McCain Embraces Ethanol

By Justin Gardner | Related entries in Energy, Iowa, McCain

Looks like Palin mentioning ethanol subsidies in Iowa a couple days ago wasn’t a sign of her going “rogue.”

In any event, here’s more from Politico:

“On the subject of ethanol, my friends, I will open every market in the world to the best products in the world, and that’s the American agricultural farmer and worker,” said McCain at a rally at the University of Northern Iowa attended by about 2,600 people.

The remark was a shift in tone, though not in policy, from McCain, who has long been a staunch opponent of federal corn ethanol subsidies — a position that hasn’t helped him win votes in the Iowa agricultural belt.

In 2003, McCain told Fortune magazine that “ethanol is a product that would not exist if Congress didn’t create an artificial market for it. No one would be willing to buy it.” He said in he doubted ethanol would reduce fuel consumption, improve air quality or do much to increase energy independence.

This is a BIG break from his past policies, and one I don’t think he had to make. Iowa is COMPLETELY out of reach for McCain in this election cycle.

However, I disagree with Politico about it not being a policy shift. It is. Because if McCain embraces supporting ethanol, he’s in favor of subsidies. Because he was right that it’s a completely false market. So he can’t have it both ways.


This entry was posted on Sunday, October 26th, 2008 and is filed under Energy, Iowa, McCain. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

7 Responses to “McCain Embraces Ethanol”

  1. There is NO Santa Claus Says:

    I saw nothing in McCain’s statement that he now supports ethanol subsidies. Quite the opposite!

    What Sen. McCain keeps failing to tell us is that he supports the Open Fuels Standard Act of 2008 requiring new vehicles to be flex fueled. Thus, rather than creating supply by monetary subsidty to grow ethanol business, he prefers to create demand by giving consumers choice in fuels.

    I wish Sen. McCain had the smarts to remind Iowa voters that he supports the flex fuel vehicle mandate.

    Oh well! Nobody listens to little ole me.

  2. Justin Gardner Says:

    If the ethanol industry was artificially created due to subsidies, it has therefore never been a viable fuel alternative given the costs associated to produce it.

    Again, you can’t have it both ways.

  3. Justin Speers Says:

    Look, I’m as opposed to McCain as anybody, if not even more so… But this blog post, and especially its title, is full of it.

    I have to look hard to find one area where McCain and I agree, and that one area is our shared opposition to ethanol subsidies. He hasn’t changed his stance on those so far. I wouldn’t be shocked if he does any day now, while he grows more and more desperate, but this is a really dishonest post.

    His speech is really about free trade, saying that he supports it. He hasn’t offered to prop up the ethanol market–he may very well be willing to let it fail on its own. He hasn’t come out in favor of subsidies either.

    When there are so many legitimate ways to attack McCain, I’m left scratching my head as to why you’d chase something so weak.

  4. Justin Gardner Says:

    Justin, come on. Don’t call me dishonest.

    As I stated above, if the ethanol industry was artificially created due to subsidies, you can’t embrace it as an alternative fuel without embracing the subsidies used to create it. You can’t have it both ways. That’s not a dishonest statement, it’s just how it is.

    Also, there’s no way “free trade” will change this. And frankly, that’s where McCain is being dishonest. He knows very well that by saying we should go with this, that he’s also supporting the method that creates an artificial market in the first place.

    It would be like the government subsidizing the car industry to make automobiles that cost more to make than they sell for and then opening those automobiles up to “free trade.” Just because more people have the opportunity to buy them doesn’t mean they’ll sell for more money than they cost to make. Thus the government is ultimately paying for a net loss.

  5. kranky kritter Says:

    JG, why be so opaque here? First, subsidies for new technology are generally a democratic approach. Where do you stand?

    You can’t embrace it as an alternative fuel without embracing the subsidies used to create it.

    That’s a very dumb statement. Of course you can. Obviously all Americans would love to see new safe clean cheap energy sources developed. Duuuuuuh! We all support that dream,. But so far, dream it still is. One can easily and sensibly argue that while subsidies for promising new technologies may be a temporary necessity on occasion, there should always be a plan in place for the acid test of determining whether the new technology can mature and sustain itself without subsidies. We’ve had ethanol subsidies since what, the Carter administration? Those subsidies have probably helped ethanol development technology mature to whatever state it is in now.

    But let’s face it, until gas hit 4 bucks a gallon, most folks with half a brain figured the subsidies were largely boondoggle, failing to make ethanol cost-competitive as an alternative.

    Further, recent increases in the use of ethanol have led progressive voices to express widespread alarm about the adverse effect upon global food supply.

    It’s a no-brainer for us to understand that since oil won’t last forever, we need alternative approaches. But after 30 years, we have to ask whether corn-based ethanol is the approach for America to keep betting on with such large subsidies.

    So what if McCain went to Iowa and kissed some farmer ass and was not in Iowans faces about the details of energy strategy. I’d rather see a candidate with the smarts to quietly and selectively question the wisdom of subsidizing corn ethanol than to see one who unreservedly supports increased subsidies for a variety of new approaches as a matter of principle, without much regard to efficacy.

    Right now, the government is subsidizing ethanol production using our tax dollars. As a current result, I’m buying higher-priced gas with 10% ethanol in it, which reduces my miles per gallon, adds to the deficit, and places a growing burden on the international food supply. Only a moron would not be worried about that.

  6. Justin Gardner Says:

    Now hold on kranky…

    First off, subsidies for new tech is a governmental approach. Both Republicans and Democrats take part in this. And one could argue that Republicans are far more “guilty” of subsidization with such massive increases in the defense budget.

    Am I for subsidies? Not as a hard and fast rule, but I do know that they’re often necessary because the free market simply doesn’t pick up the slack. However, I’m not a big ethanol fan. And I’ve written about it plenty on this blog, just not lately.

    As far as me being dumb, I am at a loss why you all don’t realize that you can’t embrace a fuel without ALSO embracing the means by which it is produced. And since there has been a false market created for it, McCain is now saying he supports that market…one which he opposed.

    And, by the way…

    So what if McCain went to Iowa and kissed some farmer ass and was not in Iowans faces about the details of energy strategy.

    You’re kidding me, right? He was talking SPECIFICALLY about energy and he didn’t need to bring up ethanol. Both you and I know that. Just because you don’t think it’s a big deal for somebody to pander doesn’t mean that McCain is now going against one of his more famous stances.

    But yes, you’re right, if he’s flipping now and really believes that ethanol is good, then that’s great. I just don’t think that’s the case.

  7. Justin Speers Says:

    For the record, I’m not calling you dishonest. I’m calling this post dishonest. It happens to the best of us.

    You’re basically putting words in his mouth. He is talking like a politician, saying he embraces free markets and will open them up, which might make the big industrial farmers happy, but he hasn’t come out in favor of subsidies yet. Nowhere does he say that he won’t allow ethanol to fail in the market, just that he will open up markets.

    –“On the subject of ethanol, my friends, I will open every market in the world to the best products in the world, and that’s the American agricultural farmer and worker,” said McCain at a rally at the University of Northern Iowa attended by about 2,600 people. –

    Like I said, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him shift to supporting ethanol subsidies, but nowhere in this speech does he do that. You’re really leaping to conclusions here. I can only assume your reason for doing so is an anti-McCain bias. There are so many more legitimate ways to attack the weakest candidate in my lifetime, so it’s just a shame that you would stick with this completely false argument.

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