The process to turn corn to ethanol – i.e., first-generation ethanol – is pretty inefficient, using tons of water with only modest energy returns. In 2008, the bio-fuel industry got flak for larger and larger quantities of the corn crops being used to create ethanol resulting in a rise in food prices. Even with his admission that he was more about the votes than the science in the ethanol debate, he has not completely abandoned the biofuel. He now favors what is called second-generation ethanol, which uses farm waste and switchgrass instead of corn to produce the fuel.It is not a good policy to have these massive subsidies for first-generation ethanol. One of the reasons I made that mistake is that I paid particular attention to the farmers in my home state of Tennessee and I had a certain fondness for the farmers in the state of Iowa because I was about to run for president.
Responding to Gore's change of heart, Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis repeated an invitation for Gore to visit a modern ethanol plant:
For exactly the same reasons Gore supported ethanol while in office, federal ethanol subsidies are probably not disappearing anytime soon. The $7.7 billion in subsidies last year are a small price to pay to keep the farmers' and bio-fuel industry's votes.Mr. Vice President, what you may not realize is that ethanol is the commercially viable alternative to oil that we have today. Every day, America's ethanol producers are developing technological improvements to increase efficiency, reduce water use, and boost the amount of energy derived from grain and from cellulosic biomass. Ethanol is more energy efficient to produce than conventional gasoline; for every one Btu put into creating ethanol, there is a 2.3 Btu return. Mr. Vice President, my original offer still stands. I invite you to visit any one of the 67 ethanol plants across the country that are members of Growth Energy, to see for yourself what grain ethanol has done – and what it has the potential to do – for our country.
[Source: Politics Daily, San Francisco Chronicle, Wall Street Journal | Photo by Junko Kimura/Getty Images]