How Ethanol Is Hurting My Social Life

The Congress sure does know how to cut into a fellow's social life.

The other week, the House passed an energy bill. A key goal of the bill is to subsidize government-favored energy alternatives by taxing oil companies another $16 billion. One of the House's favorite alternative fuels is ethanol, an alcohol made mostly from corn that can be mixed with gasoline to fuel automobiles.

The concept seems grand enough. Ethanol is something we can produce in America — conceivably it will reduce our dependence on foreign oil. It burns cleaner than pure gasoline — conceivably, that is good for the environment.

But ethanol has its downsides. For starters, lots of fossil fuels are required to produce it. Gas-burning tractors farm the fields that grow the corn. Lots of fuel is needed to fertilize, harvest and ship the corn. Then the corn has to be converted into alcohol, distilled and blended with gasoline. Because ethanol absorbs water, it can't be pumped through pipes — it has to be delivered by truck and train, which requires more fossil fuel.

Some argue, and this is a matter of great debate, that it takes as much energy to produce ethanol as ethanol creates — at the very least, ethanol is not the most efficient way to fuel our cars (gasoline is, which is why we're addicted to it).

 But with the government heavily subsidizing its production — the house bill includes an additional $3.5 billion — a lot of folks are jumping onto the ethanol band wagon. That's causing all kinds of nutty shifts to occur in the marketplace.

Consider: Since ethanol is produced from corn, the demand for corn has increased significantly. The cost of popcorn, according to Reuters, has shot up 40 percent since 2006. Dairy products and beef cost more, too. This is because farm animals eat corn. The higher the cost to feed them, the higher the cost of ice cream and steak and other tasty goodies made from our friends the cows.

But here is where things have gotten really personal: ethanol is driving up the cost of adult beverages. Bourbon, which is made from 51 percent corn mash, is also shooting up in cost. According to Cox News, Jim Beam spent $10.3 million for 3.4 million bushels of corn in 2004. The same amount of corn will cost $14 million this year — an increase that can drive a man to drink.

German beer is more costly. In Europe, farmers are switching from barley to corn to cash in on government subsidies. Less barley equals higher costs. St. Pauli Girl — she left the beer gardens in favor of the church — has been praying for a price break ever since. Even tequila is going through the roof. Mexican farmers are torching their agave fields — they're destroying the succulent agave plants from which tequila is produced — and planting corn instead.

I'm in favor of alternative fuels. I am eager for America to end our addiction to foreign oils — I'm especially eager for us to stop pumping billions of dollars into countries that hope to use that dough to kill us. But can't we think this ethanol thing through before we cut into my personal life?

Few things are as enjoyable as a fine bourbon and smooth cigar at my favorite neighborhood pub — now this harmless experience is going to cost me plenty. And my old pal Jose Cuervo — his fine tequila makes one heck of a Margarita — has improved the spirits of more than one lady in my company, causing her to think me way more charming and witty than I really am. That's going to cost me plenty more, too.

Proponents of the energy bill say it will wean us from foreign oil and reduce energy costs. Opponents say the exact opposite will occur. But I think the bill's real intent is to make us date fewer women and drink less alcohol.

Like I said, the Congress really knows how to cut into a fellow's social life. I'm shocked its approval rating stands at only 29 percent.

I can't believe it's so high.

Subscribe to CE
(It's free)

Go to Catholic Exchange homepage

  • Guest August 17, 2007, 7:21 am

    Gov't subsidies first and foremost subsidize the gov't. There are benefits also to a select few who know where the sow lies and how to get at the teat. The rest of us are sold a bill of goods. Mr. Purcell humors us with a lot of unfortunate consequences of govt's convoluted thinking. To all of that you have to add the shortening of the life cycle of an engine that is not specifically designed for that blend of fuel such as small engines. So far the benefit of green fuels has been more green in the pockets of the beltway farmers. Potatoe vodka at an all mens bar is the way to go.

  • Guest August 17, 2007, 8:28 am

    Our elected officials are out of control when it comes to big money. Very few are really concerned about the practicality of Ethanol or its adverse effects. Unfortunately voters don't know the truth or have the facts. Your article helps and I can only hope that more and more people are finding unbiased information on issues like this so that we can make raional decisions based on facts.

    One idea is to completely clean house by not voting for any incumbent already in office.

  • Guest August 17, 2007, 8:45 am

    God loves you .

    Our elected representatives are not – uh – representative, you say? Indicative: higher prices (taxes and misuses) on all commodities, plus corn on the cob becomes a delicacy.

    Before cutting down the tree to make their stump, string them from it! Surely, not to death – just to gainful employment. As Kent-for-the-Holy-Family suggests, cull the herd – the WHOLE herd.

    I have to admit, I don’t much drink alcoholic beverages – no woman with reasonable vision even carry-her-out drunk would flatter me with appreciation – worse, I can get high just thinking about various political capitals cleaned out!

    Then – college faculties and newsrooms!

    Remember, I love you, too

    Reminding that we are all on the same side – His,

    Pristinus Sapienter

    (wljewell or …

  • Guest August 17, 2007, 8:46 am

    This article and comments seem to be more of a deterrent.  I'm an individual that has worked hard all his life, remains faithful, and has a wonderful family.  Unfortunately, I was diagnosed with MS a few years ago and found it very difficult to continue working.  Does this mean I can't ask for help as a Catholic?

  • Guest August 17, 2007, 11:01 am

    rmendez, could you please explain how in the world you make the connection between that article and your situation?  It should make for an interesting little journey of twists and turns.

