Wednesday, December 06, 2006

First Real Post-Election News Dump

The long-awaited News From Lappland:

Archer Daniels Midland May Undermine Global Warming Regulations

Corporate agriculture interests may decide to kill us all for their short-term profits. You have to follow the link if you really want to get the full picture -- it takes a surprisingly short amount of time -- but here's the gist of it:
Ethanol's revival is intimately linked to one company, the giant grain-trading firm Archer Daniels Midland, and one seemingly unrelated product, high-fructose corn syrup. The story centers on a man who arguably counts as corporate America's most generous and influential political donor of the second half of the 20th century, former ADM CEO Dwayne Andreas. To understand the weird and lucrative nexus between an industrial sweetener, a gas substitute, and a grain magnate, we need to go back to the days of disco.


Just how much does government manipulation on behalf of ADM's twin corn-processing units cost U.S. taxpayers and consumers? That's a tricky question, because the subsidy programs are so indirect and complex. For example, the corn subsidies that have kept ADM's feedstock of choice cheap for so long don't go to the company, but rather farmers. Nor does the sugar quota involve direct payments to ADM. Consumers pay the tab in the form of higher food prices. In addition to these difficulties, several states and even municipalities have put in place policies that favor corn processing.

In a landmark study this year for the Geneva*-based International Institute for Sustainable Development, researcher Doug Koplow attempted to come to terms with the situation. Here's how he described the "major challenge" of quantifying the value of government support for ethanol and other biofuel: "Virtually every production input and production stage of ethanol and biodiesel is subsidized somewhere in the country; in many locations, producers can tap into multiple subsidies at once.

After 50 pages of detailing seemingly every one of those supports, Koplow reaches his estimated bottom line: total government support for ethanol clocks in at somewhere between $6.3 billion and $8.7 billion per year.

Let's crunch numbers here. ADM controls a third of the ethanol market, so (taking Koplow's lower estimate) let's say it benefits from about $2 billion in government largesse. If we use its third-quarter profit report as a base, ADM can be expected to make about $700 million in profit from ethanol over the next year. That means that every dollar in profit ADM makes from ethanol costs the public about $2.85. Note that Koplow's analysis doesn't even attempt to reckon with the sugar quota, which has played such a powerful role in corn ethanol's ascent.
Bush May Lift Drilling Ban in Alaskan Bay

Keep your eye out for what happens on this the next few days and weeks. The outcome will be something of a harbinger on the future of oil vs. land conservation. Think of it as an under-the-radar ANWR.

Brazil Protects Great Swath of Amazon

This is happening in a state where the loggers usually call the shots, which makes it especially good news.
Known as the Guayana Shield, the 57,915-square-mile area contains more than 25 percent of the world's remaining humid tropical forests and the largest remaining unpolluted fresh water reserves in the American tropics.

The protected areas will link to existing reserves to form a vast preservation corridor eventually stretching into neighboring Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana.
Protester Immolation Virtually Unnoticed

It's hard to read things like this. Some people just cannot handle the way our country is being run.

Fox News Memo: Watch For Terrorists Crowing About Dem Election Victory

This speaks for itself, as though we really even needed any more proof that Fox is completely divorced from reality. It's depressing to think anyone watches, isn't it? I mean, really? What do they think they're getting out of it?

John LeCarre, Spy Novelist, Goes to The Congo

I've been meaning to post this for a while. It's a powerful story well told.
It was the strangest journey of my life and it always will be. I was looking for fictional characters I had invented, in a country I had never visited. The distant town of my imagination was Bukavu in Eastern Congo, known formerly as Costermansville and built in the early twentieth century by Belgian colonialists. It stands at the southern end of Lake Kivu, at 4,800 feet the highest and coolest of all Africa's Great Lakes. I had written my novel in a period when for personal reasons I had felt unable to leave England. Now, too late if my previous books were anything to go by, I was about to check its people and places against the reality.

* - See comments for a clarification on this. I can only point out that I didn't write the article, as this person -- who is unknown to me -- seems to think.


Blogger dbush said...

Thanks very much for citing us in your article about ethanol but I just need to correct something. The International Institute for Sustainable Development is actually based in Winnipeg, Manitoba with our other offices located in Ottawa, New York and Geneva. Check out our website at

11:06 PM  

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