Friday, May 23, 2008

Backyard Ethanol

Usually when we think of ethanol we think of a fuel made from corn.

But sugar not only does as well, it's possible to make ethanol from sugar in your backyard.

The US subsidizes the use of corn for manufacture of ethanol, it's a helluva boon for Iowa and Illinois farmers. However, it's not clear at all that it's a good idea for long term energy policy or even immigration policy.

Our government support of diversion of corn from food stocks into fuel has disrupted international markets for corn.
There is another problem with relying on a food-based biofuel, such as corn ethanol, as the poor of Mexico can attest. In recent months, soaring corn prices, sparked by demand from ethanol plants, have doubled the price of tortillas, a staple food. Tens of thousands of Mexico City's poor recently protested this "ethanol tax" in the streets.

Of course we can't grow nearly enough sugar cane to replace all the corn ethanol we produce. Of course we could get some sugar from Cuba by simply recognizing that the Cold War is over and we no longer need to obsess about those dirty, rotten commies. But, if we expanded production of sugar ethanol we'd probably get much of our sugar from Brazil, and it would probably involve killing off more and more of the Amazon jungles.

Energy policy, immigration policy, farm policy, and environmental policy are all interrelated and often at odds with each other.

What we really need is some politicians who think past Who's Giving Them Money This Month.

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