Iowa Public Television


Lawmakers React to "Smear Campaign" Against Ethanol

posted on May 23, 2008

Congress enacted a massive Farm Bill Thursday complete with new subsidies for growers and more food stamps for the poor.

But first Democrats had to eat a little crow that tarnished the election-year victory of overriding President Bush's veto for only the second time during his two terms in the oval office.

Omitted from the $290 billion, five-year law because of a printing mistake were 34 pages addressing international food aid. The mistake was discovered Wednesday, just before the House voted 316-108 to override Bush's veto.

The Senate joined the override Thursday with an 82-13 vote. Eager to begin a Memorial Day vacation, the issue of helping starving countries was left for another day.

Before lawmakers adjourned though, a bi-partisan group of Farm State lawmakers sounded off on what they're calling a "smear campaign" against ethanol.

Lawmakers React to Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Nebraska - "I'm not sure when it happened or why it happened but it's incredible to me that someone decided to add ethanol to the members of the axis of evil."

Sen. Kit Bond, R-Missouri -"How can we go back and tell people who made an investment to meet energy needs of the U.S. and now we're going to pull the rug out from under them?"

In Washington this week, a group of senators from both sides of the aisle joined in an effort to spell out facts in the food versus fuel debate.

Sen. John Thune, R-South Dakota -"And you get a couple of well-placed editorials in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal that are based upon some study and all of a sudden there's a huge eco-chamber out there that's carried by folks in the media as well that somehow ethanol's the cause of the high cost of everything and for the fact that the Yankees didn't win the World Series last year."

Leading the anti-ethanol campaign is the Grocery Manufacturers Association, or GMA, which represents the world's leading food, beverage and consumer products companies. According to the GMA, "Support for corn-based ethanol is driving up food prices and creating a crisis that threatens the kitchen tables and pocketbooks of millions of Americans and the welfare of vulnerable populations worldwide."

Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa "The GMA has an obvious self-interest in launching this campaign. They need to blame someone for high grocery bills, but they've aimed their fire at, I think, a false target."

The GMA has expressed concerns with government food-into-fuel mandates stating, "Congressional mandates that fuel refiners blend 15 billion gallons of corn ethanol and 1 billion gallons of biodiesel into America's fuel supplies have led to more than 25 percent of America's corn crop being diverted to make fuel...And the ripple effect reaches all through the food economy, including dramatic increases in the cost of milk, meat and eggs. Because corn is fed to farm animals, the price of milk, meat and eggs has soared."

At this week's press conference, the senators insisted the various criticisms against alternative energy are not based on sound science, sound economics or common sense. To put all the blame at the feet of the U.S. ethanol industry, they say, is outrageous and misplaced.

Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-North Dakota -"They say farmers can't produce both food and fuel. That is absolutely a false choice. Let me show you a chart. The chart shows corn acreage in this country --corn use in the U.S. Just take a look at where we were and where we are and there is no one that is a thinking person who can conclude that somehow using corn for ethanol has caused a problem with respect to corn use with food. It's just not the case!"

Tags: agriculture biofuels ethanol government news renewable fuels