Monday, June 23, 2008

Obama and Ethanol

This story on Obama's ties to the ethanol industry didn't surprise me or exactly disturb me. But they are unfortunate. I don't expect Obama to be above modern politics. He's a fairly centrist Democratic senator who I think will move to the left once he becomes president. His heart is probably in the right place on trying to find alternatives to oil and the oil industry. But like anyone, he will be deeply influenced by lobbyists, often from industries I find questionable. And certainly ethanol is one of those industries. Although oil prices spiral ever higher and we are increasingly desperate for alternative sources of fuel, ethanol is not the answer. Not only is it bad for the environment, but it is incredibly inefficient and is driven by domestic politics, not smart energy policy. Moreover, as UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon recently suggested, using corn for fuel rather than food is basically immoral. Certainly I believe this. As food prices rise throughout the world, threatening the lives of millions, how can we continue to use corn for fuel rather than food? I have no doubt we will continue to do this because I think most Americans fundamentally don't care how their actions affect the rest of the world.

The most important thing in politics right now is making sure Obama is elected. But that doesn't mean he shouldn't be immune from criticism for his ties to bad industries. I've questioned Obama's environmental policy in the past and I continue to do so today.