Why Pawlenty Doubled Down on Ethanol

May 23rd, 2011 at 4:48 pm David Frum | 33 Comments |

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It’s courageous, principled, and right for Tim Pawlenty to travel to Iowa to denounce ethanol and other farm subsidies. But I’m also left wondering: is this also a very good way to manage expectations if he comes second or third or worse in Iowa, where Pawlenty is currently polling in single digits?

Real Clear Politics’ average of polls ranks Romney first, Gingrich second, Palin third, and Pawlenty sixth, behind Ron Paul and Michelle Bachmann.

Palin may not run, Gingrich may be imploding, but a Pawlenty finish behind Bachmann would be a staggering disaster for the Minnesota governor. A win is a win, but a good excuse can keep a campaign alive to fight another day in New Hampshire.

Bonus skill-testing question: since 1976, how many non-incumbent Republicans have won the Iowa caucuses and proceeded to win the party nomination? Answer: only one, George W. Bush.

So maybe it’s smart to blow them off and score integrity points for later.


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33 Comments so far ↓

  • Saladdin

    Short answer, no. Mainly due to the fact that he’ll support them as President (he’ll need to be re-elected). Also, as he’s in single digits, he could pander, pander, pander like Mitt Romney, but it really isn’t going to matter. T-Paw’s not evangelical enough (remember Huck won there 4 years ago, so Iowa leans evangelical) to win Iowa anyway. He’s shooting for a respectable showing there and hopefully a win in NH (can’t see how he’d overtake Mitt, but hey).

  • Carney

    Ethanol gets a bum rap from an unholy alliance of anti-agriculture extreme-green Malthusian leftists on the one hand, and supposed “free market” advocates howling about it while carefully ignoring the far more socialistic nature of the world oil market.

    All government intervention on ethanol’s behalf, including tax breaks, totals less than $10 billion in costs. Meanwhile according to a Merril Lynch study published in the Wall Street Journal, biofuels (of which ethanol is overwhelmingly the most prominent), prevented oil from rising 15% higher than it did in its last 2007-2008 peak, saving the US more than $100 billion.

    As it is, we still end up paying hundreds of billions too much each year for oil, thanks to OPEC.

    We are at war and oil funds the enemy. Oil is not free market and American. It’s foreign and socialist.

    We have less than 2% of world oil reserves (counting offshore and Arctic) while OPEC has over 78% and rising (including all the cheapest, easiest to access, most desirable — light sweet crude– stuff). Even all out domestic drilling on our part can be easily countered by OPEC cutting production a tad to match, keeping oil scarce and prices high.

    Even so called “domestic” oil enriches the enemy taking that oil off the market, making what’s left more scarce, and letting our enemies charge that much more for what they sell.

    As Cliff May says, “Americans are buying ammunition for their enemies every time they buy gas.”

    So pursuit of alternative fuels is of paramount importance. In World War 2 we banned production of civilian cars and rationed gasoline, and there was no broad based howling about “mandates” let alone “tyranny”. Our parents and grandparents saw the forest not just the trees and understood that a true threat to our freedom and security jutified some level of restriction and sacrifice.

    What we have to do in our era is insignificant by comprasion yet we have so many more whiners and loudmouths, who ironically boast about their patriotism and eagerness to win the War on Terror!

    What we need to do is to require that all new cars sold in America from now on be fully flex fueled, able to run on any alcohol fuel including not just ethanol but also methanol (which can be made from natural gas, coal, or any biomass at all, not just the sugary starchy stuff ethanol is made from). Methanol is cheaper and higher octane than gasoline, and the modification would cost only $130 per new car. Disengage knee-jerk anti-mandate ideology and understand than when it comes to national security and our broader economic well being, that “free market” ideology must sometimes take a back seat, just as it does with trade of sensitive tech to China for example.

