Mr. Obama is running as a reformer who is seeking to reduce the influence of special interests. But like any other politician, he has powerful constituencies that help shape his views. And when it comes to domestic ethanol, almost all of which is made from corn, he also has advisers and prominent supporters with close ties to the industry at a time when energy policy is a point of sharp contrast between the parties and their presidential candidates. […]
Nowadays, when Mr. Obama travels in farm country, he is sometimes accompanied by his friend Tom Daschle, the former Senate majority leader from South Dakota. Mr. Daschle now serves on the boards of three ethanol companies and works at a Washington law firm where, according to his online job description, â€œhe spends a substantial amount of time providing strategic and policy advice to clients in renewable energy.â€
Mr. Obamaâ€™s lead advisor on energy and environmental issues, Jason Grumet, came to the campaign from the National Commission on Energy Policy, a bipartisan initiative associated with Mr. Daschle and Bob Dole, the Kansas Republican who is also a former Senate majority leader and a big ethanol backer who had close ties to the agribusiness giant Archer Daniels Midland.
Yes, he seems to be in the pocket of Big Corn. Better than Big Oil, but still a lot more hazardous to our economy and environment than many realize. And while I agree that looking at all options for weening ourselves from foreign oil is probably one of the most important things the next POTUS will put on his agenda, ethanol just isn’t doing it.
Now, since Illinois is the 2nd largest corn growing state in the US, Obama’s ethanol position isn’t necessarily inconsistent with his past views, but I’m sure he has seen the evidence by now that this fuel isn’t sustainable, so we shouldn’t be throwing a ton of money at it. And if he hasn’t seen the evidence…why not?
Drawing a stark contrast in this debate is McCain, and he has the right opinion in my view…
Mr. McCain advocates eliminating the multibillion-dollar annual government subsidies that domestic ethanol has long enjoyed. As a free trade advocate, he also opposes the 54-cent-a-gallon tariff that the United States slaps on imports of ethanol made from sugar cane, which packs more of an energy punch than corn-based ethanol and is cheaper to produce.
â€œWe made a series of mistakes by not adopting a sustainable energy policy, one of which is the subsidies for corn ethanol, which I warned in Iowa were going to destroy the marketâ€ and contribute to inflation, Mr. McCain said this month in an interview with a Brazilian newspaper, O Estado de SÃ£o Paulo. â€œBesides, it is wrong,â€ he added, to tax Brazilian-made sugar cane ethanol, â€œwhich is much more efficient than corn ethanol.â€
I applaud McCain for taking a tough stance in Iowa when it wasn’t necessarily to his advantage, and, again, I’m with him on this issue. There are numerous other bio-fuels and we should be looking at all of them, not just favoring one specific crop because it’s politically advantageous.