Sweet Land of Subsidy
Feb. 1 letter writer Jon C. McKenzie correctly suggested that sugar cane is a far more efficient source for ethanol than corn. But we can't use sugar for ethanol in the United States because Congress maintains a massive sugar subsidy program that keeps the price of sugar here roughly double the world price, too expensive for ethanol production. And similar political favoritism prevents us from importing ethanol (or sugar to make it) from Brazil. We impose a 54-cents-per-gallon tariff on sugar ethanol and strictly limit sugar imports. Consumers and taxpayers pick up the tab, and multimillion-dollar agribusinesses reap the benefits.
Meanwhile, Congress appropriates subsidy payments to corn farmers to encourage them to produce corn for ethanol -- an extremely inefficient process environmentally -- and at the same time prevents the import of sugar or ethanol at prices that would make ethanol a serious substitute for foreign oil.
It is time to scrap our entire agricultural subsidy program, including the tariffs and quotas on sugar and ethanol. Then we can get serious about lessening our dependence on foreign oil.
PHILIP D. HARVEY
The w riter is a member of the Sugar Reform Alliance, a nonprofit group that promotes reform of the sugar industry.