    See EnergyVictory dot net, SetAmericaFree dot org, or this presentation by brilliant nuclear and aerospace engineer Dr. Robert Zubrin to Google employees: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NLRuGUPkyh4

    • Watusie

      “All government intervention on ethanol’s behalf, including tax breaks, totals less than $10 billion in costs. Meanwhile according to a Merril Lynch study published in the Wall Street Journal, biofuels (of which ethanol is overwhelmingly the most prominent), prevented oil from rising 15% higher than it did in its last 2007-2008 peak, saving the US more than $100 billion.”

      LOL. That would be the same Merril Lynch who was desperately hoping for a lot of successful IPOs of biofuel companies so it could bank the money and move on.

      Why didn’t you link us to this “study”? It doesn’t appear on teh Google. However, my searching wasn’t entirely in vain: I did find this WSJ gem:

      Biofuels Really Are Bad for Food Prices
      http://blogs.wsj.com/environmentalcapital/2008/09/05/bad-juice-iii-biofuels-really-are-bad-for-food-prices-world-bank-says/

  • indy

    He is only polling at 6% in NH, and the third biggest ethanol state (Illinois) is a scant 3 weeks later. Seems like a desperate attempt to differentiate himself, but he would have been better off picking something else.

  • Carney

    Adam Smith supported sailcloth subsidies. He didn’t want his country dependent on its enemies for the strategically vital transportation motive power of its day.

    Today that’s liquid fuel for internal combustion engines, but the principle still applies. If you’re denouncing Adam Smith as a statist RINO Stalinist, you’re crawled pretty far out on a limb.

    Especially when you carefully ignore that OPEC (which has more than 78% of world oil reserves) is a gang of state-socialist tyrannies that ban local private competition and have government-monopoly, government-run oil sectors that set production levels in accordance not with market conditions but government fiat.

  • ottovbvs

    Ethanol gets a bum rap from an unholy alliance of anti-agriculture extreme-green Malthusian leftists on the one hand, and supposed “free market” advocates howling about it while carefully ignoring the far more socialistic nature of the world oil market.

    Amazing ethanol is a subject that unites left and right. And it’s an entirely accurate rap. It disorts the economics of food and gas production and is environmentally disastrous. Apart from that it’s a huge success. The solution to our dependance on oil is to get our consumption inline with the size of our population. And the only way you do that is by conservation and developing an integrated transportation system. The ethanol craze is on the wane. Sorry to burst your bubble Carney.

    • Carney

      It disorts the economics of food and gas production

      Food vs. fuel is just as much a hysteria as mercury causing autism. The facts are:

      Even while ethanol corn production went up severalfold in the last decade, food corn production did not go down but went up 45%. Other staple crops went up as well. That alone utterly destroys the central premise.

      As for “distorting the economics of gas production”, maybe it would from OPEC’s perspective, since OPEC depends on our cars being unable to run on anything other than OPEC controlled fuel so OPEC can continue charging monopoly prices to a helpless captive market.

      By the way, “Science” magazine in a comprehensive survey of all peer reviewed literature on the topic proved that for every gallon of oil used to make ethanol you get at least 10 and even 20 gallons of ethanol. So don’t try that repeatedly refuted “takes more oil to make ethanol anyway” myth.

      and is environmentally disastrous.

      Complete nonsense.

      The American Lung Association strongly supports ethanol and for good reason: ethanol burns with no smoke, soot, or particulate matter, the cause of smog. Moreover:

      Ethanol burns with no sulfur, the cause of acid rain.

      Ethanol burns with significantly less NOx, and in vapor form is less than a tenth as reactive as gasoline in vapor form to atmospheric NOx (the mechanism by which gasoline and ethanol produce lung damaging ozone smog).

      If spilled, ethanol dissolves away on its own into our vast hydrosphere, and is broken down by naturally existing bacteria into harmless components. A far cry from the lasting nature of oil spills that require expensive cleanup with chemical dispersants etc.

      Ethanol’s CO2 emissions are part of the current biosphere and carbon cycle, and would have returned to the air on their own anyway. Gasoline’s CO2 comes from carbon that would have remained sequestered underground and isolated from the atmosphere for essentially forever in our terms, if we had not drilled it up and burned it to add new extra CO2 into the system that would not otherwise have been there.

