Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Are the Plains Plain?

It took two days to drive from Baraboo, WI to Boulder, CO.  I've driven south of here across Kansas and Missouri, but this was my first time through Iowa and Nebraska. I expected pure boredom. However, while the plain states are a bit plain as compared to places like Vermont or Colorado or California, they weren't as obtuse as one might guess.  Of course I am whizzing through at 65 MPH, so who knows what slice I am getting a taste of. But other than the towns I didn't see, I imagine life is based on farming corn or beef cattle. What strikes me is the immensity of these corn production farms - mega farms - huge, goverment-subsidized farming for ethanol and corn syrup/sugar additives (I presume).  At this moment I do not have the energy to tackle the controversial topic of farming subsidies, the obesity epidemic and farm welfare projects. But short story: When striking up a conversation with a well-dresssed businessman at the gas pump next to me in Nebraska, it became more clear. In these corn-rich states, they offer ethanol blended gasoline at only one grade - mid-grade 89 octane.  If you want 87 or 91 octane gas it won't have ethanol in it.  But guess what? The price of the mid-grade blended product is up to 15 cents/gallon LESS than the lower octane regular unleaded.  I find it interesting that in the east there is no longer an option to purchase any gasoline product without ethanol in it (did I mention it is ruining our engines?) But in the corn-rich plains states it is incentivized. I asked the gentleman if he always purchases the ethanol blend or does he ever get the more expensive unleaded fuel.  His answer? "Always. I was a farmer for years and now I work for an agribank so I support the corn farmers." 'Nuff said? Yeah - good old USA economics.

Mega Corn

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