Only ADM and corporate corn growers win
August 28, 2008 · Updated 1:29 PM
The World Watch Institute lists 16 crops that can be used to make ethanol and/or bio-diesel. The group, reprinted in a recent Ode magazine, shows switchgrass at 1,150 gallons per acre and hemp at 1,000. Corn comes in at a paltry 345 gallons. Neither switchgrass nor hemp needs large inputs of fertilizer pesticides or water as does corn and neither is a food crop as corn is. This is an important issue because the increasing competition between corn as food for animals, including humans, and corn as feed stock for liquid fuels is causing the costs of such food as dairy products, cheese and butter, etc., and meats, such as pork and chicken, to skyrocket.
Why then, a rational person might ask, are we subsidizing corn to produce fuels rather than hemp or switchgrass? One answer is that corn has large and influential commercial supporters. Archer Daniels Midland comes to mind. Switchgrass has no such promoters. Poor hemp, in addition, of course, still bears the onus of that eccentric kook J. Edgar Hoover who ran the FBI for far too many years. At his insistence hemp was declared verboten by our national leaders because it is in the same botanical family as cannabis, even though it has almost none of the active ingredients which are part of marijuana. So American framers have since the 30s been forbidden to grow hemp. Thats sort of like forbidding the cultivation of carrots because they are of the same family as poisonous water hemlock.
So we appear to be ending up with the worst possible scenario. Corn, which is good for humans and animals being used for motor fuels. Switchgrass and hemp, which can be better grown on marginal lands unsuited for human crops, being ignored even though their potential as motor fuels is much greater. Our dependence on the chaotic Middle East is not as diminished as it might be and we pay for our groceries. Only ADM and corporate corn growers win on this one.