We all have trouble separating ourselves from our thinking; yet we can catch ourselves being lost in our thinking. When a thought we have is simply not true, we are capable of recognizing it as false. Someone who is schizophrenic has temporarily lost this capacity; they believe every thought they have.
Psychologist George Pransky tells this story of a schizophrenic client. The client became alarmed about what he believed was a fire in George’s office. “Dr. Pransky,” he said urgently, “What are we going to do about the fire in the middle of room?” George responded that he didn’t see the fire and asked, “Bill, I don’t get it. If there is a fire, why isn’t there any smoke?” The question didn’t stop Bill who responded, “I was going to ask you about that.” Bill was able to perceive that there was no smoke, and yet, was unable to question his thought that there was a fire in the room.
Are most politicians and policymakers schizophrenic? After all, it is hard to find one having the capacity to question a path they have gone down.
Consider ethanol. Despite a record-breaking drought that has significantly damaged the corn crop, the ethanol lobby and the politicians that enable them still perceive a fire in the room—they still believe that our national energy policy should mandate the use of ethanol in gasoline.
The Renewable Fuels Standard will mandate that “13.2 billion gallons of ethanol be blended into the gasoline supply this year and 36 billion gallons by 2022.” But, consider these facts about ethanol:
Ethanol raises food costs. For Americans, this means increased food bills; but for many of the world’s poor, this means going hungry. Mandating that food be used for fuel is an immoral policy.
A gallon of ethanol fuel yields less energy than the energy it takes to produce it. Thus, the production of ethanol increases greenhouse gases and, perversely, increases our dependence on the fuel we waste to produce ethanol. Robert Bryce writes in Slate : “David Pimentel, a professor of ecology at Cornell University who has been studying grain alcohol for 20 years, and Tad Patzek, an engineering professor at the University of California, Berkeley, co-wrote a recent report that estimates that making ethanol from corn requires 29 percent more fossil energy than the ethanol fuel itself actually contains.”
If that wasn’t enough, consider this. Corn is a plant that needs a lot of fertilizer. The excess fertilizer is poisoning aquifers in the Midwest. Nitrates that come from the runoff are especially toxic to children and pregnant woman. The ethanol manufacturing process consumes a lot of water—so much water that Midwest aquifers are being drained by ethanol production.
Despite these facts, neither President Obama nor his opponent Mitt Romney has spoken out against ethanol. Perhaps, like Pranksy’s client, they are schizophrenic. Despite overwhelming evidence, perhaps they are unable to question their own thinking on ethanol policy.
You might argue that neither Obama nor Romney is schizophrenic. And I don’t disagree. They do have the capacity to question their policies, but they choose not to—for political reasons. Clearly they are calculating that to speak against ethanol will cost them more votes in the Midwest then they will gain in the rest of the country.
In other words, for their own political gain, they will to continue to support an immoral policy that increases grocery bills, contributes to starvation among the world’s poor, wreaks havoc with the environment, and consumes more energy in production than the fuel yields. Schizophrenic? Or, cynically selling out the country? Does it matter? Until they firmly oppose ethanol, is either qualified to be president?