Jason Barton

Professional Information and Energy News

Al Gore Finally Opposes Corn Ethanol

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An editorial in The Wall Street Journal this morning discusses Al Gore’s apparent change of heart from supporter to opponent of subsidies for corn ethanol in the U.S.

It’s not that I’ve ever put much stock in Al Gore. I’m glad he’s helping more Americans understand the importance of environmental health, but I don’t think climate change science is the way to do it.

The article below provokes two different, almost visceral reactions in me: One to corn ethanol and one to the attention paid to climate change.

Climate Change:

Whether or not it’s accurate to say that the climate is changing in negative ways, and that humans are the cause of it, it’s simply too distant to most people’s daily lives for it to gain real traction in making change.

For example, Hurricane Katrina: Did a one degree increase in the Caribbean Sea’s temperature drive the wind and rain that much harder into New Orleans to make the storm so much more severe that it led to thousands of deaths? Was that temperature increase caused by humans?

Hurricane Katrina was clearly a terrible event, and many things went wrong there, but in terms of the environmental facets, the climate change discussion distracts us from the real and tangible fact that WE MOVED A RIVER!

Isn’t there a sufficiently poignant lesson to learn in seeing the terror of what happened when the river moved back? Digressing into the chemistry of atmospheric leads us away from tangible facts that can induce real and effective change.

Similarly, we don’t need to convince someone of climate change for them to understand why it’s not healthy for our lungs to go jogging next to a freeway. Their lungs help them to understand, without Gore’s Powerpoint, why we should work to limit vehicle emissions.

Can we focus on solutions when we see problems? How am I supposed to understand the real impacts of my own actions when I’m focusing on that one degree change and my possible role in it?

I can’t believe anyone would still be reading at this point, and this site has enough about my thoughts on the inefficiency of corn ethanol, so thanks if you’re still here.

Suffice it to say that I’m glad Al Gore has joined the chorus of those opposing subsidies for corn ethanol. Now if he could convince Obama to go back to his earlier criticisms of this boondoggle, we’d be making some real progress.

Rather than continuing on that subject that’s been discussed so often, I’ll hold off and let you continue to the Journal’s editorial.

  • NOVEMBER 27, 2010

Al Gore’s Ethanol Epiphany

He concedes the industry he promoted serves no useful purpose.

Anyone who opposes ethanol subsidies, as these columns have for decades, comes to appreciate the wisdom of St. Jude. But now that a modern-day patron saint—St. Al of Green—has come out against the fuel made from corn and your tax dollars, maybe this isn’t such a lost cause.

Welcome to the college of converts, Mr. Vice President. “It is not a good policy to have these massive subsidies for first-generation ethanol,” Al Gore told a gathering of clean energy financiers in Greece this week. The benefits of ethanol are “trivial,” he added, but “It’s hard once such a program is put in place to deal with the lobbies that keep it going.”

Read the entire article here.