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Nov 28, 2009

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Andrew Brod

The most impressive stat for me (and I apologize if I've cited this before on this blog) is that the amount of corn it takes to manufacture one tank's worth of ethanol can feed a person for an entire year. Instead of taking perfectly good corn and using it as food, we're burning it.

It'd be one thing if this were dictated by market prices. We could debate the morality of this outcome, but it would at least be an economically viable one. But federal subsidies and trade barriers screw up the price mechanism for ethanol. To be sure, economists don't mind adjusting prices (through taxes or subsidies or whatever) when there's a demonstrable market failure, but it's hard to see what that might be in this case. Therefore, we make too much ethanol. When it's time to expand its production and use, prices will let us know.

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