NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


May 8, 2008

All it took for the world to awaken to the folly of subsidized biofuels was a mere global "food crisis," says the Wall Street Journal.  Corn ethanol can now join the scare over silicone breast implants and the pesticide Alar as among the greatest scams of the age.  But before we move on to the next green miracle cure, it's worth recounting how much damage this ethanol political machine is doing.

For instance:

  • To create just one gallon of fuel, ethanol slurps up 1,700 gallons of water, according to Cornell's David Pimentel, and 51 cents of tax credits.
  • And it still can't compete against oil without a protective 54-cents-per-gallon tariff on imports and a federal mandate that forces it into our gas tanks.
  • The record 30 million acres the United States will devote to ethanol production this year will consume almost a third of America's corn crop while yielding fuel amounting to less than 3 percent of petroleum consumption.

Now scientists are showing that ethanol will exacerbate greenhouse gas emissions:

  • Corn-based ethanol, instead of producing a 20 percent savings, nearly doubles greenhouse emissions over 30 years, according to a report in the journal Science.
  • Biofuels from switchgrass, if grown on U.S. corn lands, increase emissions by 50 percent.
  • Markets for biofuel encourage farmers to level forests and convert wilderness into cropland, in order to replace the land diverted from food to fuel, says Princeton's Timothy Searchinger and colleagues at Iowa State.

Over the longer term, however, this shouldn't be entrusted to unelected bureaucrats.  The best policy would repeal the biofuel mandates and subsidies enacted in the 2005 and 2007 energy bills, says the Journal.

Source: Editorial, "The Biofuels Backlash," Wall Street Journal, May 7, 2008.

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