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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.
"You dream about these kinds of moments when you're a kid," said lead paleontologist David Schmidt.
- The triceratops skull was first discovered in 2019, but was excavated over the summer of 2020.
- It was discovered in the South Dakota Badlands, an area where the Triceratops roamed some 66 million years ago.
- Studying dinosaurs helps scientists better understand the evolution of all life on Earth.
Credit: David Schmidt / Westminster College<p style="margin-left: 20px;">"We had to be really careful," Schmidt told St. Louis Public Radio. "We couldn't disturb anything at all, because at that point, it was under law enforcement investigation. They were telling us, 'Don't even make footprints,' and I was thinking, 'How are we supposed to do that?'"</p><p>Another difficulty was the mammoth size of the skull: about 7 feet long and more than 3,000 pounds. (For context, the largest triceratops skull ever unearthed was about <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/02724634.2010.483632" target="_blank">8.2 feet long</a>.) The skull of Schmidt's dinosaur was likely a <em>Triceratops prorsus, </em>one of two species of triceratops that roamed what's now North America about 66 million years ago.</p>
Credit: David Schmidt / Westminster College<p>The triceratops was an herbivore, but it was also a favorite meal of the T<em>yrannosaurus rex</em>. That probably explains why the Dakotas contain many scattered triceratops bone fragments, and, less commonly, complete bones and skulls. In summer 2019, for example, a separate team on a dig in North Dakota made <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/26/science/triceratops-skull-65-million-years-old.html" target="_blank">headlines</a> after unearthing a complete triceratops skull that measured five feet in length.</p><p>Michael Kjelland, a biology professor who participated in that excavation, said digging up the dinosaur was like completing a "multi-piece, 3-D jigsaw puzzle" that required "engineering that rivaled SpaceX," he jokingly told the <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/26/science/triceratops-skull-65-million-years-old.html" target="_blank">New York Times</a>.</p>
Morrison Formation in Colorado
James St. John via Flickr
|Credit: Nobu Tamura/Wikimedia Commons|
The world's 10 most affected countries are spending up to 59% of their GDP on the effects of violence.
- Conflict and violence cost the world more than $14 trillion a year.
- That's the equivalent of $5 a day for every person on the planet.
- Research shows that peace brings prosperity, lower inflation and more jobs.
- Just a 2% reduction in conflict would free up as much money as the global aid budget.
- Report urges governments to improve peacefulness, especially amid COVID-19.
The lush biodiversity of South America's rainforests is rooted in one of the most cataclysmic events that ever struck Earth.
- One especially mysterious thing about the asteroid impact, which killed the dinosaurs, is how it transformed Earth's tropical rainforests.
- A recent study analyzed ancient fossils collected in modern-day Colombia to determine how tropical rainforests changed after the bolide impact.
- The results highlight how nature is able to recover from cataclysmic events, though it may take millions of years.