Friday, April 4, 2008

Two things about ethanol

  1. Leaving aside the energy required for water purification and irrigation, farm equipment, and transportation, to grow corn in the high density intensive way we do today requires a lot of nitrogen fertilizer, and it takes a whole lot of energy to make nitrogen fertilizer. You get way less fossil fuel replacement out of ethanol fuels made from corn than the fossil fuels that go in to making it. The only reason it looks economical are the ridiculous reality distorting government subsidies to corn growers.
  2. To you really think it's a good idea to have "gas for cars" and "cheap food for the population" directly compete in the market? Really?

The Dot Corn Bubble

Article on the distorted economics of corn and ethanol fuels and India

Monday, July 23, 2007

Take action

If I've convinced you that you should hate corn, you should download movies

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Fear Of A Snack Planet

So because of a lunatic agricultural policy, the US floods the market with cheap corn one bit of fallout from this is that Coke-a-Cola bottled in the US tastes like crap. See, this corn gets processed in to high-fructose corn syrup and because of sugar quotas (because, you know, sugar comes from equatorial communist countries), HFCS is cheaper than sugar.

HFCS is the main sweetener most packaged goods now. It's a cookbook people, a cookbook!

Friday, July 6, 2007

Many of the reasons I hate corn

Many of the reasons I hate corn are summed up in this article by Michael Pollan. You should read it, it's really interesting, but basically Pollan lays it at the feet of the US Farm Bill. The US government gives ridiculously high incentives to farmers to grow corn (and wheat and soy), paying them a set price per bushel rather than any kind of market rate. This leads to a massive over-supply of cheap corn and soy, and since these are used to feed animals, cheap meat.

Why? Because it's an easy way to feed money to voters in low population density areas. It's a quick sop to "supporting our rural heartland" and "feeding America".

But we don't actually need all this damn corn! "So what" I hear you cry, "so there's a lot of cheap corn, don't mean nothing to me". Well, I'll try to tell you why I think it does in the next rant.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Blindspot

Ok, so let's talk about farming and farmers. Picture "farming", hold that concept in your mind. Do you know any farmers? Anyone that farms? Probably not. Farming's one of those cute old-timey professions that some people still do, like blacksmithing or tailoring, but it's not really anything to do with anything important, right? Cities, and business and cars and Iraq and iPhones and computers and Deadwood and social justice and such. Farming's all tractors and "yup" and overalls and red barns and hay bales and gingham and root cellars, right?

So, you eat anything today? I mean, you know, intellectually that it came from a farm, yes? Maybe it was all processed and manufactured and packaged up, but the raw material came from a farm. Sometimes there's two farms. Corn (and, for reason's I'll detail later, I hate corn) is grown, processed in to feed, then sent to another farm where it's fed to cows and pigs and chickens, and then you eat them.

Think about that. Everything you ate today came from a farm. Everything everyone in your city ate today came from a farm. Everything everyone in New York, Los Angeles and Boston ate today came from a farm.

My point is that there's an awful lot of farming going on here, and most of us don't think much about it.

Actually, I don't hate corn

Corn (Zea Mays var. rugosa, or as the Native Americans called it, "maize") is delicious. Get some corn when it's in season, fresh from a farmer's market, with the silk still hanging off it, husk it, put it on a piece of foil, put some kosher salt, some pepper and a pat of butter on there wrap that foil up tight and throw it on the BBQ just long enough to heat it all up, and you've got little kernels of heaven right there.

If, against all the laws of man and nature, you find yourself with a cob left over, throw it in the fridge, and the next morning, mash up some left-over potato in a frying pan with some butter, cut the kernels off the cob, throw that in, and you've got some delicious hash.

Corn bread, creamed corn, corn chowder (or, as the Native Americans called it, "chow-DARE"), tortillas, nachos, tamale, all are delights.

And that, right there, that's the problem. When you hear some senator or agriculture-industry shill talking about "our corn farmers", that's what you picture right? Guy in a flannel jacket, up at the crack of dawn, seeing how high the corn is, and if it is, indeed at the height of an elephant's eye, harvesting it, and delivering it in quaint wooden bushels to market, where good solid folks buy it, and take it to corn roasts and fresh faced tots eat it while running around the county fair.

But no, I'm here to tilt at the windmill of Big Corn.