Support for Ethanol is Still Unfortunately Bipartisan

by Brian McGraw on October 17, 2011

in Blog, Features

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The Washington Times today has an editorial chiding the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for its decision to proceed with approval and support for higher blends of ethanol (E15) to be sold nationally. There are still a number of complications that seem likely to get in the way of (i.e., the lack of price competitiveness) of widespread use of E15, but recent decisions by the EPA are unfortunately steering the country down that path. However, the editorial makes one comment that doesn’t seem quite right:

This issue highlights the danger of allowing liberal zealots to set public policy. They are so obsessed with micromanaging the lives of others and fulfilling their environmental fantasies that they give no thought whatsoever to the real-world consequences of their schemes.

As a fuel, ethanol is highly corrosive. The E15 gasoline blend reduces gas mileage by 6 percent compared to real gasoline. That adds up to about $150 a year for the average vehicle owner. This expense and the mechanical danger serve absolutely no purpose beyond filling the pockets of wealthy farming giants. Congress needs to repeal the ethanol mandate to protect American pocketbooks – and the car warranties of millions of motorists.

Assuming they are using ‘liberal’ in the liberal versus conservative sense,  ethanol has (both historically and to this day) been supported by both liberals and conservatives alike. Indeed, true market-oriented politicians oppose interventions in our energy markets. However, those politicians are few and far between as politicians from both sides rarely have issue with sacrificing their alleged principles in order to support local constituencies or interest groups.

If you look at current support for ethanol policies, you see a mish-mash of politicians from the Midwest, the Obama Administration, and the generally liberal environmentalists. However, to their credit the environmentalists have mostly abandoned support for corn ethanol while still unfortunately holding out hopes for cellulosic ethanol. Their are numerous conservative politicians who still actively support ethanol: Senator Grassley (R-IA), Mitch Daniels, Republican Presidential comic relief Newt Gingrich, former Republican Presidential candidate and Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, and many more conservative and liberal politicians. President George Bush was a big ethanol supporter.

Ethanol is a costly boondoggle, but it is a bipartisan boondoggle, and turning this issue into yet another who to blame liberal versus conservative fight harms the bipartisan progress that has been made in limiting the use of government to expand ethanol. My colleague Marlo Lewis wrote about conservative support for ethanol earlier this year.

If you want to learn more about the historical bipartisan support for corn ethanol, I would recommend Ken Glozer’s book titled ‘Corn Ethanol: Who Pays? Who Benefits?’

Gilbert October 18, 2011 at 8:54 am

Ethanol is the only viable alternative to gasoline, which obviously explains it’s lack of popularity on this site. It’s not a perfect solution, but it’s a good start.

Take away tax breaks and subsidies for both oil and ethanol. Stop spending billions (probably trillions) of dollars on military protection of our oil interests. Give consumers a choice at the pump. We’ll see about that boondoggle thing.

Catlin October 20, 2011 at 5:34 pm

Take away tax breaks and subsidies for both oil and ethanol. Stop spending billions (probably trillions) of dollars on military protection of our oil interests. Give consumers a choice at the pump. We’ll see about that boondoggle thing.
+1

deonna October 26, 2011 at 6:03 pm

Processing ethanol is not clean energy. No more tax breaks.

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