Why we need Ethanol
Ethanol has been in the news again recently. Rep. Steve Drazkowski called for an end to all Ethanol subsidies, because "...we have artificially propped up an industry by initiating government-influenced control of the markets." While it may be true that the Ethanol industry has received a significant amount of subsidies over the years, I feel very strongly that it's more than justified. Aside from the fact that pretty much all energy-providing industries are receiving some sort of financial support from the government (be it in the form of tax breaks or actual subsidies), in my opinion Ethanol provides a valuable service: every Gallon of Ethanol burned in our cars is one less Gallon of gasoline we need to produce or import! That, to me, is the whole point of Ethanol. Of course, Ethanol will never be able to replace fossil fuels, but it can have a major impact on the overall consumption.
Opponents of Ethanol argue that it is not efficient, leads to a lower gas mileage when used as a fuel additive and poses environmental hazards during its production. I believe (and I know some people will argue with me on this) that, to beat the impeding dramatic increase in oil and therefore gas prices, Ethanol is a valuable tool, but only if manufactured responsibly and used in combination with CONSERVATION. Yes, you have read correctly - conservation. We have become all to accustomed to being able to drive whatever size car we want, whenever we want to. India and China are just now starting to use more oil for their millions of cars that are expected to hit the road in the near future - what do you think THAT will do to the price of a barrel of crude oil? So, the less we use, the cheaper it will be (or the less expensive it will get). Unfortunately, that concept only works if it hits a common nerve. Right now, there are too many people left that would rather spend billions on new (and uncertain) exploration to keep driving at all cost.
I also wonder what would happen if the Ethanol subsidies were to cease immediately. Some plants would most likely have to be shut down, consolidation might happen, but here's the kicker: without the subsidies, the price of Ethanol is very likely to go up. The price at the pump would as well. If Ethanol can't make it without subsidies and is discontinued, the 10% of it in our gasoline here in Minnesota will be replaced with GASOLINE, which would - you guessed it - make the price at the pump go up! So, in any scenario, drivers lose. I'm not sure the people who are currently asking for the removal of the Ethanol subsidies have thought that far...