Via my friend Ann, this most recent Cecil Adams Straight Dope column on ethanol. He’s apparently done his reading, as he references some of the academic and policy literature in his comments. And he doesn’t mind naming names:
The immediate beneficiaries of ethanol subsidies have been corn farmers and, more significantly, the Archer Daniels Midland Corporation of Decatur, Illinois, better known as ADM. The world’s largest grain processor, ADM produces 40 percent of the ethanol used to make gasohol. As might be supposed, the company and its officers have been eloquent in their defense of ethanol and generous in contributing to both political parties. The politicians have been generous right back. The libertarian Cato Institute estimates that every dollar of ADM’s ethanol profit costs taxpayers 30 bucks.
And I literally guffawed when I read his finale:
Given that ethanol production involves the conversion of massive amounts of energy from one form to another, the contention that the process is an efficient way to make fuel seems to fly in the face of basic physics–so much so that I’m inclined to regard the subsidy program, and the fact that it has survived for a quarter century, with something approaching awe. Money-wasting government schemes are hardly rare. But how many do you know of that flout the second law of thermodynamics?