Senate Passes Massive Farm-Subsidy Bill

Though it is nominally called an "energy" bill, the Senate just passed the largest farm-subsidy bill in history:

The legislation would require ethanol production for motor fuels to
grow to at least 36 billion gallons a year by 2022, a sevenfold
increase over the amount of ethanol processed last year. It also calls
for boosting auto fuel economy to a fleet average of 35 miles per
gallon by 2020, a 40 percent increase over current requirements for
cars, SUVs, vans and pickup trucks.

The evidence is absolutely unequivocal that corn-based ethanol doesn't reduce net energy use, since it takes at least as much energy to grow and produce as it provides.  It is even worse as environmental policy, since it almost certainly increases total pollution and CO2 production, particularly as ethanol is produced with Midwestern coal-powered electricity.   In addition, it is going to cause marginal lands and open space to be brought into corn production, reversing a 70-year trend in the US towards increases in wilderness and forested land.  It is going to increase fuel costs to no real purpose.  This is dumb, dumb, dumb.  So stupid that I can't even get the energy to criticize the new CAFE standards.  If they really wanted to meet their goals, a carbon tax would have been cheaper and more effective, but that would have taken political guts.


  1. Don Lloyd:

    "It is going to increase fuel costs to no real purpose."

    While this may or may not be true, I would have expected to see FOOD costs in this context.

    Regards, Don

  2. Stephen Macklin:

    You neglected to mention that based on the possibility of legislation passing, oil companies have already begun to scale back exploration and planned increases in refining capacity.

  3. Jim Collins:

    Talk about being between a rock and a hard place. Automotive mauufacturers are supposed to make cars that get 35 MPG at the same time that they are jacking up ethanol production. With the reports I've read on gasoline with ethanol saying that you only get about 85% of the energy that you get from a gallon of gasoline, these cars actually have to get 40.25 MPG.

  4. JLBurns:

    Aside from the issues of cost and the energy needed to produce the corn, nobody seems to consider how we would actually grow the corn needed to meet the goal. According to (a pro-ethanol entity) 1 bushel of corn yields 2.8 gallons of ethanol. To go from the 5 billion gallons of ethanol produced in 2006 to 35 billion gallons would require about 11 billion bushels of corn. At about 150 bushels per acres, that's 73 million acres, or 115,000 square miles, of corn. That's a corn field the size of Arizona. Exactly where is that corn field going to be?