The absurdity of our energy policies

Does anyone agree that our energy policies border on irrational? 

Perhaps it’s the current news coverage of the unrest in Egypt that brings this all to mind. It has led to conjecture that if traffic through the Suez Canal gets disrupted we could experience lines at the gas pumps. In turn, that inference renews the old calls for becoming “energy independent.” Yeah, right!

The truth is our energy policies are so screwed up, anyone who thinks of energy independence needs to come back from Oz and get reality-based. The truth is we’re pouring megabucks of public money into solar and wind projects that, even if all are successful, may provide less than 11 percent of our energy needs a decade or more from now. Meanwhile, we actually have an abundance of oil (we are the world’s third largest producer) but we have a prohibition against new deep water drilling in the Gulf. We can’t drill in ANWR, either, where literally billions more barrels are waiting for resolution of an ongoing political controversies dating back to 1977. Doesn’t make much sense, does it? Well, hang on there’s more!

Instead of focusing on expanding our access to America’s oil resources, some members of Congress are wasting time trying to thwart Cuba’s plan to deep-water drill 22 miles north of Havana. Rep. Vern Buchanan wants to deny any gas and oil leases to any company involved in Cuba’s drilling. Sen. Bill Nelson wants to pull the visa for executives of such companies. Perhaps I’m naïve but I’ll wager Cuba drills anyway (the rig is under construction in Singapore) and clearly this political pandering takes the eye off the ball – our energy needs.?
Enter ethanol, the greatest scam in the name of clean air and energy independence ever! It’s ludicrous – we’re turning food into gas. The United Nations benchmark food price index hit a record high last month, raising fears of shortages and even higher prices that will hit poor countries hardest. It’s a toxic combination -- unemployment and rapidly rising food inflation – that’s the leading contributors to the unrest and instability of countries like Egypt. So one must ask why, as one of the world's largest agricultural exporters, are we are turning more and more of our corn to ethanol?

In 2001, 7 percent of our corn went for ethanol (707 million bushels). In 2010, 39.4 percent or 5 billion bushels became ethanol. Four out of every 10 rows of corn now go to make ethanol, not food or feed. It’s because of policies deliberately designed to subsidize ethanol. Corn subsidies and ethanol-blending tax breaks actually create a government dependence. Thus, we have the ethanol makers going to the Environmentla Protection Agency for approval to sell more (E15), which sets up a dangerous misfueling and damage scenario for millions of owners of motors ranging from autos to marine engines. This needs to stop!

To that end, the National Marine Manufacturers Association has taken the extraordinary action to file suit against the EPA, contending it violated federal law when it granted the ethanol producers a waiver from the Clean Air Act to increase ethanol in gas from the current 10 percent (E10) to 15 percent (E15). At least two other groups have filed similar suits.

“We’re confident in our suit,” says NMMA president Thom Dammrich. “We believe our position is strongly supported by law.” Clearly the marine industry, along with literally millions of boat owners, is looking for a just decision from the court. Meanwhile, it’s also time to develop a national energy policy that opens up access to our oil resources and ends the policy of converting food to gas.


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