The politics of oil is once again creeping up the political and public agenda in the US. Over the last month a dozen potential presidential candidates have toured the state of Iowa, with most pledging their support for the biofuel ethanol as an alternative to gasoline.

Republican Newt Gingrich, the former Speaker of the U.S. House, predicted ethanol’s time had arrived as Big Oil’s influence waned in Washington due to high gas prices. “I believe if we could get a consensus on a next-generation biofuels bill that the anger of the country at large is sufficiently great about the price of oil that it would be very hard for politicians to stop it,” Gingrich said.

Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack, himself a potential Democratic presidential candidate, also told a political rally that relying on foreign oil weakens the U.S. economically and forces the country to rely on countries that control the world oil supply. “We actually have to encourage ordinary Americans to understand the significance and the importance of it to their ordinary lives, not just the $3 a gallon price they’re paying at the pump, but what it’s doing to their country,” Vilsack said. “What this really needs to be is an issue of patriotism, building a stronger America and a more secure America.”

Republican John McCain, the Arizona Senator declared himself a “strong” supporter of ethanol. “I support ethanol and I think it is a vital, a vital alternative energy source not only because of our dependency on foreign oil but its greenhouse gas reduction effects,” he said.

Meanwhile Delaware Senator Joe Biden, a 1988 Democratic presidential candidate who’s running again in 2008, asked “How do we free ourselves from the iron grip of the oil oligarchs?. It affects everything. It affects our economy. It affects our balance of payments. It affects our foreign policy. As long as we are all held hostage to the new weapon in world foreign policy — oil — then we are going to be in difficult problems”.

It’s not just the politicians who are getting exited about ethanol. A new study has found that 37% of US consumers would consider purchasing a flex-fuel vehicle that runs on gasoline or E85 (85% ethanol) the next time they buy a car. “It certainly appears as if consumers have bought into the appeal of a Flex Fuel vehicle that can run on either gasoline or E85,” explained Scott Miller, CEO of Synovate Motoresearch, the company that did the survey.

As Bob Dylon once sang: The times they are a changing…


  • There seems to be a huge disconnect from reality here. There is a major drought on the Great Plains, and the corn harvest this year is a disaster. Climate change will not be mitigating this trend. The Oglala Aquifer is estimated to be about 20 years from total depletion at the current rate of pumping. How can anyone seriously propose corn-based ethanol as an energy policy, regardless of one’s conclusion about EROEI?

    NYT article on 8/29: ‘Blistering Drought Ravages Farmland on Plains’
    Oglala Aquifer:

  • Burning up food supplies is a stupid idea. I drive an electric car. No dealer can sell you one and no gas station can charge the batteries. GM isn’t going to stop pushing gas hogs on us. They must be forced to stop it and build electric cars.

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