Letter to the Editor

Why is ethanol mandate needed?

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

To the editor:

In response to a recent op-ed article I wrote arguing that ethanol is a political boondoggle, U.S. Sen. Christopher Bond quotes studies by government agencies that he claims refute the studies I quoted. In fact, there are studies supporting both sides of the issue. Which experts should we believe? Let me try a free-market approach to the argument that should be appreciated by a conservative Republican like Bond.

It is well-known that the orange juice futures market does a better job forecasting weather patterns in Florida than expert meteorologists employed by the government or working in the private sector. This is because the market aggregates all knowledge, including the knowledge of experts. Similarly, the market for gasoline and ethanol aggregates the knowledge of the experts like ones Bond and I quoted. If ethanol is so profitable, why did the senator and his colleagues have to pass a law requiring oil companies to purchase 7.5 billion gallons of ethanol a year by 2012? Given the refining ratios quoted by Bond, the greedy, self-interested oil companies should be stampeding to add ethanol to gasoline without a government mandate.

Those who believe in markets can only conclude that, in the absence of subsidies and tax credits, ethanol is a loser. Clearly, this does not include Bond or a number of other Republicans who call themselves conservatives.