      The solution to our dependance on oil is to get our consumption inline with the size of our population. And the only way you do that is by conservation and developing an integrated transportation system.

      This is the left’s version of “Drill Baby Drill”. A failure to think out side the oil only box. A failure to understand that however much hair-shirt austerity we impose on ourselves, no matter how many of us trade in our cars for fuel sipping hybrids or humiliatingly tiny slow weak fragile euro-toys, such sacrifice is futile and pointless since OPEC can just cut production to match any reduction in consumption, spike up the per-unit price of oil still higher, and we end up paying just as much as before for less oil as we did before for more oil.

      It’s not how much fuel you use or how much energy you consume. It’s WHAT fuel, and whether that fuel is “cornered” by a cartel that can constrain supply to increase the price. Methanol can be made from coal (we have the world’s #1 coal deposits), natural gas (we have lots of that, unlike oil – the mideast does too but cannot corner this market), and biomass (world’s #1 productive ag sector).

      Our ag sector can make both bio methanol and ethanol. Say the crops, stems, leaves, cobs, etc. from ethanol corn can be made into methanol. Methanol can also be made from weeds, trash, even sewage, more cheaply than over-hyped cellulosic ethanol.

      That’s the way out.

      • Watusie

        “Even while ethanol corn production went up severalfold in the last decade, food corn production did not go down but went up 45%. Other staple crops went up as well. That alone utterly destroys the central premise.”

        Your lack of a citation for this claim screams volumes.

        ““Science” magazine in a comprehensive survey of all peer reviewed literature on the topic proved that for every gallon of oil used to make ethanol you get at least 10 and even 20 gallons of ethanol. So don’t try that repeatedly refuted “takes more oil to make ethanol anyway” myth.”

        Again, no citation, and teh Google’s can’t find it either. Give us the link, Carney – I’m happy to wager that if it exists, it isn’t discussing ethanol at all, but other types of biofuels.

        “Countries should scrap targets for biofuels which favour an expensive, environmentally damaging business that needlessly distorts food markets. America’s ethanol subsidy is a particularly egregious offender.
        What is causing food prices to soar and what can be done about it? The Economist, Feb 24, 2011.

        • Carney

          “Even while ethanol corn production went up severalfold in the last decade, food corn production did not go down but went up 45%. Other staple crops went up as well. That alone utterly destroys the central premise.”

          Your lack of a citation for this claim screams volumes.

          It’s from a book that cites a custom-run query on the USDA ERS website. I’m able to come up with similar results but I can’t link to them because the URL wouldn’t work for you.

          I note you didn’t insist on citations for our share of world oil vs. OPEC’s. Why didn’t that “scream volumes”? Because you were already pre-disposed to believe it. Meanwhile when I make that claim on the Fox News site and other conservative websites, I get immediately challenged on it, accused of being an environmental fanatic, a Soros-funded infiltrator, etc etc.

          So congratulations on having EXACTLY the same paranoid mentality as people you look down on.

          I have frequently documented my claims on this issue in response to challenges from you yet you STILL stubbornly insist on implying that I am not acting in good faith. Quite frankly, that’s outrageous. By this point I have earned a reasonable degree of trust.

          Give us the link, Carney – I’m happy to wager that if it exists, it isn’t discussing ethanol at all, but other types of biofuels.

          Pay up.

          http://www.sciencemag.org/content/311/5760/506.full

          I’ll go ahead and rub your nose in the exact, relevant portion:

          http://www.sciencemag.org/content/311/5760/506/F2.expansion.html

          As shown in the chart, the figure for petroleum input per ethanol output in the chart is 0.05; that is, one gallon of oil gives you twenty gallons of ethanol.

          So, once again, you owe me an apology. And next time I make a claim SHUT UP before you humiliate yourself yet again.

        • Watusie

          LOL, Carney, from the abstract of your supposedly definitive study:

          Nonetheless, it is already clear that large-scale use of ethanol for fuel will almost certainly require cellulosic technology.

          What a tool you are.

