|Al Gore and an Inconvenient Truth|
|Written by Lee Anderson|
|Monday, 22 November 2010 20:59|
STOP THE PRESSES.
Al Gore now admits that support for corn-based ethanol in the United States was a mistake. Specifically the former US Senator and Presidential candidate at a green energy business conference in Athens sponsored by Marfin Popular Bank said, “First generation ethanol I think was a mistake. The energy conversion ratios are at best very small,” says Gore (emphasis added). How very small? Even the most judicious estimates calculate that it takes the energy equivalent of 3 gallons of ethanol to make 4 gallons for market consumption for a 57 percent conversion efficiency. In comparison, the energy required to pump crude out of the ground, refine it and transport it is about 6 percent of the energy in the gasoline itself.
But Mr. Gore was not finished with the inconvenient truth of ethanol. "It is not a good policy to have these massive subsidies for first generation ethanol. It's hard once such a program is put in place to deal with the lobbies that keep it going." How hard? In 2004, the government started offering a tax credit worth 51 cents for each gallon of gasoline containing 10 percent ethanol. The 2008 farm bill lowered that credit slightly to 45 cents per gallon, but extended the subsidy through 2010. All the while, diverting grain to ethanol production caused corn prices to soar, lining the pockets of corn growers and refiners while increasing food costs for humans and feed costs for animals. Mr. Gore originally supported the program because of his presidential 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." What Mr. Gore really did was use taxpayer subsidies to buy votes of farmers and refiners.
American taxpayers have showered billions in subsidies onto corn farmers and ethanol distillers, all in the failed pursuit of energy independence and cutting greenhouse gas emissions. The good news is that unless Congress acts, the $5 billion in annual subsidies to corn ethanol will expire at the end of the year. This will be the first real test of the new GOP house majority and how much has changed; let’s hope they understand this inconvenient truth beyond I think.