Jonah Lehrer says
I'd feel better about Obama's plans if he wasn't a leading supporter of the tariff on Brazilian ethanol derived from sugar. (There is a tariff of fifty-four cents per gallon on sugar-based ethanol from foreign sources.) Instead, Obama supports nurturing a "home grown ethanol industry," which means massive subsidies for corn farmers. While that sounds nice in the abstract, it's up against the brute facts of botany: ethanol distilled from sugarcane is much cheaper to produce and generates far more energy per unit of input--about eight times more, according to most estimates--than corn. And because we also impose tariffs on imported sugar - the sugar lobby is almost as powerful as the corn lobby - it's not economical to develop a domestic ethanol industry based on sugar cane. It's as if Congress has decided that supporting the corn farmers with massive agricultural subsidies is more important than 1) developing alternative fuels that are better for the environment and help prevent global warming 2) wean us off our dependence on foreign oil and 3) help support development in poor countries that grow sugar.
Way to go Jonah. And with a dose of cold reason, Johnah continues:
But he won't talk too tough to the farming companies that will be bankrolling at least part of his assault on the Whitehouse.
I can see that the farming lobby probably pays a considerable amount of money to politicians' campaign funds and, that as you need a lot of money to become president, its very welcome. But you also need a lot of votes in the right states.
There are many more drivers in the US than there are farmers, right, and they all have votes, so why not have a policy for them that would allow them to decide which fuel ethanol to buy expensive locally produced stuff or cheaper stuff from overseas.
And while we're at it, give tax breaks to people who either don't own cars or drive very few miles/year...