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Conservatives Against Corn

Biofuel biofoolishness. Occam sock 'em. Welcome back, Diane Smith. Jilting Joseph Smith. What about Arnold? Plus more.

2.18.08

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KNEE HIGH BY JULY
Re: R. Andrew Newman's Where Corn Counts:

I suppose I'd better respond to Andrew Newman's article, since it was probably my article on biofuels last week that touched off his criticisms. Interestingly I have Nebraska ties as well. My late father-in-law and I used to have this argument all the time -- and he was a Democrat!

Although I realize ethanol subsidies have become the equivalent of Social Security in the farm belt, I don't think that's any way to ignore the long-range consequences of all this. The venture into corn ethanol has been a truly tragic policy mistake that is going to come back to haunt us sooner or later, and the sooner we face it, the less haunting it is going to be.

It is simply crazy to be subsidizing farmers to burn up close to 30 percent of our corn crop each year just to pretend we are accomplishing something about energy. Corn ethanol is wildly uneconomical, which means it is probably losing energy. Why else do we need the 51-cents-per-gallon tax exemption, plus all the "renewable portfolios" that are driving it. (The soils that are exhausted from monocropping, plus the aquifers drained by intensive irrigation, by the way, are not renewable.) All this talk about how Brazil is running on ethanol is another wild fairy tale from environmentalists. Two-thirds of the vehicles in Brazil run on diesel fuel and have nothing to do with ethanol. The slice of the market that runs off the sugar crop is relatively small -- and even that requires huge subsidies. When you put all this on top of our farm subsidies, you have a situation where the rest of the country is simply shipping money to the Midwest to buy farm votes. I realize the Senate and the Electoral College are heavily weighted toward the farm states -- two votes for New York, two votes for Nebraska -- but this is ridiculous. Is the whole Presidential election going to come down to a referendum on biofuels?

I would suggest people in Nebraska take a comprehensive look on how to bring down trade barriers on agricultural products in both Europe and America and try to open up world markets. American agriculture could thrive with all kinds of speciality crops. But paying farmers to incinerate almost a third of the corn crop each year is ridiculous. Why not just pile the whole crop up in a bonfire and pay farmers to light the match?
-- William Tucker
Nyack, New York

Are we to pretend that bio-fuels are any less the preposterosity than they have been shown to be in order to win an election?

Andrew Newman would leave this discussion for another day. When? After we have fraudulently obtained the votes of those in the farm belt by allowing them to believe there is a future in this boondoggle?

Sometimes I just can't believe what I read on TAS.
-- Robert Randall
Nashville, Tennessee

Mr. Newman, freelance journalist in western Nebraska, is to be complimented for clearly articulating why I have no choice every time I pull up to the pump but to remove 10% of high energy and extremely efficient gasoline and replace it with low energy and extremely inefficient ethanol. I have no choice because our elected representatives have agreed with Mr. Newman and have decided that it is the role of the federal government to mandate what I can pump. These same elected representatives have decided that fuel economy standards are to be increased by fiat, so under the same Capitol roof they reduce fuel economy [ethanol] and demand greater fuel economy.

I have exactly one question for Mr. Newman, for which I would be most grateful for a straight answer. At what point did it become "right" for every man in every state to "rightfully" demand that his elected
representative go to Washington and do his best to steal from the taxpayers in the other 49 states?

Mr. Newman's electoral math may be impeccable; I strongly suspect that it is. But in tallying his numbers does he realize that he is writing the epitaph of what made the United States what it is, or perhaps more precisely what it used to be? Has he sounded the death knell of all reasoning save that of counting the votes of people who are motivated solely by personal selfishness? By that same calculus, the votes are there to strangle U.S. domestic oil and natural gas production, hence no drilling in ANWR, no drilling off California, no drilling off Florida and no drilling off the East Coast. Instead, the votes demand turning food into inefficient flammables for automobiles.

