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Dead zone reveals problem of govt economic intervention

On the back of the man-made global warming fraud, many taken in by it argue society must move away from the use of hydrocarbons and increase use of renewable sources of energy. Regrettably, the federal government for years has subsidized the production of ethanol and Louisiana joined in a year ago for the future with the state requiring sellers of gasoline to sell ethanol if statewide production reaches a certain level and politicians decide it’s not really more expensive than gasoline. Now these decisions are starting to haunt us and point out yet again an enduring lesson that hubris prevents too many from realizing fully.

In the past year, production of corn has increased significantly which is the most common renewable crop used to produce ethanol. It’s not just government subsidies and federal regulations requiring its use in many metropolitan areas that now drive production, but higher oil prices. The consequence of the increased production, which is supposed to help the environment, is actually to degrade it in a way significant to Louisianans.

Corn takes more fertilizer, typically nitrogen-based, than typical crops. Unfortunately, when carried south down streams that empty through the Mississippi’s delta, the nitrogen runoff of thousands of miles away creates a “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico where aquatic life can’t exist. Not only does this constitute an ecological problem, it is makes for commercial difficulties as fishing industry vessels must travel farther from port to harvest potentially less seafood, obviously negative for Louisiana’s industry.

Irony abounds in this scenario. Ethanol is supposed to help air quality and reduce “greenhouse gases” that allegedly are responsible for significant global warming. Yet in the mania to produce it, it harms not just another aspect of the environment, the ecology of the Gulf, but in pursuing this forces fishing vessels to use more energy – which is hydrocarbon-based and produces more greenhouse gases.

Thus revealing the folly of government intervention into the economy. Human history time and again has shown when there is a presumed public policy problem dealing with economic inputs and outputs, government intervention produces unintended and/or suboptimal outcomes. If government policy wasn’t forcing so much ethanol production, that production would be responding only to market forces, which would have the salutary impacts of reducing corn production (and prices for basic food on top of that) that would reduce the ecological consequences of it, and supplying greater incentives to spur technological developments such as ways to use fertilizer more efficiently and to extract and burn more efficiently petroleum products.

The environment always is best protected by market forces. If degradation becomes too much and/or a less-friendly process thereby becomes too expensive, consumers demand changes. Government fiat only interferes with outcome and, if Louisiana policy-makers want to get series about not contributing to the dead zone problem, they will repeal R.S. 3:3711 as soon as possible.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Doc...HA! repeal something in La? With our politicians? It's more expediate to do nothing, then to fix something. Our "Pols" would rather not admit that they made a mistake in the first place...would look bad when they decided to run for their next office i.e. House to Senate or vice versa, etc.