It May Not Be Corny, but It Makes Sense

Published September 27, 2007

Jeff Gelles proves that even our “master spies” need a clue about the negative environmental impacts of alternative fuel projects. In his recent article about Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell’s energy independence program (“Former CIA Director Urges Production of Biofuels,” September 12, Philadelphia Inquirer) Gelles documents a sustainable billion-gallon market demand for bio-fuels.

However, the multistate Chesapeake Bay Commission, in its September 2007 Report “Biofuels and the Bay: Getting it Right to Benefit Farms, and Forests, and The Chesapeake,” estimates that demand for ethanol will lead to an increase of 300,000 acres of corn in the six-state watershed which will increase the pollution from fertilizers which drain off into the bay, “sending an additional 5 million pounds of nitrogen into the estuary each year.”

In addition to Big Corn’s negative environmental ethanol impacts, there is a problem with rising food costs, both dairy and beef, due to inflated corn prices, which have diverted former corn-feed tonnage into ethanol feed-stocks.

Converting to switch-grass instead of corn for ethanol production does hold promise for future domestic biofuel production. But the U.S. will remain liable to WTO lawsuits from ethanol-producing nations until we redress the 54-cent-per-gallon tariff the U.S. has set for imported sugar-based ethanol. In addition, U.S. Farm Bill agricultural policy also distorts trade by providing domestic ethanol blenders a 51-cent-per-gallon-tax credit and biodiesel blenders a $1-per-gallon tax credit. Perhaps the governor’s plan can indeed become a model for the nation if he considers the advisement of the Chesapeake Bay Commission as well as the calls for equitable foreign trade policies from the international marketplace.

Ralph W. Conner ([email protected]) is local legislative manager at The Heartland Institute.