McCain's Trouble in the Corn Belt...


Tags: Ethanol, IA, IN, NE (all tags)



Heh. The one thing with which McCain and I...

... might find agreement (that corn ethanol is a Bad Thing, and subsidizing and mandating its use is a Worse Thing) could be the thing that tanks him in the plains.

That's funny.

by tbetz 2008-05-11 04:34PM | 0 recs
I should clarify that I only consider corn ethanol

... to be a Bad Thing when employed as a motor fuel.

It's a perfectly serviceable beverage.

by tbetz 2008-05-11 04:36PM | 0 recs
I think that

the subsidy of it was a good thing back in the early 1990's until about 4 years ago, then the rise of China started to have a small effect on the price of corn. (ethanol saved a lot of small farmers in MN as  my state was the first in the nation to have it as part of the fuel blend.  I think reducing the subsidy for it is a good policy now.  I view it as  being an indirect subisdy and a rural stimulus.

The plant my dad is on the board on also makes vodka from wheat...

by Student Guy 2008-05-11 04:47PM | 0 recs
We need to move the focus...

... from corn ethanol to cellulosic ethanol, and to waste-derived methane.

The technology is finally advanced enough to begin to do it, and oil prices are high enough for the technology to be competitive very quickly.

Farmers can still benefit by using their waste products as feedstock for the for the fuels, and the environment can be improved by redirecting animal wastes from the existing pools into the fuel stream.

I'm not a farmer, but I grew up in farm country, about the time that "concentrated animal feeding operations" began, and I know first hand how the practice turned a generally healthy environment into a more unhealthy one.  Using new technologies for processing animal wastes into fuel, we could ameliorate this growing problem while helping to solve another.

by tbetz 2008-05-11 04:57PM | 0 recs
I fully agree with the sentiment

however some of the stuff put out there about cellulosic ehtanol (especially with switchgrass yields) is pie in the sky.  Also taking off biomass will impact soil quality leading to a greater demand for fertilizers (and more natural gas usage).  And there needs to be further refinement of enzymes to be able to roll it out on an unsubsidized scale, but it is feasible to do on a subsidized (I've read $.80/gallon in corn ethanol industry literature) level (corn ethanol is $.52 going down to $.47)

The ethanol plant I am familiar with is switching to gasification of corn stalks to replace the natural gas used.

A freaking huge dairy (2000 cows) is getting built two miles from my parents farm, so I know about CAFOs.  If they followed the rules for waste disposal they would not be profitable.

by Student Guy 2008-05-11 05:02PM | 0 recs
A lot of the carbon loss caused by diversion...

... of stalks to fuel generation can be resolved inexpensively (both in terms of cost and in terms of energy required to generate the treatment) by the application of ground charcoal to the soil;  and charcoal can be produced from waste woody material.

Ancient technology (Terra preta) being understood using modern science.

It's not being covered in the American press.  I had to hear about it on the CBC.

by tbetz 2008-05-11 05:19PM | 0 recs
Agreed with you there

however the woody waste products have to be shipped as most farming doesn't take place near forests (here in MN the farming takes place in (roughly) the 1st and 7th CD's (with some over lap into the 6th and 2nd)  The forestry is in the 8th.  (Forestry is North cenrtal and northeast.  Farming is south, West.

by Student Guy 2008-05-11 05:22PM | 0 recs
You're going to have a whole lot of cheap wood...

... coming down from Canada for the next few years.

And the nice thing about the ground charcoal, you only have to apply it properly once, and it will continue to feed the soil for decades.  The Amazonian terra preta is still well-fed after 1500 years.

by tbetz 2008-05-11 05:32PM | 0 recs
I omitted the reason for the cheap wood...

... the pine beetle.

Left to decay, these forests will be a huge contributor to global warming;  but cooked into charcoal (which also kills the beetle and the fungus), ground and shipped south, much of their carbon could be fixed into the soil and at the same time reduce the need for other fertilizers for a century or more.

by tbetz 2008-05-11 05:36PM | 0 recs
Very true...

I took entomology in undergrad and know the devastation wood borers (not just pine but ash and elm as well will wreak on the nations forests.  If the charcoal can be shipped via train (which it should be able to it would be an economic fertilizer.

by Student Guy 2008-05-11 05:45PM | 0 recs
Re: McCain's Trouble in the Corn Belt...