If "we the people" are now federalized corn counters, count me out.
-- Frank Natoli
Newton, New Jersey

More words, more confusion. I keep waiting for a straightforward definition of "conservative." I keep waiting for a straightforward definition of 'liberal." This article is just confusing blather. Read this quote from the article: "While there is not space today to elaborate sufficiently upon those definitions and assertions." It is because the author has no definitions.
-- Bruce Purdie

Andrew Newman seems to be a bit peeved at Movement Conservatives. If by Movement Conservatives, he means those who find our pork laden, earmark soaked, entitlement rich federal budget a travesty, then I suppose he is correct in his anger. The bio-fuel craze is an example of a "solution" in search of a problem. This 30 something year old relic of a program from the Carter Years finally found a powerful ally in the AGW Movement. Corn farmers now have found a veritable pile of riches - endless riches - as federal mandates most certainly will cause an endless demand spike on our corn supply. Now that farmers are in the energy business, they too can enjoy the profits of Exxon and BP. All it took was a weak lame duck President, a perceived global catastrophe (AGW catastrophes are always something in the future, just over the horizon), and a Congress and regulations lobby that are insatiable.

Andrew Newman isn't bothered in the least that global food supplies in a period of 18 months have shrunk to less than 4 weeks, and that there isn't enough biomass on the earth to supply our nation with "clean burning" fuels for even a month; as long as corn farmers are happy in places like Indiana, Iowa, and Nebraska, all is well with the world. Newman is the perfect example of what happens when an entire class of the electorate is held in thrall to the Beltway. He says he is a populist and a small C conservative. Actually, men like will vote for whom ever promise to keep the endless gravy train of subsidies, price controls, and "investments" going. Most Americans empathize with the plight of today's farmers -- that is small farmers. Most Americans tolerate paying extra for food in order to allow family farms to continue. However, this empathy will not last long when they realize that the double digit inflation they see at the grocery store is caused by the ethanol industry, and that the ethanol industry owes its entire existence to tax payer subsides, and congressional mandates. In Newman's world, civics is reduced to an all against all fight for federal tax dollars and congressional favors. And any would be President must bow to these "interests" if he wants their vote. Gone is the debate whether these programs benefit anyone other than the program recipient.

Movement Conservatives have been fighting a rear guard action ever since the New Deal. Most Americans, like Andrew Newman, do not see a problem with a Federal Government that consumes over 3 trillion dollars of our wealth annually. And I do admit, it is not often that a deal like our current Energy Program comes along. Besides a growing demand for US grains worldwide, farmers will enjoy an ever growing demand for their biofuels due to congressional intervention. It will be a great racket while it lasts. At least Newman and people like him should just come out and admit the truth: Farmers will be the only people who benefit from the biofuels industry.

At the end of the day, consumers will see ever increasing food prices, gas prices will remain artificially high (ethanol is very difficult to produce and distribute), clear cutting of the globe's rain forests will accelerate, and subsistence grains will be in ever shorter supply. Earlier this month Indonesians rioted due to low supplies of soybeans. Indonesian farmers have given up on soybeans for the much more profitable biofuels. But all of these alleged problems can be ignored -- they are just the irrelevant voices of an outdated group of Movement Conservatives.
-- JP
Indiana

R. Andrew Newman's "Where Corn Counts" makes an excellent point. Conservatives have long been too concerned with ideological purity and "big C" conservatism. It is clear that what we need is more pragmatism and less ideology. If farmers like ethanol subsidies, let 'em have 'em. As the original "compassionate conservative" has repeatedly told us: "When people are hurting, government must help." Or, in this case, "When wealthy farmers want the federal government to spend other people's money on subsidies for an inefficient and ultimately destructive product..." It's not exactly elegant, but you get the idea.

Since "conservatives" are now apparently in the business of doling out largesse in exchange for electoral support, I'd like a new Porsche and a gummint-backed, interest-free mortgage. That would be VERY compassionate and would buy -- er, um "earn" -- my vote.

