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Saturday, June 19, 2010

Corn Ethanol's Enemy List

Photo courtesy of, er, Hidinhumiliation via Flickr

A short, relatively innocuous post on an obscure farming blog created a small stir last week when it caught the attention of some less obscure bloggers, Robert Rapier in particular, who was was on the corn ethanol enemy list presented in this article.

I didn't want to open a can of worms in that blogger's comment field, but the can got opened anyway so I finally chimed in. Mine was comment number 41.

I outed an anonymous commenter named "Cindy" who was critical of anonymous posts:


"If you believe so strongly in what you are saying, put more than just your first name on it!"

Ah, internet espionage. I suspect you are Cindy Zimmerman, the corn ethanol lobbyist who publishes the Domestic Fuel blog, and by using only a first name without a link, you can deny this should someone point it out, or have another person named Cindy deny it ...tricky ; )

These anon posters are taking reasonable precautions. Note that the corn ethanol lobby does not limit itself to critiquing research, they publicly attack individuals including the lead authors of published research (Pimentel, Searchinger, etc).

Note also the hint of militarism here (Corn Corps with Kernels in charge) as well as in the Domestic Fuel blog where a recent post talks about a general (Wesley Clark of Growth "Force") addressing the "troops."

The fact that corn ethanol enjoys broad support from both Democrat and Republican politicians (Bush, McCain, and Obama all used it to buy votes from the farm belt) is the only thing keeping this debate from degenerating into another intractable culture war.

Ironically, and irrationally, science-based debate is being drowned out to garner government handouts for the same crowd that purports to reject global warming and government handouts.

The bottom line is this. All through human history, our species has banded together into cooperating groups to take resources from other cooperating groups. The most extreme form of this is called warfare. In this case, the corn and corn ethanol lobbies are out to raid America's public larder (taxes collected from other citizens).

The power brokers know they are raiding the larder and being at the top of the pyramid scheme are planning to get out with their bag of money after riding the pony as far as they can.

Their propaganda machine has convinced the minions that corn ethanol is God's gift to humanity. They have been convinced that it creates jobs, which it does, in the same manner a single mom with kids who spends the welfare check on food and housing for her children will create jobs.

Welfare is a good way to help a struggling single mom care for her kids but it isn't hard to see why we can't all be on welfare. Do corn ethanol refiners deserve welfare? The corn ethanol lobby is hoping to net $100 billion of it in the next decade.

There are people out there now who have actually been convinced that corn ethanol is creating more food than it is consuming and it goes on and on.

It has always been this way. Power brokers all through history have found ways to get the little people to go to bat for them. Usually it is done by promising them riches and by controlling knowledge, keeping them ignorant and away from the truth. This is getting harder to do in the age of the internet.

The closing comment in the blog post shows how effective propaganda can be:

Waterman also notes that the number one slot could have easily gone to “mainstream media” who publish uninformed articles and are too lazy to complete adequate research, but he was trying to be more specific.

Although it's true that the mainstream media is generally quite inaccurate and definitely not the place to go for reliable information, it is still far preferable to reading websites published by lobbying front groups and blogs by dupes who have been brainwashed by them.

One commenter was appalled by all of the negative comments. In my experience, ethanol articles always draw about 95% negative comments. She just doesn't know that is the norm outside of her smaller world of corn farmers.

She also somehow managed to take the critique of corn ethanol to be a critique of farmers in general, and by association, herself in particular, as a farmer.

She has also bought hook, line, and sinker, the party line that farmer's are God's chosen people because they are in the business of providing food. But, restaurants are also in the business of providing food. When one goes bankrupt, another quickly fills the hole left behind, just like with farms. Farmers, like restaurateurs, are just businesspersons with thin profit margins, which are the norm for all mature industries.

Who do you suppose it was that convinced farmers that they are somehow better and more deserving than restaurant owners? Hint--somebody who wants to use them.

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