Water crisis makes it more imperative than ever to end ethanol fuel
A lot of people have seen this coming, for quite a while. But preparations have been inadequate. To put it mildly.
It was called Boulder Dam in February 1935 when it began holding back the Colorado River to form the gigantic reservoir of Lake Mead. The foundations of irrigation-driven economic development—a dream of entrepreneurs since the 1890s—had been laid. Now, however, a relentless drought that has drained this and other reservoirs to record lows could turn that dream into a nightmare for the 40 million people and all the other creatures who rely on the river, which irrigates 6 million acres of farmland. About 80% of the water goes to agriculture.
The officials of seven states charged with allocating how much of this reduced water will flow to whom cannot agree. They’ve blown past two deadlines for letting the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation know what they’ve decided. The bureau had warned that if the states didn’t collectively set the reductions themselves by the most recent deadline, Jan. 31, it would do the divvying. Those cuts may amount to one-third or more of existing allocations.
Here’s an idea, which is by no means my personal “big idea,” but in fact has been appearing in various quarters, one way or another, for quite a while. How about we get rid of corn ethanol fuel – a phenomenally stupid idea from the beginning, to be sure – and the production noted above can be moved to less drought-stricken areas? (Some 35-40% of the U.S. corn crop now goes to ethanol.)
How about if we offer the farmers in those areas more-than-fair buyouts, and let them semi-retire as stewards of their lands, or whatever? How about if the cost of that is borne by the greedheads and their corporations? Most ideally of all, entirely by Big Ag?
It would be very important to make sure that the benefits of such a program are fairly distributed, lest among other things the right-wingers are able to exploit any subsequent resentment for votes. Which is one of the very few things in this world that they’re actually good at.
At least for now, the above is largely fantasy, I know. But there is that loosely translated thing in the Tao Te Ching about a journey of a thousand miles starting with a single step.
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