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Obama and Ethanol

I think a lot of economists are of two minds about Obama.  When they look at his economics team, they are impressed with the talent and depth.  America could do worse than have economic policy guided by this team.  But when Obama opens his mouth to express his own opinions on trade or economics or finance, I get really nervous.  I keep wondering who will guide economic and energy policy -- his smart staff, or the Obama his smart staff keeps trying to hide. 

Ethanol is just one more example:

Robert Bryce, the author of Gusher of Lies, one of the best books on global energy issues you will ever read, is also a co-editor of Energy Tribune, a leading monthly. In the October edition, he takes aim at ethanol calling it a scam and “pure, unadulterated lunacy.”

Bryce writes, “Barack Obama doesn’t want to talk about corn ethanol. And it’s no wonder. In early August, his campaign Web site purged several sections of his energy plan that talked about corn ethanol.

“Before the purge, Obama was touting corn ethanol as a pivotal element in his push for ‘energy independence.’ His site declared that Obama ‘will require 36 billion gallons of renewable fuels to be included in the fuel supply by 2022 and will increase that to at least 60 billion gallons of advanced biofuels like cellulosic ethanol by 2030.”

By August, however, Obama had come up with a new set of talking points on energy and “All mentions of corn ethanol were removed,” wrote Bryce. “The word ‘ethanol’ only appears once.”

Do not be fooled. Obama is a major proponent of ethanol. Bryce reports that, “In January 2007, Obama and two other senators, Democrat Tom Harkin of Iowa and Republican Richard Lugar of Indiana, introduced legislation called the ‘American Fuels Act of 2007.’ It aimed at promoting the use of ethanol and provided mandates for the use of more biodiesel.”

Obama’s national campaign co-chair is Tom Daschle, the former Senate majority leader and longtime ethanol booster. Daschle serves on the boards of three key ethanol companies. Obama represents Illinois, a state that trails only Iowa and Nebraska in ethanol production capacity.

Ethanol is one of those political IQ tests.  It makes such bad energy and environmental policy, but such good pork, that support for it is a great bellweather for what is driving a politician.

Posted on October 7, 2008 at 09:19 AM | Permalink

Comments

I agree. Other odd suggestions of his are the elimination of taxes for senior citizens who earn less than $50000 a year (a sop to the AARP), or slamming foreign trade (a sop to the unions).

Posted by: hanmeng | Oct 7, 2008 2:05:12 PM

Interesting blog post. As a blogger, we thought you’d be interested in VoterWatch’s Presidential Debates Project. We have brought together presidential candidates, political figures and others to comment on the presidential debates. Dick Morris, Sophia Nelson, Public Agenda, and others are using our video player to provide their commentary. Be sure to check it out at www.bloggingthedebates.com

Posted by: Javaneh | Oct 9, 2008 7:32:47 AM

The Wayback Machine is useful for evaluating claims like this. For example, here is Obama's page on energy issues from February 8 of this year:

http://web.archive.org/web/20080208012234/http://www.barackobama.com/issues/energy/#support-next-generation-biofuels

It agrees. For example, the above page includes:

Deploy Cellulosic Ethanol: Obama will invest federal resources, including tax incentives, cash prizes and government contracts into developing the most promising technologies with the goal of getting the first two billion gallons of cellulosic ethanol into the system by 2013.

Posted by: Daublin | Oct 9, 2008 5:18:21 PM

I am against ethanol because we need the land to grow food not fuel! There are other better alternatives.

Posted by: JAM | Oct 17, 2008 12:23:52 PM

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