After all, we need to fill Congress with warm bodies with "R" after their names. Principle, schminciple!
-- Daniel H. Fernald, Ph.D.
Mountainview, California

Mr. Newman makes some excellent points on Republicans respecting its base in the heartland, but I must comment on his criticism of the Club for Growth's anti-subsidized energy policy. While I support bio-fuels and heartland industry, I am concerned with the use of corn as the product employed for bio-fuels. Corn is criticized for providing a poor return of energy compared to that put into the fuel's manufacture, while it increases food prices. I've read that switch grass among corn alternatives is an easy crop to grow, nets far more energy for fuel than corn. It seems win-win to me if our heartland industry would support policies that did not focus on the relatively poor fuel producing corn crop. Its bio-fuel industry could continue to thrive with less reliance on subsidies and impact on other markets that corn is a part of.
-- Brian White
Simsbury, Connecticut

R. Andrew Newman may wax eloquent about the economic salvation of the Farm Belt provided by corn-based biofuels, but I wonder if he understands the price paid for a little more flexibility in enhancing American mobility is just a little more starvation elsewhere in the world.

I am not opposed to biofuels, but perhaps we should be putting more effort into research to produce them from waste materials instead of food grains. There are things more important in life than politics, namely, life itself.
-- Howard Hirsch
Chairman, Lyon County Republican Central Committee
Dayton, Nevada

After reading Mr. Newman's article, "Where Corn Counts," I have a few questions.

Why should the American public subsidize any industry. Farming, ranching and, yes, oil, all enjoy either direct government subsidies, specialized tax exemptions and credits or both. Doctors, accountants, other professionals, service people, and retail merchants enjoy none of these. Why then, farmers?

Because, as Mr. Newman points out, somebody knows where the votes are in this country and they cater to them.

But, using that logic, is not the Conservative Movement composed of voters? Why then does the Republican Party make little or no attempt to cater to those members? Farmers vote as often for Democrats as Republicans, as evidenced by the example given by Mr. Newman; especially when their subsidies are threatened. Conservatives almost always vote for a Republican candidate or they don't vote at all. Yet, Mr. Newman would marginalize Conservative voters, who cost the rest of the country nothing, in favor of the members of an industry that is partially directly funded by tax revenue. Again, why? Perhaps because conservative voters are considered safe Republican voters and therefore, politicians need only pay lip-service to Conservative ideals and need not deliver to insure Conservative votes. He asks if Conservative voters would alienate the voters of mid-America for their own principles thereby allowing Democrats to win election. The answer may turn out to be yes. Conservatives are neither Republicans nor Democrats, they are Conservatives; something that the Republican Party seems not to understand. Conservative voters subscribe to a system of values that are diametrically opposed to those held by liberals. The Republican Party comes closer to embodying those principles than does the Democrat party, by they still fall far short. Finally, Conservatives are for limited government and the control of the economy through market forces. If ethanol is a viable motor fuel, then it should make vast in-roads into the petroleum motor fuel industry. In twenty years, it has not. This is in spite of state and federal subsidies. Ethanol subsidies are just one more way for politicians to enrich themselves. It is a means of buying votes from a segment of the population, at the expense of other segments of the population, nothing more.

Yes, Mr. Newman, the Republican Party, as well as the Democrats, know where the votes are and how to buy them. And they have decided that the farm vote is more important than the Conservative vote.
-- Michael Tobias
Ft. Lauderdale, Florida

Is your article trying to push bio-fuels which is a stupid idea, or are you trying to push John McCain which is a stupid idea? In either case you rambled all over. Luckily in November we will get rid of McCain. Unfortunately, it will take longer for all the ethanol plants to go out of business proving that a fool and his money are soon parted.
-- Burton Hollabaugh
Marion, Indiana

Mr. Newman is, or course, exactly right. Having read his brilliant and insightful article, I (one of those "small c" conservatives) have seen the light.

