Legislation we need and should demand that someone — anyone, somewhere introduce and get passed:

So I thought I would start a list of legislation that regardless of party affiliation or anything else we should support. Basically there could be good things on the horizon for Cenla and Louisiana on the whole. However much of our prospective progress requires a bit of legislative help — either at the state or federal level. In some cases bills have been introduced, but never followed up. So they die and we wait.

Here’s my initial list, please comment, discuss, and add to it all you want:

1. Biofuels

As Daniel so well pointed out in a piece that still gets a good amount of readership (here) Biofuels could be THE economic boom for Cenla. How sad is it that Brazil has managed to become energy independent through mainly the use of sugarcane-based ethanol while we here in Louisiana sit back and ignore that possibility all together. It’s time that Louisiana fight to make sure our native crop — sugarcane– gets equal billing with corn for ethanol production and for tax incentives and development funds. AND if we have legislation requiring a certain amount of fuel sold to be ethanol (which we do) it should damn well be sugarcane. Or we can just send more of our money to Iowa…they must need it.

So Wish 1: Require that ethanol sold in Louisiana be derived from sugar cane in at least the proportion of sugarcane to corn crop planting

sight07b.jpgIt may not be common knowledge but we actually have a successful biodiesel producer operating out of the Port of Alexandria. We can and DO produce this very versatile biofuel right here at home. However, it’s still more expensive to buy than regular petroleum-based diesel. Well, part of the reason that fuel is so expensive is because there are several taxes built into the prices we pay at the pump. Some of these are road taxes and sales taxes, and others are federal taxes. If we want to support our biofuels industry, then we have to give them some sort of an edge. And if we expect consumers to go green, then we need to make sure they have an incentive — particularly the green in their own wallets.

Biofuels are good for the environment, good for the local economy, and good for our future growth in the post-petroleum economy.

Wish 2: State legislation exempting Louisiana-produced Biodiesel from state fuel taxes and road taxes — effectively making it the same price as “farm diesel”. and

Wish 3: Federal legislation to enact a tax deduction or tax credit equal to any federal taxes charged on biodiesel. This would be a reward for going green at the end of the year and would increase the market for local fuels.

2. Sugar Health

So in case no one has noticed, we have a serious problem with obesity. Not just people being a little fat, I’m talking about life-threatening obesity that is resulting in entire generations of people falling prey to diabetes and living an uncomfortable lifestyle. It results in depression, loss of productivity, and overall unhappiness, and it costs taxpayers millions of dollars in added healthcare costs.One of the biggest culprits in America’s obesity epidemic is high-fructose corn syrup. It’s usually the first or second ingredient on many of the products we buy at the grocery store. It’s a man-made concoction that is created by chemically altering corn syrup to make it much sweeter, much more full of energy, and much more damaging to the human body. It’s bad mojo, and its effects aren’t so sweet on either our health or our economy.So what does this have to do with Louisiana? Well, like the ethanol issue, it comes down to this — Iowa grows corn and makes corn syrup. Louisiana grows sugar cane. Hmmmmm…moreliapop.jpgSome of us are old enough to remember old coke and Dr. Pepper the way it used to taste. That’s right: Now, it tastes different. The difference is that back in the mid 1980’s Coca-Cola and Pepsico switched from using cane sugar to sweeten their soft drinks to using the cheaper high-fructose corn syrup (see it doesn’t even look nice when you read it). Anyone who has traveled to Mexico or Europe or any number of other countries and tasted the same cokes and pepsi’s we drink here may have noted that they taste a bit different. They tend to be way more refreshing and taste well…like they used to.It’s because the rest of the world still uses cane sugar. Along with tasting better there is one very very obvious difference in drinks sweetened with cane sugar: they have nearly half the calories!I’m sure someone reading this probably has a 20 ounce bottle of Coke near them. Pick it up and read the label. If you drink they entire bottle (which we all always do) it’s the equivalent number of calories of eating a double cheeseburger. And I’m not talking a small McDonald’s one — a big greasy Lesser’s Grocery drip down your wrist cheeseburger!

One bottle of coke is basically the same as eating an extra lunch. So if you just had tuna and cottage cheese to fit in your summer best but washed it down with a Mountain Dew, you’ve pretty much screwed yourself.

– – – – – – – – –

Now add to the health issues, the fact that yet again Louisiana is a producer of Sugar Cane not Sugar Corn. And believe it or not, many of our farmers are leaving the business because they don’t have anyone to buy their crops. As much sugar as we buy, as many cokes as we drink, we can’t manage to sell our own sugar (perhaps Iowa can loan us some money).

