Entries Tagged as 'Ethanol'

The Dirty Secret Of Energy Subsidies

June 19th, 2011 at 12:06 pm 11 Comments

See, it’s still possible for Republicans and Democrats to work together on energy legislation.

On Thursday, the ethanol tax credit repeal won the support of 73 senators, including California lefty Barbara Boxer and Oklahoma righty James Inhofe, who typically spend most of their time annoying each other at Environment and Public Works Committee hearings.  Chances are good that the repeal will blow through the House and land on President Obama’s desk before long.

What should be next? If energy subsidies are the ick flavor of the month, then put them all on the table.  So far, however, the subsidies debate has amounted to the two parties talking past each other.

When it comes to tax dodges, Republicans tend to yell loudest about freebies for wind and solar plants, while Democrats drum out press releases about loophole candy handed out to profit-engorged oil companies.  Also, Republicans have been stymied by Grover Norquist’s haranguing them that closing up tax loopholes would be the same as raising taxes.

After 70 percent of the Senate’s Republicans gave Norquist a sharp elbow in the ribs with their vote to repeal the ethanol credit, there should be less GOP inhibition about taking a hard look at “tax expenditures.”

The dirty secret of energy is that all forms of energy enjoy tax preferences and other subsidies of one form or another. Take your pick — efficiency, renewables, oil, coal, natural gas, nuclear -– not one of them stands purely on its own in the marketplace, free of subsidy taint.

The sooner both parties acknowledge that reality, the sooner they can have a rational debate about the role that subsidies should play, if any, towards meeting broader goals of ensuring America has ample supplies of energy that don’t cost an arm and a leg, don’t enrich unfriendly potentates and don’t leave future generations with an environmental mess to clean up.

Grover Norquist, Alpha Male?

June 18th, 2011 at 9:19 am 12 Comments

J.D. Hamel wrote a great piece here at FrumForum regarding the struggle between Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) and Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist over the issue of ethanol subsidies.  Norquist is, of course, a longtime fixture on the conservative political scene, so Senator Coburn’s public rebuke of Norquist’s position has gotten a lot of attention.  While the legislative and policy points are well-discussed by Hamel and others, I noticed this rather crass little bit of commentary from Norquist, as quoted in an article by Andrew Stiles at National Review and cited by Jonathan Chait at The New Republic:


Norquist says Coburn’s statements after the vote make it clear that his amendment had nothing to do with ethanol subsidies and everything to do with forcing Republicans to go on record supporting a tax increase — essentially a gateway drug that would inevitably lead to additional increases down the road. “He said, ‘Ha ha, popped your cherry, lost your virginity. Now give me $2 trillion in tax increases,’” Norquist says. “As soon as they voted, he turned around and called them sluts. Guys like that didn’t get second dates in high school.”

Now, I’ve never met Senator Coburn or Grover Norquist, and I don’t have much knowledge about their high school or post-high school experiences.  But it is worth pointing out that Senator Coburn is a very much of an Oklahoma boy-made-good, with a successful career in medicine and business before he entered politics, and he is married to a former Miss Oklahoma.  And Grover Norquist is … Grover Norquist.  The reader can draw his or her own conclusions.

Why Pawlenty Doubled Down on Ethanol

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

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.