Ethanol and Senator Richard Lugar

There certainly is some maneuvering going on. Senator Richard Lugar just announced his proposal for a national energy plan he says will save billions of dollars by increasing domestic oil production and improving energy efficiency. Lugar wants to open access to Alaska oil reserves, end the moratorium on drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, and subsidize retrofits to improve energy efficiency in buildings.  At the same time, he was among those opposing ending subsidies for the corn ethanol industry completely but rather proposes a plan that would provide subsidies only when the world price of oil is low.

Lugar’s position has positives and negatives. The corn ethanol industry was a big mistake, period. Subsidies should be quickly phased out and the industry should be allowed to sink or swim on its own. No continuing government subsidies are justified, particularly given the shape of the federal budget. Ethanol may have a place in the energy future of this country, but not corn based ethanol. Other non-food and non-feed vegetation must be the input to any ethanol production system. There are promising ones.

Drilling for oil in the Gulf of Mexico or anywhere in deep water is questionable. One does not have to look farther than the BP spill for the case against it. Full recovery from the damage done by oil to Gulf resources will likely not happen in one life time. Just ask the fishermen, oystermen, and shrimpers along the Gulf.

Promoting conservation is a big plus. The United States of America is a large waster of energy. Take a look at Japan. On a per-capita basis, Japan consumed the energy equivalent of 2.8 million tons of oil per person in 2004 (latest available numbers) compared to 5.4 million tons of oil per person in the United States. That is nearly one half of the consumption per person. We could learn much from the Japanese and save billions of dollars in the process. Lugar is right on for this proposal.

The elephant in the room in his energy proposal though is the total absence of mention of alternative energy sources such as wind and solar. I am wondering if he believes this to be too “liberal” in thinking. Indiana doesn’t think this. There is already a large wind farm in Benton County with more proposed in Tipton and Howard Counties. Tipton County, too, is soon to become the home of a large solar panel production facility, one of the largest in the nation. Lugar needs to get on board.

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About Kent Blacklidge Ph.D.

As part of a newspaper family who owned a 34,000 daily newspaper in the heart of the Midwest, I have a passion for a strong “Fourth Estate”, the press. Without a diligent and assertive free press, the power would be taken from the people. People have the absolute right to know. After earning a degree in Industrial Management from the Krannert School of Management at Purdue, I spent over 20 years in newspaper management with several as publisher. I am also holder of three graduate science degrees including a Ph.D.. I have a passionate interest in science and the environment. I have little tolerance for ignorance and stupidity.
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