Will Media Remember Gore's 1994 Tie-breaking Vote Mandating Ethanol?

As the international disaster of ethanol begins taking its toll on the planet -- and, maybe more important, as press outlet after press outlet finally begins recognizing it -- will media remember that Vice President Al Gore cast the tie-breaking vote in the Senate requiring this oxygenate be added to gasoline?

After all, regardless of recent reports blaming ethanol for world hunger problems, rising food costs, and increased greenhouse gases, it seems highly unlikely green media will want to tie any of these problems to Nobel Laureate Gore.

Yet, as inconveniently reported by States News Service on August 3, 1994 (no link available, emphasis added throughout):

In a move that enraged midwestern senators, Louisiana Democratic Sen. Bennett Johnston tried Wednesday to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from mandating the use of ethanol in reformulated gasoline. The Senate narrowly killed the measure, voting to table it by a margin of 51 to 50. With the vote tied, Vice President Al Gore had to come in and cast the deciding vote. [...]

"This is really a gigantic flim flam to the American public," Johnston said. [...]

Under the Clean Air Act, the nation's nine smoggiest cities must begin reducing auto emissions by using a cleaner-burning fuel known as reformulated gasoline in January. Reformulated gasoline contains more oxygen than regular fuel.

Until the EPA announced its decision last month, oil refiners had a choice of boosting oxygen in reformulated gasoline with either ethanol or MTBE (methyl tertiary butyl ether), a petroleum derivative. MTBE is made from natural gas. The nation's major oil companies have natural gas facilities, many of which are overseas. [...]

During the four-hour debate, opponents of the ethanol mandate said the measure contains hidden costs. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated the policy would cost the government $249 million during the next five years. The congressional Joint Committee on Taxation has predicted the ethanol rule would drain $545 million from the national highway trust fund each year.

"It's highway robbery," said Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va. "It's nothing less."

Besides Gore, take a look at who else was DEAD wrong on this issue:

[Democratic Illinois Sen. Paul] Simon added that the ethanol mandate would not increase costs for consumers.

"The price of corn flakes isn't going to go up by one penny," he said. "Don't think you're helping consumers by voting for the amendment by my friend from Louisiana."

I beg to differ, Senator. As my colleague Paul Detrick reported on April 4 (emphasis added):

You're going to need a few extra bucks to pay for those corn flakes every morning.

CNN's senior business correspondent Ali Velshi let viewers in on an underreported fact about rising commodities prices: the government mandate for ethanol production is making corn and other agricultural products more expensive-making inflation a top priority for Americans.

"Several years ago, we made some decisions about how corn is going to be used to make ethanol, which is added to our gasoline," said Velshi on "American Morning" April 4. "A number of people think that that was meant to reduce our dependency on crude oil. What is does is it takes what is fundamentally a food source and makes it into a gasoline source. That's caused corn to go up."

He went on to explain that in the recent food commodities surge, which includes products like wheat, soybeans and rice, corn has gone up to $6 a bushel-making everything from animal feed to cereal more expensive.

Nice call, Sen. Simon!

For those interested, here's how the New York Times reported the news (emphasis added):

With a tie-breaking vote by Vice President Al Gore, the Senate upheld today an Environmental Protection Agency rule requiring that ethanol and other renewable fuels get a share of the gasoline additives market.
The Senate voted 51-50 to table an amendment that would have denied financing to the agency to carry out a rule guaranteeing renewable fuels a 15 percent share of the lucrative fuel oxygenate market in 1995. That share rises to 30 percent in following years.
Under the Clean Air Act, oxygenates, which make fuel burn more cleanly, are to be added to gasoline in the nation's smoggiest areas.
Tabling the amendment, offered by Democratic Senators Bennett J. Johnston of Louisiana and Bill Bradley of New Jersey, in effect kills it and clears the way for E.P.A. to carry out its program.

All, in the end, thanks to Nobel Laureate Al Gore.

Of course, as the ethanol crisis widens, I'm sure media will be reminding the electorate of this pivotal vote fourteen years ago...not!

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Noel Sheppard's picture

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