Unintended Consequence du Jour

2008-04-23

Longtime treehugger Lester Brown op-edded at the Washington Post with Jonathan Lewis for Earth Day on "food-to-fuel mandates", specifically ethanol policy. I mainly admired this paragraph for its diplomatic way of saying oops, guess we screwed up:

Food-to-fuel mandates were created for the right reasons. The hope of using American-grown crops to fuel our cars seemed like a win-win-win scenario: Our farmers would enjoy the benefit of crop-price stability. Our national security would be enhanced by having a new domestic energy source. Our environment would be protected by a cleaner fuel. But the likelihood of these outcomes was never seriously tested, and new evidence has shown that the justifications for these mandates were inaccurate.
Emphasis, as always, added.

Over at Knowledege Problem, Michael Giberson quotes that paragraph as well, and wonders out loud:

I must have missed the analysis indicating that ethanol was intended to create crop price stability. I thought the hope was always that the policy would push food prices up. Isn't that how increases in demand work?
And there's lots more.

One would hope that the long track record of failure, rent-seeking, and lies would force energy policymakers to be even a smidge more humble in designing their next grand scheme. Unfortunately, I don't see any evidence whatsoever that's going to happen. We're always on the road to the next set of unintended consequences.


Last Modified 2012-10-12 9:25 AM EST