My multiple reservations not withstanding, we are building our business model around ethanol on our farm. Sadly, our livestock sector needs to face this likelihood as well.
The US will be about corn, and corn will be about ethanol.
Not, however, because of the reasons most often used: energy security, environmental benefits, economic competitiveness with alternatives.
For many environmental advocates, of course, these discussions are of secondary importance; what matters most is that green jobs will help the planet. They'd be wise to be careful there, too. Indeed, the most successful green jobs program to date is one that no environmentalist wants to brag about: the conversion to corn-based ethanol. A recent United Nations report estimated that the heavily subsidized U.S. ethanol industry provides employment for 154,000 Americans, about five times as many as the wind power industry and nearly 10 times as many as the solar industry. That goes a long way to explaining why, despite mounting evidence showing that corn ethanol is a failure (some would say a disaster) on the environmental front, U.S. policy appears to be on cruise control. At its base, corn ethanol is not a green policy so much as a jobs policy—and its success in that respect has made it almost impossible for the government to change course. [More]Now factor in the ease with which this program seems to navigate against the river of logic against it. It is a political marvel requiring essentially no budget exposure for the government by virtue of mandated use. The path of least resistance is to keep raising the mandate and let the cost be borne by consumers obscurely.
I think it is poor policy for our nation and world, but betting against it has been a foolish choice for any farmer. And right now the employment angle is an overwhelming virtue - even if it is economically unsustainable labor use requiring market manipulation.