During the Bush II administration, I used to groan that the closest thing we had to a concerted policy response to climate change was the federal government’s slew of goodies for corn-based ethanol. It was a monumentally depressing situation, because propping up corn-derived fuel is expensive and (despite industry hype) doesn’t actually do much, if anything at all, to mitigate climate change — but contributes actively to ecological disasters like the Gulf of Mexico “dead zone.”
Now, two years into the Obama administration, we still have no concerted policy response to climate change, and the corn ethanol program abides, sucking up resources that could be going to actual green technologies. Groan.
In 2009, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) put out an analysis showing that corn-based ethanol grabbed fully three-quarters of all federal “renewable energy” tax credits — while wind and solar combined just got 19 percent of that multi-billion-dollar pie. According to a new EWG report [PDF], the ethanol tax breaks have cost taxpayers $23 billion since 2005. Corn ethanol enjoys its massive tax subsidies on top of aggressive mandates from the 2007 Energy Act that force gasoline blenders to mix huge and increasing amounts of the stuff into the car-fuel supply.