Reason Magazine has an interesting article in which an economist argues that energy independence is not a feasible goal. The fact is, every modern nation-state has to import certain raw materials and finished goods. Our goal should not be to become energy independent, but to have more options as to where we can get our fuel from.
Right now, many act as if we have to choose between Mideastern oil and Midwestern corn when it comes to fueling our cars. However, the most efficient source for ethanol is sugar. The catch is that we would still have to import sugar, but we can import it from more countries than we can with oil.
Another argument against the use of corn for fuel is that it reduces the amount of corn that can be used for food and livestock feed. Food prices are starting to show the same upward trend that gas prices are showing. But sugar is a commodity with no nutritional value. A lot of us, including me, could stand to have a little less sugar in our diets.
One barrier to sugar ethanol production is sugar tariffs. Because of these tariffs, sugar costs four times as much in the US as it does on the world market. Two possible solutions to this are A)telling the sugar lobby to piss off and end the tariffs or B)compromise with the sugar lobby by applying the tariff only to sugar meant for human consumption and exempt sugar meant for industrial purposes.