Maybe war in Ukraine's the time to give up on ethanol

In 2004, George Bush signed the federal ethanol subsidy into law, which currently offers ethanol blenders who are registered with the IRS a tax credit of 45 cents for each gallon of ethanol they blend into gasoline.  Supporters of ethanol claim that the biofuel reduces the amount of imported foreign oil — a step toward energy independence.  Ha!

Farmers like ethanol because it raises the demand for corn.  Politicians, especially those courting the Iowa caucuses in their bid to run for president, profess their undying love for ethanol.  Quoth Donald Trump on the campaign trail in 2016: "The EPA should ensure that biofuel ... blend levels match the statutory level set by Congress," adding that he was "there with you [farmers] 100 percent" on continuing federal subsidies for ethanol.  "You're going to get a really fair shake from me."

In 2018, Trump's EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt, announced that the agency was looking at slightly lowering the ethanol subsidy:

The suggestion sent shockwaves through the Corn Belt and its Republican congressional protectors. Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley accused Trump of a "bait and switch," in reference to his empathic campaign promise. Grassley and Iowa's other Republican senator, Joni Ernst, threatened to block all of Trump's future EPA appointments. The governors of most Corn Belt states joined in sending Trump warning him than any cutback in the Renewable Fuel Standard program's subsidies would be "highly disruptive, unprecedented and potentially catastrophic."

Mr. Pruitt was promptly ordered to cease and desist.  Inertia is truly a force to be reckoned with in politics, as in nature.

The war in Ukraine will be "catastrophic" for the global supply and cost of food.  Russia and Ukraine are important sources of agricultural products, especially for Europe.  Russia produces significant amounts of nutrients for fertilizers, such as potash and phosphate, and about two-thirds of the world's supply of ammonium nitrate.

Fertilizer prices were doubling or more even before the war in Ukraine broke out.  Last month, Iowa attorney general Tom Miller announced that he was investigating the unprecedented increases in fertilizer prices affecting farmers.  Is anyone going to investigate how it serves the national interest to continue, year after year, to pour one-third of our corn production into our gas tanks?

Image: AndrzejRembowski via Pixabay, Pixabay License.

If you experience technical problems, please write to