmers, corporate and otherwise, as the representative of the people’s interests (i.e. stable, non-inflationary pricing of agricultural products).

The problem with carrots is they require a big stick. The problem with whacking a big stick, is the cost of the carrots to avoid its use or compensate for its use. The carrot-stick approach by government has very limited beneficial uses and contexts. Very limited. Regretfully, that concept seems to have become the governing strategy for everyone who interacts with our government, from foreign powers to the lowly tax payer.

Limited minds lead to limited approaches to a diversity of challenges. It is the seedbed for group think, which leads to repeating the same errors and expecting different results.

Posted by: David R. Remer at July 21, 2007 3:26 AM
Comment #227013

P.S., while we’re at it, lets put an end to the Cattle and Sheep subsidies as well. Let the price force consumers to become reacquainted with vegetables. I was dismayed yesterday to find Quizno’s has removed the vegetarian submarine sandwich from the menu. With a little coaxing, I convinced them to make me one anyway, since they still have all the ingredients for use on their meat sandwiches.

Guess I will start making my own at home. Cheaper, anyway, and I can have more than just one per month or two.

Posted by: David R. Remer at July 21, 2007 3:41 AM
Comment #227018

Jack

Time to get creative and start selling carbon offsets to individuals feeling guilty about their flights to Paris etc. Really. Calce out how much carbon you are sequestering by planting and fertilizing your forrest.As you know,growing forrest are a massive carbon sink especially if the timber is used for building as opposed to paper or fuel. Turn a buck or at least break even.

A small caution on biosolids. A common detergent additive likely to be found in bio-solids mimics estrigine and is believed to account for incresing frog sexual anomalies. There is a push to ban the additive working through the courts. No surpise the EPA is being slow to act.Caeful of the run off into ponds etc.

I lost regard for corn to alcohol when I learned they use natural gas for distillation. Gee,what else could they use to get the btus needed. Alcohol maybe?There is also something terribly wrong in useing food for fuel production in a hungry world. The same goeas for some bio-diesel plans. The cost of tortillias in Mexico has risen dramatically as a result ,furthur impoverishing many and adding to immigration pressure. Celulosic production is a ray of hope.Useing the entire corn plant,grasses,wood chips etc.is already being done as a test in some countries(Canada,Sweden).
The corn susidy should give way to other sources. Tariff elimination for imports should be droped,or even better,shifted to imported fossil fuels. We should also start alcohol imports from Cuba(please please and cigars).Unfortunately thats not going to happen anytime soon for rather cynical political reasons. Seems the deep red of the corn producing states is turning purple and even slightly blue because the Dems are more suppotive of corn to fuel production.Politics again trumps common sense in both cases.
Interesting piece in the NYT about more interference by the feds of agriculture. Seems very conservative N.Dakotan farmers want to start growing industrial hemp as a much needed rotation crop for wheat and canola etc. The DEA will not allow them.They are sueing the DEA at this point.

Posted by: Bills at July 21, 2007 10:26 AM
Comment #227019

PS
I should add that the corn subsides did do SOME good in establising a market for alcohol as a fuel source but I agree it is time to start phaseing them out.

Posted by: BillS at July 21, 2007 10:35 AM
Comment #227021

Good heavens, Jack…there’s something on which we finally agree!!

Corn-based ethanol is a total boondoggle…my god, we’re using FOOD to fuel our cars…

Posted by: Rachel at July 21, 2007 10:52 AM
Comment #227023

BillS

I am inordinately fond of the amphibians on my land. I want to keep the chorus. I protect the vernal ponds and keep large management zones along waterways. You are right re biosolids. We have to continue to monitor their changing making.

I think we need to take the proper lesson from agricultural subsidies. It shows what happens when government – starring with good intentions – begins to interfere in markets. Government money attracts or CREATES special interests and pretty soon you got a big government failure.

David & BillS

On the other hand, government extension services provided badly needed research and advice. I think the difference between the good and bad government is when it offers money to help one group of people. Then I goes bad. As long as government is creating infrastructure that can be used by all and giving advice, it is doing good. When it starts to mange, we are headed down the road to serfdom.

