Missouri Senator Jim Talent: ethanol scam artist

September 6, 2006 | By | 6 Replies More

Senator Talent allegedly represents me.  He is allegedly a thinking man.  He allegedly cares about our country. 

Senator Jim Talent sends me an email newsletter every month or so.  His current newsletter says this about Iraq:

As day-to-day life there improves, my hope is that more Iraqis will view the liberation of Iraq and the ongoing political progress as a turning point for Iraqi society.

When was that written, I wonder?  Two years ago? Three years ago? 

What else has Senator Jim Talent been up to? [If you’re wondering why I always say “Senator Jim Talent,” I’m hoping that it will make this article more search-engine-friendly than not saying “Senator Jim Talent.  After all, Senator Jim Talent is facing an election in November]. 

Senator Jim Talent does prominently announce some things.  He’s so upset that payday loan shops are so incredibly evil (with their 500% interest loans) that he has announced that he is supporting a bill so that would require payday lenders to offer reduced loan rates, but only to members of the military.  Screw everyone else, I suppose.  I guess it never occurred to Senator Jim Talent that we should pay members of the military decent wages so they don’t have to desperately walk up to the counters of the payday lenders.  Senator Jim Talent is also against promising new forms of stem cell research, but he somehow forgets to put it prominently in his newsletter that he prefers to let real children die in order to protect microscopic un-implanted unfertilized embryos.  So you can see that Senator Talent and I have many points of disagreement.

On a lark, I sent Senator Jim Talent an email asking him to explain why we don’t change federal standards to require cars to be more fuel efficient.  Straight-forward enough?

In response, I received this letter: Re Increase the miles per gallon standards.txt .  As you can see, Senator Jim Talent mentions NOTHING about the fuel standards for motor vehicles.  Nada. Zero.  Is it because it’s just not American to use fuel efficiently?  I think so.  Republicans don’t tolerate people messing with their right to choose bloated vehicles (Republicans are protective of automobile choices the way that Democrats are protective of reproductive choices).

If you check out Senator Jim Talent’s letter to me, you’ll see that he can’t get himself to even mention fuel efficiency.  I know that Republicans are math-challenged (note the immoral budget deficits and trade deficits we are running), but I thought they at least understood the relationship between supply and demand.  Their constituents are begging for cheaper gas, right?  What’s a good way to lower the cost of gas?  The answer: Make more efficient vehicles, thereby lowering the demand for gas, therefore reducing the price of gas.  But no.  Senator Jim Talent won’t dare to consider the issue of raising fuel efficiency standards, even when I ask for his position on that exact topic with a simple question.  You won’t find a single word about improving vehicle gas efficiency anywhere on Senator Jim Talent’s entire website.

So what did Senator Jim Talent discuss in the letter he sent to me? The answer:  Ethanol.  Talent claims in his letter that ethanol would “reduce our dependence on foreign sources of energy and lower the price of gasoline.”  Really?  Not according to the October 2007 issue of Consumer Reports:

                      consumer reports - ethanol myth.JPG

Consumer’s Union, publisher of Consumer Reports, is an independent organization.  Here are the conclusions of the CR article:

  • Ethanol is unlikely to fill more than a small percentage of U.S. energy needs.
  • Ethanol fuel is less polluting than gasoline, but provides fewer miles per gallon, costs more and is hard to find outside of the Midwest. 

How much less fuel efficient is ethanol?  “The fuel economy of the Tahoe dropped 27% when running on E85 compared with gasoline, from an already low 14 mpg overall to 10 mpg (rounded to the nearest mpg).  This is the lowest fuel mileage we’ve gotten from any vehicle in recent years.”

But there’s more bad news according to CR.  Government support for ethanol is “indirectly causing more gasoline consumption rather than less.” 

Therefore, an independent association says ethanol is not much of an answer.  Senator Jim Talent politics standing in corn fields and says otherwise.  Who do you believe?

