A drought of common sense

A drought of common sense

July 10th, 2012 in Opinion Free Press

High temperatures and drought in many parts of the Midwest are harming America's corn crop, experts say.

And that presents Congress with additional justification to end its costly promotion of ethanol. It is true that the direct 46-cent-per-gallon subsidy for production of corn-based ethanol finally ended this year. But it is equally true that by federal law, 15 billion gallons of corn-based ethanol still will be getting blended into the nation's fuel supply by 2015.

The cost of that is high to us all as consumers.

That's because the propping up of an ethanol market that would otherwise collapse under the weight of its own pointlessness and unpopularity has led to the diversion of massive amounts of corn out of the U.S. food supply and into fuel production. And that means we pay more for groceries ranging from corn-fed beef and cereal to corn chips and sweeteners.

Now, thanks to an unfortunate assist from bad weather, those grocery prices may be going even higher. With corn supplies already strained by the rerouting of much of the crop to ethanol manufacturing, a drought-spawned poor harvest might very well lead to some eye-popping bills in the checkout line.

And for what -- other than to placate farm state lawmakers who use federal backing for ethanol to buy votes?

Expanding ethanol production certainly isn't a boon to the environment, no matter what its fans on Capitol Hill claim. Corn requires lots of land to grow, not to mention lots of pesticides and fertilizer. It also takes a great deal of diesel fuel to run the farm equipment necessary to grow and harvest all of that corn.

Moreover, ethanol harms small engines and can reduce gas mileage.

It is high time that Congress get out of the business of subsidizing energy production -- of any type, but most especially of expensive, counterproductive ethanol.