Sunday, June 26, 2005

A Win For Everyone But Big Oil

Farmers win, the consumer at the pump wins, our nation's relief from the grip of the oil cartels wins, even the Florida and Gulf coast sugar industry wins if we follow and expand a tested and successful model.

Where’s that model?  Quick, show me.  That sounds like a national headline instead of a Saturday ho-hum article buried in the Washington Post.


Yeah, the model is Brazil.


Brazil?  Isn’t that in South America, that long, skinny country that covers almost the entire west coast?  No, that’s Chile.  Brazil is the big hunk of the country with a seashore on the east coast, home to the Amazon rain forest and Rio de Janeiro.  Enough geography . . .


Brazil is a sugar-cane growing country and the cane industry fluctuates wildly depending on world sugar markets, plus the fact that it’s an absolutely terrible place for people to work.  That, plus the high prices and diminishing oil resources worldwide, plus the fact that cane (along with corn, soybeans, beets, cornstalks and grass) is an easy ethanol source, plus the fact that ethanol runs fine in cars, plus the fact that it’s thirty or forty cents a gallon cheaper at the pumps, makes for a lot of pluses.


And a long list of perceived, but narrow-interest negatives: 


  • Exxon and the boys aren’t really wired with that mind-set and so they keep on throwing money at Washington to keep renewable energy from happening. 

  • Too disturbing to Shell et al profit structures

  • Too much capital investment in old technologies

  • What are we gonna do with all those drill-rigs and the prepaid bribes to various thugs around the world?

  • What do we do with tanker fleets?

  • No one at my country club even knows a cane-sugar grower.

  • Does the Middle East matter without oil? Okay, that one’s not narrow interest.

Of course change will come, but only after we’ve dirtied-up the remaining pristine areas of the world, steam-rollered human rights in favor of petro-dollars in a few more of the ‘stans,’ further poisoned the politics of the have-nots in favor of the haves and warmed the planet to near extinction. We're currently mining oil in Canada. 


All of the above have a dollar value, but they are intrinsically life-style values.  It’s been an observation of mine that life-style has yet to yield to profit and this has made of me an advocate of follow-the-money when chasing bad guys and offer-the-money when enticing behavior.


With this in mind, I suggest administrations present and future offer outrageously advantageous tax breaks to Big Oil to refashion itself as Big Biofuel. I know it’s not a catchy name, but giving away most of the American West got the railroads built and they didn’t have a motto either, unless it was “Moving the Indians to Build California.”


  • Thus will poor agricultural societies in temperate zones become less poor, growing various crops that are convertible to ethanol and thus will the increasing thirst (and ability to pay for) private automobiles be counterbalanced by environmentally sensitive fuels.

  • Tanker owners can transport fuel instead of crude, as there’ll always be an imbalance between those who produce and those who consume. 

  • Oil rigs can be left to rust, dismantled for scrap or painted silly colors and declared art objects. 

  • The Middle East can once again become a nomadic land and sleep for an additional two thousand years.

Brazil’s Agriculture Minister said if the U.S. would open their markets by lowering tariffs and promoting flexible-fuel engine packages, they would contribute to both world prosperity and peace.  Yet my newspaper said that efforts to gain wide acceptance for biofuels in America have faced political, economic and technical obstacles not present in Brazil.  And I guess that’s right.  The moneyed interests in Brazil want it and those in America don’t.


It’s probably a deal-breaker.


A bunch more environmental issues muddying the waters on my personal web site.