Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Tear Down The Malls

I did not catch the President's speech last night, since Cutesome had chained me down in front of Project Runway. It was rather boring - the one who made the tatty ill-constructed dress got voted off. Again. And the guy who won from last year came back as a judge, and appears to have morphed into J-Lo, replete with the same hat, glasses and lack of modesty. You can visit his website here, and if I have rendered the link properly, it will cost him money in Adwords.

But the president had much to say about the future of energy, and it was rather amusing. Unfortunately, since I did not watch the State Of The Union Address, I am somewhat reliant on the press accounts. Thus, I cannot tell whether he said that ethanol, an alcohol-like substance made from primary state-grown corn, would replace 75% of of Middle Eastern oil imports, or would be a neat step in that direction.

As a host of more eloquent and less harried people than I have noted, reducing oil consumption would be by far the easiest way to reduce imports from the Gulf. A mix of building communities that don't require you to drive for ten minutes to buy a pint of milk and tougher fuel economy standards might accomplish this. Next easiest would be to invade Venezuela - they could hardly be more angry with the US than now. Oh hold on, HOW ABOUT RAISING THE GAS TAX?

Some way below that comes lavishing vast amounts of tax subsidies on farmers to grow corn, growing that corn using imported fertilizers, most of which are derived from hydrocarbons, turning that corn into ethanol, often with the aid of some more rather pleasant tax breaks, and then subsidising refiners to add ethanol to their gasoline. The Brazilians do quite well by ethanol, but then they prize self-sufficiency, their sugar-based ethanol is cheaper to make, and their cars tend not to be so monstrous.

Moving to an ethanol-based economy will be hugely expensive - same goes for using Canadian oil sands to produce gasoline. Or has Mr. Kunstler notes, and I summarise - you can do it, but you can't pay for it.


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