All agree that the exorbitant price of oil, gasoline and food will be a huge factor in determining who will win the White House in November.
Political analysts, politicians and both presidential candidates – Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain – believe the premise. The devil is in coming up with a platform that offers both short- and long-term solutions to the problem.
McCain urges a comprehensive plan that would attack the problem from various angles simultaneously but recently has emphasized drilling for oil in U.S. coastal waters.
Obama finds McCain’s proposals repugnant. He favors programs that will in the long run provide renewable energy without hurting the environment.
Both sides have experts and critics who praise their plans and crush the views expressed by their opponent. Truth be told, neither side has proposed anything that would help reduce the price of oil and gasoline in the short run.
If you consider what both McCain and Obama say regularly, one can believe that both of them believe that cheap gas is history.
Both candidates believe the use of bio-fuels is good. In the United States, this means making energy from corn, the same golden grain that feeds animals and humans. Now we compete for the use of corn either as food or as a source of ethanol. The goal is that in a few short years 10 percent of the energy our automobiles use will come from ethanol.
McCain likes the idea. Obama loves it. Many of his closest advisers, including former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, lobby for the farm lobby that produces the corn we now want so desperately.
Nobody talks about the subsidies the U.S. government pays to farmers. It makes no difference if they already are making a mint with their crops. In an election year nobody can talk about cutting farm subsidies.
And neither McCain nor Obama talk about a quicker and more efficient solution to the problems American consumers pay each time they fill up their gas tanks.
Why not imitate the Brazilian model? The South American giant became self-sufficient in gasoline by drilling for more oil and making ethanol from sugar cane.
Ethanol produced from cane is four times more efficient than the one that comes from corn. It takes one energy unit from corn to make two energy units of ethanol. One energy unit of sugar cane will produce eight energy units of ethanol. And you don’t use sugar to feed animals.
Prices would come down rapidly if the United States would stop subsidizing farmers and eliminated the 54 cent a gallon tax imposed on ethanol imported from Brazil.
Why don’t candidates talk about these subsidies and import tariffs? Why don’t journalists and political analysts bring up the issue? Why doesn’t Congress debate it?
There is a deafening silence.
Granted, sugar cane-derived ethanol is not the magic wand that will solve all of this country’s energy problems. But it is one more tool to use against the oil exporting countries of the world.
It is a tool that might help lower prices and at the same time would help the United States improve relations with many neighbors who could once again begin growing sugar cane, this time to fuel cars.
Guillermo I. Martinez lives in South Florida. His e-mail is: Guimar123@gmail.com.
Copyright 2008, South Florida Sun-Sentinel