Ethanol: A Political Loser?

For years, supporting ethanol has been as easy for politicians as apple pie. There was no anti-ethanol constituency. Corn growers loved ethanol. Everyone else was ...
by | July 22, 2008
 

For years, supporting ethanol has been as easy for politicians as apple pie.

There was no anti-ethanol constituency. Corn growers loved ethanol. Everyone else was indifferent, except for oil executives and a few professional skeptics. Supporting ethanol, especially in corn-growing states, was a straightforward political winner.

That's why this article from the Associated Press is so fascinating.

HARTVILLE, Mo. -- Rolling in a tour bus through southern Missouri's two-lane back roads, Republican gubernatorial candidate Sarah Steelman is spreading her call for a repeal of the state's ethanol mandate -- and getting a double thumbs up from livestock farmers.

Frustration over Missouri's mandatory sale of ethanol-blended gasoline frequently provided the most emotional political discussions Monday as Steelman took her 13-day, 59-town bus tour to places such as Houston, Mo., Hartville and Ava -- where cattle, not corn, is the agricultural king.

Steelman pledged: "One of the first things I would do as governor is repeal the mandate."

Ethanol, especially corn-based ethanol, is under attack for a lot of reasons right now. Prices for human food and livestock feed are going up and ethanol is seen as one culprit. The fuel is also blamed for rising gas prices. Plus, the argument that ethanol is a net energy loser -- that it takes more energy to produce than it actually provides -- has gained traction.

As a result, politicians will have a difficult time picking between three options. They can: 1) Stick with blanket ethanol support, 2) Stress investment in cellusloic ethanol, while deemphasizing corn-based ethanol or 3) Turn against ethanol entirely.

For the first time, the third option is starting to look like a viable choice.

Josh Goodman
Josh Goodman  |  Former Staff Writer
mailbox@governing.com

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