Driving County Roads

An on line journal sharing my views. The content reflects my background as a rural person employed in agriculture and as a retired elected official of local government.

Monday, July 20, 2009


(From the Minnesota Corn Growers Association and MnCorn.org.)
There has been a lot of false information spread about raising corn, use of corn and trying to connect it with deforestration in the third world and global warming. The short name for this is called “indirect analysis”. Indirect analysis claims that an acre more of corn farmed here in America translates to an acre of clear-cut rainforest in the tropics.
The people who raise corn for a living would beg to differ with this analysis and now an energy expert agrees and offers a neutral, scientific way to look at this. Excerpts of this account come from an article written by Jonathan Eisenthal.
He quotes Robert Zubrin a nuclear engineer by training, and president of a Colorado based aeronautics company. Robert Zubrin is a senior policy fellow with Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a Washington-based thinktank that supports energy independence through the use of biofuels and other alternative energy. Zubrin has written a number of books, most recently, Energy Victory: Winning The War On Terror by Breaking Free of Oil. In that book, Zubrin proposed passing a law that all new American vehicles be flexible fuel vehicles. In a few short years, with 50 million flex vehicles on the road, America would no longer require imported oil for transportation fuel, he argues.
Zubrin contends that “indirect analysis” can’t be demonstrated to be true. And Zubrin says the more serious problem with indirect analysis is a moral one. He says to argue against biofuels because they strengthen commodity prices and lead to stronger agriculture production in the Third World is a fundamentally immoral policy position. We should support that growth in both wealth and self-sufficiency, Zubrin says. To argue the other way is to favor starvation and poverty for masses of people in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
Zubrin wrote an article called “The Irrationality of Indirect Analysis” to examine the potential outcomes of basing policy on indirect accounting. The article appeared June 3 in Roll Call, the newspaper of Capitol Hill.

He wrote: “Consider: If an American goes to the supermarket and buys groceries, regardless of their origin, he is acting to bid up the price of agricultural commodities internationally. This then encourages the growth of agriculture everywhere, and thus plausibly deforestation. So anything that allows Americans to buy increased quantities of groceries can be said to cause deforestation and thus global warming. Therefore, according to indirect analysis, any policy or technological development that contributes to income growth or increased levels of employment in the U.S. needs to be prevented. Instead of seeking to stimulate the economy that we should be seeking to depress it.”

Zubrin’s words beg the question, “How could such an absurd notion have gained any foothold in the first place?” Indirect analysis has no logic,” Zubrin says point blank. He lays out what he sees as the real motivation behind the publication of Tim Searchinger’s report that charges that American biofuels use leads to deforestation and release of carbon into the atmosphere—ethanol is causing the oil companies to hemorrhage cash.
“One of the benefits of ethanol, not the only one by any means, is its ability to replace oil,” said Zubrin. “It also causes less conventional pollution (than gasoline). But most importantly, ethanol replaces oil and frees America from a disastrous strategic weakness—so even if it had no global warming benefits it would still be essential. (At current production and consumption levels ethanol) replaces seven percent of our oil consumption and that is why it has come under attack by the oil cartel.“Last year we produced 8 billion gallons (of corn ethanol), and that cost the oil cartel directly $24 billion dollars,” Zubrin continued. “But it cost them still more—if not for the world ethanol program, oil prices would have been 15 percent higher, another 20 dollars per barrel. So all told, it cost OPEC $160 billion dollars.
Last year, a campaign was launched. The Searchinger article was part of that campaign. It was released at exactly the same time as the oil cartel’s anti-ethanol campaign. There has been documentation of the money given by the Grocery Manufacturers Association to launch the campaign. Its talking points were that ethanol is causing global warming, deforestation and starvation—none of which is true.”
Zubrin points out that Searchinger’s credentials are not scientific. He is a former staff attorney for the Environmental Defense Fund who joined the Princeton faculty as an “Associate Research Scholar.” http://www.rollcall.com/news/35481-1.html End.

Friday, July 10, 2009


We visited the Minnesota Historical Society’s newest exhibit called the “Greatest Generation”. It was truly impressive. Perhaps it was meaningful to us because we are the offspring of that generation and it brought back many childhood memories. The exhibit educated us on the traits and values of these people. In some ways it seems those traits and values are lost to us today. Examples: “we took pride in our work. Yes, the pay was important, but our work was meaningful.” “We were glad to have a job and we did our best to hang onto it.” The attitude of that generation was born out of the experience of the depression. “Civic engagement was a big part of our lives.” The people were active in PTA, other civic groups, and fraternal organizations.
Many of these members of the greatest generation have passed on; but you will find many of them in our care facilities and assisted living centers. These are the people we owe much to, but we as citizens have failed to demand that our leaders adequately fund the programs that see to their well being. In November 2008, the voters said yes to increasing taxes for clean water, trails, and arts. But the people who helped build our economy to the point which enables us to have discretionary money and time are neglected.

Phil, a nursing home administrator from the central part of our state says it best. “In my 36 years of long term care, we have always struggled to provide more for less. When is Minnesota going to take care of those least able to take care of themselves? Today’s frail and ill elderly are of the Greatest Generation who put us where we are today. Now the DNR and the arts rank above the Greatest Generation and above those who provide their care. It is a sad commentary. This week we received a letter explaining that the state’s cut to the county would result in a cut to their suppliers, the nursing homes who provide day care and other services. I wonder if we could use the same letter and contact our suppliers such as Xcel Energy, Sysco Foods, Elim Services to see if our costs will be reduced.”

The possibility of our economy improving quickly is not good. Jay Keidrowski, senior fellow at the Humphrey Institute states that “the world economy has to “reset” at a lower level because it will not have easy and cheap loans for businesses and individuals.” This is an indication that Minnesotans must demand our elected leaders to “do what it takes” to protect our elderly and our young people. end