To draw a phrase from the late, great William F. Buckley Jr.’s words as he founded National Review, someone must stand athwart the federal ethanol program yelling, “Stop!” The emergency brake should be pulled — NOW — before ethanol wreaks further havoc.
Poor Haitians rioted last week outside Port-au-Prince’s presidential palace, forcing Prime Minister Jacques Edouard Alexis’s April 12 ouster. Haitians are sick and tired of food prices that are 40 percent higher than last summer’s. Some have resorted to eating cookies made of salt, vegetable oil, and dirt. That’s right: Dirt cookies.
As shocking as it sounds, The New York Sun reported Monday that the global rice shortage has struck home. American citizens have begun to experience food rationing in our rich, blessed country.
“Due to the limited availability of rice, we are limiting rice purchases based on your prior purchasing history,” read a sign above a shrinking rice supply at a Mountain View, California Costco store. Each customer was limited to one bag of rice. A shopper who tried to buy two bags found one of them pried from his hands and thrown back on the store shelves, in something akin to Cuban-style egalitarianism. While such scenes have yet to erupt nationwide, the Sun found that limited stocks of rice, flour, and cooking oil are causing purchase limits and hoarding by consumers trying to lock in today’s high prices (fearing even higher future prices) or simply to acquire products that soon may be unavailable.
It gets worse.
As Eric Peters explained in the March 3 American Spectator, ethanol is simply ethyl alcohol. Unfortunately, “Alcohol fuels may constitute a new type of fire hazard because they are harder to extinguish than gasoline fires and require new types of fire-extinguishing equipment and training.” Peters added:
The fires are extremely hot, and the flames invisible. . . . Foams designed to combat alcohol fires are made using specific polymers that can smother the flames of an ethanol fire but carry a price tag about 30 percent higher than conventional flame-suppressing foams. That means your local fire department has a new line item on the budget.
Congress should abolish federal ethanol subsidies, mandates, and the 54-cent-per-gallon tariff on imports — including Brazil’s cheaper, cleaner, sugar-based ethanol. If scientists can develop ethanol that neither starves people nor rapes the Earth, splendid. However, this enterprise must not rest upon morally repugnant, ecologically counterproductive, economically devastating, government-ordered distortions.
It’s time for emergency legislation to repeal ethanol-market meddling. The federal program began as a sop to U.S. grain growers — arguably the most pampered and endlessly entitled people this side of the Saudi royal family. It has grown into a cancer on global food markets.