What we small "c" conservatives need to learn is that federal government confiscation of our income and subsequent redistribution of those funds to others is really okay, as long as it goes to Midwestern corn growers and is done by Republicans and helps Republican candidates get elected. Further, food riots caused by this government hand-out program are "somewhere else in the world" and therefore should be of no concern.

Got it. Thank you so very, very much.
-- Keith Kunzler

With all due respect to Mr. Newman, you don't have to be an "MC," "C" or "c" to recognize what a boondoggle ethanol is. The prime beneficiaries of ethanol remain the corporate farmers ADM, Cargill, and agricultural suppliers Monsanto and DuPont. Only in America would politicians foist a program that contains 33% less energy than gasoline, contributes as much if not more CO2, and has to be subsidized in order to be price competitive on a per gallon basis (but not per BTU) on the public. Compounding the issue is that corn prices have risen substantially over the last seven years which has a direct impact on the cost of food products that use corn; the government is building inflation into the nation's and world economic system. There is also a moral question of should we be burning "corn" in our autos while sub-Saharan Africans starve?

I think the "MC's" would like to see a portion of the monies that subsidize the "farmers" be diverted towards nuclear power, off-shore drilling and more refining capacity. Energy sources that would be of benefit all of us.
-- Tim Reed
Highlands Ranch, Colorado

Are you saying that we should support the funding of bio-fuel research because it will garner us votes?
-- Deane Pradzinski
Highland, California

OCCAM SOCK 'EM
Re: Mark Tooley's Brilliant Blunderer:
Occam's Razor: one should not increase, beyond what is necessary, the number of entities required to explain anything.

Consider: Sharia is completely incompatible with Western moral, ethics and laws v. Over 11,000 words and counting (by Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams) to justify allowing Muslim law to be grafted (shafted?) onto existing Western morals, ethics and laws.

Occam, you genius.
-- Ira M. Kessel
Rochester, New York

The current Archbishop's bilge about accommodating Sharia Law coupled with his dithering over the schism in the U.S. communion, to me, put the lie, very big lie, to his "intellectual brilliance." His gaffes and failures speak more to a toadying intellect which has deftly moved itself through the bureaucracy to power and, unsurprisingly, clearly demonstrated the Peter Principle.
-- Reid Bogie
Waterbury, Connecticut

TUNNEL VISION
Re: J. Peter Freire's On the Rivera:

I have been away and missed the many entertaining articles and letters, On returning have spent the long week-end catching up.

One question and an open borders reassurance for Geraldo.

My question is: In what way is dancing transforming for him? He is a total ass in other respects but not on the dance floor? Geraldo Asstaire?

In case he missed it, he need not be too exercised over the prospect of our ever having secure borders. Recently in a TV interview, the Mayor of Eagle Pass, TX gave us a pretty good insight into the NIMBY (not in my backyard) attitude of at least one (and probably representative of most) good ol' Texas fatboy rancher. Apparently he can sit in his rockin' chair on his front porch and gaze out at his propitty which extends to the lapping shores of the Rio Grande. And he ain't about to give a inch of it up to the gum'mit for construction of a fence. His solution? More Border Patrol! Sez he has seen 'em at work and they do a fine job, we just need more of 'em!. In other words, he would like Personal Property Protection at government expense.

As a child, my mother lived in Mission, Texas, and she told the tale that Texas Rangers slept on their roof, lying in wait for Pancho Villa's men. Well, my mama had a vivid imagination, but if it was in any part true, those days are long dead. The Rangers, Border Patrol and all the Reserves in the U.S. will not deter illegal immigration.

Will the fence, if we ever get it, go as far underground as it goes up? Because we will need it to stop the tunnelers! Does anyone remember the movie Paint Your Wagon, where an entire mining town collapsed due to Lee Marvin's enterprising tunneling to get to the gold dust under the saloon? That will be California in a few years.

