LETTER: McCain presidency would pose threat to farmers, ethanol standards

Friday, October 10, 2008 | 4:46 p.m. CDT

Because of federal and state mandates for clean air, ethanol has raised the price of corn at least $2 per bushel and has also supported both wheat and soybeans.

Ethanol has created jobs and provided another market for corn. The profits from the ethanol plants have added extra income to farmers and rural communities.

The Republican platform this year states,"The U.S. government should end mandates for ethanol." John McCain has consistently voted against ethanol and has said he wants to repeal the renewable fuels standards. McCain also wants to eliminate tariffs on ethanol imported from other countries such as Brazil. McCain voted against the 2008 Farm Bill and said if he were president, he would veto it in a New York minute.

Harold Beach, a farmer and investor in ethanol plants from Shelby County stated, "John McCain with an executive order could overturn the reformulated fuel standard, which requires oil companies to blend ethanol as an oxygenate to meet clean air standards." Beach also stated, "Oil companies will not voluntarily blend fuel unless forced to do so because it is not their product."

I don't think that it takes a rocket scientist to figure out the potential danger to farmer-owned ethanol plants, American industry, renewable fuels, grain prices, balance of trade and rural America if McCain is elected president.

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John Schultz October 10, 2008 | 11:32 p.m.

If ethanol is such a great product, why does it require mandates and subsidies to survive in the free market?

Ethanol has raised the price for food inputs (an increase in $2/bushel as you stated) and also provides less mileage per unit combusted. Doesn't sound like a great product if our food products are more expensive as a result.

Prior to the 10% mandate, Break Time convenience stores sold the 10% ethanol blend for the same price as the regular 87 octane gasoline. Why did Missouri need a mandate for other stations to take this action?

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking October 11, 2008 | 1:39 a.m.

Ethanol plants are closing anyway. They are very energy intensive and expensive to operate. You get very little more energy out of ethanol than was put into its manufacture. It has simply benefitted a few, while giving the illusion of a renewable fuel.

If ethanol had to be used to produce ethanol, it would take 5300 gallons of production to bring 500 gallons (average yearly use per car in the US) to market. We don't have the land to run this country on ethanol, or even a tiny part of it.


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Charles Dudley Jr October 11, 2008 | 5:05 a.m.

Great arguments and at this pint I have to ask why not put money into developing more fuel efficient automobiles and forcing the auto manufactures into doing as such. This economy all of our fuel needs are not a game by far. It is time for people to get serious about this issue. there are too many people crying and not enough coming up with the solutions. We cannot continue to be totally dependent on oil. We live in the modern age of science and technology and it is time as as a society we get with the programs that are developing and move forward and not back.

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Mark Foecking October 12, 2008 | 12:28 a.m.

I tend to think the problem is automobile dependence in the first place. Increased economy only gets us so far, and it takes a long time for efficient cars to replace the ones we have now.

Technology should not be confused with resources. Technology allows us to use resources, but if the resource is insufficient, all the technology in the world cannot make up for that.

Exploiting the power of the sun, in its various forms, is the only real sustainable resource we have. Since that is going so slowly (through no fault of its own - we simply use too much energy for it to go much faster), we will have to cut back on our consumption of fossil fuels rather drastically in the years to come, to avoid supply problems.


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Charles Dudley Jr October 12, 2008 | 4:50 a.m.

The power of the sun is not going to sufficiently power a freight train of 3 locomotives puling over 80 full freight cars at the speeds they need to go across our country.
The sun is not going to be sufficient to power a tractor trailer rig fully loaded traveling across our country.
Sun can only go so far just as electric can only go so far and nuclear can only go so far.
The technology is in place to produce cost effective vehicles if the ones who are making the high profit dollars off of the fossil fuel industry would stop lobbying in Congress to stop new projects that move us in that direction.
You hear it all of the time of Congressmen not voting for these measures or against these measures and as such those Congressmen should be exposed publicly across this country and a nation wide campaign implemented to not allow them to be re-elected and for people who want this country to move forward to be elected in.
The power of the sun will only go so far.

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking October 12, 2008 | 5:29 p.m.

The sun gives us an amount of energy. every day, that is 3000 times greater than what we use. We simply have to build stuff to harness it. See? Technology vs resources?

A tractor trailer rig is an inefficient use of resources. The train can be powered by electricity from central solar sources, and can haul a lot more than the truck can.

Private, oil powered vehicles are the most wasteful part of our energy equation. Moving away from those will make more difference than anything else we can do in the transportation sector. Human power, and carsharing, should be a big part of any future energy saving plan.


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Charles Dudley Jr October 12, 2008 | 7:10 p.m.

The problem is with all rail lines is you cannot get into ware house parking or loading docks as you can with a tractor trailer type of rig. Rail lines only get you so close and so far. Tractor Trailer rigs are a must in most freight operations. What we need is more fuel efficient engines to be built with better transmissions and gearing appropriate the the power source.
The amount of Solar Panels to power a large locomotive train is just not sufficient to be able to power those real large train engines is just not practical due to the torque demands put upon the engines when pulling fully loaded cars behind the main engines.

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking October 13, 2008 | 8:56 a.m.

You wouldn't power the train directly with solar panels. There is a proposal here and there to build solar thermal plants in the dsesert Southwest and to distribute that power through an updated power grid. The train could be powered by a third rail, using electricity generated remotely by solar or wind.

Of course, this is so far in the future we'll likely never see it, but it's certainly possible. France has electric trains that go 150 mph.

Warehouses used to be clustered around rail lines, and certainly could be again.


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Charles Dudley Jr October 13, 2008 | 9:35 a.m.

Sure the main warehouses can but with our ever spreading commercial sprawl we live in you still need those tractor trailer rigs delivering the goods. Even with warehousing near major rail lines tractor trailer rigs are more efficient in moving all forms of freight at anywhere and at anytime due to they can also pick up a load returning to a warehousing complex as well as be rerouted to pick up other loads at other locations.

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Mark Foecking October 13, 2008 | 10:16 a.m.

Depends how you define "efficient". In terms of the amount of fuel used to transport goods, trains are 5-10 more efficient, and can be more flexible as far as what fuel the use.. They have the drawback of only being able to run on rail lines, which makes them less efficient in terms of delivery time to a given place.

There will still need to be truck transport of various types, but not the long haul trucking that we have today. Several rail companies offer "intermodal" transport, where trailers are loaded into flatbed rail cars and go most of the distance to their destination by rail. They are then hooked up to tractors and taken the rest of the way.


(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr October 13, 2008 | 10:51 a.m.

Correct but most of your perishables interstate are hauled by tractor trailer or even if they must go multiple state runs such as your WalMart,HyVee,Gerb's and other chain grocery stores rail is just not efficient enough to handle the needs and the demands of this type of transportational needs.
Now if you are going coast to coast or border to border I can see using rail type systems or going coast to midwest hub then yes it is a good idea.

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