Thursday, July 18, 2013

On our being stuck with ethanol

This is a mess even before you consider the foibles of the source of the lion’s share of this ethanol: corn. Before the Renewable Fuel Standard set these arbitrarily high targets, the US used just 23 percent of its corn to produce ethanol. Last year 43 percent of our corn crops went towards producing the biofuel. That shift has driven up global prices for corn, starving the world’s poor and potentially fueling food riots. And to what end? Corn ethanol is categorized as a biofuel, but it doesn’t reduce emissions. Advanced biofuels produced from such sources as sugarcane and algae pass the green test, but they haven’t yet proven their commercial viability.
which is followed by a comment including this:
...In turn, this has driven the prices of ‘corn ground’ profoundly higher, such that there are now hundreds of thousands of acres in the midwestern corn belt and elsewhere with prices (as much as $12,000/acre) which are completely unsustainable if the mandate was eliminated or substantially rolled back. It would result in a farm-belt crisis akin to what happened in the early 1980′s when tens of thousands of farmers went bankrupt when land prices collapsed.

A ‘partner in crime’ in this fiasco is Bernanke, whose zero interest rate policy has allowed farmers, bankers and speculators to pay exhorbitant prices for farm ground that is used strictly for producing corn for ethanol and servicing of the enormous debt associated with much of this acreage depends totally on continuation of the ethanol mandate. This mostly hidden debt bomb probably explains why the mandate not only continues, but is possibly going to get even more onerous. There are just too many money men who have too much to lose if anything changes.
Translation: "Hey, all that money from the corn producers has a price; and you peasants are going to pay it for us."

1 comment:

Keith said...

Welcome to the bubble which has been growing for the past few years.

it'll pop, just like gold in exploration in 97, just like dot coms around 2K and just like property in 08.

I rode the "celtic tiger" (a PIIIG with green stripes) and I'm in agriculture now, and the bubble is just itching to be popped.

Difference is, I'm clued up on Austrian Business Cycle Theory this time, and I know it's coming.