Why You Can’t Find Rubbing Alcohol

One of the few everyday consumer items still not available at most stores is good old rubbing alcohol. Unlike the toilet paper shortage caused by irrational hoarding, the coronavirus pandemic has greatly increased the actual need for germ-sanitizing alcohol.

What makes the shortage particularly frustrating is that the U.S. is, by far, the world’s largest producer of alcohol. That distinction is a result of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which required fuel producers to blend four billion gallons of corn ethanol into their gasoline by 2006 and 7.5 billion by 2012. The immediate result was a spike in the price of corn and an increase in food prices world-wide. U.S. farmers soon solved this problem by diverting millions of acres of land to growing corn. Ironically, this increased overall CO2 emissions, much to the chagrin of the environmentalists who had championed the mandate as a way of fighting global warming.

Long before policy makers had seen their error, however, farm states had so fallen in love with ethanol that they successfully lobbied the federal government to raise the mandate to 32 billion gallons a year by 2022. Keep in mind that the oil industry would gladly pay billions of dollars in extra taxes each year not to use it.

Click here to read more of this Wall Street Journal article from Jim Doti and Laurence Iannaccone.

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