Newt Gingrich Panders to Corn Belt, Eyes 2012 GOP Bid

Today, Newt Gingrich spoke at the Iowa Renewable Fuel Association Annual Summit. Here is a link to his speech. Remember, Gingrich is no dummy, he is an accomplished author and holds a doctorate from Tulane University. Despite this, he engages in the usual pandering to the farm state promoting policies that are fiscally irresponsible and destructive towards America. Unfortunately, this pandering has been shown to be widely successful in helping launch presidential campaigns.

An excerpt of the important parts of his speech:

5:40 in: “This is why the people who talk about food versus fuel are just plain, flat wrong. (HUGE APPLAUSE). It is factually untrue. If anybody has created a problem with food on the planet it is the European opposition to scientifically developed food…

And I feel this very deeply. We have had a problem of farm income back to the 1890s and 1880s. The fact is that everytime the farmers start to do well someone starts to attack them. And it makes no sense. If you take the current price of corn and you realize that the diesel fuel to carry the box of corn flakes to market is 3 times the cost of the corn that is in the box of corn flakes. So why are we attacking the farmers for being productive.

And the fact is if you look at ethanol production you are getting both ethanol and food-stock out of exactly the same bushel, because we are more and more sophisticated about how to do this, and as productivity goes up over the next 10 or 15 years we are going to want to have increased production of biofuels not decreased, because we are going to be able to meet both the worlds food needs and increasingly help the world meet its food needs by using modern science and modern technology.

And frankly, the other thing I find infuriating about the big city attacks is, this is one industry which brings high paying jobs and highly skilled people back to rural America, and there are now counties where the 1st or 2nd largest taxpayer and employer in the county is in fact producing biofuels, and I think that is a good thing for rural America. It is great to have jobs that our young people can go to so they can stay at home if they want to and have a good job being productive, earning a good living and doing something they find interesting, and I find it distressing sometimes when folks in big cities decide they will dictate on their terms having ridden the mass transit down to the office that they walk to that they will then decide what should happen to people in rural America, and it usually means people in rural America won’t do as well. “

It’s depressing that Gingrich, much like Bob Barr and Al Gore, is willing to shed intellectual honesty to win votes. Did Gingrich discuss the idea that “food versus fuel is plain, flat untrue” with his colleague Robert Hahn at AEI? Or his colleague Kenneth Green? Or his colleague Kevin Hassett? Or the thousands of non-partisan academic studies completed on this very subject? I am reminded of a joke told to me by a co-worker, that if the first caucus was in Hawaii we’d all be putting pineapple juice in our tanks.

He went on to suggest that the biggest impediment facing the ethanol industry is the lack of a mandate on flex-fuel vehicles, much like Growth Energy’s fueling “freedom” plan (see CEI’s take on the fueling freedom plan). If history is any indication, support for ethanol will not be going away anytime soon.

His entire speech is disingenuous. He makes a valid complaint about the slowness of EPA to approve E15 (though doesn’t suggest an alternative) yet also somehow supports the idea that the government should mandate the type of fuel Americans put in their cars.

In suggesting that someone file a FOIA request for information on the E15 decision, he acts as if it doesn’t take time for testing to be completed and sent to the EPA for their support. I would love for the EPA to not have any authority over what Americans put in their fuel, but if you’re going to have the Congress mandate biofuel usage then the auto-companies are going to need governmental approval so they don’t get sued ten different ways (and knowing American lawyers, they still might).

A final, very ironic, quote: “Nobody who testifies against it comes in with engineering tests. They come in with opinions normally based on interest groups.” If you’re looking for an honest conservative leader to run the country, look elsewhere.