Swickard: Being foolishly fuelish because of politicians

© 2015 Michael Swickard, Ph.D.  This last week I was moderator of a local candidate forum. While we talked about taxes and how unfriendly the business climate seems in my little slice of heaven, there was something else that makes me see red every day.
            While many people do not think of it I am offended that I must buy ethanol in my gasoline. About five years ago the environmental operatives in Santa Fe succeeded in forcing the adoption of ethanol laced gasoline by everyone in New Mexico.
            I have three major objections to being forced to use E10 gasoline. First, the BTU (energy) content of E10 is not as high as regular gasoline, so I surrender gas mileage. I already drive carefully and under the speed limit to boost gas mileage. However, I do not want to spend money foolishly. Also ethanol is very corrosive to older engines and therefore causes older vehicles problems.
            Second, the use of the food crop corn to make fuel raises the price of corn-based food since the production of corn for food competes with the federally subsidized ethanol production. Farmers weigh the value of producing corn for food or for fuel where they get a federal ethanol subsidy.
            The reduction of corn in our food chain increases the cost of food both for humans and for animal feed. Increasing the cost of feeding animals results in higher animal-based food costs to consumers.
            Taxpayers subsidize the production of ethanol, which in turn raises the cost of our food. While food cost is not a problem for me, I do not want to spend the extra money needlessly. Importantly, the escalating food costs are very problematic for fragile families worldwide.
            More so, this artificial increase in food prices have causes riots in Mexico and in other countries with large populations who are mired in poverty, since the increase in food prices is very real to those people and quite catastrophic. There is no reason their corn-based food should increase in price.
            And third, closer to home, New Mexico uses its oil and gas industry to fund education. The use of E10 fuels subtracts money from our schools because the ten percent of ethanol used in gasoline is mainly produced in the “corn belt.” So ten percent of the money that could go to schools is stolen by politicians.
            I have no objection to E10 being sold. Anyone who wants to drive with E10, or E85 for that matter, is free to do so. My objection is that E10 is forced upon me with no chance to get gasoline without ethanol.
            While advocates claim ethanol is cleaner burning I am not convinced it is critical when compared to the harm done to food production and New Mexico schools. Plus, the production of ethanol has many polluting compounds so we are just moving where pollution is occurring.
            One advantage of being older is having been through lots of things. In 1973 I suddenly found that the national speed limit was politically being lowered in theory to save fuel. The 1974 Federal Emergency Highway Energy Conservation Act put the national speed limit to fifty-five in some areas and in some states the top speed was limited to fifty miles an hour.
            For most of fifteen years the national speed was fifty-five and it wasn't until the late 1980s that the speed limit came up a bit and in 1995 the federal law establishing the speed limit was repealed allowing each state to set its own limits.
            This was not sold to the people, it was imposed, much like having to buy gasoline that is ten percent ethanol is imposed upon us rather than sold. Likewise if I wish to drive the double nickel which is what the fifty-five mph limit was called, no one is stopping me. In years past when ethanol was available but not exclusive, people could buy it or not.
            But I cannot find anyone even talking about being forced to be fuelish and suffer the problems that ethanol causes older engines. It is not pretty if you have an older vehicle. Let's not send our money to the corn belt any longer. Send that money to our public schools.