This article is just plain bizarre — a great illustration of how skewed and narrow the mainstream energy dialogue has become. It’s allegedly about the new "war on oil" in the U.S. (Oh good, another war.) Apparently, though, that war consists of firing away wildly with exactly one weapon: ethanol.
Here’s the frame the author tries to put around the piece:
[Rep. Steve] Israel [D-NY] worries the government could further derail alternative energy’s progress by not allowing the marketplace to determine which technologies will come to the forefront and instead picking its own favorites to promote and fund. It is a concern shared by Mark Emalfarb, CEO of Dyadic International …
Emalfarb wonders whether the government will let private industry take the country where it needs to be energy-wise, or will fail to allocate the necessary resources and adopt the proper policies to move the process forward.
So the idea here is that the government might skew the marketplace by promoting parochial solutions. Might!
But reading the rest of the piece, it becomes clear that the worry is not that the federal government will keep plying corn ethanol with subsidies, but that it won’t also ply cellulosic ethanol with subsidies:
[Neil] Koehler, whose company [Pacific Ethanol] makes mostly corn ethanol now but is planning to move steadily to more cellulosic ethanol, said the government needs to fund both efforts aggressively.
But skeptics like Rep. Israel worry that politics as usual inside the Beltway could take the steam out of alternative energy development.
So "politics as usual" is funding one kind of ethanol instead of both, and "allowing the marketplace to determine which technologies will come to the forefront" means aggressively subsidizing both kinds.
As for other, non-ethanol weapons in the "war on oil"? Nowhere to be found. The notion that "allowing the marketplace to decide" might consist in taxing carbon and otherwise getting the hell out of the way? Nowhere to be found.
This is what the energy debate has come to: massive subsidies for corn ethanol, or massive subsidies for both corn and cellulosic ethanol. Glad we’re taking the broad view!