Senator Coburn ethanol remarks stir controversy

NCGA First Vice President Garry Niemeyer,
National Corn Growers Association

For years, there has been discontent with ethanol policy and it finally came to a head in the Senate this week with Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma proposing to eliminate the Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit. Now this comes at a very interesting time in our society, when we are facing rapidly rising energy costs and a senator from an oil state making the proposal.

Who would invest in any new energy venture with this type of attitude in our Senate? We have not built a nuclear power plant in over 30 years, coal fired power plants are not acceptable, drilling for oil in the Gulf and elsewhere has been curtailed in many locations due to environmental laws. Given this scenario it critical that we make development of domestic energy a priority in all its forms. Alternative energy like ethanol is fundamental to avoiding an increased dependence on foreign oil. After observing several countries in Northern Africa to Saudi Arabia in social conflict, why would a U.S. senator want to make us more dependent than we currently are, at over 60 percent?

Sen. Coburn’s need to reduce the federal budget may be the excuse he is using to promote his ideas, but let’s look into that budget discussion for a second. Currently, we are spending $4 billion more than we take in on a daily basis. If the total $5.6 billion VEETC were eliminated, that would erase a little over one day’s worth of our budget deficit here in the United States.

Now, I am not sure, but cutting off your nose to spite your face seems a little overreaching and not appropriate. So, Senator, how are you going to resolve the other $1.595 trillion and bring the budget back in line? One could argue that Sen. Coburn, now in his second term in the Senate, is more responsible for our US economic problems than ethanol is.

Cooler heads need to prevail and understand that there are no perfect forms of energy and we do not live in a perfect world. We are going to have to work together to reduce the costs of all forms of energy to resolve our two problems, lack of domestic energy and elimination of all subsidies on all forms of energy on an even basis.

If Sen. Coburn is willing to be known as the senator who made us more dependent on foreign oil, he should rethink where he is taking this country.

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