Ethanol


A Gulf Times article yesterday summed up many of the major inconsistencies of the ’08 campaign thus far.

“…First Romney was in favor of a woman’s right to choose an abortion, but now he is against it….

Besides her stance on Iraq, New York Sen. Clinton is accused of opposing government supports for ethanol, a big issue in the corn-growing and key presidential caucus state of Iowa, before she was for them.

One of her Democratic opponents, former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, is accused of having voted for and against storing nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain, Nevada, and believed Americans were safer against terrorists, but now thinks they are not as safe.

Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, who has only been in the Senate for two years, in May voted against a $100bn Iraq war funding bill, saying it was time to change course in the war. But in April he vowed not to cut funding for US troops…”

In an attempt to court primary voters, Republican Senator John McCain is reasserting his conservatism and his consistency. An Associated Press article yesterday said,

“His defense of the war in Iraq has hurt him with independents who backed his White House bid in 2000. His stands on immigration and campaign finance have raised doubts among some conservatives, still wary of his criticism of evangelical Christian leaders in the 2000 campaign…. ‘My record is very clear. It’s very consistent. It’s very conservative,’ McCain said.”

On Fox News Sunday, McCain spoke with Chris Wallace extensively about accusations of flip flops on everything from taxes to ethanol.

“WALLACE: You have an 82 percent lifetime rating for the American Conservative Union. And yet one of the things that always surprises me whenever we have you on is I get e-mail from conservatives who say you’re a RINO.

Do you know what that means?

J. MCCAIN: Sure.

WALLACE: Republican in name only….

WALLACE: You were one of two Republicans to vote against the Bush tax cuts in 2001, one of three Republicans to vote against the Bush tax cuts two years later.

At that time, you said that they were fiscally reckless and that they skewed — they favored the rich. Now you say you would not allow the tax cuts to expire. Is that a flip-flop?

(more…)

According to the New York Times, Mitt Romney has come out swinging to try to change or at least complicate his reputation as the biggest flip-flopper among the leading Republican nominees:

‘On Thursday, he gave an interview in New Hampshire in which he sought to deflect criticism on [the flip-flopping] front, telling The Associated Press that “everybody in this race that I know has changed their mind on certain positions, and they’ve done so as they gained more experience.” […]

‘“Senator McCain voted against the Bush tax cuts,” Mr. Romney told The A.P. “Now he’s for them. He was opposed to ethanol. Now he’s for it. He said he was opposed to overturning Roe v. Wade. Now he’s for overturning Roe v. Wade.”

‘“Mayor Giuliani has made a number of changes over his career, and there are places where I’ve made changes,” Mr. Romney said in the interview. […]

The article goes on to discuss McCain’s response to some of the charges:

‘[McCain] told reporters that although he did not originally support President Bush’s tax cuts — which he argued at the time would lead to deficits and benefit the rich — he had proposed his own set of more affordable tax cuts, which he said would have left money to help shore up Social Security and for contingencies, like the war in Iraq.

‘And he explained that he did not support repealing the cuts now, because doing so would amount to a tax increase for millions of people.

‘Mr. McCain was cool toward ethanol in 2000, but has recently been promoting it as a method to help the United States become less dependent on foreign oil. He said Thursday, however, that he still opposed subsidizing it. […]

‘When it comes to abortion, Mr. Romney was apparently referring to an interview Mr. McCain, who has always opposed abortion, gave in 1999 in which he said that he would not support the repeal of Roe v. Wade.

‘More recently, Mr. McCain has spoken in favor of a South Dakota effort to ban almost all abortions. At a rally in Columbia, on Thursday he praised the Supreme Court for its recent decision upholding the federal Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act. […]

‘…he noted that “I have voted pro-life for 24 years, consistently, without any deviation.”

The article notes that Romney explained that his comments were not intended as attacks but, to quote one of his campaign spokesmen, as efforts to provide “a reflection of the fact that sometimes people change with the benefit of experience.”  We can surely expect more such high-mindedness from the candidates as this long race continues to heat up.

Yesterday we explored John McCain’s flip flop on ethanol–first he opposed it and then supported it. Today, when he unveiled his environmental policy platform, Senator McCain again lacked consistency with past statements.

According to Reuters, McCain took “swings…[at] tariffs that protect domestic ethanol producers….Speaking to reporters following his remarks, McCain said he would let lapse a 54 cent-per-gallon tariff on ethanol imports which expires at the end of 2008.

According to the NYTimes’ blog, The Caucus, here is how McCain skirted around opposing ethanol.

“Here is how Mr. McCain – who is planning visits to Sioux City and Des Moines later this week – described the issue without using the E-word in his speech today on energy issues:

‘Alcohol fuels made from corn, sugar, switch grass and many other sources, fuel cells, biodiesel derived from waste products, natural gas, and other technologies are all promising and available alternatives to oil. I won’t support subsidizing every alternative, or tariffs that restrict the healthy competition that stimulates innovation and lower costs.

‘But I’ll encourage the development of infrastructure and market growth necessary for these products to compete, and let consumers choose the winners. I’ve never known an American entrepreneur worthy of the name who wouldn’t rather compete for sales than subsidies.’’’

John McCain unveils his environmental policy tomorrow in a speech as part of the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Decision 2008 Series. We’ll likely take a look at the speech tomorrow, but given that today is Earth Day, it seems appropriate to look back at McCain’s ethanol flip flop. It gained some attention in the fall, and we highlight it again here, but more interesting, is which candidates actually drive fuel efficient vehicles based on their support of energy conservation policies.

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John McCain has long opposed ethanol. When he campaigned for president in 1999 and 2000, he barely visited Iowa. An anti-ethanol position in the state with the first primary is political suicide since the state is the biggest producer of corn in the country. According to CNN,”…and in Iowa ethanol isn’t just another campaign issue. It’s the cash cow, the golden goose and the fountain of economic youth all wrapped up in one.”

Again ccording to CNN, McCain reiterated his position in November of 2003:

“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 August of 2006 McCain did a complete about face. The AP reported McCain said at a speech in Grinnell, Iowa:

“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.”

Given that ethanol is so important to Iowa voters, it’s not surprising that in addition to McCain, Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, Rudolph Guiliani, Barack Obama, and Mitt Romney (the six candidates Reality Check covers) all support ethanol. But given all sorts of commitments to energy conservation, do these six candidates drive fuel efficient vehicles? A recent Business Week article took a look at what the candidates drive.

Despite McCain‘s flip on ethanol, the Straight Talk Express bus does not run on ethanol or an environmentally friendly fuel source but on diesel. Senator John McCain also owns a Cadillac CTS, which is not very fuel efficient either.

Bill Clinton recently customized a Mercury Mariner hybrid. Senator Hillary Clinton also uses the car.

Senator John Edwards bought a 2007 Ford E scape gas-electric hybrid. He also owns a Chrysler Pacifica and GMC Sierra.

Governor Mitt Romney drives a Ford Mustang GT, Cadillac SRX, and Chevy Silverado.

Senator Barack Obama drives a Chrysler 300C sedan, which only gets 20 mpg. However, his campaign owns a flex-fuel GMC Yukon. It only get 17 mpg, but given that it runs ethanol certainly helps in Iowa.