This is my response to Brooke Coleman’s response to, uh, this response

Welcome back, Brooke.

I do think ethanol is better than oil …

Hundreds of millions of Americans do not “think” that the theory of evolution is valid. What you or I want to believe is largely irrelevant. The arguments we bring to the table to back up what we “think” is what matters. The following graphic is an attempt to explain a concept called leakage — the fatal flaw in any attempt to divert food crops to gas tanks:

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Pop in to visit Biofuel Bob while you’re at it.

… BTW, NRDC, Union of Concerned Scientists, and other well-respected environmental groups have published reports in support of biofuels.

I’m familiar with most if not all of them. They are pinning their hopes on cellulosic fuels. From the UCS:

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Cellulosic ethanol is more energy-efficient than corn ethanol and uses more abundant and diverse feedstocks that, unlike corn, are not used for food production. Unfortunately, cellulosic ethanol is not yet ready for commercial deployment.

In the near term, the largest potential for oil savings comes from improvements in the fuel economy of new vehicles, and greater fuel efficiency will help lower the costs of an ethanol future. For this reason, government should continue to support research into cellulosic ethanol and other alternative fuels, but not at the expense of concrete steps to implement proven, cost-effective, near-term solutions such as improving fuel economy over the next 10 years.

The UCS does not support corn ethanol. Ever hear of a concept called the hydrogen economy? We should all be driving hydrogen-powered cars by now. The only thing that should be coming out of our exhaust pipes is water vapor. That idea is finally going down in flames. There are still many diehards out there. New ideas must stand up against reasoned critique. That takes time. The good news about biofuels came several years ago. The bad news is just being disseminated.

No, they don’t think biofuels should be produced in the wrong way, but they recognize the benefits.

They recognize the potential benefits of cellulosic should it ever arrive. They don’t think we should be turning industrial food crops into fuel for cars. And keep in mind, they publish their own stuff. It is not to be confused with peer-reviewed science published in an independent journal. They modify their stances as new science arrives, and their literature is not set in stone.

You know, when I first started raising the warning flag about the potential environmental ramifications of biofuels, I thought I was the only person on the internet doing so. Not a good position to be in. I could not find a critique of biofuels with a Google search. Then one day I stumbled upon a few articles by George Monbiot that reflected my thoughts. Suddenly, I wasn’t alone anymore.

Things have changed radically in the last few years. I don’t need to do Google searches anymore. Articles describing the negative ramifications of biofuels are everywhere I turn, and this fuel is just getting started. I’ve noticed you are not really big on providing links to sources to substantiate your claims. Let me know if you want to see my list of links describing the damage being inflicted by biofuels around the world.

My primary criticism of the community here is many of them seem to live in the abstract; in fact, they seem to indulge in these abstract, oversimplified statements

Brooke is referring to this statement:

Plowing under the world’s remaining grasslands and forests to grow industrial agrofuels dwarfs the damage done by oil spills. What happens when you take grain off the world food market and stuff it into American gas tanks? I’ll tell you. Someone somewhere on this planet takes advantage of the high prices to plant more of it to fill the hole in the human food chain. Where is the arable land they need to do that? It is under an existing carbon sink or has another crop on it already.

You are refusing to acknowledge the ramifications of removing that food from the world market. The concept may be abstract to you, but it is crystal clear to me — and to most Grist readers, I’m sure. The assumption that the diversion of billions of bushels of corn from the human food chain into American gas tanks will not stimulate an increase in agriculture around the world to replace it is what I call a gross oversimplification. Carbon sinks are going under the plow all around the world — in Africa, Southeast Asia, and South America — to grow biofuels (soybeans, sugar cane, palm oil, and others). A very recent study in the Journal of Conservation Biology estimates that biodiesel crops (not counting ethanol crops) will destroy as much as 400,000 square miles of carbon sinks in the coming decades if something isn’t done to mitigate the problem. I have numerous other sources. Would you like me to post them?

It is true that this planet can support only so much biofuels production. Instead of recognizing this reality, and advocating for careful policy, you seem to be screaming bad! Just like most everyone else here

To suggest I don’t recognize this as a reality is a departure from reality. I am advocating for careful policy: for example, stop supporting biofuels with government pork. It isn’t like I’m alone. Calls are starting to go out in Europe for a moratorium on government biofuel mandates. A plea was recently made to the United Nations. Let me know if you want to see the sources.

