Editorial: Renew the ethanol subsidy

Published 9:48 am Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Congress should renew the ethanol subsidy.


Really, the question is: Why not?

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The federal government gives subsidies to nearly all energy sources: wind, solar, oil, natural gas, coal.

Why should ethanol be excluded?

Why should biodiesel be excluded?

“How long does the U.S. taxpayer have to continue to support this industry before it can stand on its own?’” asked Dan Basse, president of AgResource, a Chicago-based company that tracks agricultural trend. He told Minnesota Public Radio News that support for ethanol in Congress seems to be slipping.

We ask Basse this: It appears that fossil-fuel-based energy sources stand on their own, raking in the largest profits in history. Why do they get subsidies?

While the world is worried about global warming, countries still dole out tax breaks — corporate welfare — for companies with the ability to take fossil fuels out of the ground and sell it to people who can put exhaust into the atmosphere.

Sure, ethanol isn’t exactly carbon neutral, but it is at least a step in the right direction and doesn’t require debt-saddling foreign wars to extract.

Indeed, there are concerns from food and livestock industries over ethanol driving up prices. But considering that for decades corn farmers have sought the means to add value to their products, just as any industry does, they deserve to reap the rewards. Again, if oil — which is used to make products from plastic grocery bags to automobile fenders — gets a subsidy, then shouldn’t ethanol?

Read this from wildlife advocate Mongabay.com: “Between 2002 and 2008 the United States spent $72 billion on fossil fuel subsidies, but only $29 billion on renewable energy resources.”

What’s fair is fair.

Ending the subsidies for ethanol and biodiesel but keeping fossil-fuel subsidies clearly is not fair.

We urge Congress and President Obama to be fair. Keep ethanol and biodiesel going.