Green Piece

The simple musings of a man who thought he knew everything . . .

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Biodiesel Commercial

I live in Arkansas and there is a commercial on the radio that features a lady, who I think works at a truck stop (?), and is talking about how wonderful biodiesel is. I'm doing this from memory, but her points are that it burns cleaner, it makes us less dependant on foreign oil, and because of government subsidies it is cheaper. I can neither confirm nor deny point #1. It may burn cleaner, it may not - I don't know. I am sure that if you look hard enough you can find an excellent article proving both sides.

I do have a problem with points 2 and 3. Let me first say that I am all about becoming less dependant on foreign oil. I think that one of the best things that could happen to Americans (at least economically) is that we find some really good way to heat our homes, light our rooms and move our cars that does not involve importing something that we need from a bunch of people who hate us. However, I am not sure that biodiesel is the answer (yet).

The problem with points 2 and 3 lies in the government subsidies. At first, it seems like a really good idea - have people buy more biodiesel by artificially making it cheaper. For the actual trucker that is pumping fuel into his* truck biodiesel might make sense economically. Most people would look at the fact that the government is picking up some of the tab and say that they are making it cost less.

This is wrong. It still costs more than buying regular diesel, it's just that someone else is paying for it. If you just said to yourself "sure, but that person is the government" then you can feel good knowing that you are in the majority when it comes to understanding economics. Let's not forget who the government is - you. You are paying people to buy more expensive fuel. So, when the truck stop lady in the commercial says that it's good for Arkansas what she means is that it is good for some Arkansas residents at the expense of others. You see right now biodiesel costs more than regular diesel. The government cannot make it cost less. They can change who pays for it, but the physical reality is that it costs more per mile.

It's not cheaper, but hey, at least we are less dependant on foreign oil. Well, not exactly. For one thing, as long as it is subsidized it will not lower our need for oil. Why? Because we still need the fuel from good old black gold in order to harvest the crops needed for biodiesel. Add this with the fact that the biodiesel is simply an additive (most of it is still regular) and we are really still needing crude.

A physical reality is that oil has more potential energy inside of it than anything else on the earth that we can get to in such great quantities. The best way for us to reduce our need for foreign oil is to increase the domestic oil that we are drilling. Go north, young man. Drill in Alaska. We have the resources we just need to go get them.

* -- Truckers can also be women but it is easier for me to just type "his" than type "his/her" or type "his or her" or to simply type "her", which might remind too many people of "Large Marge" from "Pee Wee's Big Adventure". Of course after taking the time to write this stupid side note it probably would have been better to just type "his or her". I love political correctness.


  • At 8:28 AM, Blogger jkjinjefferson said…

    Jason, it is difficult to respond to your entry without an ad hominum attack. It is obvious that you are venting your spleen or trumpeting a party line without much serious research into current events or history. If you truly believe that the oil industry has become what it is today without government subsidy at all levels - then believe what you wish.

  • At 7:39 PM, Blogger Jason Green said…

    Well, it is obvious we have a poster here who is one to whom money has been given, not from whom it has been taken away.


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