I would think that reasonable people would conclude that we can support some biofuels production. What’s yours? Zero? If so, fine, but understand that more oil will be burned as a result. To be honest, you seem to get this. But others in this green community may not be so thrilled about that position. They seem to think that they can replace a gallon of ethanol with a Prius.

I would be happy if the government would simply stop supporting a fuel (corn ethanol) that has been shown in numerous recent studies to be worse for the planet in the aggregate than oil. It is worse than oil. Burning oil instead of corn ethanol is the least of two evils. That is why, from an environmental standpoint, our only option, our cheapest option, and our fastest option, is to decrease oil use. Give me a biofuel that has not been shown to be worse than oil and I’ll support it. And no, corn ethanol is not a bridge to a better fuel. Let me know if you want to see my arguments supporting that contention. The fact that you don’t “think” it is worse than oil carries far less weight than the results of all that research. You lost me on that gallon of ethanol/Prius thing.

The question is how to protect them. Screaming about biofuels is not a rainforest protection strategy.

You are overdoing this screaming analogy, IMHO. Nobody can hear you scream on the Internet. A consumer backlash against biofuel production from food crops sounds like a good strategy to protect carbon sinks (and world food supplies) to me.

More families should be like yours, and if they were, we might not need biofuels. In fact, I will agree that not burning oil is always better than burning a different liquid fuel. But I would disagree that we can just conserve our way out of this problem we have.

Might not need biofuels corn ethanol? We don’t need corn ethanol. I’ve noticed that you are careful to avoid using the term “corn ethanol.” You have replaced it with biofuels — not the same topic.

What would happen if all ethanol subsidies and mandates were pulled and corn ethanol went back to being a simple additive to reduce knocking? Politicians who pulled their support would lose their primaries, most of the refineries built with billions of dollars of government support would go bankrupt, and farmers would put their new-found wealth into savings and get back to the business of feeding humanity instead of our cars. The land they pulled out of the conservation reserve would go back to being carbon sinks, and people around the world would stop plowing up other carbon sinks to make up for the food being diverted to our gas tanks; and research into cellulosic and other fuels would continue unabated. Americans would have one less excuse not to drive higher-mileage cars instead of flex-fuel SUVs and trucks (which have cost America billions of gallons of extra oil). [crickets chirping, a pin drops]. Just ask for the links.

How do you propose we get a more aggressive CAFE standard passed? Because the current one, while a step in the right direction, will not get us where we need to go on its own. I think I have made clear that our position is we need to conserve and diversify fuel markets. Both.

Let me put it into better perspective. By increasing the American mileage from the oft-cited 24 mpg average to 26.4 mpg, we will save more gasoline than all the corn ethanol produced in America today. Does that really sound like an insurmountable challenge to you? Are Americans are so stupid that they must be taxed to pay for corn ethanol and then have it blended into their gas tanks to get them to use it? Waiting for a government that subsidizes competing fuel sources — fossil fuels on one hand, and food-based biofuels on the other — to save us may not be the wisest move.

Where exactly do we need to go? According to the latest science, if our goal is to decrease global warming and protect the environment, we should not be diverting food into gas tanks.

If our goal is to achieve energy independence, corn ethanol can’t get us there. Everyone agrees that it will max out soon because it is driving both the cost of land and food up. We will remain dependent on foreign oil with or without this environmentally destructive and costly fuel if we don’t consume less oil. We have no choice but to consume less oil. Claiming that we must also burn corn in our gas tanks is a popular thing for politicians to say nowadays, but it is not true. There are many other ways to “diversify fuel markets” (use less oil).

This is your classic “false choice” statement. Biofuels are a fuel diversification strategy. I said before, and now again, that conservation is absolutely critical. We need to burn less fuel, whether from Iraq or Iowa. But we also need to burn better fuel. You think oil is better than ethanol. I respectfully disagree. But maybe a vehicle that gets 100 mpg on ethanol is a good thing.

“Biofuels are a fuel diversification strategy.” What happened to the words corn ethanol, Brooke? That is what you came here to defend. “You think oil is better than ethanol. I respectfully disagree.” What the …? This is getting repetitive, but no matter how many times you say it, what you and I “think” matters not a whit. What matters is the strength of the arguments supporting what we “think.” These studies show that your corn ethanol is worse, for multiple independent reasons. What you choose to “think” is largely irrelevant in light of them.

