Thursday, July 20, 2006
Letter to the Metro Times:
Two cheers for Ben Lefebvre's piece on ethanol, though its refusal to reach a conclusion about the value of ethanol likely left a number of readers unable to sort out the competing claims.
Worse, the story forgot the most important rule in investigative journalism: Follow the money. In this case, we need to ask the age-old question, "Cui bono?" ("Who benefits?") A really first-class piece on ethanol would have told us who funds the research projects and laboratories of Drs. Dale, Pimental, and Patzek.
The world is at or near the peak in oil production, with natural gas soon to follow. That doesn't mean we run out soon--but it does mean that the amounts available of both is going to inexorably decline from here on, even as worldwide demand is exploding.
Rather than helping us prepare for the post-petroleum world, people promoting ethanomania are telling America (and especially Michigan) exactly what it wants to hear: that we can maintain the easy-motoring one-car-per-person lifestyle forever and that the only thing we need to change is the name of the fuel that puts the tiger in our tank. It's a dangerous delusion that we cannot afford to entertain for long.
The answer to bizarre and counterproductive subsidies for oil is not equally bizarre and counterproductive subsidies for ethanol, especially given that, as Lester Brown puts it, ethanol means that the poor needing food have to compete with our SUVs for it.