And Bill, you are right that the subsidies do SOME good. It is fitting that we are talking about alcohol. Government programs are just like that. A little is good and it makes you feel good, maybe too good, which is why people do not stop at that. Soon the hangover sets in. The boozer calls for more alcohol and the bureaucrat calls for more government, when the solution for both is less.

Posted by: Jack at July 21, 2007 12:14 PM
Comment #227024

Jack
To paraphrase Homer Simpson ,”Ahh..Alcohol. The cause AND cure for all of lifes problems.”

I am serious about selling carbon offsets.It might be fun also. Of course it is a stupid concept but then again lots of money has been made with stupid concepts.

Posted by: BillS at July 21, 2007 12:33 PM
Comment #227032

BillS

Our tree farm committee has been approached on that subject. I don’t doubt the scam will eventually come to pass. I will give Al Gore a discount, just because he is a friend of yours.

Posted by: Jack at July 21, 2007 2:22 PM
Comment #227036

Jack
Vice President Gore is not a close friend,although we have met. Once at a state Dem convention I did stay in a hotel room right next to the room his Secret Service bomb sniffing dogs were lodged.He can pay full frieght.

Posted by: BillS at July 21, 2007 4:08 PM
Comment #227054

Jack,

This is a terrible article. It is catastrophic. I agree with everything that you said. Have I become a conservative? Please tell me no. Have you became a liberal? Please tell me yes.

We will not get a good energy program until we have public financing of elections.

It takes more than a gallon of petroleum to produce a gallon of ethanol and a gallon of ethanol only goes about 80% as far. This energy bill is a boondoggle for big $$$ agribusiness.

It takes 2 calories of petroleum to produce 1 calorie of grain. It takes 3 calories of petroleum to produce 1 calorie of corn. Corn is then fed to livestock. So, it takes 54 calories of petroleum to produce 1 calorie of animal protein (steak). It is a losing proposition all the way around. If we would all just substitute one salad for one steak, once a week, we could forget about the energy crisis.

Becoming vegetarian is the biggest single thing that anyone can do to reduce their carbon footprint. But we blame the auto industry instead. I have ranted about SUVs myself.

General Motors saved more fuel by installing hybrid technology in one fleet of buses than all of the Toyota Priuses put together, but Toyota gets all of the accolades for being green.

The auto industry, oil industry, and agribusiness industry have joined together to buy our political process with campaign cash and are pushing ethanol because of the money to be made. It is a gold mine. The oil industry gets to sell even more oil to an unsuspecting public. The agribusiness industry gets to sell even more corn. The auto industry gets to continue selling big honkin assed SUVs.

It is a win - win - win, except that the American people, indeed all people, will lose - lose - lose. That is the “problem” with “free market” economics, especially when free market economics is allowed to transect the free democratic process and turn it into a free market for the highest bidder. Of coarse the real problem is that this is not free market economics. “Free market economics” is an idealistic pipe dream as impractical as Marxism. What is passed off under the banner of “free market economics” is the opposite of free market economics. It is corporate oligarchic control of the world political and economic process for the profit and pleasure of Exxon, GM, Haliburton, et al.

Posted by: Ray Guest at July 21, 2007 11:16 PM
Comment #227056

Ray Guest, a powerful and well argued tirade. Couldn’t agree more with the gist of your arguments.

The free market economics ideal was predicated upon ethical imperatives, defined in the 18th century as culture centric, by the Fabulous Adam Smith in his works, The Theory of Moral Sentiment, and The Wealth of Nations. Failing to read the precursor and cornerstone of the Wealth of Nations, Theory of Moral Sentiments, economists built elaborate theories with the wrong assumption set. Adam Smith acknowledge greed and covetousness as basic motivators of human endeavor, but, he never suggested that free markets could ever work based on such motivators. Quite the contrary. He made the argument in Moral Sentiment that social and ethical rules enforced by enlightened self-interest, were a necessary and prerequisite condition for free markets to flourish to the advantage of the whole culture or nation.

The Invisible Hand of free markets was not greed and covetousness, as Republican and Libertarian economists mistakenly tout, but enlightened self-interest which asks: If everyone does what I do, will it be good for me, my family, my state and nation, presently and in the future? If not, the action may not be in one’s self-interest and that enlightened understanding would give cause to impede the action.