Finally, do you think it’s possible that we could save immense amounts of fuel by discouraging the production of wasteful vehicles like the Tahoe by raising U.S. fuel efficiency standards?  I do.  So does The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy.  Here’s what they have to say: 

Raising CAFE standards by 5% annually until 2012 and by 3% per year thereafter could save 1.5 million barrels of oil per day (MBD) by 2010, 4.7 MBD by 2020, and 67 billion barrels of oil over the next 40 years. This is 10–20 times greater than the potential oil supply from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

You know, this post is starting to sound like yet another warning that corporate money has completely corrupted the American political system.  See here and here  and here.


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Category: American Culture, Corruption, Economy, Energy, Iraq, Politics, Reproductive Rights, Science, War

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (6)

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  1. grumpypilgrim says:

    Ethanol is also a hot topic in Wisconsin, as it is in all corn-producing states. It appears to be a hot topic in Washington because it enables Republicans to discuss the energy problem without talking about conservation. It also appears to be an opportunity to give tax breaks to the farm industry, which achieves two goals that are near and dear to many Republican hearts: giving tax breaks to Big Business (which farming is these days), and replacing other government farm subsidies (e.g., price supports) that are coming under increased political pressure to be eliminated.

    This year's gas price problem reminds me of the gas crisis of the 1970s. Back then, when Americans called on government to raise CAFE fuel economy standards, the 'Big Three' American auto makers all screamed that the proposed standards were too high. At that time, Congress was proposing to raise CAFE requirements to something like 27 mpg by 1987 (this was happening about 1977). As American auto makers screamed that this standard was "impossible," foreign auto makers remained silent. Why? Because their cars were *already* above the proposed "impossible" standard.

    The fact is that raising CAFE requirements would stimulate growth, not curtail it as the auto makers and oil-lobby Republicans like to claim. It would stimulate growth for two reasons. First, it would stimulate more investment in energy technologies that are an inevitable part of our planet's future (i.e., more efficient transportation systems); second, more efficient energy use would enable us to do more with less, which is the very definition of growth. Instead of wasting our money at the gas pump, we could invest it in more productive activities.

  2. Dan Klarmann says:

    Let's not forget what goes into producing corn. About 3/4 of the corn production comes from using nitrate fertilizers that are produced by using oil. As with hydrogen gas, the root of its production is the use of fossil fuel. Sure, both of these can be produced without fossil fuels, but at several times the current costs.

  3. grumpypilgrim says:

    Talent is a real piece of work. He is so desperate to hold onto his job that he has apparently lost his moral compass:

    More of his ineptness is discussed here:

  4. Erich Vieth says:

    The Union of Concerned Scientists indicate that, under rosy scenarios, ethanol might replace only 1/3 of our petroleum use by 2050:

    The long-term potential for ethanol production from products such as grasses, wood chips, rice straw, and the corn plant itself (called cellulosic ethanol) is significant. However, some key breakthroughs are needed for it to play a significant role. In particular, further advances are needed in order to cost-effectively liberate cellulose from the plant material and convert it into fermentable sugars. Aggressive scenarios for the deployment of cellulosic ethanol production indicate that it has the potential to replace nine billion gallons of gasoline in 2025 and upwards of 100 billion gallons in 2050. While this is a very large number, it is important to realize that our gasoline demand by 2050 could be nearly 300 billion gallons if we do not take steps to improve fuel economy and slow growth in travel demand.

    Conservation could help immediatley and dramatically, though. Mr. Talent just can't bear to utter the word "conservation." It might mean that some of his constituents would have to stop buying Hummers.

  5. pete steinmeyer says:

    Excellent post on Talent. Keep up the good work….Pete

  6. han says:

    Ethanol itself is one of the greatest political scams I've ever seen. Why anybody is even talking about it is beyond me. With the thousand of so years of coal deposits we have in the U.S.A., it would be about the most efficient energy to use, freeing us for energy dependence. Coal gasification is now so far advanced that pollutents are absolutely minimal. But, alas, it seems nobody ever looks at the teriffic, long-term potential of just plain, good old coal.

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