A vehicle that gets 100 mpg on ethanol would be a good thing, only if the production of that ethanol were less environmentally destructive than oil. That is not the case with corn ethanol. Cellulosic is not being commercially produced. Sugar cane fields are being planted in South America, and if our tariffs on it ever come down, corn ethanol will be wiped from the face of the planet, along with our remaining carbon sinks. Sugar cane is far less energy-intensive to produce than even cellulosic (should it ever arrive), and land in South America is dirt cheap. The Amazon and the Cerrado are vast carbon sinks. Brazil is already the fourth-leading source of greenhouse gases.

But if you are implying that energy companies that have to compete in this jungle of subsidies should advocate for less subsidies for their sector, no wonder nothing has changed in fifty years. Not going to happen. This is a consumer issue needing a louder voice. All for it.

Of course I wouldn’t expect any corn ethanol supporter to do such a thing, and of course that is not what I was saying. I was turning your original argument against you — your suggestion that we should divert our energies from critiquing corn ethanol and instead focus them entirely on getting government to stop subsidizing competing energy schemes instead. Contributors here take turns doing both. I wish this were more of a consumer issue. Government has taken much of the choice away from consumers with mandates and subsidies. Consumers who deliberately buy E85 to put in their gas hogs have quite simply been duped, and I’m not insinuating that you have duped them. I’m saying that you are one of those who have been misinformed, and I have no pretenses that anyone who has become this invested in corn ethanol is going to cede this argument regardless of what is presented.

I told you that the WHOLESALE price of ethanol is cheaper than gasoline. And you go and google the retail prices to shoot the argument down!?

You just passed on a second opportunity to give us a link to your source. The fact that you did not, for the second time, give readers the cost adjusted for lower mileage is instructive. You should come up with a link showing us the national average for the cost of wholesale gasoline and E85 for November, 2007, along with the adjusted cost due to lower mileage, to appease my curiosity and quell my suspicions.

The cost is less important than the environmental destructiveness (again, what you and I “think” matters far less than multiple peer reviewed science reports). Costs fluctuate daily. It is possible for corn ethanol E85 to someday drop below that of oil. That will not make it any less environmentally destructive. In fact it will only make things worse from an envrionmental perspective by increasing volume.

But ethanol folks have real business interests to protect, so they do what they believe they have to do (and in a rigged market, who can blame them? You?).

Of course I don’t blame them, any more than I would any company out to make a profit. There is no real ethical, financial, or motivational difference between the organizational structure of an ethanol company and an oil company, except in your mind apparently. Oil companies or companies indistinguishable from them will eventually control the refining of biofuels.

One simply cannot talk about “real markets” in the fuels world with a straight face. Oil companies say, “stop giving ethanol a false market” in the halls on Congress all the time, while simultaneously refusing to buy the (cheaper) product. False markets? That’s a better description for the oil markets. But it’s interesting that this “false market” thing is echoed here all the time.

Yes, yes, we have been here many times now. I am perfectly aware that our political system has created a comical blob of contradicting subsidies for competing energy schemes, distorting market forces to the point nobody knows what anything costs.

I am not moved by this defense of Tom. He was complaining about subsidies, so I think it would make sense to give people a better sense of energy subsidies instead of pretending that ethanol exists in a vacuum. And, based on what I have seen, the anti-biofuels crowd has given oil a free pass on the subsidy issue, generally …

Tom is the last person on this planet who needs my assistance. I just jumped on his bandwagon, unannounced and uninvited. No, they haven’t given a free pass to oil, as I have said over and over and will continue to say over and over every time you make the accusation. Your repeated attempts to paint those who are critical of corn ethanol as supporters of big oil is also somewhat comical. Nobody here is a fan of big oil and you know it.

The uninformed will rise up in blogged anger when told about ethanol subsidies, but is the solution to oil dependence to isolate them and take them away? I am accusing this community of misplaced anger re: subsidies.

You have accused this community of all kinds of things. That was a tactical error in my estimation. You are simply debating a couple of contributors, not an entire community. None of us claim to represent the views of the Grist blog community. This isn’t a church where only believers of a given dogma are welcome. The average Grist blog commenter and contributor is better informed about both the pros and cons of corn ethanol than you are. You have not presented a single novel talking point. Your arguments have been heard here a million times. You are not even doing a particularly good job of defending corn ethanol compared to some who have preceded you. You were unaware of all of the new science until you arrived here. Many of the arguments you have seen here are obviously novel to you.

