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A Sweeter Alternative

Key Developments in the Ethanol Debate

by Leticia Phillips on Mar 15, 2011

It’s been a little quiet here on the Sweeter Alternative blog for a couple months. But as you’ll see below, there’s been no stoppage in the ethanol debate since our last post. Today we’re picking things back up, and I’m excited to introduce myself and another new voice in our campaign to make cleaner, more affordable energy choices available to Americans. I’m Leticia Phillips, the representative in North America for the Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association (UNICA). Read More

Our New Year’s Resolution for 2011: End the U.S. Ethanol Policy Boondoggle

by Joel Velasco on Dec 20, 2010

With the stroke of a pen on Friday afternoon, President Obama gave the mature, thriving U.S. corn ethanol industry an early Christmas present they didn’t need: a one-year extension of $6 billion in ethanol subsidies and the 54-cents-per-gallon tariff on imported ethanol. Read More

Lame Duck Congress Goes from Bad to Worse on U.S. Ethanol Policy

by Joel Velasco on Dec 03, 2010

Some in Congress are intent on making a bad situation even worse. Despite calls from across the country – including 67 newspaper editorials, over 80,000 letters from clean energy advocates, and opposition from a bi-partisan group of Senators and one of the broadest coalitions imaginable – lame-duck lawmakers are pushing ahead with ethanol earmarks. The plan would charge American taxpayers more than $5 billion per year to subsidize the mature corn ethanol industry, as well as double a trade barrier that denies consumers choice at the pump and makes gas more expensive. Read More

End of Ethanol Tariff & Subsidy Doesn’t Mean the End of U.S. Ethanol

by Joel Velasco on Dec 02, 2010

Earlier this morning, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) took to the chamber floor to make a last stand for extending the $6 billion per year ethanol subsidy and tariff that are set to expire on December 31st. The speech was rife with the same old hyperbole that has been debunked countless times by experts around the globe and repeatedly on this very blog. Here goes another round. Read More

Is Corn Ethanol a Dirty Word?

by Joel Velasco on Dec 01, 2010

With the release of two Senate Dear Colleague letters in roughly 24 hours, Washington is much abuzz about ethanol policy. Yesterday saw a bipartisan letter from Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Jon Kyl (R-AZ) calling for an end to the ethanol tariff and subsidies – signed by 17 Democrats and Republicans across the country. Today came the farm belt’s response – a counter letter from Senators Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Kent Conrad (D-ND) urging an extension of the existing policies this year. Here’s some food for thought after comparing both letters. Read More

Two Important Letters May Help Make Ethanol Reform A Reality

by Joel Velasco on Nov 30, 2010

News last week that leading conservative Senators Tom Coburn (R-OK) and Jim DeMint (R-SC) joined former Vice President Al Gore in calling for ethanol policy reform sent ripples through the renewable energy world, which is closely eyeing the lame-duck session to see if Congress will extend the costly ethanol subsidies and trade protection, or let them expire as scheduled on December 31st. Today’s release of a bipartisan Dear Colleague letter from Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Jon Kyl (R-AZ) brought even greater evidence that ending the ethanol tariff and subsidies is “something we can all agree on.” Read More

What Do Al Gore, Jim DeMint and Tom Coburn Have in Common?

by Joel Velasco on Nov 22, 2010

U.S. ethanol policy has been known to create some of the strangest bedfellows, but today’s news may take the cake. With just days left on the legislative calendar and ethanol’s $6 billion per year subsidies and trade protection at stake, leading conservative Senators Jim DeMint (R-SC) and Tom Coburn (R-OK) joined former Vice President Al Gore in denouncing the current policy with bold calls for reform. Read More

25,000 Reasons Congress Should End the Ethanol Tariff

by Joel Velasco on Nov 19, 2010

With the lame-duck Congress back in session and a potential showdown brewing over ethanol policy – we knew this week offered a critical window of opportunity to send lawmakers the strongest message yet to end the $6 billion dollar per year subsidy handouts and finally stop blocking cleaner, more affordable alternative energy options like sugarcane ethanol from Brazil. We knew consumers were frustrated by wasteful spending, endless partisan gridlock and rising gas prices – but we were still blown away by the veritable storm of activity since the launch of our Day of Action earlier this week. Read More

Glaring Hypocrisy in U.S. Ethanol’s Subsidized Exports

by Joel Velasco on Nov 17, 2010

With gas prices up nearly 8% since Labor Day, ethanol profits soaring and a lame-duck Congress mulling over potential energy legislation, news surfaced this week that may well put the $6 billion per year ethanol subsidies and tariff in final jeopardy. According to reports from CNN Money and Financial Times, rising U.S. ethanol exports are being subsidized by the current tax credit. What that means is American taxpayers are paying hard earned money to lower prices at the pump for Europeans and other drivers around the world. Read More

Another Blow to Ethanol Subsidies and Trade Protection from Iowa State

by Joel Velasco on Nov 16, 2010

As chatter increases inside the Beltway that some energy legislation may move forward during the lame-duck session, new research from the heart of the farm belt once again battered the economic case for extending the ethanol tariff and subsidies. A new report by Bruce A. Babcock, director of the Center for Agricultural and Rural Development (CARD) and a professor of economics at Iowa State University, finds that extension of the two policies would have stark consequences for taxpayers and food prices – while allowing them to expire would have no significant impact on the ethanol economy. Read More

