In his missive to supporters explaining why he was foregoing public financing for the general election, Barack Obama accused the Republicans of being “fueled” by lobbyists and special interests. “Fueled” is an interesting choice of words, because as the New York Times reports, Obama’s up to his ears in the ethanol industry and has surrounded himself with lobbyists from it. At a time when energy policy is more critical than ever, Obama has hitched his wagon to big corporate lobbyists from Archer Daniels Midland, among other agricultural players:
Nowadays, when Mr. Obama travels in farm country, he is sometimes accompanied by his friend Tom Daschle, the former Senate majority leader from South Dakota. Mr. Daschle now serves on the boards of three ethanol companies and works at a Washington law firm where, according to his online job description, “he spends a substantial amount of time providing strategic and policy advice to clients in renewable energy.”
Mr. Obama’s lead advisor on energy and environmental issues, Jason Grumet, came to the campaign from the National Commission on Energy Policy, a bipartisan initiative associated with Mr. Daschle and Bob Dole, the Kansas Republican who is also a former Senate majority leader and a big ethanol backer who had close ties to the agribusiness giant Archer Daniels Midland.
Not long after arriving in the Senate, Mr. Obama himself briefly provoked a controversy by flying at subsidized rates on corporate airplanes, including twice on jets owned by Archer Daniels Midland, which is the nation’s largest ethanol producer and is based in his home state.
Oh yes, those evil lobbyists against whom Obama has railed for months! Well, except those who pamper and support Obama; those are the good-guy lobbyists. Daschle tries to tap-dance his way through an explanation of how he doesn’t qualify as a lobbyist, despite his presence on the boards of three different ethanol companies and his work coordinating efforts between various activist groups on ethanol.
John McCain opposes ethanol subsidies, especially corn-based ethanol, and for good reason; it’s not terribly effective. It only has two-thirds of the energy potential of gasoline, and cannot be transported as easily. It has to be trucked everywehere instead of delivered through pipelines, which means it takes even more energy to deliver it to market for less potential energy release later. Not only that, but ethanol subsidies have diverted corn from food supplies, forcing higher prices worldwide and causing more instance of starvation.
McCain wants to drop subsidies for corn ethanol and drop tariffs on cane-sugar ethanol. While that still has the drawbacks of using up food supplies for transportation fuels, cane-sugar ethanol has four times more energy efficiency than corn ethanol. If alternate-fuels backers want to be taken seriously, the cheaper and more efficient version of ethanol looks like a much better solution — and the tariffs on it and subsidies for corn two large impediments to it. Obama keeps talking about innovation, but he supports blocking cane-sugar ethanol with tariffs and propping up corn ethanol with subsidies.
Of course, now we can understand why, given the lobbyists that permeate his campaign. It’s an example of the hypocrisy of Obama’s rhetoric of homespun, populist reform. It sounds great, but when one takes a look at Obama’s actions instead of his words, it turns out to be nothing but cornpone.