It's finally sinking in that ethanol isn't the magic solution for our energy problems and that pushing it has brought unintended, if not unforseeable, consequenses:
The shine is off corn ethanol, and oh, what a comedown it has been. It was only in January that President Bush was calling for a yet a bijillion more gallons of the wonder-stuff in his State of the Union address, and Iowa's Chuck Grassley was practically doing the Macarena in his seat. And why shouldn't Mr. Grassley and fellow ethanol handmaidens have boogied? They'd forced their first mandate through Congress, corn farmers were rolling in dough, billions in taxpayer dollars were spurring dozens of new ethanol plants--and here was the commander-in-chief calling for yet more yellow dollars. All in the name of national security, too!
Corn ethanol seemed unstoppable, but a remarkable thing happened on the road from Des Moines. Just as the smart people warned, the government's decision to play energy market God and forcibly divert huge amounts of corn stocks into ethanol has played havoc with key sectors of the economy. Corn prices have nearly doubled, which means livestock owners can't afford to feed their animals, and food and drink manufacturers are struggling to buy corn and corn syrup. Environmentalists are sour over new stresses on farmland; international aid groups are moaning that the U.S. is cutting back its charitable food giving, and many of these folks are taking out their anger on Congress.
But things may have gone too far in Indiana for officials to be able to admit they erred. At least Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman seems to still be in a bragging mode:
As the state's first director of agriculture, she was particularly proud of Indiana's efforts to process corn into biofuel, what she called “Hoosier homegrown fuel.” Two years ago, Indiana had one ethanol plant and now has 20 facilities in various stages of development and operation.