Electric, Not Ethanol
Via Matt Yglesias, here's a CBO report on ethanol showing that increased production of ethanol using corn has dramatically increased global food prices, and in both the short run and the long run could increase carbon emissions through more clear-cut forests coverted into cropland and the emissions use for producing corn. We pay tens of billions of dollars in subsidies for the pleasure of this, as well. All of this points to the need to create electric cars and transportation if we really want to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, not alternative fuels that deplete additional resources. This especially makes sense if we robustly ramp up renewable energy production. Carbon capture and sequestration may be a priority for the Obama Administration, but spending decades looking for the magic bullet to keep coal production going seems less likely than just making solar and wind profitable. The Administration strategy is to sell CCS technology to China and India, and I get that, but renewables already work in this context and we don't have the time, frankly, to wait for the technology to mature when there's already a paradigm-shifting solution on the table.
Meanwhile, China's electric cars strategy includes payouts to consumers to buy the cars instead of production subsidies, which makes sense to me. We have large subsidies for electric car purchases in this country, as well.