I’ve made my argument here. I think most reasonable people would conclude that if oil companies had to pay the tens of billions of dollars they should pay in taxes, and billions more getting their product to market, that the price at the pump would reflect that. Why do you think the current federal oil tax reform bill is failing? Oil repubs are saying “over my dead body.” Why? Because it doesnt really matter to oil companies? This is just a strange argument …

It is a strange argument. Point to the person who made it, whoever he is. I have never claimed that they don’t receive subsidies. I only claim that those subsidies have much less impact on the price at the pump than you insinuate. Your corn ethanol industry is locked in a struggle with the oil industry to rob the public larder. Our inept government gives money to both. Stupid? You bet. Show me with links to sources exactly how much the price of gasoline at the pump would go up if that bill passes. Then, in that same spreadsheet, compare that price with the price of E85 sans its subsidies. Until you do that, your claims that oil subsidies are on a par with or dwarf those for corn ethanol are oft-repeated and commonly believed hearsay. Here is a chart for you to ponder:


Heck, futures market experts now recognize that the price of oil now includes a “risk premium” of at least 20%. Imagine the risk premium if our military didn’t guard all the pipelines, shipping lanes, etc. for these billion dollar multi-national companies?

Give me the link to that 20 percent, will ya? I’d really appreciate a link, any link, my right arm for a link to a quality source. Do you see that 20 percent in the chart anywhere? Does that pass the common sense test? American oil costs 20 percent more than the oil in Canada and Europe because of our military expenditures? Let me repeat my response to this argument to another commenter:

This repeated attempt to paint biofuels as the answer to human conflict is naïve in the extreme. Picture a future when all transport is driven by biofuels and Indonesia becomes our main biodiesel supplier. One day, Malaysia decides to invade them. You don’t think we wouldn’t go to war to protect our foreign source of oil? Please, spare me. If the Middle East were to suddenly refuse to sell any oil to us tomorrow do you really think ethanol would make a measurable difference? Not a chance. We are at war because the red states (read Corn Belt) voted an imbecile into office twice — period.

We cannot even begin to grow enough corn to insulate ourselves from our diplomatic failures.

The Grist biofuel writers are obsessed with the studies that whack ethanol … they are all over this site … I was adding the ones that are ignored …

Those studies have all appeared at various times in articles on this site. They have not been ignored.

And no, the researchers I mentioned were not unaware of nitrous oxide.

That’s not what I said. I said their research underestimated the amount of nitrous oxide. The study that discovered the greater than realized amount was just released, years after their studies were done. That is what science is all about. Researchers will now go back and include this new information in their studies, if they are worth their salt as real scientists.

They just aren’t silly enough to assume that all corn would go away if not for biofuels. Not even 20% of corn in this country is grown for ethanol. All these studies are based on a set of assumptions.

No, Brooke, the information was simply not available to them at the time. Not even 20 percent? My source says that was how much corn went into our gas tanks last year. This year it was closer to 25 percent. Twenty-five percent of America’s corn crop is a staggering amount of food. All ethanol studies are based largely on sets of assumptions. Which explains the wide variation in results.

C’mon. This is more of the same from you. Isolating reports and forgetting to look under the hood. I have commented on that study. If the goal is to quantify real impacts and your fundamental assumption is silly, then is the conclusion silly?

A logical chain–if A and B are silly, then C must be silly. It only takes one missing link to break a chain of logic. Leakage is the missing link in this one–refer to graphic at top of post.

Wow. Seriously? Oil imports now account for about a third of our 700+ billion dollar trade deficit. Did you include that?

Brooke’s response to this:

Actually not. Using less oil is far less environmentally destructive and far, far less expensive than replacing oil with ethanol.

Sure did. Using less oil is the only way to improve that deficit. Our agricultural trade surplus percentage is shrinking in large part thanks to corn ethanol. “Since 1996, the agricultural trade surplus has shrunk from $27.3 billion (an all-time high) to $10.5 billion.” Run the numbers. That is a 38 percent drop in one decade.

While criticizing the impact of mono crops on biodiversity, did you also take into account the public health impacts of petrochemicals? Asthma? Cancer?

You are referring to the petrochemicals used to grow your corn ethanol? I have done no studies. How many times now have you been pointed to this study that has accounted for those things?

