The Koch Brothers Are Right: Ethanol Subsidies Should Go


Photo: Andy Beecroft via Geograph/CC BY-SA

Few industrialists in recent times have done more to imperil environmental protections and public health than the Koch brothers. The force behind Americans for Prosperity and Koch Industries have galvanized the charge against important Clean Air regulations, climate legislation, and environmental protections everywhere. They're the Democrats' villain du jour for their unabashed pursuit of corporate gain over public well-being. But they're actually on the greener side of their latest political battle: A group of Republicans, led by Senator Tom Coburn, are seeking to end federal ethanol subsidies. And the Koch Brothers are backing that push, even though their company reportedly benefits from the subsidies.Ryan Grim has the story:

Opponents of ethanol subsidies got a boost Monday from Koch Industries as the company announced its opposition to the giveaways on the eve of a major vote in the Senate. Sen. Tom Coburn is pushing a vote on an amendment Tuesday that would end ethanol subsidies and eliminate tariffs on foreign supplies of the biofuel. That would allow companies to use sugar-based Brazilian ethanol, which is both cheaper and less environmentally damaging than the domestic corn-based variety.

Coburn and Koch Industries have been in discussion about the political issue for several months. But ultimately, it claims, the Koch's commitment to free-market principles overrode the fact that their company benefits from the subsidies. "Koch Industries has opposed federal mandates and subsidies for decades," the letter to Coburn reads. "Our aim is to create a free market where consumers decide winners and losers based on which products they decide to buy, instead of government picking winners and losers based on which friends or products it chooses to subsidize. One such government intervention is the tax credit that provides about $6 billion each year to blenders of ethanol."

Of course, the letter of support comes at a late stage in the game -- the vote is today -- when it appears that the amendment will likely fail. This way, the Koch brothers can claim libertarian cred and still reap the benefits from ethanol subsidies -- it's not like the organization campaigned on the issue. And if the Kochs are so ardently opposed to subsidies, where were they during the last big debate over government handouts: subsidies to oil companies. They stayed pretty quiet there ...

Nevertheless, the Kochs position is the right one: ethanol subsidies are not only a waste of money, but they encourage a fuel that has been deemed by many to be just as destructive as the petrol fuels it's intended to replace. Democrats support the subsidies, playing populist politics to win the favor of farmers and industry in the Midwest.

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