Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Mayor's "Economic Development" Trip to Brazil; Is Indianapolis Planning on Growing Sugar Cane?

In a press release issued yesterday, Mayor of Indianapolis Greg Ballard announced that he was cancelling his economic development trip to Brazil in order to fight for higher taxes to bail out the Capital Improvement Board. Okay, he doesn't quite say that, but that is exactly what he is doing.

Supposedly the "objective of the Brazil trip is to create partnerships with Brazilian states and cities to help make Indianapolis a leader in alternative, renewable, and sustainable energy research, as well as a hub for alternative energy production and workforce development," according to Carolin Requiz Smith, Director of the Mayor's Office of International & Cultural Affairs.

One wonders if city officials spent any time at all investigating Brazil's very successful ethanol energy program. It is completely based on sugar cane, which is easily grown in Brazil's hot and humid climate. Sugar cane won't grow in Indiana, and can only grow in a few places in the United States. That leaves the United States using corn for its ethanol program, which has been a disaster. Corn-based ethanol costs a ton of energy to produce, requires a considerable amount of water, and is very inefficient. Even if all of the United States' corn crop were used for ethanol it would barely make a dent in the United States energy needs. Diverting corn to our fuel tanks merely drives up food prices. Corn-based ethanol still exists only because of large government subsidies and the political clout of the beneficiaries of those subsidies.

Brazilian sugar cane is a totally different animal. It is very efficient to make ethanol out of sugar cane and there is little effect on the food supply. This is in direct contrast to corn-based ethanol. (See article by Washington Post on Brazil's bio-fuel program.)

One has to question the purpose of this trip and whether it is yet another junket taken by our mayor at taxpayer expense.

See also: Corn-based ethanol: A Terrible Idea Brought to You by Our Government (11/25/2008)


jabberdoodle said...

I have to say the 'explanation' for the trip was puzzling to me as well. For slightly different reasons - although I do agree with what you had to say.

What struck me was - the county has shed most of its farms. Just where were we going to grow this alternate biofuel? And, why would you locate a processing plant in Indy?

Someone in this administration or advising this administration doesn't think things through.

I might also add that Ballard might end up being our stealth environmental Mayor. Bikes, recycling, biofuels.

Paul K. Ogden said...


Well, biofuels in the United States, at least that based on corn, has been pretty much a disaster. If you look into it, it's also not exactly that enviro friendly either. Right now the industry survives totally because of subsidies.

I think Ballard tried with the bike paths and he should get credit for that. But as a biker who often rides to work using those streets with the new bike lanes, those lanes are very dangerous. Putting a narrow bike lane away from the side of the road is dangerous. You're liable to get clipped by people moving to the right side of the road to turn. Also, the lane is often right next to parked cars. That's a big no no. As a biker you very quickly learn not to ride next to parked cars because it's very, very likely that you won't be seen by someone opening a door.

Quite frankly, the wide downtown streets were very easy to ride in before the bike lanes. They allowed plenty of room to nanuever to avoid traffic and parked cars. Now they are much more dangerous and congested.

Jon said...

Mr. Mayor, where is your angst about taxes now? Where are the budget cuts you promised? Where is the transparency in government you promised?

It must be time to start the campaign for your successor because it is apparent that you won't be a viable candidate in the next election.

Downtown Indy said...

Mr Mayor, the voters of Marion County are raising 'Cain' not 'cane.' Hope this helps.eperecur