Finally, a bit of good budget news. Yesterday, the Senate voted by substantial majority to end $6 billion in annual subsidies being handed out to the bioethanol industry. As Reuters reports:
The Senate voted overwhelmingly on Thursday to eliminate billions of dollars in support for the U.S. ethanol industry, sending a strong message that the era of big taxpayer support for biofuels is ending.
The 73-27 vote may ultimately be symbolic since the White House has vowed not to repeal ethanol subsidies fully and the bill the repeal language is attached to is not expected to make it into law. But it underscores the growing desperation to find savings in a budget crisis that is forcing both sides of the aisle to consider sacrificing once-sacred government programs.
"Ending this wasteful handout would ensure taxpayers no longer subsidize the already profitable corn ethanol industry," Democratic Senator Frank Lautenberg said.
The increasingly hostile attitude toward federal ethanol support has added fuel to a steep fall this week in the price of corn, from which most U.S. ethanol is made.
The Senate vote shows the odds are diminishing that the 45-cent-a-gallon subsidy the government gives refiners and the 54-cent-per-gallon tariff on imported ethanol — both targeted in Thursday's vote — will be extended at current rates beyond their scheduled expiration at the end of this year.
With an eye to swing state votes, the White House warned that it would veto the legislation. Subsidizing the turning of food into fuel is a bad idea when world food prices are soaring.
Now let's go after the federal subsidies for nuclear power, solar, wind, coal, and oil.