Should the United States drop the 54 cents per gallon tariff on ethanol?
The ethanol policy of the United States provides very little environmental benefit and some economic damage. By setting a tariff of 54 cents a gallon for imported ethanol, Congress has blocked environmentally efficient ethanol from Brazil and other sugarcane producing countries in favor of an inefficient corn-based ethanol produced by farmers in the Midwest of the US. The economic damage is embodied in the higher prices for corn faced by American consumers. The environmental concern emanates from the 800 gallons of ethanol produced per acre of sugarcane versus only 328 gallons per acre for corn.
The situation is actually worse than implied by these gallons per acre figures. Corn is a starch and must use additional energy to be converted to sugar before it can be transformed into ethanol. Consequently, while sugarcane produces 8 units of output energy for every unit of input energy, corn produces only 1.3 output units. While ethanol from corn reduces carbon emissions by between 10 and 20 percent relative to gasoline, ethanol from sugarcane reduces such emissions by between 87 and 96 percent.
To make matters worse, the farm bill provides a special tax credit to US ethanol producers of 51 cents per gallon. This means that the full hurdle that imported ethanol must exceed has risen to $1.05 per gallon. That’s a significant addition to pain at the pump. How can politicians tell us that they "feel our pain" if they hit us with this double-whammy?
Protectionists argue that we must have these ethanol import barriers to protect the Amazon Rain Forest. This is a strange argument since wet areas like the Amazon would rot the roots of sugarcane plants. Sugarcane is grown on just 2 percent of Brazil’s arable land. The sugarcane growing regions are well over a thousand kilometers from the Amazon -- primarily in the southern state of Sao Paulo and along the easternmost tip of Brazil. Even with flex-fuel vehicles accounting for 72 percent of vehicles sold in Brazil in 2007, only 3 million hectares of land are used for ethanol production versus 200 million hectares for pasture. Moreover, the Brazilian government is acting to forbid the planting of sugarcane in the Amazon region or in the Pantanal swamplands, although it is hard to imagine that anyone would want to plant in such sugarcane-hostile regions in any case.
In a breakthrough for nuclear fusion research, scientists at China's Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) reactor have produced temperatures necessary for nuclear fusion on Earth.
- The EAST reactor was able to heat hydrogen to temperatures exceeding 100 million degrees Celsius.
- Nuclear fusion could someday provide the planet with a virtually limitless supply of clean energy.
- Still, scientists have many other obstacles to pass before fusion technology becomes a viable energy source.
Military recruits are supposed to be assessed to see whether they're fit for service. What happens when they're not?
- During the Vietnam War, Robert McNamara began a program called Project 100,000.
- The program brought over 300,000 men to Vietnam who failed to meet minimum criteria for military service, both physically and mentally.
- Project 100,000 recruits were killed in disproportionate numbers and fared worse after their military service than their civilian peers, making the program one of the biggest—and possibly cruelest—mistakes of the Vietnam War.
The 116th Congress is set to break records in term of diversity among its lawmakers, though those changes are coming almost entirely from Democrats.
- Women and nonwhite candidates made record gains in the 2018 midterms.
- In total, almost half of the newly elected Congressional representatives are not white men.
- Those changes come almost entirely from Democrats; Republican members-elect are all white men except for one woman.
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