A prosaic commodity—corn—is making strange political bedfellows. But their stance makes infinite sense.
They oppose heavily subsidized ethanol, made from corn. Opposition comes from such diverse advocacy groups as the Democrat-aligned activist organization MoveOn.org to the Tea Party-aligned FreedomWorks. Other opponents ranging across the ideological spectrum include the American Bankers Association, the Sierra Club and the libertarian Competitive Enterprise Institute.
They believe, as do sensible Americans, that using food for fuel is public policy insanity. The Environmental Protection Agency, keeping true to its usual irresponsible actions, decided earlier this year to allow the use of fuel containing ethanol in any gas-powered car or truck An agency that is supposed to protect the environment looks the other way despite such environmental consequences as water pollution from heavy application of farm chemicals applied to corn fields to increase production, clearing of wildlife habitat, and plowing marginal and erodible lands to boost corn supply.
Ethanol was sold to the public as a way to reduce crude oil imports. Yet for our investment of $17 billion from 2005 to 2009, the reward to taxpayers was a paltry 1.1 mile-per-gallon increase in fuel economy. Simply keeping our tires properly inflated could have saved more than that.
Congress earlier this year voted to extend the current $7 billion ethanol subsidy for one year and the tariff on ethanol at the existing rate as part of the Bush tax rate compromise. Ethanol now eats up 35 million acres of corn, forcing farmers to convert wheat and soy acreage into corn.
There are more than 200 ethanol plants in two dozen states. Production, however, is centered in the Midwest. About 40 percent of U.S. corn grown is used to make ethanol.
We’re not only wasting taxpayer money on ethanol for domestic use, but also exports are surging, the Renewable Fuels Association reported April 18. If the current pace of exports continues all year, they could total more than 700 million gallons, compared to 400 million gallons in 2010.
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