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Sierra Daily

Nov 22, 2010

Green Tea Party?

Conventional wisdom has it that the coming influx of Tea Party-influenced members of Congress means nothing but doom and gloom for environmental progress. (Sample quote: "This is what the 2010 midterm elections will change about U.S. climate policy: Cap-and-trade was dead. Now it will be deader.") But as conservative columnist Timothy Carney points out, a likely target for budget-slashing Tea Partiers are the generous subsidies for ethanol producers that are set to expire at the end of the year.

If Republicans were serious about their expressed belief in the free market and opposition to subsidies, they would let the subsidies die this year or next. If Democrats were truly concerned about the environment and want to end corporate welfare for big oil, they would, too. 

For Carney's argument about how ethanol subsidies benefit Big Oil, see his column. But plenty of environmentalists would be happy to see the subsidies go away for a simpler reason: There is little if any evidence that "first generation" biofuels like corn ethanol reduce greenhouse gases at all. In fact, a recent analysis by the EPA found that current refining methods may result in higher emissions for ethanol over gasoline.
The debate over extending the subsidies should be entertaining, in that it unites Tea Partiers and environmentalists on one side, and corn-state legislators of both parties on the other. Let the wild rumpus start!
--Paul Rauber

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