- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 6, 2010


I have a question for Frank J. Gaffney Jr. concerning his recent column on the oil spill (“Oil leak’s silver lining?” Opinion, Tuesday): If ethanol and other alternative fuels are so “highly cost-effective,” why not let them stand or fall on their own merits, without subsidies or penalties?

Few farmers seem willing to provide their own power needs with alternative fuels unless massively subsidized - and often not even then. Here’s what they know that Mr. Gaffney apparently doesn’t:

Gasoline contains about 115,000 British thermal units per gallon, ethanol about 76,000 Btu. Government subsidies aside, ethanol costs twice as much to manufacture, which means two-thirds the mileage for twice the cost. There are many studies that suggest it actually may take more than 1 gallon of petroleum to manufacture a gallon of ethanol when all inputs (e.g., farm machinery, fertilizer, transportation) are considered. Ethanol cannot be piped, so it has to be trucked, adding even more to its inefficiency.

As farmland is diverted to nonfood use, food production diminishes as food prices soar. Though this may be good news for politically connected agribusiness welfare queens with armies of lobbyists, it’s bad news for anyone who eats.

Even if Mr. Gaffney’s plan were enacted, the members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries simply would sell their oil to countries that can be counted on to eagerly snap up cheap energy for their industries to use in competition against us. Imposing massive costs and inefficiencies weakens the U.S. economy.

Government meddling in the energy market is precisely what has forced U.S. consumers and industry to look abroad for energy supplies. More meddling would only exacerbate the problem.


Great Falls, Va.

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