Newt Answers Critics Over Ethanol Comments

Newt Gingrich got himself in a bit of hot water in some conservative circles recently with his support of Ethanol subsidies. It drew the scorn of the Wall Street Journal editorial board, who implied that the former speaker might have more than a passing financial interest in propping up King Corn. On Thursday Newt took to the “letters” pages of the WSJ to fire back. In the interest of fairness, we should allow him to make his case.

Second, I am not a lobbyist for ethanol, not for anyone. My support of increased domestic energy production of all forms, including biofuels and domestic drilling, is born out of our urgent national security and economic needs. It is in this country’s long-term best interest to stop the flow of $1 billion a day overseas, in particular to countries hostile to America. Think of what $1 billion a day kept in the U.S. economy creating jobs, especially energy jobs which cannot be outsourced, could do. Hence, I have supported measures to increase domestic energy production throughout my career in public life.

For instance, in 2008 at American Solutions, we launched a petition drive that gathered 1.5 million signatures in support of lifting the moratorium on new offshore drilling in America. I also wrote a book, “Drill Here Drill Now Pay Less,” and co-produced a movie with my wife, Callista, “We Have the Power,” that argued for an “all of the above” energy strategy which would maximize all forms of domestic energy production.

Nevertheless, the Journal attempts to equate my career-long commitment to increased American energy production with the anti-energy agenda of President Obama. This is a laughable charge, especially considering I have been one of the most vocal opponents of the president’s energy policies since he took office.

In 2009, I testified before Congress against the Obama administration’s cap-and-trade energy-tax scheme. I have also spoken out against the administration’s move to use the EPA to regulate carbon and the new barriers to offshore energy development imposed by the administration since the Deepwater Horizon accident last summer.

There are many areas of energy policy that Newt Gingrich gets right, and he takes great pains in this letter to point them out. For those he should be applauded. Unfortunately, the reader is left wanting after reading this defense.

The meat of the subject is not whether or not Newt favors energy independence and stands opposed to the president’s drilling permitoreum. That’s never been in question as far as I know. The specific issue which the Wall Street Journal broached was his support of ethanol additives and subsidies. To this, Mr. Gingrich seems to offer short shrift, saying only that he’s in favor of an “all of the above” policy.

I’ve also been in the “all of the above” camp, but we have to be realistic about the science, and after many years and hundreds of billions of dollars, ethanol’s use as a major energy source has turned out to be limited at best and rife with unique problems of its own. Newt fails to address any of the specifics in his rebuttal.

By the same token, being perceived as having gone off the beam on one issue out of so many is hardly reason to throw the baby out with the bath water. But I would definitely like to hear more from him with specifics as to why he’s staying in the ethanol camp.