Tip toe through the landmines
John McCain once told the voters of Iowa to their faces that ethanol subsidies are useless and pointless:
In 2003, he hadn’t changed his tune. He said:
Ethanol is a product that would not exist if Congress didn’t create an artificial market for it. No one would be willing to buy it. Yet thanks to agricultural subsidies and ethanol producer subsidies, it is now a very big business – tens of billions of dollars that have enriched a handful of corporate interests – primarily one big corporation, ADM. Ethanol does nothing to reduce fuel consumption, nothing to increase our energy independence, nothing to improve air quality.
In a speech last May, McCain had softened considerably on the benefits of ethanol but still opposed government subsidies:
Take ethanol, for example. Right up front I should say that I have long opposed government subsidies for ethanol. Ethanol production, in my view, can and should stand on its own. And every year the industry shows further signs that it can live without government support.
Corn-based ethanol production has become more energy efficient in recent years due to the technological advances in ethanol conversion and increased efficiency in farm production. Ethanol is a clean-burning, biodegradable, and renewable fuel. Clearly, it is a good alternative and supplement to gasoline. And the market is showing this.
By August he’d softened even further, sounding downright bullish on ethanol:
I support ethanol and I think it is a vital, a vital alternative energy source not only because of our dependency on foreign oil but its greenhouse gas reduction effects.
But as far as I can tell, McCain has not reversed his position on ethanol subsidies: he opposes them. So his current position is that ethanol is great, but it doesn’t deserve any government support.
We’ll see how well Iowa voters take to that.