Blog Post

Obama Doomed to Repeat Bush's Ethanol Mistakes?

Cleantech types are optimistic that an Obama presidency will usher in a new era of hopeful politics and greener energy policies, but what would it mean for the floundering ethanol industry? Critics are already afraid that President-elect Obama will continue with Bush’s so-called failed ethanol policies, which many argue have led to higher food prices, an increasing number of bankrupt ethanol producers and more environmental ill than good.

Obama is in favor of maintaining the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) put in place by Bush’s Energy Independence and Security Act, which requires that biofuel production be increased to 15 billion gallons by 2015 from 6.5 billion last year, and to 36 billion gallons by 2022. Obama has proposed implementing a 60 billion-gallon requirement by 2030. States are already groaning under the current mandates and a consortium of governors had their call for relief from the RFS rejected by the EPA earlier this year.

Corn growers are an important constituency for Obama; he locked in the bulk of America’s corn-producing states, including his home state of Illinois, the nation’s second-largest corn producer, Iowa, Minnesota and Indiana. According to the USDA, more than two-thirds of America’s corn resides in states that voted blue on Tuesday.

However, Obama has acknowledged that corn ethanol is merely a bridge and has called for the acceleration of cellulosic ethanol development, laying out a goal of boosting production to 2 billion gallons by 2013. We’ve been keeping an eye on developing cellulosic ethanol plants, and while there’s no shortage of startups working on the problem, that scale of production is definitely ambitious. Obama has said he’ll support this growth with some of the $150 billion he has promised to invest in alternative energy.

Obama should reassess the transportation fuel situation before he continues pushing forward with his previously stated plan. Since the RFS was established, the ethanol industry has taken a major hit in both economic and PR terms. Meanwhile, electric vehicle development has sped up, with nearly every major automaker announcing plans for new all-electric models. Maybe Obama’s new energy and agricultural secretaries should take a gander at our ethanol deathwatch map before they get too excited about increasing our ethanol mandates.

7 Responses to “Obama Doomed to Repeat Bush's Ethanol Mistakes?”

  1. Joe – don’t waste electrons on neocon trolls. It only helps their limp, shrinking appendages.

    Meanwhile, I stopped in to say exactly what Pete already said – more eloquently than I might attempt.

    As many years as I have spent in environmental activism, I’m still embarrassed by the dillweeds who still feel they need no facts, evidence, proof or peer-review to propound useless morality.

    I’ll stick with science. Even the corporations I so often have to battle end up wandering back to reality every few quarters/years/decades or so.

  2. Vitamos, why don’t you leave the country if you don’t like it. We don’t need your pessimism. Move to Europe, Asia, Latin America, South America, Africa, Australia, or any other place on earth. Wear your ‘I love George Bush’ tee shirt while your at it. Let’s see how popular you become where ever you land.

    The American people have voted for change.

  3. Pete Sandfort

    History eventually tells us the unbiased truth. Those against ethanol production still equate ethanol production in the USA with high corn and food prices. History already has kicked the prop out from under this argument. Corn prices are half of their peak just months ago – have your food prices dropped? Is it just possible that you were wrong? Subsidies that go to oil blenders (not ethanol plants) are much more than offset by the reduction in farm subsidies and increased tax revenue from the plants and jobs created, not to mention the effect ethanol has had on lowering oil imports and gas prices. The hysteria about chopping down the forests is also false conjecture as the lack of increased acres planted proves. No ethanol proponent believes or claims that ethanol is the majority of the answer.

    The answer to our energy addiction is a plethora of solutions, the most important of which is better efficiency / lowering consumption. As with the 70’s oil crisis, high prices have reduced demand/consumption – 8% so far this year. Is there something to learn from high prices? Europe taxed fuel so highly for the past four decades that consumption is much lower than ours and engine efficiency is rediculousley higher than our gas hogs. When will we learn that we must increase fuel taxes to allow the market to automatically sustain a downward consumption slide, reduce pollution, reduce imports, and become less dependent on terrorist regimes?

    Obama will continue ethanol support because it is the only short term option. History will eventually favor the decision to promote ethanol. Obama will also be favored if he proceeds to aggressively pursue all of the other domestic energy alternatives. That includes nuclear, wind, tidal, geothermal, clean coal, drilling, ethanol (starch, cellulosic and algal), higher efficiency standards and especially higher energy taxes. This is the way out of our predicament.

  4. Ah, Obama. The embarrassing, fraudulently elected president of america who hates the country who fell for his corrupt election scam. And why should we all care as america dies before our eyes under this gruesome abomination and disgusting animal you’ve given your lives to. You could have had a real war veteran as a leader, and a woman governor as his partner, but you let yourself get crooked and lied to and swindled and threatened and cheated by a shadow of pure crooked evil. You want us to take you seriously again, but you corruptly allowed to get elected the most evil clown on earth. Bush was an american god compared to this, and now your future is dead with pure and unarguable certainty and absolution. Goodbye forever, america. You’re done with now.