"When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, “it means just what I choose it to mean.”
That’s apparently the operative philosophy for many politicians these days. Legislators should be working to ensure that we have abundant, reliable, affordable energy – to meet the needs of a growing population and technologies that safeguard and improve our lives. Our economy’s digital infrastructure alone accounts for more than 10% of our electricity demand. Data centers are huge energy consumers.
Unfortunately, legislative bills could more accurately be called anti-energy and even anti-environment. They may reflect gratitude for special interests that get legislators elected, but they hardly serve the interests of consumers or the nation.
These politicians insist that the United States’ output of 5 billion gallons of “renewable” ethanol last year is a great victory for energy independence and the environment. As King Pyrrhus remarked, “One more such victory, and we are ruined.”
This heavily subsidized fuel came from a sixth of the Montana-sized 93 million acres America planted in corn in 2006, instead of sowing other crops or leaving land as wildlife habitat. By comparison, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge could produce some 21 billion gallons of gasoline annually for 20 years from just 2,000 acres – one-twentieth of Washington, DC.
Moreover, to grow this corn, convert it into ethanol and truck the fuel to gas stations (it cannot be pipelined), we expended billions of gallons of water, millions of pounds of fertilizers and pesticides, and vast amounts of energy. Analyst Michael Economides calculates that it took nearly 9 billion gallons of gasoline equivalent to get that 5 billion gallons of ethanol.
Motorists pay more per tank for this politically correct fuel, but get less mileage than from pure gasoline. Ethanol enriches certain farmers – but raises costs for cattle, pork and chicken farmers, as well as prices of meat, milk, soft drinks, tortillas and countless other products.
When markets do this, Capitol Hill calls it price-gouging. But when politicians do it, they call it consumer protection. Hardest hit are poor families that these pols profess to care about most.
Conservation should be encouraged whenever it makes economic and environmental sense. But where the heavy hand of government is involved, the results can be perverse.
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