Great interview on energy policy, or the lack thereof, in Foreign Policy with the Earth Policy Institute's Lester Brown. Highlights:
LB: An industry that was once solely dependent on the ethanol subsidy had to go through the fiscal process each year, so someone controlled that. But it’s gasoline prices being around $3 that has really sparked this investment frenzy in corn-based ethanol. So no one’s in charge anymore. The licensing of distilleries is done at the state level, and the governors in all the Corn Belt states want ashttp://www2.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gif many distilleries as they can get. And there’s a very strong lobby here in Washington because every Corn Belt state has two senators. They’ll trade off all sorts of things to get what they want in this particular area because it’s so big for them. And just as there’s nobody in charge at the national level, there’s no one responsible at the international level either. There’s no U.N. agency or office to mediate the competition between two groups that are competing for the same resources: the 2 billion poorest people in the world, many of whom already spend half or more of their income on food, and the 800 million people in the world who own automobiles.
Like the rest of us, those 2 billion poorest people in the world eat a lot of corn: Brown references this year's in Mexico that protested rising corn prices (caused by, you guessed it, increased demand for ethanol).
Brown also gives the best, most succinct story I've ever heard describing the untapped potential of wind-generated energy:
FP: If wind-generated electricity is so great, what’s holding it back?
LB: Certainly not supply: We have enough wind energy to run the whole economy and not even come close to striking the full potential. In 1991, the Department of Energy did a national wind resource inventory that showed that three of our 50 states, North Dakota, Kansas, and Texas, have enough harnessable wind energy to satisfy national electricity needs. We know that was a gross underestimate because it was based on wind turbine technology in 1991. Advances since then enable larger turbines to operate at lower wind speeds and convert wind to electricity more efficiently, so they’re harnessing a much larger, stronger, more reliable wind regime. And I haven’t even mentioned offshore yet. We have plenty of wind.