Yet another weird SF fan

I'm a mathematician, a libertarian, and a science-fiction fan. Common sense? What's that?

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Yet another weird SF fan

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The Problem with Ethanol

It's looking likely that a sudden increase in the use of corn-based ethanol for automobile fuel will make corn less available for food. (We can't escape rising food costs by switching to other foods because that causes the costs of othe other foods to rise as well.) I'm beginning to think that putting ethanol in gasoline was actually a scheme for making food scarce enough to have something for Malthusians to point at. You can see a typical example here. It's currently impossible to use “Malthus was wrong” as a sound bite; it can only be used with involved explanations that non-geeks won't listen to.

I'm reminded of the environmentalist attitude towards nuclear power. They first make it impossible to build new nuclear power plants and then they claim that the resulting rising CO2 levels threaten to Destroy the Planet. (If their claims about the dangers of fossil-fuel use are true—and they might be—then we have a case for trying them for treason to humanity.)

On the other hand …

There's also a lesson here for the conservative base. The liberal side of the immigration debate will claim that keeping immigrants out will mean that work done by immigrants won't be done. The conservative side will make the counterclaim that Americans will do that work if the price is right. If we apply the lessons of corn-based ethanol, that will mean fewer Americans available for other work.


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