Mike Bryan, 20 October 2015

The purpose of good government has gotten all tangled up in political posturing and a seemingly single focus on getting re-elected, writes Mike Bryan. This column appears in the November issue of EPM.

It seems to me that governments work in conflict with their own stated policies. One segment of government creates something new and another segment creates stumbling blocks to progress on the same issue. I understand that for many of you this will be a “duh” moment because most of us have been involved in one way or another with either local, state or federal government.

I see that China will be importing well over a 100,000 metric tons of ethanol from the U.S. Don’t get me wrong, I think that’s terrific, but it does beg the question, why? I’ve been to China several times and each time I have driven through miles and miles of corn as far as the eye could see.  One of the stated reasons is that the price of corn is too high. Unless things have dramatically changed since I was last there, the government pretty much sets the price of corn. While capitalism has certainly crept into its economy, the government still rules.

There is no shortage of people in China to work in ethanol plants, millions of people are what much of the world would term underemployed. Jobs that are created simply to create a job with very low pay and no benefits. In other cases, hand labor is used when it could be done by machine twice as fast. Again, underemployment.

So, I’m confused why China would be importing ethanol from the U.S., while burning copious amounts of coal from Australia, requiring ethanol in their gasoline in many places, all while they have the people, the feedstock and the decision making ability to simply make more ethanol happen.

Another example is here in Queensland, Australia. There is currently a bill in the Queensland Parliament to mandate the use of ethanol and biodiesel. A local sugar mill has had plans on the drawing board to incorporate cogeneration as well as ethanol production at their plant. Those plans may now be halted, because there is a bill being considered by the very same Parliament that would change the way sugar can be marketed, which would significantly stifle the financial ability for sugar plants to fund ethanol production.

Australia just tossed out yet another Prime Minister (Tony Abbott) and replaced him with a new one overnight (Malcolm Turnbull). So, there is a new PM and the party gave him a brand new fedora to wear so he looks much prettier than Tony Abbott. But his policies are essentially the same.
In America, we have a stated policy of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and the government has spent countless millions on developing a robust renewable energy industry. At the same time, the EPA seems to be bent on destroying it.

I guess politics get in the way of good government. Communications between agencies seems stifled by self-interest, and long-range planning is only as far as the next administration. Somehow, we seem to have lost the purpose of good government. It’s gotten all tangled up in political posturing and a seemingly single focus on getting re-elected.

A number of years ago, a three-man road crew spent the better part of a day painting railroad crossing and turn lane markings on the highway alongside our house. The new markers looked great and were badly needed. The next morning another road crew came and laid new blacktop over the entire project. Government confuses me!

That’s the way I see it.

Extracted in full from Ethanol Producer Magazine.