Reading Wealth of Nations and not Theory of Moral Sentiments, is like trying to understand Judaism from the New Testament. Adam Smith was a brilliant man and philosopher, and like so many of his ilk, gratuitously misunderstood and misinterpreted by a reading of Wealth of Nations alone. Truth be known, most people claiming knowledge of economics have gotten by reading Cliff Notes of Wealth of Nations. The 18th century verse and length and tedium of this work, precludes most students from ever reading it, while reserving the right to say they understand it. Which is not possible without having actually read the work, and the precursor book which almost no one claiming an education in economics has ever read.

You are absolutely correct comparing the idealism of free market capitalism to Marxism. They both attempted to paint a more equitable and wealthier system of distributing finite wealth amongst infinite demand for it. But, along the way, their thinking and ideas were quickly seized and tortured and twisted for personal avarice, greed, and power; not national and humanitarian ends, which of course, should be the goals of any economic system and were the goals of both Karl Marx and Adam Smith.

Adam Smith’s works however, come much closer to understanding the nature of people, and society, as different entities, and the psychology and sociology that drives them. Hence, Adam Smith’s works are far more relevant for today’s world, than Karl Marx’s.

Marx failed to anticipate the iron fist required to contain greed for wealth and power, and is a major flaw. Smith far more wisely took into account the sociological roles of religion, community, and social education and their potential for creating and inducing the education of character (enlightened self-interest) which would act as a check and balance upon greed and corruption of power.

Which directly implies an ushering forth of the kind of regulations and guidelines which would promote the general welfare of not only the individual, but, the community, society, and nation as a whole. Much like the example of our Securities and Exchange Commission which promulgates rules and regulations to insure greed and corruption do not usurp the ‘free and equal advantage’ workings of the exchange markets.

Posted by: David R. Remer at July 21, 2007 11:53 PM
Comment #227067

It will be a cold day in hell (despite how hot it is on earth from global warming) when Democrat Tom Harkin, Chair of the Senate Agricultural Committee, gives up his ethanol subsidies.

If we start cutting Federal hand-outs for no reason other than that they don’t work, what are politicians going to run on?

Posted by: Loyal Opposition at July 22, 2007 12:57 AM
Comment #227069

Now that is a great political point and argument, Loyal Opp.

Posted by: David R. Remer at July 22, 2007 1:00 AM
Comment #227078
Brazil provides an excellent example of the interaction of market forces, political will and good luck. Brazil’s military dictators stared the program back in 1975. There is some doubt whether a non-authoritarian government could have taken the initial steps to make it happen. Even with subsidies, favorable laws and official sponsorship, Brazil’s ethanol program languished and almost died in the very low oil price environment in the 1990s. The history of Brazilian ethanol once again confirms the necessity of a higher price of oil to encourage alternatives. When prices rose, the ethanol program once again made economic senses.

The lesson: Government intervention may be necessary to jump start an alternative energy program. A big change in infrastructure is something individual firms cannot handle alone.

Jack August 20, 2006

Re ethanol or water. I think the government may need to jump start an alternative energy program.

Jack

I guess this is what happens when you get what you ask for.

Posted by: Cube at July 22, 2007 4:35 AM
Comment #227079

Jack,

I agree with you, so I don’t have much to say.

Did you see that Giuliani has been promoting ethanol? I don’t know if he specifically said “corn-based” but he was visiting Iowa so I think we can connect the dots.

Non-corn-based ethanol would be a good cause for Gore to take up if he has really given up on running for president.

Posted by: Woody Mena at July 22, 2007 7:45 AM
Comment #227080

Noteworthy quote from Giuliani:

It doesn’t make sense that Brazil, per capita, would be ahead of us on ethanol.

