In reality, ethanol was just the latest poster child for 'anything but oil' activists who flit from random belief to fundraising belief, since evidence and research are not required. (1) They likely only realized something must be horribly wrong with ethanol when a Republican Congress and a Republican president finally caved into their green initiative - and it became the boondoggle everyone in serious energy research knew it would be. If Republicans agree to do it, it must be anti-environment, right?(2)
We can't just blame Republicans, a Democratic Congress renewed it, and a Democratic president who loves to cancel projects of his predecessor didn't want to buck his voters by canceling something labeled 'green' energy' . (3)
Unlike the ridiculous 'greening the Capitol' initiative by Democrats when they got control of Congress - and the famous 'spoons made from corn that melted in soup' I wrote about in the introduction of Science Left Behind - there was no way for Democrats to cut a secret deal with Republican to cancel ethanol when they lost control of the House of Representatives, like they did with those awful, useless spoons.(4)
Ethanol is just too high profile and corn farmers are an important voting bloc. With a Nobel Prize and an Academy Award and a life out of politics, Al Gore admitted his zeal for ethanol back then was not evidence-based but rather to win votes from farmers in preparation for the 2000 election. The only surprise there is a politician being honest and admitting they engaged in the scientization of politics.
Yet his advocacy did a lot more than trash the environment he claims to love. The problem with ethanol was not just that it was actually worse for emissions and terrible for the environment - everyone outside Sierra Club knew that - but that it is dangerous for engines. Regardless, the EPA is not a scientific body, they aren't even elected officials, they simple create a standard and make governments and businesses adopt it. Evidence and reason not required. So if they declare water a pollutant, too bad, a county in Virginia has to somehow pay $500 million because the EPA cut a secret deal with canoers. And if they say ethanol has to be in high quantities even though it hurts engines, car makers had just better make new engines.
Greenpeace meant it about GMO corn. They should have Demon C2H6O warnings instead. Oh wait, they do now. I meant in the 1980s and 1990s, when they love corn ethanol.
But car makers are not a small business, it has its own lobbyists, and the government that bailed them out is going to listen to ways to not have their taxpayers spending look even more odd. The EPA can turn a blind eye to environmental issues its policies create for only so long but that they have ignored the problems current administration has created to support those policies is baffling. The Obama administration has handed over 5 million acres of conservation land to corn producers. The president who refuses to approve 400 miles of new pipeline in a region that has 20,000 of them already (5) because 'the science is unclear' didn't read up on even the basics of agriculture before plowing under untouched wilderness for one of his pet causes. In order to make the corn grow, - and thanks to the federally required ethanol mandate and subsidies 44% of US corn is being sucked up by ethanol production - 1,000,000,000 pounds of nitrogen fertilizer have been added to the soil. That's not good for anyone.
“It is progress for the EPA to finally recognize and attempt to address the ‘blendwall’ by slightly reducing next year’s mandates, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves: the [ethanol mandate] remains a fundamentally flawed program that limps along year after year, wreaking havoc on those required to participate, including the American consumer,” Louisiana Republican Sen. David Vitter told Michael Bastasch at The Daily Caller.
But that the EPA is pulling back from any partisan position, regardless of its lack of any evidence basis, is at least a hopeful sign. They have scaled back the blending mandate for 2014, claiming concern about safety.(6) And that's without the environmental issues ethanol has caused. In the recent past, the EPA has been so bullheaded and anti-scientific a federal court had to order them to stop blaming fracking for everything in geology without at least doing a study first, but here is a chance they can just do something because it's scientific and good for the environment - even if it defies the president who hasn't shown much regard for either.
(1) As Democratic Gov. Brian Schweitzer phrased it, “Ninety per cent of these jackasses that are complaining about the Keystone pipeline in Washington, D.C., one year ago wouldn't have even known where the Keystone was."
(2) Or not. Teddy Roosevelt created national parks, Nixon created the EPA and Reagan gave the Lacey Act the teeth to stop illegal logging.
(3) NASA's Constellation and No Child Left Behind are two obvious examples - he has acted in a punitive, personality-driven way few presidents before have. In 2016 he could be replaced by a Republican just like him, which means Obamacare will end up where No Child Left Behind and all those unemployed NASA people did.
(4) And they played that brilliantly. Outgoing House Administration leader Robert Brady asked incoming Republican Dan Lungren of California to cancel the program, the kind of quid pro quo politicians do for each other - and Lungren did, because it was dumb, whereafter fellow Californians in the Democratic party claimed he was polluting the environment and, in the case of Democrat Mike Honda, even claimed Lungren was causing cancer by allowing styrofoam to be used rather than cups that melted. Lungren lost his reelection in 2012, because 'green' is a magic word in California.
(5) But he did say he cares about union jobs and shaking off reliance on foreign oil from terror-producing states by saying he was "fast-tracking" an extension to Keystone XL. Even though he had not approved Keystone XL. Yes, he agreed to build an 'extension from nowhere.'
(6) Big Biofuel says this was just lobbying by Big Oil to squeeze out competition. Of course, it isn't competition if you are mandated and subsidized.