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Karl's Column - Economics

by Carolyn Binder

 I did not refer to this piece as “Economics” because I wanted to frighten anyone away, and I certainly don’t want you to think I’m setting myself up as such.  In fact, I was first attracted by a newsbrief headline which claimed, “Ag Economist Explains Potential Corn, Soybean Acreage Changes”.  After reading it through one time, and finding nothing in the way of fact that you could hang your hat on, I remembered a small paperback book in my collection of literature. It’s called “On the Other Hand. . . . “  by economic futurist Jeff Thredgold.  The title, Jeff says, come by one of President Harry Truman’s celebrated comments, to the effect that he, the President, wanted a one-handed economic advisor, so he would no longer have to put up with answers to his questions, which amounted to, On the one hand - - - - - -but on the other hand. . .

I went back and reread that report from Ag Economist Darrel Good at theUniversity of Illinois. He says the report of planted corn acreage most recently was 2.5 million more than that reported the previous month.  Those tallies will be reported again, and if the reporting gap is narrowed substantially, it could be enough to alter prospects of a substantial increase in corn stocks by the end of the current marketing year.  I asked myself a couple of questions:  like, so what?, and how will we know?

I flipped through a few pages of the aforementioned paperback, and came across one of the many observations from John Kenneth Galbraith - - teacher, diplomat, presidential advisor, and, of course, celebrated economist in the 1950s through most of the ‘70s.  At one point, he observed “We have two classes of forecasters:  Those who don’t know, and those who don’t know they don’t know. . . .

At that point, I abandoned the economics dabbling - - doggone it, no I didn’t.  The next thing I ran across was another economist’s observation.  This one though, not only dealt with one of my favorite topics, it also made sense in that “subject was followed by verb and then object, with appropriate modifiers logically placed.  In this case the economist is energy economist Philip Verleger with a new analysis that shows consumers are saving fifty cents to $1.50 a gallon on gasoline, because of increased ethanol production under the Renewable Fuel Standard.  He says crude oil prices would be between 15 to 40 dollars per barrel higher without the substantial volumes of ethanol added to petroleum inventories since enactment of the renewable fuel standard.

That, by golly, sounds to me like an economist who DOES know!

Verleger’s full commentary is available at(www.pkverlegerlic.com)