Using Corn for Ethanol
August 16, 2009
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Mazed and Confused, Economist, 8/10/09
From what I can gather the connection goes something like this (much simplified, of course):
All-important Iowa presidential caucus -> support for corn for ethanol -> U.S. soybean crop displaced -> Brazilian soy crop displaced -> arable grazing land for cattle (for hamburgers, etc.) displaced -> rain forest burned and seeded for cattle grazing -> global warming (burning + loss of trees) -> offsets benefits of using ethanol…not to mention the increased cost of corn for other uses (sweeteners, cattle feed, etc.)
The article points out other, better ways to produce ethanol (also see comment below).
This is a fairly balanced article that, together with the comments, shows how the truth is not clear cut and how both data and theory can be used to support one’s point of view or agenda. The article also points out that there are not just two opposing sides to the corn ethanol issue (e.g. big oil is not happy either).
Many public issues involve similar complexity, if not more (e.g. health care). If you read the article and then the comments (starting from the bottom), you will quickly see that much this is well beyond the average voter’s desire or ability to follow. So what is the Average Joe to do? He relies on media sound bites and the simple, black and white, us vs. them world view from his favorite trusted source, like Fox News or MSNBC. These sources may originally get selected based on a single issue over which he feels passionate. The chosen source or sources’ perspective then becomes his own on all other issues. The sources themselves need to maintain their perspective to keep their audience. A self-reinfocing, echo chamber results.