Tom Philpott is having a hard time fathoming how a whopping three-quarters of all federal renewable-energy money could possibly go toward ethanol, seeing as how, according to a new study from the University of Iowa's Dennis Keeney, "ethanol from corn will do nothing to boost net energy supplies." Add in the fact that corn-based ethanol likely creates more greenhouse-gas emissions than the gasoline it displaces, and it's a real mystery.
Just kidding. It's not actually a mystery. Ethanol gets the big bucks because there are hordes of corn-state senators out there, not because it makes any sort of sense as a low-carbon alternative. But the handouts will almost surely keep flowing: A combination of low gas prices and high corn prices have lately been squeezing ethanol producers, who are now heading to Capitol Hill with John Deere hats in hand, hoping for some of those stimulus bucks. Early indications are that Obama's willing to oblige them, which, needless to say, would be a terrible idea.