by Curt Kovener
Some years back Ricky Van Shelton sang “So don’t blame her, life made her, that way.”
Change the gender and that’s my vantage point.
We all complain about fuel prices, particularly after filling up. For those of us who must drive for a living, we must figure out ways to conserve and spend less for fuel. But my 6’7” frame really looks funny on a motor scooter.
But there is a wider consideration to contemplate. That is our nation’s economy is based on cheap fuel prices. Getting goods from point A to point B cheaply is a thing of the past. Grocery produce from the west coast and southeast cost more to truck to your favorite grocery.
One friend of mine once said there’s no need for me to raise a garden when I can buy a can of green beans so cheap at the grocery.
That, friends, has just changed. The term seasonal vegetables will quickly manifest itself in Hoosier households. Will California strawberries still be affordable in January at the local grocery? I’ll just wait until June & July when the locally grown crops show up at farmers’ market. And maybe even begin growing my own.
Adding to the cost of food is the price of corn. High corn prices are good if you are a farmer who grows corn. But if you are a farmer who produces hogs, cattle or chickens, that same high corn price translate into a higher feed bill.
It could be that some meat producers will throw in the towel because they can’t afford the cost of feed. That can cause a shortage in the food supply and continue to drive up prices.
Eventually it all comes from our wallets.
Higher corn prices are driven by the new ethanol production plants and thus linked to higher prices for petroleum.
Actually, corn is not the most efficient plant from which to extract ethanol. Sugar cane is used for its production in Brazil. But Hoosier temperatures aren’t conducive for cane production. (Though there are a number of locals who like to raise cane of another variety.)
Another plant which I’ve been reading may prove to be more efficient for producing fuel for our vehicles is hemp. Industrial hemp is a distant cousin to the cannabis which is smoked by some for recreation, smoked by others for medicinal purposes. Hemp has a much lower level of THC which causes the must sought after buzz.
Hemp grows like a weed (pun intended) and needs little cultivation and grows even in poor quality soil and cane be used for producing fiber for clothing and paper production.
Wouldn’t it be a hoot if the hemp the government paid farmers to grow back in the early part of the 20th century then outlawed in the 1940’s as the threat of “Reefer Madness” swept the country, was actually a beneficial crop to fuel our internal combustion engine appetites? Wouldn’t that cause a confliction amongst our church and political moralists? And what about the passage from Ecclesiastes “To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under heaven.” And what about those stoned ponies who grew the plant in disguised locations and served time in jail for it. Could it be that they were simply visionaries who thought outside the box and were ahead of the curve in helping solve our nation’s fuel price problem?
So you will excuse me while I go toil in Miz Mary’s garden attempting to lower our grocery bill while improving our nutritional consumption. And know that I am conflicted as I remove unwanted competing weeds from the garden wondering if, by doing so, I am slowing the production of sustainable fuels, maintaining our reliance on foreign oil and therefore, supporting terrorists.