News Story

Does Anyone Still Believe in Ethanol?

While speaking overseas this week, former presidential candidate Al Gore took some questions about corn-based ethanol. So what does the green guru think about the fuel that was supposed to wean us off of foreign oil and cut carbon emissions?

“First generation ethanol I think was a mistake. The energy conversion ratios are at best very small.”

OK, so America doesn’t get much energy from corn ethanol; are there any other negative effects?

“The size, the percentage of corn particularly, which is now being (used for) first generation ethanol definitely has an impact on food prices,” he added.

Considering that total ethanol subsidies were $7.7 billion last year - according to the International Energy Industry - and consumed about 41 percent of the American corn crop this year, the law of supply and demand tells us that this may be a bit of an understatement.

So why did Mr. Gore support a policy that was so harmful? According to the article, he blamed his support on future political ambitions:

“One of the reasons I made that mistake is that I paid particular attention to the farmers in my home state of Tennessee, and I had a certain fondness for the farmers in the state of Iowa because I was about to run for president.”

Gore went on to add that he does not expect a clean energy or climate bill for the next few years, while the Republicans control the House of Representatives. But isn’t a “clean energy bill” exactly what the ethanol farm bills were supposed to be?

In the end, the former vice president said one thing that is undoubtedly true: “It’s hard once such a program is put in place to deal with the lobbies that keep it going.”

The new Congress has an opportunity to end this albatross federal program that does nothing to lower gas prices, decrease carbon emissions or stimulate the economy. Outside of those who receive direct federal subsidies (or gain political support from those who do), it seems that nobody this side of Al Gore wants to keep pumping money into ethanol.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.