Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Chimera in Iowa 

To reinforce yesterday's point, we read Lisa Lerer's dispatch from Iowa.
There are four views of Iowa, at least according to a local joke: corn on the left and soybeans to the right; soybeans left and corn right; corn on both sides; soybeans on both sides.

The old joke needs an update, says Bill Sells, production manager at the Hawkeye Renewables ethanol plant in Iowa Falls. Twenty-eight ethanol plants now dot the Iowa landscape, sticking out like spaceships amid the cornfields.

...Three Republican presidential candidates, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, all visited the Iowa Falls refinery, where they pledged further investment in alternative energy.

Over the past year, two other candidates, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), went from strongly opposing the expansion of ethanol to endorsing it.

Backing ethanol is a political necessity in the state that is the traditionally the first to choose its presidential candidates. Iowa boasts the greatest number of ethanol plants in the country, producing about 30 percent of the U.S. supply. Ethanol is Iowa�s golden, corn-fed goose.

�It would be a mistake for a candidate to come to Iowa and not address renewable energy,� says Carrie Giddins, communications director for the Iowa Democratic Party.

With a presidential contest in Iowa and an energy bill in Congress, ethanol has become the panacea of all political problems. Pro-ethanol politicians offer the fuel as a cure for everything from dependence on foreign oil to global warming to outsourcing.

All of the major candidates bow at the ethanol altar in Iowa, supporting some form of increased subsidies or development.
If we did not have a caucus so early in Iowa, would we have this boondoggle? One suspects voters in, say, Maryland take a different view.

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