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The Ethanol Election Issue

October 6, 2008

The issue of the nation's financial and economic security is likely to dominate the November 4 election. Earlier in the campaign cycle we might have assumed that foreign affairs and energy would be uppermost on the minds of voters, but we're told that, ultimately, voters vote their pocketbooks.

One place they most notice a major problem, however, is at the gas pump where prices continue to remain over $3.50 a gallon. It is doubtful anyone really thinks about the part of that cost that can be attributed to the government mandate that each gallon include ethanol. Other costs include the government mandated different blends of gasoline required in different regions or sections of the nation. The refinery costs of that are built into the price as well. Then, of course, there are the federal and state gasoline taxes that add considerably to the cost.

The consumer is constantly being told that the cost is determined by the global marketplace for oil and, to an extent this is true. However, left largely unsaid is the role the government plays in its refusal to permit exploration and extraction of oil reserves that are either known or which potentially exist on the mainland and off the continental shelf of the nation.

The mere mention of offshore drilling by Sen. John McCain was sufficient to drive down the global price per barrel for a while. It lifted his campaign prospects. Largely unexamined, however, have been Sen. Barack Obama's long-held positions on ethanol production.

Dennis T. Avery, a senior fellow with the Hudson Institute and Director of Global Food Issues, recently took note of the disparities between the candidate's positions on ethanol. "Obama wants more ethanol, while McCain thinks we should probably have less," noting that "both say man-made global warming is a serious threat, and both say they want the best for the nation's farmers."

Both candidates are wrong on many counts, not the least is their belief that global warming is either man-made or actually happening. It is not. Ironically, the wailing about man-made greenhouse gas emissions completely ignores the fact that ethanol actually contributes more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere while, at the same time, decreasing the mileage per gallon of gasoline.

Avery says that "global food and feed demand will double over the next 40 years" and that is leading to the clearing of forests to grow more corn, both as a gasoline additive and as food. Forests absorb carbon dioxide. They are often called "carbon sinks." In addition, the more ethanol plants there are, the higher the price of corn rises due to demand.

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.

If you have any hope of seeing the price of gasoline reduced or the cost of food decrease, that will not happen if Obama is elected. It's not, perhaps, as scary as what is happening in the financial sector these days, but it is more of the same of a very bad policy.

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Copyright ©2008 Alan Caruba

Alan Caruba is an American public relations counselor and freelance writer who is a frequent critic of environmentalism, Islam and research on global warming. In the late 1970s Caruba founded the PR firm The Caruba Organization, and in 1990, the National Anxiety Center, which identifies itself as "a clearinghouse for information about 'scare campaigns' designed to influence public policy and opinion" on such subjects as global warming, ozone depletion and DDT.