Start draining the swamp by draining the ethanol tanks Print
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Written by Ozaukee Press   
Tuesday, 21 November 2017 18:46

“I will drain the swamp.”
    Donald Trump’s catchy and cleverly memorable slogan encapsulating a promise to rid Washington of the special interest lobbies that wield influence and money to bend government policy in their favor helped get him elected president.
    A year later, the swamp remains full to its slimy brim.
    So we have a suggestion for the president as a surefire way to start to make good on his pledge. Tell the American people: “I will drain the tanks.”
    The ethanol tanks, we mean.
    The ethanol mandate—federal law forcing the manufacture of a biofuel that helps no one except businesses that profit from it—is a stinky hunk of corporate welfare dripping with swamp ooze.
    The ethanol mandate proposed for 2018 will require the production of 19.24 billion gallons of the fuel, almost all of which will come from corn. This is testimony to the power of the swamp, because there is no doubt remaining that every one of those billions of gallons will do more harm than good.
    The last glimmer of a rationale for the ethanol mandate was that, in spite of all of its negative trappings, it might at least be a bit of hedge against global warming by providing an alternative to fossil fuel. Our own University of Wisconsin-Madison has now exposed that as either wishful thinking or propaganda from the swamp.
    A study by the UW Department of Geography published last week showed that ethanol contributes significantly to the carbon emissions that cause global warming. The research found that the cultivating of more than 7 million acres of land expressly to grow corn to meet the ethanol quota released a massive amount of carbon into the atmosphere.
    The researchers calculated that the carbon emissions caused by tilling land to produce corn for ethanol is equivalent to 20 million additional vehicles driving on American roads every year.
    The UW findings add an exclamation point to the litany of reasons the ethanol mandate should be scrapped. First among them is that it hurts taxpayers and consumers.
    The more than $12 billion given annually by the federal government to ethanol producers and growers of corn for ethanol in tax breaks, direct cash payments and crop insurance subsidies takes tax dollars away from other needs—infrastructure for one—and adds to the deficit.
    The ethanol mandate penalizes consumers with rising food costs by driving up the price of corn needed for livestock feed and as an ingredient in numerous food products.
    At the same time, it reduces the food supply needed for a hungry world. American farmers grow 40% of the planet’s corn. Thanks to the ethanol mandate, a steadily increasing amount of it is being used to power internal combustion engines instead of feeding starving humans.
    In creating a huge artificial demand for ethanol, the mandate has become an environmental blight, causing vast areas of prairies, wetlands, pastures and farmland once used for crops more benign than the soil-depleting, fertilizer and pesticide-dependant corn to be converted to corn production.
    For good measure, ethanol is a lousy fuel. Even when it makes up only 10% of a gallon of gasoline it can make car and truck engines less fuel efficient and prone to corrosion and is harmful to small gas engines.
    The ethanol mandate is a bipartisan sin, supported by Democrats and Republicans. It could once be said in defense of the members of Congress who enacted the mandate in 2007 that they at least had a plausible reason, which was to lessen America’s need for foreign oil. That reason is now null and void. The U.S. is essentially tied with Saudi Arabia as the world’s largest oil producer and dependence on imported petroleum is no longer an issue.
    Well, then, what is President Trump doing about draining the part of the swamp occupied by the ethanol lobby? Nothing. Actually, less then nothing.
    He instructed Environmental Protection Agency  chief Scott Pruitt to not just support the 2018 ethanol quota but to consider increasing it. We can’t help wonder whether either one of them sees the irony in crippling or killing effective environmental protection regulations, as they have been doing relentlessly, while bestowing their blessing on one that is demonstrably harmful.                     The swamp rules.
    Drain the swamp.
    Start by draining the tanks.