Here we have another critique of US biofuels policy, piling on criticism, in particular, of ethanol production from corn. In my view, these critiques must be viewed through the lens of the need for a full-bore paradigm shift away from the automobile, and toward appropriate land-use planning tied to effective public transportation networks, as I wrote about here in Wired Magazine.

This critique comes in the form of a paper out of Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy, as detailed in a Rice press release here, which states

The United States needs to fundamentally rethink its policy of promoting ethanol to diversify its energy sources and increase energy security …

The paper, “Fundamentals of a Sustainable U.S. Biofuels Policy,” questions the economic, environmental and logistical basis for the billions of dollars in federal subsidies and protectionist tariffs that go to domestic ethanol producers every year. “We need to set realistic targets for ethanol in the United States instead of just throwing taxpayer money out the window,” said Amy Myers Jaffe, one of the report’s authors.

the report notes that in 2008 “the U.S. government spent $4 billion in biofuels subsidies to replace roughly 2 percent of the U.S. gasoline supply. The average cost to the taxpayer of those ‘substituted’ barrels of gasoline was roughly $82 a barrel, or $1.95 per gallon on top of the retail gasoline price (i.e., what consumers pay at the pump).”

Now, adding $1.95 to a gallon of fuel may not be a factor in future times, should gasoline become unavailable or increase astronomically in price. But these eventualities point even more to the need for jettisoning the car (allowing for more storage in garages, among other benefits).