It’s not the lifeline many think, and that meme is gaining steam.
Little over a year ago, ethanol was winning the hearts and wallets of both Main Street and Wall Street, with promises of greater U.S. energy independence, fewer greenhouse gases and help for the farm economy. Today, the corn-based biofuel is under siege.
In the span of one growing season, ethanol has gone from panacea to pariah in the eyes of some. The critics, which include industries hurt when the price of corn rises, blame ethanol for pushing up food prices, question its environmental bona fides and dispute how much it really helps reduce the need for oil.
A recent study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development concluded that biofuels “offer a cure [for oil dependence] that is worse than the disease.” A National Academy of Sciences study said corn-based ethanol could strain water supplies. The American Lung Association expressed concern about a form of air pollution from burning ethanol in gasoline. Political cartoonists have taken to skewering the fuel for raising the price of food to the world’s poor.
I wonder if any prez candidate will dare to say this given Iowa’s spot in primary schedule? Okay, let me rephrase that. Will any of the front runners say this?
Now the fuel’s lobby is pleading with Congress to drastically boost the amount of ethanol that oil refiners must blend into gasoline. But formidable opponents such as the livestock, packaged-food and oil industries also have lawmakers’ ears. What once looked like a slam-dunk could now languish in pending energy legislation that might not pass for weeks, if ever.
They’re playing “My lobby is bigger than your lobby”, and, at least this time, that might be a good thing.