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Ethanol, tortillas and smog
Posted by: mcq on Thursday, February 01, 2007

Someone somewhere (a week or so ago and no I can't remember who or where [HT: Jim O'Sullivan found it].) jokingly said that all this ethanol talk was going to drive up the price of tortillas in Mexico.

From his lips to God's ears:
Some 75,000 unionists, farmers and leftists marched to protest price increases in basic foodstuffs like tortillas, a direct challenge to the new president's market-oriented economic policies blamed by some for widening the gulf between rich and poor.

Since taking office Dec. 1 after a disputed election, President Felipe Calderon has drawn his greatest criticism for failing to control the largest price spike in tortillas in decades. Tortillas are a staple of poor Mexicans' diet.

The national uproar has put him in an uncomfortable position between the poor and some agribusiness industries hoping to profit from the surge in international corn prices, driven mostly by the sudden explosion of the U.S. ethanol industry. A free-market advocate, Calderon has said he does not want to return to direct price controls enforced by many former Mexican presidents.
Corn prices are rising. Gas prices are dropping. Ethanol, it now seems, causes smog.
Federal scientists want to tighten smog standards, a step that would allow tens of millions of Americans to breathe easier. The plan also would run head-on into President Bush’s hopes of weaning Americans from gasoline by using more smog-producing ethanol.


Ethanol, a focus of Bush’s gasoline-reduction plan, helps cut carbon monoxide in winter but can raise smog levels in summer, air pollution experts say. Ethanol releases more nitrogen oxides, a key element of smog, and evaporates more easily than gasoline, adding other air pollutants.

EPA documents show that more ethanol use could raise smog levels about 1 percent, mainly in parts of the Midwest that don’t use cleaner-burning reformulated gasoline.
So does ethanol sound like something we really want to invest in as an "clean burning alternative" as all the hype surrounding it has described it? I know the answer in Mexico.
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Previous Comments to this Post 

Theres always some ill effects it seems, but i guess those enviro ppl need to keep their jobs somehow. They are betting their social welfare on lobbying themselves into the unemployment line. If we do what they say, they wont need to say it anymore.
Written By: josh b
URL: http://
So we’re deciding our energy and agricultural policy based off of Mexico now?

As for the smog thing, since when do people trust the mainstream media to accurately report science stuff? Actually, that article wasn’t bad. It did say, after all, that the data was pretty thin. Actually, it’s very thin. Ethanol clearly reduces CO and VOC, which contribute to smog. It may or may not increase NOx, as various studies are all pretty inconclusive on the subject. At the very least, the increase is minor. All this means is that various models show that EtOH might increase smog slightly. That article said 1 percent. One freaking percent. And there have been no experimental studies to confirm or deny this. This is all for E10 by the way, E85 clearly shows a decrease in smog potential. It is also discounts the fact that the increase would be more for Midwestern cities than the areas like LA where smog is a major problem. Oh, and if you look at the real world data and look at smog formation before and after introduction of ethanol blends in various cities, you will find absolutely no statistical evidence that EtOH use has increased smog.

All a long winded way of saying that your little snide "clean burning alternative" comment is a bit silly when you actually look at the facts. If you don’t like ethanol, fine, but try not to use the MSM as a source for your reasoning =)
Written By: Mariner
URL: http://
Mexico has import quotas on white corn coming from the US tarriff-free (NAFTA notwithstanding). White corn is the kind used to make tortillas. You think this might have something to do with the inflated tortilla prices?
Written By: Ron C
URL: http://
So we’re deciding our energy and agricultural policy based off of Mexico now?
Uh, no. The point was the inevitable happens, economically, when there is more demand for a commodity. The question is, is that increase in demand warranted based on the probability of more smog? And do we want to hitch our "alternative energy" horse to this particular wagon?
As for the smog thing, since when do people trust the mainstream media to accurately report science stuff?
I noticed you backpeddled immediately after saying that. It has nothing to do with the MSM and everything to do with the validity of the point.
That article said 1 percent. One freaking percent.
Yup ... takes a lot of output to move it "one freaking percent", doesn’t it? And, of course, when, as the article says, we’re trying to tighten emission standards and further clean the air, that sort of works at cross purposes with the attempt, doesn’t it?
Written By: McQ
I’m in the mood to be helpful. Here is where it was said:,1,1635056.story?coll=la-headlines-business
Written By: Jim O’Sullivan
I wrote about this on my blog four months ago.

Beware this evil called Ethanol.

Ethanol, The last, best, hope for big profits
Ethanol, The last refuge of a scoundrel
Ethanol, Like the proverbial lilies of the field, it toils not, neither does it spin
Ethanol, Full of sound and fury, signifying, nothing
Ethanol, Crucifying America on a cross of Corn!

This just in! Ethanol will cause hunger!
link here.
Written By: kyle N
Ethanol policy is nothing but a tax payer funded boondoggle put in place to transfer taxpayer money to ADM and corn growers.

The environmental destruction, economic dislocation, and additional pollution are bonus features of this idiot policy.
Written By: TJIT
URL: http://
What, is this a Mexican monster to rival Godzilla?

Sorry, I just couldn’t help myself!
(feel free to delete this after you’ve updated things!)

Written By: looker
URL: http://
And the Law Of Unintended Consequences strikes again. In multiple ways.
Written By: Firehand

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