A “Do Nothing Congress” on Ethanol Would Do a Lot of Good

by Marlo Lewis on October 20, 2010

in Politics

Congress has a rare opportunity to shave $25-30 billion from the national debt, ease consumers’ pain at the pump, and scale back political manipulation of energy markets by literally doing nothing.

At the stroke of midnight on December 31 of this year, statutory authority for the 45¢ per gallon Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit (VEETC) and the 54¢ per gallon tariff on imported ethanol will expire.

For economic, humanitarian, and environmental reasons, Congress should sit back and let the grim policy reaper sweep these special-interest giveaways into history’s dustbin, as I explain this week on National Journal’s Energy Blog.

Tomorrow, at the National Press Club, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will discuss the Obama Administration’s “strategy” to grow the biofuel industry.

I’ve seen no inside info on what Vilsack will say. However, the corn ethanol lobby is pushing for “reforms” that would not only reauthorize the tariff and tax credit but also mandate the production and sale of ethanol-fueled vehicles and provide new subsidies to build a gigantic ethanol pipeline network and install 200,000 ethanol fuel pumps at service stations.

Just in case Vilsack decides to join this bandwagon, and on general principles, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, Freedom Action, and other free-market groups will send an open letter tomorow urging Congress to embrace the unheard of option of doing nothing, thereby benefiting taxpayers, consumers, and the environment.

I plan to attend the Vilsack press conference. Will he come out swinging for renewal of the tariff and tax credit? Will he propose new mandates and subsidies? Or will he keep things vague? Stay tuned.

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