The Mr. Magoo Congress

The truth is that every U.S. car using fossil fuels is misfueling every day. Sure, the car keeps running. It’s the country and the economy that are choking, shuddering and halting.

By JIM LANE, Editor & Publisher, Biofuels Digest

Egypt, Tunisia, Libya. It should remind us in so many ways of the period between 1989 and1990 when oppressive regimes were toppling all across Eastern Europe. In an olden time, citizens across the Republic would be rolling out the town marching bands and decorating the streets in bunting, to celebrate the liberation of so many people who have lived under such oppression for so long.

But there is no joy in Mudville — few are in the streets, shouting in exaltation over the triumph of democracy, and in solidarity with the people of Egypt and Tunisia as they throw off their oppressors. Mostly people worry over the spiking price of oil, which has now hit $100 per barrel, and no one is quite sure where it will go next.

We used to measure the state of the world by the freedom gauge — now it appears to be the digits at the pump. $1.99.9/10 — good world. $3.99.9/10 — bad world.

The response to all this worry over oil? The United States House of Representatives in a new series of measures just passed, is doing its level best to ensure the failure of the only at-scale, emissions-friendly, home-grown fuel — ethanol. What an hour.

It’s perhaps the most short-sighted act of national security in the lower house of Congress, since the House came within one vote of failing to extend draftee terms of duty just four months before the attack on Pearl Harbor.

It’s a Magoo Congress, all right, peering at the headlines, intending well, getting it all wrong. You remember Mr. Magoo, the near-sighted cartoon character who was always seeing the wrong thing, and who could not keep himself from doing the wrong thing.

Fueling & Misfueling

On E15, we get it. Congress is concerned that all Americans are Magoos, and those that have pre-2001 cars that are not approved for E15 ethanol will misfuel.

Sure is nice of members of Congress and the NPRA to tell us how worried they are about people misfueling E15. But it’s a canard. They don’t say that because it’s true. They don’t say it because they’re stupid.

They say it because they think you’re stupid.

The truth is, every car in the U.S. that is using fossil fuels is using the wrong fuel and is misfueling every day. Oh, sure, the car keeps on running. It’s the country and the economy that are choking, and shudder and halt. It’s the U.S. commitment to individual freedom, and the promotion of liberty and democracy around the world. That commitment runs pretty high in countries we don’t get oil or natural gas from — countries we aren’t too worried about.

That’s great for Grenada, for example. We sure know where to drop the paratroopers in defense of freedom there. Not so sure about that oppressive set of Middle Eastern regimes.

The Blind Eye

We put up with them and we put up with the world they create around us. We put up with the world we create within ourselves by turning a blind eye, turning a deaf ear.

All for the convenience of a cheap fuel. Reminds us of the home builder who uses the cheap wood, the cheap nails, the cheap unskilled labor and the cheap cement, and then watched as the house fell down.

It’s a Magoo Congress and a Magoo world when Congress is reversing a decade of bipartisan progress on alternative fuels, just as Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus says oil prices spurred by conflict in the Middle East demonstrate the need for alternative fuels. “All you have to do is read the headlines every day to see why we need to do this. Just from the situation in Libya, oil prices have gone up more than $7 a barrel,” he told Reuters. The Pentagon’s fiscal 2012 budget sent to Congress last week assumes a price of $131 per barrel of oil.

“Our economic recovery is fragile. Many Americans are still looking for work, and are living close to the edge. Yet some in Congress would have us continue a policy that would keep us addicted to foreign oil — even as political upheaval in the Middle East and North Africa push gas prices up to prediction of $5 a gallon,” said Tom Buis, CEO of Growth Energy.

“This is no time for Congress to block the only commercially viable alternative we have to foreign oil — American ethanol. Action to block E15 and block the installation of blender pumps is the wrong move at the wrong time for the wrong reasons. If the goal of this amendment was to keep our nation addicted to foreign oil then that goal has been achieved,” Buis said.

According to Growth Energy, the adoption of E15 would displace a full tanker of foreign oil imported daily to the U.S., create 136,000 new U.S. jobs and cut harmful emissions equivalent to removing 1.35 million cars from the road.

No one is for misfueling — no wants a Magoo situation at the pump. But what fuel is really a misfuel? What number of military casualties is the right number, for us as a people, to expend in the defense of Western access to oil and gas reserves? A million lives for cheap gasoline? A thousand? One?

All life is precious, the far right tells us, from the moment of conception. I’m game. Prove it.

The parents, spouses and children of fallen heroes — what would they tell us about which fuel is a misfuel? Which fuel has the greatest chance of reducing dependence on ugly regimes? Is Congress really reading the headlines and getting its vision properly locked in? Is this really the hour — this hour, this time, this situation — to roll back on support for alternatives to oil?

It’s tough for the Congress — who will end up out of all this hoo-hah over deficits chopping perhaps $20 billion or so off the federal deficit — out of more than $1 trillion in imbalanced spending.

Making the World Safe for Retirement at 65

The reason — they have concluded that Americans would rather live in a world where soldiers have to die at 22, so that they can retire with medical benefits at 65 instead of 70. Here at the Digest, that’s why we think it’s a Magoo Congress — trying to get it all right, reading it all wrong.

The citizens of our beloved Republic have never shirked from a sacrifice that has been properly put to them. This is the country that gave five years of its treasure and the flower of its youth in the battles of the First and Second World War. Surely our yeoman citizenry in these United States are willing to work a five extra years to balance the budget and rebalance the way in which we approach the question of energy, and the organization of our affairs in the world. Our youth, at risk, in harm’s way, deserve no less from us.

Copyright 2011; Biofuels Digest