Sunday, July 26, 2009

HeALthanol...Government help at its finest

Ok, I know, I’m engaging in stupid word play again. Humor me; David Letterman has his stupid pet tricks, and I have my stupid word tricks. Many more will come your way as the weeks and months move on, even though there isn’t a nickel’s worth of payoff in it for me.

‘Having said that,’ to employ a trite and worthless phrase, this stupid word play came to me as my “fertile” mind juxtaposed two subjects: the hell bent for leather stampede to “free government provided health care for everyone” and ethanol, the perfect example of government incompetence and corrupting power. All I could think was: how can anyone want to turn over their health “care” to the very same bureaucracy that gave us ethanol and is intent on making its consequences even more destructive?

On its face, ethanol sounds like a nice idea – a way to reduce “dependence on foreign oil” and fossil fuels, while similarly reducing “carbon footprint,” however you choose to define that. I am not a chemist, but let’s simply agree that ethanol is a combustible fuel additive produced from vegetation, and in precisely controlled circumstances, it can be substituted for a small portion of traditional refined petroleum products.

Here’s what I know about the consequences of ethanol, especially as added to the gasoline products we purchase at our local gas stations. (I believe we currently are compelled to purchase fuel with a 10% ethanol content.)

· First and foremost, the existence of ethanol in our gasoline is a classic example of the triumph of political capitalism over free market capitalism. That is, state controlled markets where politicians choose winners and losers to preserve their hold on power, rather than free markets that respond to the compatible interests of buyers and sellers to optimize the employment of limited resources.

· The regulations and policies mandating use of ethanol in our fuels are political pandering of the worst sort to farm state constituencies, intended to ensure the permanence of their elected officials. At the same time, ethanol is a counterproductive sop to environmental alarmists. If our senators and representatives ever find a way to make ethanol from lobster shells, expect it to be mandatory in local fuel mixes as well.

· Now for the negatives:

o Ethanol fuel mixes reduce mileage; in my case, about 10% on each vehicle. Gee, that’s helpful.

o Ethanol manufacture and distribution creates more “carbon footprint” than it saves in the end gasoline product.

o Ethanol is detrimental to distributors, storage facilities, boat owners, and everyday users of the fuel mix. It requires special handling, easily separates into distinct fuel “phases,” and attracts water to conventional fuel, which has only bad consequences. In other words, extra expense. It decomposes certain types of fuel tanks and fuel system hardware, requiring expensive repairs and replacements.

o It causes significant performance problems, especially in small engines. I know from personal experience with my generator, my lawn tractor, and a friend’s snow blower that the ethanol mixture creates water in the fuel tank and spawns the creation of extremely fine sediment that makes it past the fuel filter, and then clogs up the fuel bowl and jets. This is no fun when the power is down and it is snowing, and you can’t get your generator or blower to run reliably. Thanks, Washington; we really appreciate the help.

· And the greatest negative of all? It raises food prices worldwide, and contributes to food shortages, because more and more land is being turned over to corn destined for ethanol. It simply is the politically designated most rewarding application of the property. I read that the corn required to make a tank of fuel would feed one person for a year. Think about all the good you’re doing as you pump that ethanol mix into your tank. And thank a politician for being ever so “helpful.”

· Now the good news: based on the sterling success of ethanol as a fuel additive to date, the government is planning on upping the required fuel content from 10% ethanol to 15% ethanol. We should expect proportionate “benefits,” at least for those who repair engines, sell fuel, and grow corn. Along with further food price growth. But hey….it’s all for good intentions (and proven negative consequences), so why complain?

Back to my opening point: do you really want the folks that created the irrationality of ethanol fuel additives to design, manage, and oversee your personal health care? Especially when all those who will compel you to surrender to their designs are very blatantly exempting themselves from the same system they would impose on us? I can think of no finer example of a permanent ruling aristocracy setting themselves apart from the little people over whom they rule. In this case, their behavior is criminal in spirit, if not in letter, and should be all the proof you need to steer clear of their plans, and to throw them out one and all.

I’ll close with a reference to an illuminating article on computerization of the National Health Care system in England. Remember the debacle in Maine a few years back when something like $100 million in taxpayer funds were thrown down the rat hole to “upgrade” the DHHS payment system? This was a trivial and relatively benign undertaking compared to actually making centralized and automated decisions about the care you receive.

A pithy quote:

The judgment as to what to do by way of treatment will, alas, be made by people you have never met but who nonetheless can decide whether what your doctor recommends should be covered by insurance or is wasteful or contradicts the findings in the latest statistical study, perhaps reflecting the results of a small statistical sample of patients in Norway.

Read the article; it describes government incompetence a thousand times more costly than what happened in Maine, and in so doing, gives you a glimpse of the health care “justice” being shoved down our throats by our so called benefactors and “public servants,” all while inoculating themselves from its pathologies. Now that’s a fine recommendation!

(Note: for the one or two of you who wondered why Other Side has not had any new posts in the last week or so, it’s because the Poppycocks sauntered off to an “internet-free” location where we got to observe and hear “common loons” on a regular basis, enjoyed watching kids be kids, having s’mores as a prelude to supper, and otherwise got away from it all. And we have friends to thank for making it possible.)

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