The Ethanol Sham, Farm Subsidies, and Environmental Flim Flam

(cross-posted @ Freedom Democrats and Daily Kos)

Matt Yglesias attended a speech by Gov. Bill Richardson this morning. He emphasized his agreement with Richardson on a basic tenet of any potentially successful environmental plan: Land Use Policy. That is, it’s one thing to talk about reducing emissions, and another to talk about renewable energy. But, it’s all bunk if we don’t talk seriously about reducing the amount people drive. And that isn’t possible unless we talk seriously about enabling people to reduce the amount that they drive by way of better mass-transportation infrastructure. Most Americans live in urban and suburban areas ripe for good transit. But, they don’t have it.

Matt said:

At any rate, if you’ve been following this blog you’ll know I’m not really much of an environmentalist in my gut. But when you look at it, whatever’s in your gut, it’d still be really nice for the world not to perish in cataclysmic climate change in the 2060s and that’s going to require dramatic policies.

Well, I am an environmentalist in my gut, and so have even more reason to be inspired by Gov. Richardson’s statements. And I am (not for the first time).

Matt also says that Gov. Richardson made it through the whole debate without mentioning Ethanol. Thank god. Ethanol, a corn derivative, is a sham. It’s a part of the larger problem of government farm subsidies in this country. Ethanol doesn’t burn much cleaner than oil, and it takes up ridiculous amounts of farm land that could be better spent growing worthwhile food products that are actually healthy for Americans.

[I'm convinced one of the reasons that organic food (read: grown the way humans had always grown food before modern industrial farming) is so expensive, is largely because of the farm subsidies that go mostly to commercial and Big farms. Organic farms can't compete with a government-backed corporate farming industry that eats up all the land and saturates the market with low-quality produce. Our subsidies also have delirious effects on farmers of the third world, namely Africa and Latin America, where the ability to sell their products is the difference between life and starvation.]

Pushing the biofuel angle, without realizing the potential downsides of doing so is short-sighted at best. But, overemphasizing the upsides is just as stupid. Biofuels just aren’t a viable long-term answer. We need electric cars, and more importantly, less cars. Them’s just the facts. And I’m glad to hear that Gov. Bill Richardson understands them.

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