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Ethanol from Afghanistan?
Posted by: Jon Henke on Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Citing a Michael Yon aticle at NRO on opium production in Afghanistan, Greg Polliwitz has what seems to be a good idea.
Why not send a little cash toward Afghanistan to allow them to develop an ethanol industry? Farmers in Afghanistan are growing opium because it pays the most. This is one instance where throwing money at the problem will solve it. Pay the Afghan farmers more for a different crop.

We're already paying our US farmers to grow crops for ethanol production, why not pay the Afghan farmers as well? Additionally, we could cut any duties on imported ethanol from Afghanistan and make it instantly competitive with US producers.
There are two potential hurdles I can think of:

  1. Will ethanol-producing crops — e.g., switchgrass and sugarcane — grow in Afghanistan?

  2. Can those crops be competitive with opium for the Afghan farmers? (bear in mind, there would be a much lower risk premium)

I have no idea whether it's ultimately plausible, but that's a fascinating suggestion, and potentially helpful in the war on terrorism.

Jon Henke is the New Media Coordinator for the George Allen Senate campaign.
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Previous Comments to this Post 

You should consider that the people who are currently profiting from the drug trade may not wish their suppliers to change crops.
Written By: Mark A. Flacy
URL: http://
Real libertarian.
Written By: william
URL: http://
The question I have is wouldn’t the reduction in supply of poppies then raise the market price for opium, once again making poppie production more valuable?

Of course, our farmers who are producing ethanol (e.g., ADM) are never going to let this happen: "Competition? Never heard of it."
Written By: MichaelW
I saw that too Jon. Personally I like the idea. Is it libertarian? In an imperfect world it is probably better than other alternatives, assuming the crops would grow and other factors, but I am in favor of outside the box thinking. I say look into it. Maybe your pull with a certain senator might help?
Written By: Lance
I would think an unintended consequence would be the sudden unemployment of those farmers, once multi-nationals, or very wealthy smaller coporations who can afford the machinery and automation that would make the crop even more proffitable. I don’t think there are a bunch of opium farmers who can compete with against high priced machinery, and high efficiency agricultural methods.
Written By: wickedpinto
URL: http://
I love the idea and wish we could try a few of the ’outside the box’ ideas.Is it Libertarian? Possibly. It wouldn’t be long before someone over there thought of an idea to use the crops or products of the crops to make some legit money in thier country. Possibly jump starting a whole knew job source.
Written By: SkyWtach
URL: http://
How about, ending the War on Drugs, Ending all agricultural subsidies, and getting the hell out of Afghanistan as soon as it is feasible?

NAWWW that would never work.
Written By: kyle N
Logistics kills this idea.

Afghanistan has no ports, and there’s no way an ethanol pipeline could be cost-effective (and you can’t use any existing oil or gas ones, since ethanol is corrosive), compared to domestic production.

Better off doing what someone else suggested somewhere I read today and promptly forgot where - just buy their opium crop, and either destroy it or make legitimate opiate pharmaceuticals for the world market.
Written By: Sigivald
URL: http://
Real libertarian.
I knew William would have a comment in this thread...please don’t use his money to subsidize a crop switch which might restrict his access to drugs. You bastards!
Written By: JWG
URL: http://
Sigivald has a serious concern. The story of Afghanistan is that even if they had a product to export, they have no good way to export it. Drugs work because they’re not really grown or imported on an industrial scale.

The land itself is probably ill suited for for that sort of agriculture. The altitudes are high, the growing season is screwy, and the land is rocky. Switch grass might work in the spring and summer months. I’d be willing to bet mining and other low level industry would make for better industry development in the short term though. All the problems of getting products out operate in reverse getting products in. Afghanistans metal deposits could be used to yield cheap feeder materials for the nation’s infrastructure and modernization efforts while improving the local economy.
Written By: Jeff the Baptist
Must see TV
Written By: Macaca Boy
URL: http://

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