The fact is that bottled beverages are a HUGE business here in Louisiana. It’s a simple matter of supply and demand. We all demand it, and people will gladly supply it. This is one industry, however, where we MUST demand some local benefit.

Regulation may not be looked upon favorably by all, but there is no reason when it benefits the health and economy of our state that we should not require that soft drinks produced and or sold in Louisiana be sweetened with Louisiana-produced cane sugar. So…

Wish 4: Pass State legislation requiring that all bottled beverages produced, distributed, or sold within the State of Louisiana be sweetened only with Louisiana Cane Sugar.

This is one where we literally have nothing to lose. Coke won’t pull out of Louisiana, Pepsi won’t go under. In fact this will likely result in new industries and new jobs. It will cost the major corporations very little. And, it means we can all be healthier, happier, and enjoy a real Dr. Pepper.

*note that most drinks are actually locally mixed, canned or bottled, and produced. So this legislation would not require any national change, just local.

Out of niceness, I’ll leave out a rant demanding immediate action on I-14, but for now these are my 4 wishes.

4 thoughts

  1. Just as a note: I wrote an email to the American Sugar Cane League — Louisiana’s farming group that deals with sugar a few months back. It was asking whether they would support such legislation and if so how I could help them get it passed.

    They never bothered to respond.


  2. Drew, great post.

    Just FYI: They sell Mexican Coca-Colas at the little Mexican store on Masonic Drive– next to the Flea Market.

    Also, you can still buy the original Dr. Pepper, now known as Dublin Dr. Pepper, throughout the State of Texas and even online by clicking here.

  3. Actually all of the Mexican sodas sold here including my favourite Sangria Senorial (available on the international aisle at Wally world) use cane sugar.

    In the US you can also pay an exorbitant amount for Boyland sodas…they are all sugar cane based.

  4. I happened to read an article in this month’s Time Magazine today which is focussed on the biofuels issue. It had a few interesting points:

    1. “Only Sugarcane-based ethanol is efficient enough to cut emissions by more than it takes to produce the fuel. The rest of the ‘green fuels’ are net carbon emitters.”

    This means that it actually costs the environment more pollution by growing corn and then converting it to ethanol. So along with being more expensive to produce, it’s actually hurting the environment to choose corn-based fuel.

    2. “The U.S. leads the world in corn and soybean production, but even if 100% of both crops were turned into fuel, it would be enough to offset just 20% of on-road fuel consumption.”

    Certainly we need to couple any move toward biofuels with increases in fuel economy and with chanegs in our driving habits such as building new rail lines, but regardless…corn just can’t cut it alone.

    3. “Brazil — hailed as the global biofuels success story, produces 5 billion gallons of sugarcane ethanol, enough to supply 45% of its transportation-fuel demands.”

    4. “In Iowa more than 50,000 jobs and $2 billion in income depend on turning corn into fuel. Iowa produced nearly 2 billion gallons of ethanol last year, 30% of the U.S. total.”

    These two items illustrate first the greater efficiency and diversity of sugarcane as a source crop for biofuels. Brazil, like Louisiana is a major sugarcane producer and while they also grow corn and soybeans they realized that sugarcane is the best direction for their fuels industry.

    This also points out that Iowa with its much less efficient fuel option, corn, employs 50,000 people in the biofuels industry! 50,000!

    We here in Louisiana are so better positioned to take advantage of this market. We have existing refining and distribution facilities, we have the trained scientists and engineers, we have resident oil companies, and more than anything else we have Sugar Cane and a whole populace of trained sugar cane experts.

    It’s basically just an abomination that we are allowing federal tax dollars that are being paid by our residents to be sent to Iowa to do something that we in Louisiana can do better than anyone else in the nation.

    Add to that the fact that we are one of the only places in the US that can actually grow sugar cane and we are it — we are the direction biofuels should be going.

    And finally just one last detail: Nearly 80% of water-bourne pollutants in Louisiana waterways are the result of run-off into the Mississippi river system from midwest farms in places like Iowa and Nebraska. We’re basically paying them to grow corn which competes with our own products, then we’re serving as their toilet and are being strapped with the burden of cleaning up their pollution and mess once it reaches us — their much poorer sewer to the south.

    Sorry if it seems that I’m repeatedly ragging on Iowa here, but sometimes it’s us or them and in this case we need to be making some serious, loud, irritating noise to ensure that when it comes to federally funding biofuels developments that it is US!

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