U.S. Corn Ethanol Was Not A Good
Dec 06, 2010 - World Environment
|Former Vice President Al Gore speaks during
the World Business Forum in New York October
Photo: Shannon Stapleton
Former vice-president Al Gore said support for corn-based
ethanol in the United States was "not a good
policy", weeks before tax credits are up for
U.S. blending tax breaks for ethanol make it profitable
for refiners to use the fuel even when it is more
expensive than gasoline. The credits are up for renewal
on December 31.
Total U.S. ethanol subsidies reached $7.7 billion
last year according to the International Energy Industry,
which said biofuels worldwide received more subsidies
than any other form of renewable energy.
"It is not a good policy to have these massive
subsidies for (U.S.) first generation ethanol," said
Gore, speaking at a green energy business conference
in Athens sponsored by Marfin Popular Bank.
"First generation ethanol I think was a mistake.
The energy conversion ratios are at best very small.
"It's hard once such a program is put in place
to deal with the lobbies that keep it going."
He explained his own support for the original program
on his presidential ambitions.
"One of the reasons I made that mistake is
that I paid particular attention to the farmers in
my home state of Tennessee, and I had a certain fondness
for the farmers in the state of Iowa because I was
about to run for president."
U.S. ethanol is made by extracting sugar from corn,
an energy-intensive process. The U.S. ethanol industry
will consume about 41 percent of the U.S. corn crop
this year, or 15 percent of the global corn crop,
according to Goldman Sachs analysts.
A food-versus-fuel debate erupted in 2008, in the
wake of record food prices, where the biofuel industry
was criticized for helping stoke food prices.
Gore said a range of factors had contributed to
that food price crisis, including drought in Australia,
but said there was no doubt biofuels have an effect.
"The size, the percentage of corn particularly,
which is now being (used for) first generation ethanol
definitely has an impact on food prices.
"The competition with food prices is real."
Gore supported so-called second generation technologies
which do not compete with food, for example cellulosic
technologies which use chemicals or enzymes to extract
sugar from fibre for example in wood, waste or grass.
"I do think second and third generation that
don't compete with food prices will play an increasing
role, certainly with aviation fuels."
Gore added did that he did not expect a U.S. clean
energy or climate bill for "at least two years" following
the mid-term elections which saw Republicans increase