Thursday, May 10, 2007

Ethanol in 2008

Like most Americans, I have been absorbing snippets of information about the 2008 presidential candidates. Among the snippets of presidential rhetoric lie quite a few comments about ethanol. So far everything I have heard has been pro-ethanol, both from democrats and republicans. Since I am currently steeped in academic culture I found this surprising, since ethanol is garnering more and more criticism from academic types. However, this does not seem to be rubbing off on popular culture. The purpose of this little blog entry is to figure out the biofuels stance of the major candidates. First up, Hillary . . .

Hillary now ranks among the pro-ethanolites of the presidential pool. According to, Hill supports "renewable energy, energy efficiency, clean coal technology, ethanol, biofuels and more." Tellingly, she has framed our energy problem as an issue of energy independence. If she followed through with her energy indepence theme in the White House, coal and corn might continue to lead the parade. This support for ethanol is newly found. Hillary previously voted no on a string of bills with support for ethanol.

Barack Obama is a consistent supporter of ethanol, which makes sense given his Illinois roots. He supports corn ethanol and cellulosic ethanol, but recognizes the advantages of cellulosic. He supported a new tax breaks for installation of E85 pumps, as well as other legislation supporting ethanol infrastructure and biofuel standards. In addition to ethanol, Obama supports other renewables, increased efficiency and clean coal. Obama referred to ethanol as a "three-for" because it improves the environment, energy independence and the economy.

John McCain has maintained an ardent anti-ethanol stance for years. He barely even set foot in Iowa during his 2000 bid for the Whitehouse because of his position on ethanol. After years of claiming that ethanol will raise gasoline prices, won't improve global warming and would not exist but for an artificial market created by Congress for ADM, John McCain has changed his tune. He now calls it a vital alternative energy source. However, on his personal website, he omits mention of ethanol and puts in a plug for nuclear. Hmm.

The other Republican front runner, Giuliani also fails to include ethanol as one of the "issues" on his website. Unsurprisingly, he also supports ethanol. In almost every interview he states that the U.S. needs to produce more ethanol than Brazil. Ethanol is not one of Guiliani's headliner issues, rather it is just one of the many options to increase energy independence. Along with ethanol, he supports nuclear power, stressing that it is safe. In one interview he actually stated, "no one has ever died from it." He must not be counting Chernobyl.

I could dig up the opinions of a few other candidates, but I'm starting to feel redundant. It appears that ethanol will be an untouchable this election cycle. It could be the Iowa caucuses. Everyone wants to perform well in Iowa and biofuels in Iowa is a big no no. Ethanol's broader appeal really lies in the fact that it can be sold as a "three-for." It helps rural economies, increases energy security and improves the environment. Well, at least politicians can spin it that way.


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