Friday, August 31, 2012
Louie, Corn, Cows, and Windmills
Travels with Louie
I have to hand it to you, Mitt. I've been traveling across America with Rickie's poodle, Louie, and I could never get him higher than the trunk. How did you master dog on top? You, sir, deserve to be Top Dog!
Louie and I have indeed been traveling from Idaho to Washington, D.C., launch point for my trip to India. Southern Wyoming was as desperate as I remember it, until you get to Laramie. And then at the Iowa board we enter 800 miles of corn and soybeans. Corn and soybeans and nothing more. Nothing. Not a stalk of barley, a bale of hay, a handful of oats. 800 miles of subsidies. 800 miles of ethanol nobody wants to run in their car. 800 miles of Iowa primary promises never to abandon supports and insurance for corn and soybeans.
But it was no time to be a cornstalk in this year's drought. Much of the crop looked awful, which means prices have skyrocketed. I wondered what it would be like to follow an ear of corn as it enters the world market and ends up in Mexico, Somalia or even India priced three times higher than average. Last time this happened poor people in Third World countries rioted over the price of corn. Turning corn into ethanol has robbed the world of food.
The farmers of America's breadbasket will be protected with federal crop insurance. Those who consumer our corn beyond our borders won't be so lucky.
Another impression was this: where were the cows? From Omaha to Wheeling, not a single cow. No pasture and the only fences were from a bygone era. Seriously: no cows for 800 miles. I take that back. Just beyond Columbus, Ohio, there appeared a small herd which was so notable they were grazed under a full-size billboard proclaiming, "Dickinson Cattle."
No doubt there are cows in feedlots in Iowa, Illinois and Ohio but corn and soybeans have made them entirely too much trouble on the farm (and I doubt they've been zoned away from the freeways). Quite amazing.
However a lot of Iowa farmers did have a third crop: wind. I called the Iowa Wind Association and was told 30 percent of Iowa's electricity will come from wind by the end of this year. Even allowing for the difference between capacity and megawatts actually delivered, that's a lot of wind. Wind provides 5,000 megawatts and 7,000 jobs in Iowa, tied for first with Texas.
I would guess that Iowa jumped on the wind wagon early because it tends to be a progressive state. Idaho fiddled around and now its utilities have the upper hand and are shutting down lots of alternative energy. Wind turbines are built with 20-25 year contracts in place. Over their lifetime I'm willing to bet Iowans will be glad they took action when they did.
That's it from stateside. Tomorrow I'm on the 4:40 out of Dulles bound for Charles de Gaulle, then on to Bangalore, arriving just before midnight Sunday. Monday begins early with an India wedding. I'm eager to be under way.
I won't be in India long enough for the consequences of this year's drought to show up in local markets
Note- Graphics done by my grandaughter Julia.