Actually it does make sense, because they are smart enough to make it from sugar…

Posted by: Woody Mena at July 22, 2007 7:48 AM
Comment #227084

David Remer,

Thanks for adding scholarship to my rant. You wrote:

Quite the contrary. He made the argument in Moral Sentiment that social and ethical rules enforced by enlightened self-interest, were a necessary and prerequisite condition for free markets to flourish to the advantage of the whole culture or nation.
You also wrote:
The Invisible Hand of free markets was not greed and covetousness, as Republican and Libertarian economists mistakenly tout, but enlightened self-interest which asks: If everyone does what I do, will it be good for me, my family, my state and nation, presently and in the future? If not, the action may not be in one’s self-interest and that enlightened understanding would give cause to impede the action.
These are exactly the same ideas that motivated us back in my Marxist days. The belief was that; the true best interest of workers were in “enlightened” alignment with the true best interest of the world. Also, that the U.S. would not be ready for Marxist / Socialist transformation until the consciousness of the working class had been raised to the point where they would be motivated by what they could give to the world - until they seen themselves as valuable world historical figures. We subsequently realized that the original American industrial capitalism of our founding fathers had the same thing in the form of American patriotism, but also had the advantage of being able to motivate the greedy and degraded. American industrial capitalism is long since dead. The greedy and degraded have taken over and perverted it. We now function under the British mercantile capitalist system that Karl Marx correctly analyzed as doomed to collapse from it’s own internal contradictions.

Posted by: Ray Guest at July 22, 2007 11:30 AM
Comment #227085

Ray
Your petrolieum to grain numbers seem high to me . Could you source that? Just curious.
The newest alcohol subsidy law contain some celulosic requirments. I forget how much and will look it up in a bit unless someone has more time at this point.


“”ethanol program almost died in the low price oil enviorment of the 90’s…”

OPEC et al WILL drop oil prices to curb alternates at some point. Some method of price stabilization is necessary to provide capitalization to substantial alternate developement. The Government is the only institution capable of accomplishing that. For those free marketers,remember that we are not dealing with a free market in oil. It is being run by cartels.

Posted by: BillS at July 22, 2007 11:37 AM
Comment #227087

Cube

It is often the case that faith in government solutions is misplaced. As I wrote in my first paragraph, I think that corn ethanol seemed like a good idea, but it turned out the experiment did not work out. This is the fundamental strength of the free market over the government intervention. The free market is quicker to identify and correct mistakes precisely because private enterprise cannot afford to throw that much good money after bad and so it cannot do as much harm.

Woody

I think all the major candidates have now genuflected in front of the corn god. Cellulous ethanol will probably be a good idea in the medium and long run. My fear is that corn based ethanol will retard this progress.

Ray

The free market works because of the pricing mechanism, dispersed information gathering and the decentralized decision making it allows. It is also true, as I mentioned to cube, that the free market is limited by the amount of money it can throw at problems. Remember this, because it is always true, that no matter how nasty, greedy or short sighted businesspeople might be, they cannot employ real coercion w/o the support of governmental authorities.

Socialism would not work even if all workers, peasants and managers were motivated by a search for the common good. It has to do with the lack of information inherent in systems when market mechanism are absent. The price contains all sorts of useful information. It helps people know where resources are more scarce and how to respond.

Beyond that, it is very hard to figure out what IS the common good. I am a forest owner. I do not need the money I earn from it and I run it exactly as I believe is best and for what my forest can give the world. That means I cut trees, kill animals, maintain roads and sometimes start fires. I know many people who think these things are bad. I think they are wrong and misinformed.

I do not believe there is ONE way for everybody and that everybody can understand what it is. That is a big reason I favor the free market.

Re idealism - it is a nice idea for individuals. It is disastrous for governments with the power to tax and coerce. Most of the really nasty things are done for idealistic reasons. It certainly was not practical considerations that drove Hitler to try to kill all the Jews and it certainly was not practical considerations that drove Stalin to create policies that starved millions of his people. And it certainly was not practical for Mao to impose the Cultural Revolution that tyrannized and murdered tens of million. These terrible men and most of their accomplices were idealists.

We can make the world better as long as we do not try to make it perfect.

Posted by: Jack at July 22, 2007 12:02 PM
Comment #227101

Jack

Again,we are back to it. There are areas of the economy,any economy, where free market forces are not well suited to the public good and do not function particularly well. Modern economies are a mix of socialism and market forces. Most successful economies have more socialism than we do but we still have some large and functioning socialist institutions. Note I said functioning not perfect. You know the list. Fire Depts. The highway system,the military,postal system,sewer systems,municiple utilities etc. We are so used to them that many do not realize they are by defintion socialist.I would say personally a good rule of thumb in determining wether or or not an institution might be provide better service operated socialy is if people must use the services. The glaring example of failure of the market model in this country is of course healthcare.
Back to point,our addiction to the use of fossil fuels is the spawn of the free market. Otto Diesel’s engine was designed to run on vegetable oil for example.Blame is impotent but the recognition that there are no absolutes,that different problems need to be addressed flexibly and both systems have drawbacks, is the key to their solution.

