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Pull the plug on corn ethanol already

THE death of Phil Everly this weekend brought back memories of all his lovely duets with his brother. My childhood was better for "Bye Bye, Love"; "Wake Up, Little Susie" and "Bird Dog."

Those songs were written by Felice and Boudleaux Bryant, a wife and husband songwriting team. He was a concert violinist who became a country fiddler. She was a 19-year-old elevator operator when they met. She spilled a drink on him, which got his attention. She later said she had seen him first in a dream when she was 8. This inspired their song, "All I Have to Do Is Dream."

The duo also wrote the blue-grass classic "Rocky Top," a tribute to the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee that the singer pines for, including the moonshine.

"Corn won't grow at all on Rocky Top, dirt's too rocky by far. That's why all the folks on Rocky Top, get their corn from a jar," one verse goes.

A jar is one place where corn belongs. Another place is on a cob. A third place is in a pig or a cow where the corn can eventually become bacon or a steak.

Corn does not belong in an automobile. But under pressure from farm lobbyists, Congress finally mandated that 10 percent of gasoline be ethanol, which meant corn ethanol. This ended a lengthy public relations campaign to sell corn ethanol as a healthy alternative to foreign oil.

Now the foolishness of this act is setting in. Cornfields are spreading farms into land that was previously set aside for nature. This increased production helps widen the "dead zone" in the Gulf of Mexico, which is largely caused by the runoff from fertilizer.

"The government's predictions of ethanol's benefits have proven so inaccurate that independent scientists question whether it will ever achieve its sole environmental goal: reducing greenhouse gases. That makes the hidden costs even more significant," the Associated Press reported in November.

"This is an ecological disaster," Craig Cox of the Environmental Working Group told the AP.

Some scientists doubt corn ethanol helps with air pollution.

"Because burning ethanol can potentially add more smog-forming pollution to the atmosphere, however, it can also exacerbate the ill effects of such air pollution," Scientific American reported in 2007.

As for using corn ethanol to keep us from running out of more traditional carbon-based fuels, that is a fairy tale. The Energy Information Administration reported that at a minimum, the world has a 50-year supply of oil left, and the United States has another 92 years of natural gas, and 194 to 236 years of coal left.

Those estimates are low.

"An often cited, although misleading, measurement of future resource availability is the reserves-to-production ratio, which given the current rate of consumption and total proved reserves is about 50 years. However, proved reserves are an accounting concept that is based on known projects and is not an appropriate measure for judging total resource availability in the long-term. Over time, numerous additional projects will be developed, which will add to global reserves. Furthermore, reserve estimates at known projects are likely to increase as new technologies are developed," the agency cautioned in a press release.

Technology does change. Just 15 years ago, hydraulic fracturing was a gleam in George Phydias Mitchell's eye.

Sens. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., introduced legislation to stop the ethanol madness and picked up six Republicans and two Democrats as co-sponsors, including our own Joe Manchin.

But the 10 senators represent Rocky Top states and not the corn states. Without a senator from Iowa, Illinois or Nebraska, gee whiz, they're dreaming their lives away.

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