Tuesday, June 24, 2008
On this day:

Ethanol: A lesson in unintended consequences

The Tuscaloosa News has the latest on how the federal government's obsession with ethanol has made things more costly and inconvenient for consumers:

TUSCALOOSA If you've been yanking on the starter cord of your lawn mower only to hear it sputter, the problem may start with the fuel you are putting into it.

Mechanics at local small- engine repair shops say ethanol is to blame.

Benjamin Mallisham, owner of Mallisham's Lawn Mower Repair on 13th Avenue East, said he's seen a steady increase in the number of engines damaged by the effects of ethanol.

'About one out of every five or six motors that come in here, that's the problem,' said Mallisham, who has been repairing lawn mowers and other small engines since 1974. 'It's getting worse now, but it got real bad about two years ago. ...

The problem is that ethanol — a type of alcohol — is corrosive to plastic parts,especially those found in lawn mowers, chain saws, gas-powered weed trimmers and leaf blowers.

A few small engine problems here and there are pretty insignificant when compared to how the government-mandated use of government-subsidized ethanol has distorted markets for food and energy, adding to the price we pay at the pump and the price we pay to feed ourselves and our families.

Who is hurt most by rising fuel and food prices? Certainly not the rich. So, why is it that Sen. Barack Obama - who says he wants to "keep the American Dream alive for those who still hunger for opportunity, who still thirst for equality" - so strongly supports giving favorable treatment to the ethanol industry, as reported by the New York Times today? Why does he also oppose lowering tariffs on imported ethanol made from sugar-cane, which we can buy from our friends, and which according to the Times is cheaper to produce (and therefore cheaper to buy) than corn ethanol? Even more to the point, why does Obama oppose letting American companies drill for American oil in American waters?

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not opposed to using ethanol for fuel. I don't really care one way or the other as long as my truck starts in the morning . But I am against using government subsidies to give ethanol producers a competitive advantage over those who can produce energy more cheaply and efficiently. With a few conservation-minded and environmentally-friendly exceptions, I think that government should get out of the way so that American companies can develop America's own energy resources - whether it's oil, ethanol, coal, or some form of alternative energy that has yet to be discovered or fully utilized.

And finally, I'm for being able to crank my friggin' lawnmower when my yard needs mowed. I get angry when I can't crank my mower. And you wouldn't like me when I'm angry.