22 November 2010

Gore Now Says Corn Ethanol "Was Not a Good Policy"

Al Gore - World Economic Forum Annual Meeting ...
Traded Corn for Votes?
Despite being a proponent of corn ethanol policy in the past, former vice-president Al Gore now says corn-based ethanol in the United States was "not a good policy."

His comments, made at a green energy business conference in Athens, came as tax breaks for ethanol are up for renewal at the end of this year.

According to the International Energy Industry, ethanol subsidies reached US$7.7 billion last year and biofuels as a whole garnered more subsidies than any other form of renewable energy.

"First generation ethanol I think was a mistake," said Gore. "The energy conversion ratios are at best very small." But, he went on to say that it is difficult to change such programs once strong lobbies keep it going.

He blamed his own support on his presidential ambitions.

"One of the reasons I made that mistake is that I paid particular attention to the farmers in my home state of Tennessee," Gore offered. "And I had a certain fondness for the farmers in the state of Iowa because I was about to run for president."

In other words, Gore wanted support from the corn lobbies for his failed presidential candidacy.

The unintended consequences of ramping up US corn ethanol production became apparent in 2008 when food prices skyrocketed, in part because of the conversion of food crops to biofuel production.

This year, according to Goldman Sachs analysts, the ethanol industry will consume about 41 percent of US corn or about 15 percent of the corn crop worldwide.

We've been saying for some time that corn ethanol was the Abilene Paradox of alternative energy, in which a group of people collectively decide on a course of action that is counter to their better judgment.

With all the folks who jumped on the bandwagon standing to benefit from the widespread production -- from farmers and producers in the US Midwest to presidential candidates -- it appears self-interest may have been the real driver of the ethanol-powered bus to the west Texas town.

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