Former Governor of Massachusetts Mitt Romney visited Iowa for the first time this year yesterday as he prepares to declare his candidacy for the 2012 presidential race. In Des Moines, Romney spoke about how Barack Obama has failed as a president “When it comes to the economy and jobs for the American people, President Obama has failed, his policies did not work.” Romney′s speech was interrupted when a popcorn machine set off smoke detector alarms, causing a brief evacuation. Iowa has been a touchy subject for Romney, who lost in 2008 to Mike Huckabee despite spending some $10 million dollars in the caucus state. Romney attempted to distinguish himself from Tim Pawlenty on the subject of continuing Federal subsidies for corn-based ethanol production. Pawlenty opposes the subsidies, Romney is in favor of them.

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So, on the one hand, Romney says that Obama′s policies are a failure and on the other hand, he agrees with Obama to continue corn-ethanol programs. Iowa and Illinois are among the top states in receiving Federal subsidies for growing corn to make ethanol. Ethanol has been depicted as a great way to reduce oil dependency as well as greenhouse gases. The E85 grade of gasoline is a mixture containing 15% ethanol, which, in the United States, comes primarily from corn. About 40% of the entire corn crop goes into making ethanol.

There is much debate on the soundness of the entire ethanol program. Do the benefits truly outweigh the drawbacks? A study by Cornell University professor David Pimentel shows that there is about a 41% loss of energy producing corn-based ethanol. That the amount of oil-based fuels and products used in growing, harvesting, transporting, and distilling corn into ethanol is far greater than whatever oil is saved by burning an ethanol-gasoline mixture fuel. Devoting such a large portion of corn production towards making ethanol also impacts the available quantities, and costs, of corn used for livestock feed and, of course, food for human consumption.

While ethanol-gasoline mixtures do have benefits in reducing automobile pollution, clearly using corn for its production is having a negative impact on the economy. Alternatives, loosely known as cellulosic ethanol, which uses non-edible parts of crops, such as corn stalks, as well as items like wood chips and possibly switchgrass and other forms of biomass, would result in maintaining the benefits of ethanol without the rising costs of food. Even a new study by the USDA, the World Agriculture Supply and Demand Estimates, shows that corn production and supply is at a 16-year low.

So with former governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney, getting his feet wet in Iowa for the first time this year as part of the 2012 presidential race, he supports the policy of Barack Obama in continuing the flawed corn-ethanol subsidy program. Romney claims that Obama′s policies are bad for the economy and jobs, so why does he favor Federal subsidies for corn-ethanol? Simple, Iowa is among the top corn producing states in the country. Meanwhile, former governor of Minnesota, Tim Pawlenty, has come out against the subsidies. Mitt also refused to commit himself to the Paul Ryan budget plan, something Pawlenty supports. Romney lost the Iowa caucus to Mike Huckabee in 2008 even though he outspent him. So will conviction and reason win the day? Or will politics as usual play itself out in the cornfields of Iowa?

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