Tuesday, February 26, 2008

If this is The Biggest Obama Problem

by Ken Houghton

Greg Mankiw finds the one issue on which McCain might beat Obama:
In 2000, McCain ran for president and reiterated his longstanding opposition to ethanol subsidies. Though it crippled his chances in Iowa, he argued that ethanol was a wasteful giveaway. A recent study in the journal Science has shown that when you take all impacts into consideration, ethanol consumption increases greenhouse gas emissions compared with regular gasoline. Unlike, say, Barack Obama, McCain still opposes ethanol subsidies.

But Mankiw cites the "reporting" of David Brooks. So maybe he's wrong? Sadly, no:
Support Next Generation Biofuels

* Deploy Cellulosic Ethanol: Obama will invest federal resources, including tax incentives, cash prizes and government contracts into developing the most promising technologies with the goal of getting the first two billion gallons of cellulosic ethanol into the system by 2013.

* Expand Locally-Owned Biofuel Refineries: Less than 10 percent of new ethanol production today is from farmer-owned refineries. New ethanol refineries help jumpstart rural economies. Obama will create a number of incentives for local communities to invest in their biofuels refineries.

On the other hand, if the worst Mankiw can say is that we might turn the Farm Belt into a rejuvenated, energy-producing economy, I think I can live with that.

Tom Adds: Especially for a corn-belt Senator, Obama's position is quite reasonable. Here's what he said in response to a question regarding the latest science on biofuels' net GHG emissions:
We've seen on ethanol, which is the area where you've heard the most concern expressed, that we have seen increased efficiency but ultimately cellulosic ethanol is probably going to be the only way that we can achieve the sorts of major savings that are necessary. So my policies will be guided by the science and I'm not interested in promoting approaches that actually contribute to greenhouse gases. If we have not seen advances in technology that allow us to make aggressive steps in this area, then we will try different strategies.

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