Oh corn, how do we love you. On the cob, creamed, cornbread, tortillas, soda…er…in our gasoline…All protected with Roundup brand pesticide.
(From The Houston Chronicle)
The announcement last week by President Donald Trump’s EPA director, Scott Pruitt, reveals the difficulty in draining the Washington swamp. Republican politicians in the Midwest must appease corn farmers, who have become addicted to billions of dollars in government subsidies.
Congress mandated that U.S. refiners blend gasoline with renewable fuels in 2005, when oil prices were high and U.S. production was low. Battery-powered cars seemed like science fiction then, and phone apps for summoning rides were still on the drawing board.
Some experts were declaring that oil production was peaking and Midwest corn farmers were over-producing and needed a new market. Distilling corn into ethanol and reducing our dependence on foreign oil wasn’t a bad idea. Today 97 percent of the gasoline sold in the United States has some ethanol in it, according to the Department of Energy.
To encourage the development of new liquid fuels, such as cellulosic biofuel made from cornstalks and switchgrass, the federal Renewable Fuel Standard also required gasoline refiners to buy so-called advanced alternative fuels made from the nonedible parts of plants. Critics were complaining that making fuel from corn was driving up food prices.
What made sense then now looks pretty foolish.