Doubtful... These scare stories about McCain are not penetrating the media all that much with Clinton/Obama.

by Jaz 2008-05-11 04:38PM | 0 recs
Look at Iowa

voters there are very informed about the race and they have been seriously trending towards Obama/Clinton.

Also in Indiana, when voters got informed about the race a very red state all of a sudden turned very light red/light blue.

NE might be more of a stretch but there was a caucus there not a primary and the state was not highly energized like IN was.

John McCain will not do as well as a traditional republican in the Cornbelt due to this, it is a big issue where I grew up, the farmers are up in arms about the subsidy being decreased a nickel per gallon (which I think is very smart polciy but people are enraged, I went back home over break to do some farming and ethanol is a sacred cow)

by Student Guy 2008-05-11 04:44PM | 0 recs
Re: Look at Iowa

Good news.  Also, even if there is some blockage of the stories due to Clinton-Obama fight, there's still plenty of time before the election.

by bosdcla14 2008-05-11 04:54PM | 0 recs

These three states I focus on all produce an enormous amount of corn and almost every farmer from these states grows corn farmers care about their bottom line so McCain will not perform as well I am from a blue area in MN (but many republican farmers won't vote for McCain due to this issue and the war in Iraq, the farm economy is gangbusters now (nearly $6/bushel for corn (tradionally around $2) and $11 for beans (tradionally around $5.75).  They might stay home as a lot of them are conservative but I talked with the owner of a local cafe where the farm hands of the big farms eat and the small farmers eat there a lot and she said that people are furious about the scared cow of ethanol being touched.  McCain will get killed over this issue.

by Student Guy 2008-05-11 05:08PM | 0 recs
Re: Look at Iowa

ethanol is a sacred cow

The phrase "sacred cow" carries a strong connotation of primitive religious thinking and irrationality, which makes it a superb metaphor for corn ethanol.

I have no doubt that Midwestern farm communities are prospering from it. It's amazing how much money falls out of the sky when the federal government mandates that someone use a particular product, whether or not doing so makes any sense.

If I and every other consumer were being forced to buy ten pounds a week of Wisconsin cheese, whether or not I wanted to eat it and regardless of my perhaps having a dairy intolerance, Wisconsin dairy farmers would be farting through silk. Would that local benefit to them make sense in light of the costs and detriments to everyone else?

Corn ethanol has failed every single substantive prediction made for it. It hasn't lowered pump prices relative to the cost of crude. It hasn't cut smog. It hasn't reduced greenhouse emissions -- and a guy named Paul Crutzen, who holds a minor academic honorarium that the rest of us call the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, has pointed out that it is probably making climate change much worse.

It has reduced vehicle engine service life. It has slashed mileage. It has increased emissions of nitrogen oxides, a serious smog component.

And, on top of all this, it has contributed to the rocketlike rise in food prices that is screwing the poor at home and around the world.

Viewed in that light, opposing ethanol is perhaps one of the only decent and sensible policy stances ever to have come from John McCain.

by marquer 2008-05-11 06:37PM | 0 recs
Re: McCain's Trouble in the Corn Belt...

I'd love it if we could turn a couple of red states blue. If there's a chance this issue might help, we should make sure everyone in those states is aware of it.

by sricki 2008-05-11 05:05PM | 0 recs
The farmers are aware of it

and so are the workers at the plant I would guess.  The ethanol subsidy got decreased a nickel a gallon (I actually support this move but I am not a farmer) and while at home I hear a lot of complaining.  When the ethanol industry hammers McCain over this it will be game over for him in Iowa (they grow crap loads of corn) and Illinois 9but he never stood a chance there to begin with.  I am interested to see how this will play in Nebraska as it is much redder than Iowa, this might tilt a CD to Obam/and Clinton (I am talking about different CD's here the Omaha based one for Clinton and the middle of the state one for Obama).

The key is if the towns where ethanol plants are consider this issue when they vote (ethanol plants pump huge amounts of money into the local town via property tax, employee wages, and also infrastructure) as if they do republicans are in a lot of trouble here in the corn belt, but this probably helps McCain in New England and the Pacific Northwest (however the issue should be further down the list than it is up here in the Cornbelt)

by Student Guy 2008-05-11 05:16PM | 0 recs
Re: McCain's Trouble in the Corn Belt...

I'm not crazy about ethanol either, but I'm happy to see McCain lose votes over it, and I won't discourage any from voting against McCain because of this issue :)

by freedom78 2008-05-11 08:50PM | 0 recs


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