The Corner

The Ethanol Gang

Earlier today, Larry linked to Kim Strassel’s Wall Street Journal article on the Senate’s “Gang of Ten.” I’m linking to it again, because it is vitally important reading for anyone trying to understand the damage the gang is doing. Here’s a key passage:

… it was probably too much to assume every Republican would work out that their side was winning [the energy] issue. And so, last Friday, in stumbled Sens. Lindsey Graham, John Thune, Saxby Chambliss, Bob Corker and Johnny Isakson — alongside five Senate Democrats. This “Gang of 10″ announced a “sweeping” and “bipartisan” energy plan to break Washington’s energy “stalemate.” What they did was throw every vulnerable Democrat, and Mr. Obama, a life preserver.

That’s because the plan is a Democratic giveaway. New production on offshore federal lands is left to state legislatures, and then in only four coastal states. The regulatory hurdles are huge. And the bill bars drilling within 50 miles of the coast — putting off limits some of the most productive areas. Alaska’s oil-rich Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is still a no-go.

The highlight is instead $84 billion in tax credits, subsidies and federal handouts for alternative fuels and renewables. The Gang of 10 intends to pay for all this in part by raising taxes on . . . oil companies! The Sierra Club couldn’t have penned it better. And so the Republican Five has potentially given antidrilling Democrats the political cover they need to neutralize energy through November.

There’s one word that explains why these five Republicans are selling out: Biofuels. The gang’s “compromise bill” contains billions in subsidies for research into biofuels, and for the manufacture of ethanol-burning cars.

Thune is from the corn-producing state of South Dakota and has always been a big advocate for corn ethanol. The flagship university in Corker’s home state of Tennessee houses a major biofuels research center, specializing in cellulosic ethanol from switchgrass. Chambliss is the ranking member of the Senate Agriculture Committee. He and Isakson both represent Georgia, where they are trying to figure out how to turn Georgia peanuts into fuel. And Graham — well, Graham just seems to have a mania for joining bipartisan gangs.

The worst part — as Strassel points out — is that the gang would raise the money for these new ethanol ventures by repealing tax provisions that allow oil companies to write off the cost of expanding refinery capacity. Whatever this bill is, it’s not a cheaper-gas bill. In fact, despite its meager drilling provisions, it looks a lot like the opposite.

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