Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Beer Prices and Ethanol

Recalling all the problems with ethanol that was discussed earlier in my post "The Ethanol Scam", including the increase of world-wide cost of food which is a life and death matter in the Third World countries, is --- an increase in beer prices. From "Biofuel Brews Up Higher German Beer Prices":

Like most Germans, brewer Helmut Erdmann is all for the fight against global warming. Unless, that is, it drives up the price of his beer.

And that is exactly what is happening to Erdmann and other German brewers as farmers abandon barley — the raw material for the national beverage — to plant other, subsidized crops for sale as environmentally friendly biofuels.

"Beer prices are a very emotional issue in Germany — people expect it to be as inexpensive as other basic staples like eggs, bread and milk," said Erdmann, director of the family-owned Ayinger brewery in Aying, an idyllic village nestled between Bavaria's rolling hills and dark forests with the towering Alps on the far horizon....

Already, at the annual brewery festival in Aying this week, prices for Erdmann's Ayinger beer were up at $8.60, or 6.40 euros, from last year's 6.10 euros for a 34-ounce mug. That's no small matter for Bavarians, who are among the world's heaviest beer drinkers. They put away about 42 gallons of beer a year _ well above the already high German average of 30.38 gallons per person.

And organizers of the world-famous Oktoberfest in Munich have announced a 5.5 percent price increase: A one-liter mug will cost up to $10.70 at this year's autumn beer festival _ the highest price ever.

...[I]in its first major report on bioenergy, the United Nations tried to temper enthusiasm over biofuels last week, warning that the diversion of land to grow crops for fuel will increase prices for basic food commodities.

That is what happened in Mexico, when increased demand for corn to make ethanol in the United States pushed up the price of tortillas.

...Germany leads in the consumption of bioenergy in Europe with an annual usage of 4.3 percent of overall fuel consumption, according to figures by the Agency of Renewable Energies. Germany also is among the leaders in producing wind energy and recycling garbage.

Beer prices are serious business in Bavaria, which has some 615 breweries and gave Germany its famed beer purity law, which dates back to 1516 and in its current form permits only four ingredients: malted grain, hops, yeast and water.

This does, in a somewhat lighthearted way (even though beer is a serious matter,) point out that all government actions do have unintended consequences. I am of the opinion that the best approach to restraining the use of oil in the West for environmental reasons and national security reasons (which for me the latter reason is an even stronger argument) is imposing a gasoline tax (maybe a carbon tax) with some method (perhaps like the fair tax ideas) to make the tax less regressive (both to the poor and to rural consumers) and to devote a good portion of those taxes to dedicated spending on mass transportation and energy efficient infrastructure modernization. The tax is probably the best method to reduce all the unintended consequences and, directly and clearly, accomplish the desired goal of decreased fossil fuel dependence. Also note most serious economists endorse the tax opposed to other methods, particularly the slippery carbon offset fads, as well as the boondoggle subsidies addressed before.

1 comment:

Cabe said...

Nice piece Bill!

I look forward to hearing more about some of your suggestions in later posts. It is indeed a complicated issue. I think a mixture of tax, cap and trade, and fair subsidies might be the future? Cap and Trade has has seen some general success in Europe.
Look forward to further analysis.