        • hormelmeatco

          Let’s take your point that ethanol is a net energy produce as true. To whatever extent it is, oil is a net energy producer to a far greater degree. How much more energy goes into ethanol and how much more do you get out of it? What is the same breakdown for oil?

          “…add new extra CO2…”

          Unless you were using absolutely no fossil fuels to transport, process or fertilize the corn, the CO2 generated would be the same. Besides, if we or animals just ate and pooped out the corn before, and now we’re growing and burning it, aren’t we getting a net addition of CO2 into the atmosphere? Not all of the carbon in the sugars you eat ends up getting breathed out as CO2.

          “ethanol burns with no smoke, soot, or particulate matter, the cause of smog”

          Whatever problems you have with emissions from gasoline combustion you’ll have with ethanol combustion. The nitrogen oxide emissions happens because air taken into the engine has nitrogen (a lot of it!) in it. During the course of combustion where the carbon atoms have their electrons taken away (producing heat), some of the oxygen will end up getting bound to the nitrogen taken into the engine. That’s a feature of any combustion reaction using atmospheric air, not just the combustion of gasoline.

          “Pay up.”

          Paste it in the thread.

        • Carney

          You should have had the class and integrity to, on your own initiative, concede I was right, instead of desperately trying to distract attention and divert the argument by bringing up a separate issue and sling insults.

          But we’ve all grown to expect the gutter from you.

          For the record I’ll defend ethanol from false attacks, and OPEC-funded FUD memes, but I’ve never said that US-based conventional ethanol can provide all our needs. That’ s why I constantly talk about the other alcohol fuel that has even more potential: methanol with an M.

      • ottovbvs

        That’s the way out.

        Well it’s a way out that’s being increasingly rejected. I’ll declare an interest and admit I worked in the oil business until the early 90′s . We thought it was boondoggle then and so it has proved.

        Other staple crops went up as well. That alone utterly destroys the central premise.

        And the price of them went through the roof. In other words it’s distorting the economics of food production. It’s all academic anyway. The ethanol boondoggle has been seen through and it’s on the wane as a solution

        • Carney

          It’s bizarre you would call ethanol a “boondoggle” when that’s exactly what oil is. We are suicidally insisting on cretinous passivity, allowing cars to be sold that are unnecessarily locked in to only being able to run on oil which is controlled by our enemies (thus earning the moniker “jihad juice”). When it would only cost $130 per new car for automakers to add compatibility with alcohol fuels made from any number of ways, none of which our enemies can control!

          It’s like insisting on being a koala (eating nothing but eucalyptus) or a panda (eating nothing but bamboo) when your enemies control that one food. And turning down the chance to be an omnivore. Note how much more successful ants, rats, and humans are than those endangered hyper-specialists.

          Choosing to be a helpless captive market of the oil cartel enables them to restrict production, spike the price, and loot the world to the tune of trillions. You want a boondoggle? We import 5 billion barrels a year. In 1999 oil was $10 a barrel, meaning we spent $50 billion on imported oil. In 2008 it was over $100, meaning we spent a whopping $500 billion on imported oil, more than our defense budget. That money went to pad the already overstuffed bank accounts of corrupt primitive fanatical tyrants, lolling in unheard-of luxury at our expense, as well as to enable brutal repression, extreme intolerance (including pro-terrorism), ballistic missile and WMD programs, and actual terrorism and war directed against us.

          Meanwhile let’s all get FAR more worked up over a tiny subsidy benefiting peaceful US agribusiness and some Midwestern corn farmers.

          Galloping insanity.

  • Frumplestiltskin

    given the margin of error in these polls it could very well be that T-Paw is polling 0%. Isn’t T-Paws official campaign slogan “hey, everybody, look over here, hello…anybody?”

  • sinz54

    In Iowa, Pawlenty can either praise the subsidies or denounce them.

    If he praises the subsidies, he’ll just be doing what every other GOP hopeful will be doing. No advantage for Pawlenty there.

    And Pawlenty has low name recognition even among Republicans, let alone among the national electorate.