What about military expenditures (not all of them, but ones directly traceable to resource protection)? I don’t find this as credible argument. You have Greenspan now admitting that the Iraq War is largely about oil. I mean, the expense of oil dependence is off the charts.

Refer to my previous responses. Corn ethanol will not end human conflict. We cannot possibly grow enough make up for the havoc being wrought by the Bush administration.

I agree that crude is the driver here, but I don’t agree that oil companies will mysteriously absorb billions of dollars every year, if made to pay proper taxes and expenses

Nor do I. Why would they? The issue here is my contention that these perks make up a small percentage of the cost of oil at the pump. I have shown you links to back up my contention. What exactly that cost is nobody knows thanks to government distortion of markets with its endless pork to special interests (like corn ethanol).

I don’t agree. My guess is your definition of knowing the score is different than mine … You don’t seem to understand what’s going on in the pricing markets.

Brooke’s response to this:

The contributors and commenters here know the score as well as anyone anywhere.

You have provided scant evidence to support the contention that my knowledge of pricing markets is any less than yours.

Again, it is relatively easy to point out the ills of this country’s energy and farm policies (or some of the more unappealing realities of democracy). There is little return on investment here though, because the biggest advocates of reform are disorganized from a group strategy perspective. Further, the advocacy community often cherishes the role of antagonist, even if it produces no discernable results. But anyway, I don’t agree that these policies only benefit the bad guys. Visit some of these states. I bet you live on a coastline somewhere.

Brooke’ response to this:

Will do, El Capitan! Biofuels have turned out to be not only more expensive but also more environmentally destructive than what they were meant to replace. On a planet of 6.5 billion people, we find a biofuel with a razor thin to non-existent return on energy and GHG reductions being propped up by politicians who are funneling tax dollars to the farm industry in return for votes. The only beneficiary of this policy is that miniscule percentage of the global population who grow corn in America and the politicians buying votes from them.”

Consider reading all of the posts, comments, and links before replying to see if your arguments have already been addressed multiple times so you don’t have to repeat yourself.

Visit some of these states. I bet you live on a coastline somewhere.”

I was born and raised in Indiana. I spent six years obtaining multiple engineering degrees from Purdue University — an island of red brick buildings in a sea of corn fields.

When I called your perspective myopic, this is exactly what I meant. Farming is just another business. Farmers are no more deserving of my tax money than any other business, especially if it is being used to grow fuel for flex-fuel SUVs. Farming is unique only in that it has historically fed humanity. With the advent of corn ethanol, their role is being transformed into a supply chain to feed fuel refineries instead of humanity. The United Nations Food expert recently decried this change as a crime against humanity.

There is little return on investment here though, because the biggest advocates of reform are disorganized from a group strategy perspective. Further, the advocacy community often cherishes the role of antagonist, even if it produces no discernable results.

The backlash against corn ethanol is gaining momentum. That momentum is what brought you here. Obviously, these critiques are producing very measurable results, especially in light of the tremendous wealth and political power being wrought by ag lobbyists like yourself — ADM and Cargill, to name a few.

This is the type of sensationalistic, oversimplified rhetoric that, in my opinion, undercuts the useful debate you want to have here. Throw the studies this way, because I know you will, but in reality the food issue is quite simple.

Livestock (what about them?) is annoyed that they cannot buy corn for “below cost” prices; trust me, they enjoy farm subsidies more than the farmers. In other words, they have to share more of the consumer food dollar that “trickles” to them with corn growers. So they jack this issue politically and from a PR perspective, with much help from the oil companies (seem to have aligned interests!). Food was the primary point of opposition to the federal RFS from people like Exxon this year.

Brooke’s response to this:

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, people are starting to get hungry. Hopefully, other countries will grow grain to replace that being burned in American gas tanks before famine sets in. Unfortunately, they will have to do so by increasing global warming via the destruction of more ecosystem carbon sinks.

Your unending attempts to associate those who critique the ills of corn ethanol with your fellow lobbyists — Big Oil, and the livestock industry — might work on the mentally enfeebled, but you won’t find a lot of people fitting that description regularly visiting this blog.