  • Guest August 17, 2007, 11:31 am

    You know I really don't care about booze, I'm alarmed that the price of steak is going up!  I live in the middle of beef country and it costs an arm and a leg (interesting comparison) to get a good steak dinner.  Of course, in a country that can't wait more than 30 minutes for delivery pizza, do we expect a plethora of long-sightedness?


    One of the problems with corn ethanol is actually the corn; it isn't a very good source of ethanol.  Low yield, high production cost is not a very good market strategy.  I was reading about an alternative, poplar trees.  Although slower growing, a five year stand can produce signicantly more ethanol per acre than corn, with less pesticides and water.  Tress, in fact, are more resistant to climate variations and can be grown in more diverse areas than corn.  Of course, people would have to jump off the corn bandwagon, and I don't see that happening; too much long green on that one.


    There still exists the prolems with transportation and the implementation of the ethanol, so I don't think you actually gain all that much with a new ethanol source.  You would get more bang for your buck, however, but when has efficiency ever been a virtue of the government?


    It almost makes one want to run for office, but, gulp, then you'd have to live there, and I, for one, would be afraid of being eaten alive.  Perhaps literally.

  • Guest August 17, 2007, 4:08 pm

    Mkochan, my words exactly. I tend to do my share of tongue-in-cheek, sarcasm and reducio ad absurdum but rmendez1 gave me the demineour of a college English professor looking at an automatic transmission. In any case I would expect that rmendez would get the help that we all subsidize just for deserving cases such as these. Culling the whole herd is a timely idea.

  • Guest August 17, 2007, 7:20 pm

    The author states that ethanol burns cleaner…ergo it is better for your health.

    I heard a Science Friday report on NPR (Surprised) where the scientist did a comparative health analysis of ethanol byproducts in the air vs straight gasoline emisssions.  Depending on the geographic location one or the other had a worse impact on breathing disorders.  Overall, however, this legitimate study concluded with its computer simulation, etc….that Ethanol produced slightly more health problems including more deaths!

    So, please don't put your mouth to an ethanol tailpipe just yet–unless you don't plan on inhaling!

  • Guest August 17, 2007, 8:13 pm

    God loves you .

    Lady Kochan, ma’am,

    Could rmendez1 think we mean to dump the safety nets – Medicare, it may be, in his case – of our culture with the politicians – ooo – I feel my Brit roots: ‘BLOODY’ politicians?

    rmendez1, a number less bureaucracies created to foster and payout ‘pork’ would make for better such supports for those in need. I myself lean on Medicare. Though, thinking of my daughter and her brood, I do wonder at my ‘entitlement’ to Medicare D.

    Remember, I love you, too

    Reminding that we are all on the same side – His,

    Pristinus Sapienter

    (wljewell or …

  • Guest August 20, 2007, 7:07 am

    "Scotty …  we must FREE the market Enterprise from the grips of socialistic government interference … Scotty! We need more power … more wisdom and courage at Starbase to allow the markets to dictate and solve the many problems we face.  When will Starbase understand?  The universal force of supply & demand, coupled with free markets …. can penetrate the alien shields if allowed to proceed.  O'hura … send out this signal on the emergency frequency.  Captain out."

  • Guest August 20, 2007, 11:16 am

    Markets solve problems?

    Hmm… they solved them really well in europe for 400 years.

    Markets don't solve problems, people do and free markets have not proven to be any better solution then communism. 


    In the end, as could be expected the best solution is a hybrid between the two.  The real question is what kind of hybridization.  rather then simply chanting 'free the market' or 'government intevention' we need to make a concerted effort at identifiying what the govenement is good and bad at and getting each entity to do those things it is good at to move towards a common goal.  The other problem is 'which goal'? Physical wealth? or Spiritual health? if we work only towards one while ignoring the other we will invariably fail.


    As far as medicare , I'll suport the ending of the program the day someone can show me a better solution.  I have yet to see one.


  • Guest August 20, 2007, 4:13 pm

    God loves you .

    fishman – HISTORY! – when has government been very good at anything? Consider Medicare-D a triumph, do you? How about S-CHIP? No-Child-Left-Unbewildered? Fighting an enemy ‘over there’ while letting him in ‘down there’?

    Local subsidiarity need not bring in government, only charity for need. Of your last example, Medicare-by-local-integral-community would be a far set of cries – all of them improvements – over the oversized porky boondoggle it is.

    Frankly, after all these years, I trust political types (and their commercial, medical, etc., partisans in the lobbies) only to resigning or dying. The best of them are too well and deeply compromised, even if not selfish beyond description. And, the founding ‘politicians’ probably would consider my cautionary and profound skepticism most sane, rational and faithful to their intentions.

    All that said, most ‘citizens’ hardly qualify to for the title; ‘grasping infantile adolescents’ has a truer ring, eh? No wonder their political leaders are of like kind.

    Remember, I love you, too

    Reminding that we are all on the same side – His,

    Pristinus Sapienter

    (wljewell or …

  • Guest August 21, 2007, 10:12 am

    complaints? Do you have a solutions?

    The problems are difficult and complex , less government is always better but fallen man needs rules.  Idealy we'd all live in a theocracy governed solely by good will with no police force or rule of law.

    That won't happen until the race is purged of the original sins of our earliers ancestors. 


    Until then we need the evil of government to give people like politicians something to do so they don't declare themselves God's and out killing people indescriminantly.


    But I refuse to say it is broken when I can't say what 'fixed' would look like.