Haves vs. haves: corn and cows and the men who love them

We urbanites are sitting in the bleachers for what portends to be a helluva gladiatorial battle. Corn.

We urbanites are sitting in the bleachers for what portends to be a helluva gladiatorial battle. Corn. Cows. And it's all being fought over energy and centers, as all fine money matters in "cleantech," around the EPA.

Here's what's up: Texas is a big state for cows and oil Further north where the soil is richer and summers wetter, they grow corn. Places like Iowa. In its ultimate wisdom and concern for our well-being the U.S. government decided that corn-based fuels were a good thing. Thus they have mandated a certain increase in Americans' use of biodiesel and ethanol fuels to replace petroleum. Now the leaders of Texas are trying to get that mandate thrown out. They are seeking help from the current EPA. Simultaneously a U.S. Senator from Texas is trying to get the federal law changed. Guess who opposes that? A U.S. Senator from Iowa.

The Texas argument is basically that higher corn prices will raise prices of beef or put ranchers out of business. Iowa replies that using corn (about 25% of this year's American corn crop is slated to go into biofuel) for fuel makes us more independent of oil exporters.

This raises many of questions that have already swirl around corn-based ethanol. Even a study by a Texas university does NOT accuse biofuel of raising food prices like the biouel haters/cow lovers certainly have. Yet, there's the real question of whether corn ethanol is efficient or cost-effective without big subsidies. Then there is the question of how corrupted the EPA scientists are right now, how political their input will be. That has the corn/biofuel folks in a tizzy.

While this will be rich spectator sport in an election year, it will most certainly raise the appetite among pols and consumers alike for clean cleantech, biofuel made from waste materials and not corn or sugar. The second generation biofuel folks are starting to look really clever.

AGRI-BOTHER

Perhaps it should be called "AGGRO-culture," as in AGGRAVATION. I recently blogged about how our food industry sucks up the fresh water, and doesn't put it back into the natural system whence it pours. Our agriculture also uses enormous amounts of petroleum products for pesticides and fertilizer, a gazillion ergs of energy for equipment, storage and irrigation. Thus it's a source of major CO2 emissions.

For a most critical look at American food business, you can check any of the books by Michael Pollan.

Here's a couple recent posts on biofuels NOT being made from corn or foodstock. The "Wall Street Journal" attacks Vinod Khosla, well-known biofuel VC. Prediction that biofuel will become cheaper than fossil fuel in next five years.