Sunday, July 13, 2008

Tobacco Barns in the Corn Fields

Tobacco barns still populate the countryside in Southern Wisconsin but the leaf itself is less evident. Corn seems to have taken its place. I suspect something more complicated than crop rotation is responsible for the changing landscape. Perhaps the end of tobacco subsidies in 2005 and misbegotten ethanol policies bear some responsibility. I would feel a lot better about ethanol if the U.S. government eliminated subsidies for corn and the plants which convert the crop from food to fuel.

The Shell station in Cambridge used to have a sign in front advertising NO ETHANOL. Not anymore. (This struck me as a bold statement, considering its proximity to the corn fields.) Apparently, the station is now required by Wisconsin law to supply gasoline with ethanol. So now only the Shell V Power 93 octane fuel is unadulterated. It costs $0.30 (about 7%)per gallon more, but yields about 9% better mileage (29.2 mpg versus 26.7 mpg as tested this morning on Interstate 39 in my 2003 Passat V6 4 Motion Wagon--I filled up with gas without ethanol for my trip and drew the tank down to empty before refueling with 89 octane 10% ethanol at a Kwiktrip in Stevens Point).

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