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Summary:

You know ethanol’s public image is poor when the media starts using it as a discovered skeleton in the closet. The New York Times takes a look at presumptive Democratic nominee Barack Obama’s Midwestern ethanol interests. The senator from Illinois’ “close links” with the ethanol industry […]

You know ethanol’s public image is poor when the media starts using it as a discovered skeleton in the closet. The New York Times takes a look at presumptive Democratic nominee Barack Obama’s Midwestern ethanol interests. The senator from Illinois’ “close links” with the ethanol industry are more like mere associations.

But the article does spark discussion on the extreme differences between Obama and McCain on biofuels. McCain is an ardent free trader and while he’s not against biofuels specifically, he’d rather the market dictate our energy winners and losers (unless it’s nuclear). McCain wants to do away with the massive subsidies corn growers and ethanol blenders enjoy and our 54-cent protectionist tariff on imported ethanol.

Obama thinks this is a bad idea because replacing imported Middle Eastern oil with imported Brazilian ethanol will not help our energy security. Domestically produced ethanol, both corn and cellulosic, can provide jobs and increased self-reliance, Obama says. We hope to see ethanol come up as a debate issue as we move toward the general election.

Here’s the list of the ethanol connections the Times reports:

  • Obama has been joined on the campaign trail by former Senate majority leader Tom Daschle who the Times reports now sits on the boards of three different ethanol companies, including Mascoma.
  • Jason Grumet, Obama’s lead adviser on energy and the environment, previously served on the National Commission on Energy Policy, an initiative associated with Daschle and Bob Dole. Dole is a big ethanol backer and has close ties to agribusiness giant Archers Daniel Midland.
  • Early in his Senate career Obama broke decorum and flew twice on subsidized corporate jets owned by Archers Daniel Midland which is headquartered in Obama’s home state of Illinois and is the largest producer of ethanol in the country.

None of these links seem particularly damning, but Obama’s associations with individuals have plagued his campaign, from Reverend Wright to Bill Ayers of the Weather Underground. While these ethanol connections are important to keep in mind, none of them seem to warrant an all out attack on Obama’s energy plan.

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  1. 3 of 4 U.S. Ethanol Plants Could Shut Down « Earth2Tech Monday, June 23, 2008

    [...] No Comments Posted June 23rd, 2008 at 11:00 am in Big Green Here’s another reason Obama should keep the corn ethanol industry at arm’s length — three quarters of U.S. ethanol plants, or 123 of America’s 160 operating ethanol [...]

  2. greensolutions Monday, June 23, 2008

    Neither of our candidates have anything short of a suicidal energy policy. McCain and Obama are, at best, obstacles to a bright future.

  3. Christopher Calder Monday, June 23, 2008

    Barack Obama is lying about national energy policy, claiming he can help America achieve “energy independence” through biofuels. Here, in a nutshell, is why biofuels will never be beneficial. It’s a matter of simple mathematics!

    All present and future biofuels have the same problem. Biofuel crops are all too low in energy, too light in weight, and thus too bulky and expensive to transport to be of any real value. They all require vast amounts of sunlight to grow and thus take up far too much land and water resources to be ecologically beneficial. By contrast, coal is very heavy, high in energy content, and thus makes energy sense to transport. Coal already exists in the ground so you don’t have to grow it, water it, or fertilize it. We simply extract coal and ship it to power plants where it is burned. If we could develop a biological process to turn coal into biodiesel, that might make energy sense, but no such process exists. All biofuel schemes, planned or imagined, will never amount to a hill of beans (excuse the expression) because of the basic limitations of the solar based production process.

    Even if we used our entire 300 million acres of cropland for ethanol production, we would only satisfy 15% of national highway energy demand (see “The False Hope of Biofuels” http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/06/30/AR2006063001480_pf.html). Every year the human race burns up the equivalent of 400 years worth of total planetary vegetation in the condensed form of fossil fuels. How are we ever going to replace all of that concentrated biomass energy by growing a relatively small volume of biofuel crops on our overpopulated, fresh water starved little planet?

    The inevitable long term answer to our energy crisis is nuclear energy. You can transport enough nuclear fuel on one lone truck to run a large nuclear reactor for 18 months. You can use a process called “Green Freedom” to make superior quality, 100% sulfur free synthetic gasoline and jet fuel from atmospheric carbon dioxide using meltdown proof prismatic block and/or pebble bed nuclear reactors for 10,000 years without increasing atmospheric levels of CO2. As James Lovelock said, “Nuclear power is the only green solution.” SEE http://www.ecolo.org/media/articles/articles.in.english/love-indep-24-05-04.htm

    For all the biofuel disaster facts, and details of far better alternatives see -

    http://home.att.net/~meditation/bio-fuel-hoax.html

  4. greensolutions Monday, June 23, 2008

    Wow, great coal and nuke commercial there. Funny how no one ever mentions MOUNTAIN TOP REMOVAL MINING when promoting coal or NUCLEAR WASTE when promoting nuclear energy.

    I do appreciate the biofuel bashing, though.

    We can easily meet our energy needs and then some through conservation, efficiency and distributed renewables. Notice how I said “needs” –that does not include a hummer with .06% efficiency.

  5. MartialArts-Lessons Thursday, August 21, 2008

    How often do you yourself do Archery or do you just write about it?

    Can I ask though – how did you get this picked up and into google news?

    Very impressive that this blog is syndicated through Google and is it something that is just up to Google or you actively created?

    Obviously this is a popular blog with great data so well done on your seo success..

    Archery greats you should write about next.

  6. stressless phil Monday, January 12, 2009

    Ethanol is used throughout the midwest and provides higher octane at around the same price as lower ones. This has been debated alot in terms of its use. I know this is an older post but we should be curious about how President-Elect Obama approaches these energy issues.

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