Corn harvests are breaking all records, as is the acreage devoted to it – and yet there isn’t enough to supply demand, and corn-based food products are rising dramatically in price. Why? As Milton Friedman proved statistically, when you subsidize something, you get more of it.
This amounts to a tax on food to hand over to ethanol producers and major corn-growing corporations like Archer Daniels Midland, for little or no benefit to anyone else, as Rich Lowry notes at NRO:
“In some parts of the country,” Jeff Goodell writes in Rolling Stone, “hog farmers now find it cheaper to fatten their animals on trail mix, french fries and chocolate bars.” The higher cost of raising livestock is naturally passed along to consumers. So, with its ethanol mandate, Congress has effectively passed an indirect tax on food. The big winners are agricultural firms that have locked up lots of land, since the price of cropland has gone up 14 percent in the past year. (If your local real estate is slumping, it’s only because you can’t plant corn on it.)
This all might be worth it if ethanol were indeed a miracle fuel. Jerry Taylor of the free-market Cato Institute has demolished the extravagant claims made on its behalf. Even if we turned all corn production in the U.S. over to ethanol production, it would only displace about 12 percent of our gasoline consumption. It might even increase the proportion of oil we get from foreign sources; it will tend first to crowd out high-cost producers in the U.S. and Canada, not, say, the Saudis.
Read the rest at the link above. It’s not even necessarily any benefit to the environment at all. Perhaps if they saved the cobs for Sheryl Crow . . .
For more on this subject from the environmental perspective, an article by Lester R. Brown.