The Daily Caller reports that new presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty told Corn Belt Iowans Monday that ethanol subsidies must cease. The former Minnesota governor’s “Time for Truth” campaign claims that “bailouts, handouts and carve-outs” are financially irresponsible. Intellectual Takeout points out that ethanol fuel supporters cling to the renewable fuel argument, but enough criticisms of ethanol exist to warrant exploration of whether it should receive government subsidies.
Corn and the American consciousness
Growing corn remains an indelible stroke on the U.S. agrarian canvas. Even traditional bluegrass nuggets like “The Boy Who Wouldn’t Hoe Corn” equate the ability to grow corn with male virility:
“Why do you come for me to wed?
Can’t even make your own corn grain.
Single I am and will remain;
A lazy man I won’t maintain.”
From culture to commerce
Beyond corn’s place in U.S. culture, the automotive industry’s battle to improve fuel efficiency has brought intense focus to renewable fuel sources like ethanol. Political lobbies like the National Corn Growers Association have given ethanol fuel production its full support.
Yet politicians like Tim Pawlenty believe the government subsidy investment isn’t worth the return. Using grains to produce an alternative fuel to gasoline has already begun to create shortages that have raised the cost of corn. Cheap grain is more valuable as food than fuel, argues Pawlenty. He helped Minnesota manage its fiscal challenges while reducing ethanol subsidies, and he believes he can do the same for the U.S.
“I’m here today to tell Iowans the truth about federal energy subsidies,” said Pawlenty during his presidential candidacy announcement. “(That includes) federal subsidies for ethanol. … (They must) be phased out gradually. We need to do it fairly. But we need to do it.”
Will ethanol increase fuel efficiency?
Numerous scientists point out that ethanol fuel – aka ethyl alcohol or moonshine – possesses 34 percent less energy potential per unit of volume when compared with traditional gasoline. As a result, ethanol only car engines use as much as 50 percent more fuel than a standard gas engine.
The failure to establish a solid connection between ethanol fuel and greater miles per gallon brings ethanol’s viability into question. As noted business journalists like Keith Crain are arguing that the establishment of a national MPG standard is a bigger fish for the automotive industry to fry, there simply may not be room for the perceived impotency of ethanol fuel.