Meanwhile, we have just separated the Patriots from the Stingy Border Land Owners. I can hear it now. "Well, would you want your view spoiled by an ugly fence? Would you want to sell off some prime land for cents on the dollar?" You hear a lot of "fought at the Alamo" that goes with this lament. The Alamo would have had to be as big as the Cotton Bowl stadium to have accommodated all the ancestors who fought there.

I only own the land my house sits on, but the perimeters have easements, which means although I pay taxes on that portion of my "land," I cannot put a fence on it or anything else that might conflict with whatever utility company has first call. Any time I want more land, I go buy it by the sack. I call it potting soil.

I guess the more land you own, the more Entitled you feel! No one ever went broke underestimating the greediness of a Big Land Owner. Lyndon Johnsson's mother put it best, "I only want my land and that which adjoins it."

Happy Trails,
-- Diane Smith
South San Francisco, California

AWFUL AUTOCRAT
Re: George H. Wittman's Icon-in-Chief:

Had Putin wanted to secure a place in history, he would have let the people rule him. Because he chose, instead, to do the opposite, he will go down as simply another in the long line of grasping, growling Russian autocrats.
-- David Govett
Davis, California

THE STEROID KING
Re: Michael Brendan Dougherty's The Waxman Cometh:

How can any one write an article on steroids and HGH and not bring up the name of the "Governator" who brought them to public prominence and popularity.

Everybody now knows that they are the magic road to success. One can become a movie star and get rich. One can marry into prominent families. One can go into politics and become politically powerful. They even increase one's brainpower. One can make trips to national events and lecture about the dangers of global warming and people listen, awestruck, to every word.

It's obvious that Waxman never took them or he would never have been foolish or ignorant enough to have that silly hearing!
-- Bob Keiser
Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania

MR. SMITH GOES TO JAIL
Re: Jeffrey Lawrence's letter (under "The Mormon Spectator") in Reader Mail's Roger That:

Mr. Lawrence, I believe that you misunderstand my point about Joseph Smith. It was not an attempt to justify his lynching, which I think I pointed out in my original letter, it was to refute the idea that Joseph Smith was some innocent little lamb. I well know that Joseph Smith had neither been tried nor convicted of a crime, but he had been arrested for a very serious crime that the historical record quite clearly indicates he was guilty of. He and Hyrum did swear out false affidavits that denied their practice of plural marriage and adultery, when the truth was that Joseph Smith had been practicing polygamy in secret for nearly a year! Joseph did destroy The Nauvoo Expositor for the "crime" of exposing his polygamy to the public, and he did commit the crime of treason by calling out the Nauvoo militia to protect him from arrest. It was not a justification for his murder by mob, but spare me the weepy eyed crap about how innocent Joseph Smith was. Even if the government of Missouri was "persecuting" Joseph and the Mormons, they were no innocents in the escalating tensions within the state

Many Mormons like to claim that Joseph Smith went to prison for his belief, but he went to prison for denying what he called a "new and everlasting covenant" that was essential to exaltation. He was arrested for his persecution of those that opposed and exposed his polygamous practices, and he died in a blazing gun battle in which he killed at least two of his attackers and wounded another. While the people who attacked the jail and murdered Joseph and Hyrum Smith committed a despicable crime, don't bring that story about Joseph's innocence to me because the historical record tells the true story. And if you are so worried about due process, then why weren't the leaders of the Church concerned when they were perjuring themselves in an effort to destroy a newspaper that dared criticize them?
-- Eric Edwards
Walnut Cove, North Carolina

MAD ABOUT SAD
Re: Richard Morlock's letter (under "It's Always a Few Years Away") in Reader Mail's Roger That:

It's a hoot, that quote of "sad, truly sad" in Richard Morlock's little note at the end of yesterday's letters.

Innuendos and no facts. But that's pretty much typical of those who'd advance his cause(s), never anything even close to offering proof of his claim.
-- Jack Frost

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