Huntsman’s ethanol excuse is moldy

(DesMoines Register blog post by Kathie Obradovich, political columnist)

…former ambassador Jon Huntsman says he can’t compete in the Iowa caucuses because he’s opposed to ethanol subsidies.

Somebody better tell Tim Pawlenty. The former Minnesota governor, who has more riding on Iowa than most other candidates, called for scaling back ethanol subsidies. Not only that, but he did it in his presidential campaign kickoff speech, right here in Des Moines. Maybe Huntsman needs to catch up on the news, too.

Huntsman adviser John Weaver formerly advised John McCain, who skipped Iowa for the same reason in 2000. It was a bad idea then and an even worse one now. McCain didn’t do much in Iowa in the 2008 cycle, but he at least campaigned here before winning the nomination.

Huntsman could have come up with a variety of excuses for skipping Iowa. That he chose ethanol suggests he’s out of touch. If Sen. Chuck Grassley is willing to scale back ethanol subsidies, it can’t be such an alien concept to Iowa Republicans.

That Huntsman apparently doesn’t know means he’s probably right on one point: He wouldn’t do very well in Iowa. It also means he won’t do very well in a lot of other states, besides.

Our Take:
What’s moldy is all the Republican candidates’ take on energy policy. Democrats can’t claim to have their act together either. It’s nearly 40 years since the oil embargo crisis signaled the danger in our dependency on foreign oil and look how far we haven’t come, in terms of national energy policy.

Grassley’s plan may be a viable transition away from the bribes the ethanol industry has had to seek for oil companies and fuel blenders. This could be a healthy move, especially if it comes with cutting back oil subsidies. Fair is fair.

But nobody is talking about an integrated approach to energy independence. Let’s see real support for flexible fuel pump infrastructure, and real teeth in a requirement for every car company marketing cars in the US to make flexible fuel systems standard in all their vehicles.

If it’s done right a comprehensive approach to energy independence will help domestic, renewable energy production flourish and grow hundreds of thousands of new jobs, all while reducing the volatility in energy prices that growl at the consumer from every gas pump.

There’s no reason we should be paying nearly $4 a gallon for gasoline. More domestic energy production will equal lower prices, which will mean more money for all the other things American consumers need and want to buy–and that translates into economic activity and jobs.

Paying more at the pump means you might as well vacuum dollars up and ship them overseas.

When we hear these candidates talk energy we see a bunch of paper tigers who couldn’t claw their way out of a paper bag.

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