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The geography of ethanol’s support in Congress

Michael Giberson's picture
Center for Energy Commerce, Rawls College of Business, Texas Tech University

Dr. Michael Giberson is an instructor with the Center for Energy Commerce in the Rawls College of Business at Texas Tech University. Formerly, he was an economist with Potomac Economics, Ltd., a...

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  • Feb 20, 2011

The House of Representatives budget battle has produced a few shots at the ethanol industry, including “Sullivan of Oklahoma Amendment No. 94,” a proposal to prevent the EPA from taking steps to encourage the sale of gasoline with higher ethanol content for use in newer cars. The amendment succeeded, 285-136 (12 not voting), and the resulting map of yeas and nays is so predictable, unsurprising, and boring that even as I am posting it I wonder why I bother.

Anyway, here is the map of the vote (blue is a vote opposing ethanol, red a vote favoring ethanol), followed by a USDA map showing corn production and ethanol plants:

Vote on amendment to stop EPA from implementing E15 waiver.
Blue is anti-ethanol, red is pro-ethanol.
(Click image for more details on vote)

U.S. Ethanol Capacity as of April 2007; USDA and Renewable Fuels Association data

U.S. Ethanol Capacity as of April 2007 (Link to USDA article on ethanol industry growth.)

If you are among those few people who still believe U.S. ethanol policy is driven by something other than the demands of the U.S. ethanol industry, then you might be surprised. For the rest of us: no surprises here.

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Rick Engebretson's picture
Rick Engebretson on Feb 20, 2011

I opposed ethanol as an energy technology while the rest of you watched “ADM, Supermarket to the World” commercials saturating PBS and network news. The 60ish (Peter Max like) psychedelic cartoons showing corn growing on the freeway with pumps on it; apparently growing fuel year round. I felt pretty alone, while (in Minnesota) leftist “experts” and “The American Lung Association” and the U of Minnesota (among many others including Paul Wellstone) had exhibits at the State Fair with patriotic speeches.

Now you are all so much smarter and can post more pictures to prove some other point. Perhaps you could overlay those maps with districts that export high protein food, and those that consume it. Single variable arithmetic is so persuasive. Multivariate calculus has poor political appeal.

So, somehow, now I find myself defending some aspects ethanol. Younger leftists absolutely will not accept that the late Paul Wellstone and Tom Harkin helped create this.

Nothing in the world is perfect to everybody, all the time.

As a sidenote, I would regularly go to Wellstone’s Environment and Energy monthly meetings pushing a hay crop extraction and cellulose biofuel process and got (to put it mildly) marginalized. While at the same time I had top researchers from the energy industry and government interested. But windmills and whiskey prevailed. Now there are kids calling this “advanced biofuels” asking for “research” money. How does anybody sort this out?

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