    Pawlenty needs a Hail Mary play to give him some publicity and an opportunity to set himself apart from the rest of the pack. Otherwise, the establishment Repubs will stick with Romney, the Tea Partiers will stick with Bachmann or Palin, and Pawlenty will stay at 6%.

    That’s why he’s repeating the same ploy elsewhere: He’s going to New York to tell Wall Street that they won’t get any more bailouts; he’s going to other states with similar contrarian messages.

    Pawlenty can’t afford to play it safe. He’s too far behind in the polls for that.

    • ottovbvs

      That’s why he’s repeating the same ploy elsewhere: He’s going to New York to tell Wall Street that they won’t get any more bailouts;

      Yeah right Pawlenty is telling Wall Street I’d have let the entire finncial system collapse unlike the previous Republican president. I know you believe in the tooth fairy Sinz but this is really pushing it.

      • sinz54

        ottovbs:

        I had written “any MORE bailouts.”

        “Pawlenty said he will tell seniors and young people that entitlement programs are no longer sustainable and Wall Street that ‘the era of bailouts, handouts, and carve outs will be over.’”

        http://tinyurl.com/3edlkd2

        I don’t know what Pawlenty would have done in 2008 if he had been President back then. Every President in my memory–Obama included–has discovered that things look very different in the Oval Office than they did as a candidate. (Notice how *President* Obama has kept–and even expanded–much of the anti-terrorism efforts that went on during the Bush Administration, infuriating his peacenik supporters.)

        I understand that, which is why I don’t keep a checklist of litmus tests around to test a candidate after he gets into office.

        But I still think that it’s refreshing to have a candidate tell an audience that they can’t have special goodies in exchange for voting for him.

        • ottovbvs

          I had written “any MORE bailouts.”

          And if it happened again under the next Republican president? He’d let the system collapse. Yeah right.

          But I still think that it’s refreshing to have a candidate tell an audience that they can’t have special goodies in exchange for voting for him.

          Yeah never been heard of before.

  • Rob_654

    I don’t recall if Pawlenty denounced ethanol and farm subsidies while Gov of Minnesota which grows a lot of corn and other crops and has a base that depends on ethanol…

    Is this a new cause for Tim or is it a long held and long stated belief?

  • Tim Pawlenty Opens Campaign In Iowa With Call To End Ethanol Subsidies

    [...] David Frum points out that losing Iowa isn’t necessary fatal to a campaign: Bonus skill-testing question: since 1976, how many non-incumbent Republicans have won the Iowa [...]

  • Gus

    Is Pawlenty trying to make Mitt Romney look principled? He spend most of his years as Governor of Minnesota defending ethanol, going so far as to sign legislation requiring all gas in Minnesota to have 20% ethanol content by 2013. Now he’s seen the tea party light, kind of like he did on cap and trade. What a fail parade the Republican presidential field is so far.

  • Frumplestiltskin

    here is my list of unofficial campaign slogans

    Obama “Yes, we sort of kind of”
    Bachmann “Not as crazy as she looks or sounds”
    Romney “Yes, I know I am plastic but you really don’t have any other choice”
    Gingrich “The 3rd…or is it the 4th time is the charm”
    Cain “Cain is able” (I know it ain’t mocking but it is too easy to go with this)
    Paul “hm…what?”
    Huntsman “the other and human Mormon”
    Johnson “New Mexico is too a state”

    Ah well, time for class, have to amuse myself between lessons.

  • Alex 0_0

    Pawlenty wants to reinstate DADT and has endorsed the virulently anti-gay AFA. In my fantasies that would be enough for decent conservatives to look elsewhere. But then I wake up and remember there is no such thing as a decent conservative.

  • armstp

    http://minnesota.publicradio.org/display/web/2010/12/22/gov-tim-pawlentys-record/

    PAWLENTY’S GOVERNORSHIP BY THE NUMBERS

    State’s Budget Outlook

    2003-2004 two-year budget: $4.5 billion projected budget deficit

    2011-2012 two-year budget: $6.2 billion projected budget deficit

    Source: Minnesota Management and Budget

    .