Congress Needs to Hear from Clean Energy Advocates

by Joel Velasco on Nov 15, 2010

With just a few days left on the legislative calendar, clean energy history is on the horizon. The 30 year-old ethanol tariff and subsidies are finally set to expire on December 31st – but they won’t go softly. The corn ethanol lobby is desperately seeking an under-the-radar renewal during the lame-duck session with “a stroke of the pen, a little bit of Whiteout.” And as if lawmakers needed another reason to support reform, news surfaced today that current ethanol policy even subsidizes U.S. exports – meaning American taxpayers are helping lower prices at the pump for Europeans and other drivers around the world. Read More

Deficit Commission Report a Sobering Reminder on U.S. Ethanol Policy Reform

by Joel Velasco on Nov 11, 2010

Former Sen. Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles’s deficit reduction proposal has drawn mixed reactions from both sides of the aisle for recommending sweeping cuts to federal programs. Regardless of where you stand on the report’s recommendations, one of its main points serves as a sobering reminder that Congress must “end redundant, antiquated, ineffective spending.” The ethanol tariff and subsidies may well be the easiest place to start. Read More

Raise a Little Cane - A Countdown to Cleaner, More Affordable Energy

by Joel Velasco on Nov 09, 2010

After 30 years in existence, the ethanol tariff and subsidies are finally set to expire on December 31st – but not without a fight. Despite resounding calls from voters to end wasteful government spending, the corn ethanol lobby is scrambling to push through a renewal of these costly policies during the lame-duck session with “a stroke of the pen, a little bit of Whiteout.” With $6 billion taxpayer dollars and access to cleaner, more affordable energy at stake – the time for backroom deals is long gone. Read More

Fiscal Responsibility and Bipartisanship Are Easy to Achieve on Biofuels Policy

by Joel Velasco on Nov 03, 2010

As the dust settled on a midterm election that significantly altered the political landscape, voters sent a clear message that cutting the deficit and ending wasteful government spending should be top priorities for Congress. Americans will be watching closely to see if lawmakers got the message. Eliminating ethanol subsidies and trade protection would be a good way to indicate that they did. Read More

A Head Start on Savings at the Pump

by Joel Velasco on Nov 01, 2010

With gas prices on the rise and Thanksgiving travel ahead, many Americans are reminded of the pinch at the pump. Lowering fuel prices in the long term is one important reason we’re trying to stimulate competition among clean, alternative fuels by eliminating the tariff on imported ethanol. The tariff is set to expire on December 31st, and here at Sweeter Alternative – we’re ready to make a down payment and help you get a head start on potential fuel savings now. Today I’m announcing a month-long giveaway of fuel gift cards. Read More

New Bi-Partisan Calls for End to Ethanol Subsidies

by Joel Velasco on Oct 29, 2010

With Americans set to head to the polls next week, consumer watchdog groups, editorial columnists and candidates from across the political spectrum are renewing calls for an end to multi-billion dollar ethanol subsidies at a time of record deficits – all against the backdrop of soaring profits for the nation’s producers. And remember, the sole purpose of the tariff that blocks sugarcane ethanol is to offset these tax credits - if the tax credits go, then the tariff should as well. Read More

Folly by Numbers – USDA Shows Economic Gains from Eliminating Subsidies

by Joel Velasco on Oct 26, 2010

Last week at the National Press Club, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack made headlines when he called for a “fiscally responsible short-term extension of the Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit [VEETC],” citing a new report by the agency’s Economic Research Service. In an ironic twist, it turns out the report shows that with the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS2) in place, eliminating those tax credits would actually increase the nation’s economic productivity by roughly $4 to 6 billion dollars (depending on the price of oil). Read More

Vilsack Changes Tune on the Import Tariff

by Joel Velasco on Oct 21, 2010

In what was billed this morning as a major speech at the National Press Club, U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack unveiled a laundry list of proposals designed to spur production and demand for biofuels. Along the way, he expressed the belief that “the [ethanol import] tariff is likely to continue but over time be phased out,” in conjunction with his call for a “fiscally responsible short-term extension of the Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit [VEETC].” Vilsack’s remarks put him at a great distance from where he stood four years ago when (as Governor of Iowa and a presidential hopeful) he offered surprisingly candid remarks on those very topics in a sitdown at the Council on Foreign Relations. Read More

Should Obama Back Ethanol Subsidies?

by Joel Velasco on Oct 19, 2010

This week, the National Journal's Energy & Environment Expert's blog posed the question of whether or not the White House and Congress should incentivize corn-based ethanol in the transportation sector. Our answer details why the best thing President Obama and Congress could do for ethanol policy this year is nothing. Read More

EPA Decision Should Signal End to Ethanol Subsidies and Trade Protection

by Joel Velasco on Oct 14, 2010

Many U.S. ethanol groups have argued recently that after 30 years of tax credits and trade protection they are ready to compete without subsidies provided the government grants them greater access to America’s fuel pumps. With the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) decision to increase ethanol limits by 50% for newer vehicles, that day has arrived. Read More

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