Idealism is desasterious for governments? So you no longer support Bush’s perported seeking of democracy?HMMM…you may have a point.

Posted by: Jack at July 22, 2007 2:48 PM
Comment #227102

Jack

Again,we are back to it. There are areas of the economy,any economy, where free market forces are not well suited to the public good and do not function particularly well. Modern economies are a mix of socialism and market forces. Most successful economies have more socialism than we do but we still have some large and functioning socialist institutions. Note I said functioning not perfect. You know the list. Fire Depts. The highway system,the military,postal system,sewer systems,municiple utilities etc. We are so used to them that many do not realize they are by defintion socialist.I would say personally a good rule of thumb in determining wether or or not an institution might be provide better service operated socialy is if people must use the services. The glaring example of failure of the market model in this country is of course healthcare.
Back to point,our addiction to the use of fossil fuels is the spawn of the free market. Otto Diesel’s engine was designed to run on vegetable oil for example.Blame is impotent but the recognition that there are no absolutes,that different problems need to be addressed flexibly and both systems have drawbacks, is the key to their solution.

Idealism is desasterious for governments? So you no longer support Bush’s perported seeking of democracy?HMMM…you may have a point.

Posted by: BillS at July 22, 2007 2:51 PM
Comment #227103

Jack
Apologies for the miss post. I obviously give your thoughts a lot of wieght. To bad we live on opposit sides of the country. I would be fun to toss a few cold ones and look at your trees.We could probably sove the worlds problems while at it.

Posted by: BillS at July 22, 2007 2:54 PM
Comment #227123

BillS

Things like fire dept, military etc are government run. They are not socialism. Socialism involves government owning or controlling the productive parts of the economy.

Socialism is largely an ideology of the past. The market has won over it. The debates now center around incentives and control … and how much you trust government planning.

As I said on many occassions, those who advocate more government should consider that the people you dislike may be in charge half the time. Currently, for example, Bush is in charge of our Federal government. Do you want to give him even more power?

Posted by: Jack at July 22, 2007 4:54 PM
Comment #227128

Jack, many, many excellent comments and arguments.

On health care, our market system is held up by broad based consumerism of a vast number of different products and services by the middle class. If 1/3 to 1/2 of the middle class are forced to halt their consumption of nearly all goods and services in order to pay for just one, health care, the foundation of our market system cracks in many different directions.

It is vital that America come to view health care as a contraceptive service which prevents this foundation for our market system from falling apart. Capital will chase foreign populations if our own population can’t or won’t afford American consumables beyond health care. It is a trend already underway, and which must be reversed if American markets are to survive and prosper.

Posted by: David R. Remer at July 22, 2007 5:35 PM
Comment #227139

BillS,

I don’t have time to read the rest of the comments here and will read them later. Anyhow Bill, the numbers were from Air America radio and I do not have a link, so they may indeed be high. The Devil is in the details of these things. Previously, I had consistently heard that there was a ten to one ratio between the energy required to create a calorie of animal protein versus a calorie of vegetable carbohydrate. The vast majority of the animal protein that we eat is broken down into sugar and burnt for energy. I suspect that these higher numbers include things not previously included in the estimates, like maybe; the fossil fuel required to mine the ore, to make the steel, that makes the tractor, that makes the corn.

Posted by: Ray Guest at July 22, 2007 8:32 PM
Comment #227258

Jack,

I agree with your comments about idealism. I like David’s point about health care as well. The point about free market forces are bad, rather that the idea that you could ever have a true free market is idealistic. Everyone is looking to take unfair advantage, the government is the arbiter of who wins, and with our current campaign finance system the government is effectively a free market for sale to the highest bidder which means that those with the most money win and get to take unfair advantage of the unfree market.

I may write an article about this to continue the discussion in a knew thread.

Posted by: Ray Guest at July 24, 2007 10:02 AM
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