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Ethanol and the True Cost of Energy


June 5, 2011 by wcobserver

My exceptionally articulate wife has been writing articles for weeks now on the ins and outs of gardening. And thank goodness for that. Now you know who the true farmer in the family is. This week she asked me to wash my hands off and throw my fingers at the keyboard. The seed for this week’s article germinated out of something I recently read in a WCO letter to the editor, or as I saw it, one constituent’s personal manifesto. This seed was fertilized on my way into town this morning as I saw gas prices had dropped for the first time in many weeks. This seed, which is part of a much larger plant, and an even greater ecosystem, could aptly be called Ethanol 101.

This seed has various genus and species depending on who you talk to. As the manifesto states, “greenies,” hippies, and environmentalists are driving up gas prices due to the increased demand for ethanol. That is one man’s opinion. A simple fact-finding mission though, will enlighten you to a cold hard fact. The conventional corn industry receives federally funded subsidies like no other institution on the planet. The goal of these subsidies is to stabilize and set corn prices on a global scale, while producing more and more corn each year. Another simple fact that surely all you sleuths out there will enjoy is that the amount of energy (for fertilizer and fuel for cultivation, harvest, processing, and transport) to produce this corn for ethanol far outweighs the amount of energy used if you just put gasoline in your car. That is not one man’s opinion. That is scientifically backed fact. Moral of the story: Stop blaming right wing this or liberally progressive that and learn the facts before you choose (to let the diarrhea flow out of your mouth.)

Speaking of choices, I’d like to touch on something heard at the farmers market each week. (And no, I’m not going to explain why none of the farmers have tomatoes in April and May.) Many people like to nitpick about the price of food, the price of gas, or the price of water (sorry Water and Sanitation department; had to throw that in there!) People rarely, however, examine the true price of the energy they put in their bodies or their cars. And frankly, it’s not necessarily their fault. Our agro-industrial military complex has made it so difficult to discern the true cost of things that the average consumer really has no chance of determining where it came from … let alone its true cost. So then, the simple answer to the question of why things cost what they do at the farmers market is this:. The cost at the farmers market is a better representation of the true cost of what it takes to produce that item. The farthest an item travels from farm to market: 20 miles. The farthest an item travels from farm to Wallyworld: sorry I can’t count that high.​




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