MichiganLive: Susan J. Demas: Democrats and Republicans should unite to end ethanol welfare

September 30, 2013

Susan J. Demas, September 27 – If there's one thing that Democrats and Republicans should be able to agree on, it's ending ethanol welfare.

The corn-based fuel has long been subsidized by the federal government, which should rankle Republicans. It's worse for the environment than gasoline, which should irk Democrats.

And ethanol has been shown to drive up food prices, because farmers are devoting more acreage to corn for fuel instead of food. That should concern everybody.

I became all too familiar with ethanol when I lived a decade in the corn cradle — Iowa — where the fuel is often a more hot-button issue than abortion.

Every four years, presidential candidates scramble to show they love the subsidies more than anybody else, in an effort to flatter voters in the first-in-the-nation caucuses.

It's not easy to forget the awkward sight of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney cavorting in cornfields.

Fortunately, the pandering seems to be dying down a bit, as more and more voters sour on ethanol subsidies. The list of prominent critics is growing, from liberal economist Paul Krugman to the conservative National Review.

But it's understandable that ethanol isn't a huge issue in Michigan right now. People are more preoccupied with the state unemployment rate creeping back up and the Obamacare health care exchange opening its doors on Oct. 1.

Still, the ethanol debate has surrounded the long-delayed farm bill that U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Lansing) is shepherding through Congress right now.