When Does an Infant Industry Stop Needing Its Taxpayer Allowance?


Federal bioethanol subsidies are 30 years old this month. As reason has documented time after time after time after time, those subsidies to corn ethanol have had deleterious effects on the environment and the price of food around world.


It's way past time for the industry to stand or fall on its own economic merits. Food Before Fuel, a broad coalition of environmental, farming, taxpayer, consumer and other groups, is calling on the feds to drop counterproductive bioethanol subsidies:

"On many issues, these groups gathered here today do not see eye to eye.  But we have come together because we all can agree that the government's subsidization of the corn ethanol industry is a flawed policy that pits rural industries against one another, raises food prices for everyone and has failed to yield promised environmental benefits," Brandenberger said.

Duane Parde, president of the National Taxpayers Union, was critical of the ethanol industry as a "demonstrative waste of taxpayer money in a time of economic hardship."

"President-elect Obama and the 111th Congress have an opportunity to protect taxpayers and end business as usual," Parde said. "We have spent 30 years and billions of taxpayer dollars subsidizing the production of ethanol with little to show for it. Despite the subsidies, ethanol is not competitive in the marketplace and the industry only survives because politicians shovel our money into their pockets. We must end the bailouts and subsidies for industries that are unable or unwilling to stand on their own."

Craig Cox, Midwest vice president of the Environmental Working Group, said that, "After 30 years of subsidies, ethanol is displacing only 3 percent of the gasoline we use each year, is likely increasing rather than decreasing greenhouse gas emissions, and is threatening our soil,  water and wildlife. Yet ethanol gets $3 out of every $4 of tax credits the federal government gives to all renewable alternatives including wind, solar and geothermal. It is time we direct our tax dollars to renewable alternatives, including biofuels, based on how well they protect our climate, our environment and our energy security."

Jason Clay, senior vice president for market transformation at the World Wildlife Fund, noted, "In its work with local communities and habitats across the globe, the World Wildlife Fund has seen the negative impacts of the biofuel policy not only on the environment, but on vulnerable populations throughout the world."

As Competitive Enterprise Institute senior fellow Marlo Lewis notes:

"After 30 years of government coddling, it's time for this infant industry to grow up and succeed or fail on its own merits. If ethanol is commercially viable then no government support is needed; if it is not commercially viable, no amount of government support can make it so."

Whole anti-subsidy coalition press release here

Disclosure: I am an adjunct fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.