Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Did Someone Slip Me the Conservative “cool-aid?”

I am really sick. Please, someone help me…please?

I’m reacting to the JSOnline/AP story “GOP group wants curbs on ethanol.”

I’ve been following the rising food price problem for a long time, and the world community seems to be pointing a finger at the food for fuel policies put in place over the last few years. The bone of contention for me is the sudden strange company I’m keeping.

“Twenty-four Republican senators, including John McCain, called for a halt to the expansion of ethanol production as a response to rising food prices. The senators urged the Environmental Protection Agency to restructure rules that would require greater production of ethanol from corn by 2022. "This subsidized (ethanol) program - paid for by taxpayer dollars - has contributed to pain at the cash register, at the dining room table, and a devastating food crisis throughout the world," McCain said in a statement.”

Oh god please, I hope I’m not having a bad hallucinogenic trip?

In a small way, on the other side, the opposition forces have a point…”Critics of the proposal said that too much attention was being placed on ethanol as a reason for rising food prices, and that not enough attention was being placed on the role that rising crude oil prices - which surged to $120 a barrel Monday - have played in driving up the cost of food.”

The point is that food for fuel is part of the problem, and must be dealt with. While critics say the case is over stated, conservatives want to gut the alternative fuel movement completely. Like Wisconsin's own, Rep. James Sensenbrenner.

“But ethanol opponents said public sentiment was moving to their side. Outrage over food prices is fueling a turnaround in public opinion about government support for ethanol, said U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, a Republican from Menomonee Falls. Sensenbrenner announced last week that he was co-sponsoring a bill that would repeal the renewable-fuel standard, as well as tax credits for ethanol producers and tariffs on importing ethanol.”

While Rep. Sensenbrenner wants to reverse direction when it comes to this nations energy independence(we’re so proud of him here in the state), other credible voices have convinced me of a solution less draconian.

“In a new study, University of Wisconsin-Madison agricultural economist Randy Fortenberry says it's clear that the increasing use of corn to produce fuel has played a role in rising corn prices - but he cautions that the magnitude of the increase has been overstated. Over the past 18 months, as ethanol production has doubled, corn prices have increased 85% to 100%, but increasing ethanol production is responsible for 25% to 40% of the higher price. That higher cost could be reflected in some of the increases in the price of beef, pork or poultry. But Fortenberry, citing federal statistics, said farmers were producing more corn for exports, for feeding livestock and for fuel, all at the same time. Overlooked in rising food prices, Fortenberry said, is the rising price of crude oil itself. Petroleum is used extensively in mass agriculture, both for fertilizer and for food transportation.”

And he isn’t the only one…”Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, said Monday that the United States and the European Union should reconsider banking on biofuels. ‘In the United States, as much as one-third of the maize crop this year will go to the gas tank, and this is a huge blow to the world food supply, so these programs should be cut back significantly,’ Sachs said in Brussels, Belgium.

If you haven’t noticed by now, my guilty association with right wingers on this issue prompts me to lay out every possible argument in support of dealing with this price problem. For example: “Top international food scientists recommended last month that the use of food-based biofuels, such as ethanol, be halted, saying that would cut corn prices 20% during a world food crisis.”

The main argument for the continuation of renewable research is from what develops over time; basically the journey there. “Wisconsin is pinning its hopes on development of cellulosic ethanol, which is ethanol that's not derived from crops that are also food sources. That ethanol could be refined from wood waste from the paper and forest-products industry, as well as switchgrass and corn stalks. (And)’The energy bill that Congress passed in December required expansion of corn-based ethanol and next-generation ethanol. John Biondi, president of C5-6 Technologies in Madison, a company that is developing enzymes to improve the efficiency of corn ethanol production, said: ‘It's amazing to me the degree to which corn ethanol is getting whipped for increases in food prices. It's a dramatic overreaction."

Because of the debate, “The biofuels backlash has made Biondi change his company's financing plans, as venture capital firms on both coasts are reluctant to invest in any kind of biofuel that involves grain. Fund-raising ‘is enormously more difficult and incredibly complex,’ Biondi said. I spend most of my time fighting fires. It has never made sense to me to turn food into fuel,’ he said.”

I remember reading with skepticism a story on my radio talk show about British Petroleum’s hesitation to use food grains for fuel, thinking that they made a good case. Yet I poked fun at it because it also sounded like a great excuse to do nothing.

I hope that soon, Democrats will follow my lead in asking tough questions and deal with this global problem. Actually, I’m begging that someone liberal please follow my lead, I really don’t like the company I’m keeping right now.

No comments:

Post a Comment