Did you ever look really far into something simple? I’m sitting there dipping a rigid, salty corn chip into salsa and my mind starts to wander. And then it was all so clear. America doesn’t run on "Dunkin'", nor does it run on automobiles or baseball, it runs on corn. But not in the way you would think, if indeed, you ever even thought of it.
Here is what I mean.
Corn is the most produced grain in the United States. It accounts for about 90 percent of all the grain that is grown. About 80 million acres are used to grow corn each year and we supply the world with 20 percent of our American corn. The government actually uses our tax dollars to pay farmers around $20 billion dollars per year to grow corn. In 2009, out of every $1 that corn farmers earned, 62 cents came from the government. This, at first, poses many questions. Why corn? Why not wheat or barley? And why do we actually have to pay farmers to grow it?
The truth is, when you think about it, corn makes a lot of people very rich. It makes the US economy go round. I’m not talking about ethics, sustainability or even responsibility here, I’m just talking about money. Cold, hard cash. Billions of it.
Politics. I remember hearing presidential candidate Barack Obama talking a lot about corn a few years back. He kept insisting that we were going to solve our fuel crisis by using our corn to make ethanol. It seemed like a great thing to do. People got excited. Car companies began to make engines designed to work with ethanol (even though any existing gasoline engine can already run on ethanol). This got Obama a lot of votes, and it seemed like a very popular idea. But he forgot to mention several other facts that I have not forgotten.
Ethanol is an alcohol made from corn. It lights on fire just like gasoline and gas companies like to add it to your gasoline. Not because it’s good for the environment or because it’s cheaper to make. In fact, it takes a gallon of gasoline to manufacture a gallon of ethanol and can take thousands of gallons of water to process and make 1 gallon of ethanol. So it’s not making any difference to the amount of gasoline we as a nation consume. But, there is one very specific fact that any chemistry teacher can tell you: ethanol absorbs water — a lot of it. So when you pump gasoline in to your gas tank, it contains about 10% ethanol, and that 10% ethanol has water in it. So the oil companies are making you pay for a gallon of gas that is not pure — it’s literally watered down. The oil companies make more money with ethanol because they are selling you water.