People think that increased corn prices must be hurting them in the grocery aisle, until they realize that: (1) grain is only a small part of food costs (~20 cents per lb of meat); (2) only 19 cents of the consumer food dollar makes it back to the farm, and only a portion of that is grain related; (3) most of the cost of food is in marketing, distribution and packaging (the Nabisco part), which is highly sensitive to increased oil prices. This “starving the poor” argument is even more ridiculous, because we don’t alleviate starvation with corn (or even food exports). We don’t send any corn to the world’s poorest nations, but Japan gets a lot of it. If you want an interesting report about this, see …

A link to a source! Lets take a look at it! Whoa, that didn’t go well. My operating system warned me that I risk getting virus if I open it but I tried anyway. Had to reboot, not risking it again. Got it in another format? Knowing that the link will support corn ethanol, but not knowing the details, I’m going to guess that the authors have blown off leakage — the fatal weak link of using food crops to fuel cars. See graphic above. Somebody search that document for the term leakage or the term crop displacement effects to see if they did address it, and if so, how they managed to explain it away.

If only I had a nickel every time I have heard a corn ethanol booster explain how little the cost of corn has to do with a box of cornflakes in American grocery stores. It isn’t about rich Americans and their cornflakes. It is about crop displacement, poor people, and the price they pay for food. Ripping 35,000 square miles out of the human food chain has ramifications that ripple across the planet. Let me cut and paste a previous response to another poster to this dog-eared talking point:

Didn’t you just say you were going to debunk the idea that ethanol would raise the cost of food? How can you “logically” argue that “historical highs” in ag prices will result in a decrease in the cost of food?

Who is going to buy this high priced grain they are going to grow? We sure don’t need it. Other impoverished third world nations? The world’s poor spend up to a third two-thirds of their income on food. Any price increase is devastating. I wish I had an answer for world poverty, but raising the price of food is sure not it.

This food issue is about livestock profit margins. So which “poor” person are you talking about?

All of those out there scrambling to replace the hole in the human food chain created by biofuels, including the giant hole from those 35,000 square miles of corn we fat-ass Americans are burning in our SUVs. You know, the ones with the “God Bless America” stickers on them.

That said, we do need to make sure that the increase in biofuels production and use does not throw everything out of whack. This could happen if we get too drunk on the biofuels. But we are a ways away from that. To this end, making sure that protections are built into policies is key.

Too late. They are already beginning to throw everything out of whack. You seem to think that all of these negative ramifications are merely potential future concerns that need to be addressed someday before they materialize when they are actually today’s reality. Ameliorating these existing negative effects is the unrealized, hoped for future potential.

Too much sarcasm on this site …

Brooke’s response to this:

Thanks for the chance to debate this important issue with someone with a different perspective. You guys, along with global warming skeptics, seem to be getting fewer and further between.

This is one weak link with this otherwise incredible debate medium. You cannot discern voice inflection, facial expressions, or body language. That was not meant as sarcasm, although I can see that it would be hard not to take it as such. You can’t scare a global warming skeptic to this site for debate, and I don’t blame them.

I assume it is the unfortunate consequence of pack syndrome.

We have a pot calling a kettle black here. I have often reflected on the herd mentality of you biofuel enthusiasts.

But thanks for putting in the time to respond. This community definitely is interested in having a debate, even if I am suspicious of their ability to reconsider biofuels.

Like I said before, you are debating with one contributor, not an entire community. I do not in any way represent the views of the Gristmill community. You have insulted them by insinuating so (particularly those who don’t agree with me), as you have insulted them in several other ways as well.

My hunch is many of you will dismiss these arguments as oft-heard. There wont be much refuting them … they just dont fit your “anti farmed fuel” position.

They are oft-heard but not dismissed. And boy were you ever wrong about them not being refuted.

Either way, I dont find the biofuels information here balanced or informed.

How could anyone honestly draw such a conclusion in light of all that has been said here?

Plain and simple. The bottom line is this: auto companies could have long ago put oil out of business. In addition, oil companies ride a wave of subsidies every year while preaching free market to the legions. Go find a political pressure point and run with it. We cant break this juggernaut with puffs of smoke.

At last, the conspiracy theory! Humanity would never have put to use a cheap, energy-dense fuel that flows out of a hole in the ground? We will find ways to use less oil. We sure don’t want to replace one jugernaut with a worse one–industrial agrofuels.

All of modern civilization is built upon that cheap source of energy. We eat it. Everything in in my sight is a result of it, the lumber in my house was harvested and transported with it, my computer is made out of it, and on it goes. I am aware of the power of the oil companies and the fact that they have our politicians in their pockets. That does not make corn ethanol better than oil. We will find ways to use much less oil without destroying more carbon sinks to do it, or this game is over.