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Monday, May 09, 2005

Curiouser and Curiouser

I listened to Nicholas Hollis of the Agribusiness Council utterly dismissing ethanol as a fossil fuel replacement during a locally broadcast "I hate taxes" radio show. Hollis claimed that ethanol ranks as the number one fraud of all time -- hooking both farmers and consumers in a subsidy windfall, and that furthermore, the use of ethanol would not reduce our energy independence in any significant way. Of course, as the talk show's host hates subsidies as part of his genetic makeup, he lapped up most of Hollis's arguments.

However, the motives of Hollis and his Agribusiness Council puzzle me. From their website, they state:
Initiated under Federal government auspices by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1967, The Agribusiness Council was formed by a group of business, academic, foundation and government leaders in order to facilitate American agribusiness participation in agricultural trade and development programs with developing countries - and represent private-sector agriculture interests to Federal government decision-makers.
So, clearly a group with the interests of the American farmer at heart. Right? Perhaps at one time, but they do not appear to support anything related to grain-derived ethanol production, not even as a research topic. This stance I find really curious because farmers and big corporate interests such as Archer Daniels Midland have nothing to lose and everything to gain if they at least give lip service to investigate the potential of ethanol. (Hollis also expressed very negative opinions about ADM).

So what exactly comprises the Agribusiness Council's agenda? I can make a guess by browsing through their website. Again, very curiously, they have displayed rather prominently descriptions of trade negotiations they have coordinated with the Baltic nation of Lithuania (coincidentally, G.W. Bush just finished visiting the leaders of the Baltic states in Riga, Latvia). Elsewhere on the web site, the Agribusiness Council provides clues to an alternate agenda:
International Linkages
To strengthen its international outreach, The Agribusiness Council in 1987 allied itself with the Agri-Energy Roundtable - a multilateral organization accredited by the United Nations to strengthen the cooperative ties between Third World and industrialized nations in the areas of agriculture and energy-related trade and development programs. Through the Roundtable's worldwide "association" network, regional programming, and annual meeting - The International Agricultural Forum, members are able to exchange ideas with a wide array of corporate executives, government and international donor agency officials, as well as access the Roundtable's international membership body.
So, as energy has seemingly supplanted agriculture as the council's platform (Lithuania is not the agricultural powerhouse they exaggeratingly claim), I will go out on a sturdy limb and say that they have other interests in mind.

Another Baltic country, Estonia, has significant oil shale and technology to match, as I blogged earlier. Actually, the oil shale belt stretches through the Baltic states.

So, might this anti-ethanol crusade actually have something to do with oil shale, as the Agribusiness Council surreptitiously lobbies for petro-mining interests in the USA? In a fight of the behemoths, any mining conglomerate would certainly match ADM pound for pound.

Having a moniker that claims to support agriculture doesn't necessarily make it so; just ask these anti-environmental groups:"The Abundant Wildlife Society of North America", "Wise Use", "Citizens for the Environment", and "National Wetlands Coalition".

Update: Added link to Hollis's fraud assertion.


Professor Blogger Big Gav said...

I have a theory that it's not peak oil thats going to destroy western civilisation, but rather what I call "the decline of truth" - eventually we'll all get to the point where we believe nothing anyone says (except some random group of pseudonymous bloggers who echo our own thoughts) and at that point everything will collapse...

4:21 AM  
Professor Blogger WHT said...

We can never get to the bottom of anything, except for that last reservoir of fossil fuel.

11:01 AM  
Professor Anonymous Anonymous said...

For you Sherlocks exploring the curiosities of farm economics and power, why not check out Melvin Schramm (corn farmer) letter to the The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, North Dakota (November 8, 2005) entitled "Corn Farmer Left Out of Ethanol Benefits". Curious Schramm doesn't mention ADM - the agribusiness behemoth which virtually controls the ethanol sector - by name but does question the "ag commodity groups" (which are all virtual toadies of ADM as well) The solution cannot be more welfare checks since the cupboard is almost empty - so is this the beginning "Death Rattle" for the American corn farmer?

10:17 AM  
Professor Anonymous Anonymous said...

Corn farmers are facing some of the lowest prices in memory - and the push for ethanol is likely to make their problems worse. Did anyone see the story out of Des Moines where the Iowa Farm Bureau recently voted to reject ethanol mandates! These saavy farmers don't want ethanol in their vehicles - and don't want to see their freedom of choice taken away

2:29 PM  
Professor Anonymous Anonymous said...

Umbrella ag groups like the farm bureau- or the various agribusiness councils, including the Agribusiness Council in Washington, can serve a valuable function, promoting cross-sectoral dialogue and outreach on issues like ethanol to the broader public. They are less likely to be bullied or log-rolled by the commodity specific groups (i.e. corn growers) many of which are already in the pocket of ADM

2:33 PM  

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