    Rate of the Uninsured

    2001: 6.1 percent

    2009: 9.1 percent

    Source: Minnesota Department of Health

    .

    Graduation Rate

    Four-year graduation rate, 2002-03: 72.79 percent

    Four-year graduation rate, 2008-09: 74.85 percent

    Source: MN Department of Education

    .

    ACT scores by state

    2002: 65 percent tested

    Avg. composite score: 22.1

    2010: 70 percent tested

    Avg. composite score: 22.9

    Source: ACT

    .

    Job numbers

    January 2003 (Total non-farm employment, seasonally adjusted): 2,662,200

    November 2010 (Total non-farm employment, seasonally adjusted): 2,668,400

    6,200 more jobs than in 2003

    Source: MN Department of Employment and Economic Development

    .

    Unemployment rate

    January 2003: Minnesota’s unemployment rate was 4.6 percent

    National unemployment rate was 5.8 percent

    November 2010:

    Minnesota’s unemployment rate was 7.1 percent

    National unemployment rate was 9.8 percent

    Source: Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development

    .

    Per Capita Income

    2002: $34,081 – Minnesota ranked 8th in the nation

    2009: $41,589 – Minnesota ranked 14th in the nation

    Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis

  • Bunker555

    The guy is running for VP.

  • RebuildtheGOP

    Doubt this helps Pawlenty’s chances in Iowa. Still, he is actually right on this issue. Both the anti-Federalists and the Federalists agreed on this matter:

    “supervision of agriculture… and other concerns of a similar nature, which are proper to be provided for by local legislation, can never be desirable cares of a general jurisdiction. It is therefore improbable that there should exist a disposition in the federal councils to usurp the powers with which they are connected, because the attempt to exercise those powers would be as troublesome as they were nugatory.” – Alexander Hamilton, Federalist #17

    “If we were directed from Washington when to sow and when to reap, we would soon want for bread.” – Thomas Jefferson

  • MBunge

    I wouldn’t defend it like Carney, but it is beyond pathetic how ethanol has become the government program everyone attacks to prove how “serious” they are.

    Mike

    • ottovbvs

      I wouldn’t defend it like Carney, but it is beyond pathetic

      So how would you defend it? The oil lobby and free market crowd for whom the WSJ is a mouthpiece have never liked it, Liberals liked it at one time because it was considered a solution but this has soured as its downsides have become apparent. This leaves the ag lobby and extreme doctrinaire cranks like Carney. I can tell you that over 20 year ago big oil (which was where I was working at the time) were plotting the rise and fall of ethanol and it’s followed much the anticipated path. They even figured out that some economies like Brazil might be able use more efficient feed stocks. The people in the oil business are not stupid I can assure you.

  • MBunge

    “So how would you defend it?”

    I’d defend it by pointing out that out of all the crap in government that wastes money to no good purpose, even if that is was the ethanol subsidy is, there are many more things that waste more money and are even more worthless than ethanol. Does anyone besides cotton growers think the 3 billion dollars in subsidies that crop gets are worth it? Where are the candidates out there traveling to cotton country and telling those folks to do without? But noooooo, it’s always ethanol that’s the whipping boy because, as you point out, the oil industry hates it and liberals have soured on it the way they sour on any practical energy alternatives.

    Mike

  • JeffreyGoldfarb

    Pawlenty is a serious guy, just like Al Gore, and its a good thing too. http://www.deliberatelyconsidered.com/2011/05/in-praise-of-serious-pols/

  • serg

    I didn’t know much about Pawlenty until the article about ethanol. Regardless of the reasons as to why Pawlenty is pursuing the anti-ethanol agenda, this is a step in the right direction. Ethanol has been a disaster policy for years and it’s about time to stop this senseless waste of money that actually produces more green house gases than it claims to take away. Hopefully this triggers a debate between republican candidates on the ethanol issue so that we can see who is a true conservative that can deal with budget deficits despite whatever support they may lose as a result of free market principles that they are willing to fight for.