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Friday, November 9, 2007

Lame: Obama on Social Security, Corn Ethanol, Coal

posted by on November 9 at 11:18 AM

In the past few days, Obama has made, to my mind, several serious blunders on major policy issues. First, he bashed Hillary Clinton for her position on corn-based ethanol—not because she used to support heavy subsidies for corn production, but because she backpedaled on that support. ďItís hard to believe that she is a strong ethanol supporter given her track record and this is something that represents a major reversal and what we need is consistency on these issues.”

Then he said he did not support legislation that would reform an 1872 law that allows mining companies to mine on public land without paying royalties—because, he said, it “places a significant burden on the mining industry and could have a significant impact on jobs (in rural Nevada) given the difficulties the industry is already facing in maintaining its operations.” That significant burden being, um, making them pay any royalties at all? And don’t even get me started on his position on “clean coal.”

Finally, Obama declared yesterday that Social Security was in “crisis,” and slammed Clinton for failing to acknowledge it and come up with a solution. That’s a 180-degree turnaround from just two weeks ago, when Obama said definitively that “Social Security is not in a crisis.”

RSS icon Comments

1

What's going on with him? I feel like he's having some sort of meltdown recently. I wasn't planning on voting for him, but I used to very much like and admire him. And now ... not so much.

Posted by arduous | November 9, 2007 11:21 AM
2

I may disagree with him on all three things - the insane mining law that allows me to mine for diamonds on Bill Gates property for 1 cent an acre, the ethenol subsidy only for corn while we bar cheaper cane sugar and switchgrass from the same subsidy, and even Social Security which just needs to either remove the earnings cap entirely (best choice, funded until 2200) or lift it to 1 million dollars (second best, funded until 2150).

But I still think he's the best choice to serve as VP for President Al Gore. And if Al won't run, as President.

Posted by Will in Seattle | November 9, 2007 11:22 AM
3

Yeah, he seemed really cool and interesting until I started actually looking at his positions on things. Can we please stop blowing the corn industry please?

Edwards is looking better and better . . .

Posted by Levislade | November 9, 2007 11:23 AM
4

@ Will in Seattle, I think it's time to stop carrying a torch for Gore. It's November. New Hampshire is two months away.

Posted by arduous | November 9, 2007 11:30 AM
5

re: social security....

obama @ the dem debate: "I absolutely agree that Social Security is not in crisis. It is a fundamentally sound system, but it does have a problem, long term....And if we don't deal with it now, it will get harder to deal with later."

a Q & A w/ obama: "Senator Clinton says that she's concerned about Social Security but is not willing to say how she would solve the Social Security crisis, then I think voters aren't going to feel real confident that this is a priority for her."

seems more like a simple semantic blunder than a "180-degree turn". but that's just my spin.

Posted by brandon | November 9, 2007 11:33 AM
6

Amazing that no one brings up lifting the cap on Social Security taxes. Except for Will, of course.

What's going on with Obama? I want Edwards to win, but as my primary is late in February I've been planning to vote for whomever has a chance at beating HRC; I was thinking Obama may be that guy but now I don't know if it'll go that way...

Posted by Dianna | November 9, 2007 11:35 AM
7

I'm wondering how much of the corn slobber goes away after Iowa. That's what it really is: pandering. But Obama's always been seriously wrong on these issues. What needs to happen is for someone to say "You know what? I'm going to lose Iowa for this, and I don't care. Corn is bullshit. It's destroying the land, the rivers and the sea. We ought to tax the hell out of it, and STOP all corn-based ethanol and biodiesel research and production. Y'all are going to have to find something else to grow, which is going to suck for you, but it's time to stop pretending that the rest of the country propping you up is anything other than a bad idea".

Then duck.

Posted by Fnarf | November 9, 2007 11:41 AM
8

@7

Fnarf for President!

Posted by you | November 9, 2007 11:45 AM
9

I get the feeling Obama's campaign advisors are in some kind of panic mode and are trying to micro-pander their way to victory in some key primary states, but it makes him look like he's trying to pass Ms. Clinton way to the right.

It also makes him look like he is channeling positions that aren't a product of his own independent thought.

I hope someone writes a good book about the insides of his campaign when this is all over.

Posted by mirror | November 9, 2007 11:48 AM
10

Obama: the candidate for change (of stance)!

I'm glad that cracks are now showing in the facade. Obama is fluff.

Posted by mjg | November 9, 2007 11:58 AM
11

Pandering is the wrong choice for Obama - it goes contrary to his basic message.

That said, expecting any presidential candidate who has a chance to stand up against corn ethanol subsidies at this point (right before the Iowa vote) is just unlikely.

[caveat - I own 400 shares of Valero Energy from an IPO, they make corn ethanol]

Posted by Will in Seattle | November 9, 2007 12:04 PM
12

"Desperation is a stinky cologne."

-Police Chief Grady, _Super_Troopers_

Posted by Big Sven | November 9, 2007 12:10 PM
13

Fnarf:

You do realize biodiesel isn't made from corn, right?

Making biodiesel is inherently better since you don't have to ferment anything to get oils. Lots of good low-input oilseed crops exist for temprate climates, and even just growing soy industrially is better than corn, if for nothing else than it fixes its own nitrogen.

Canola biodiesel has a 4 to 1 energy return on input. Corn ethanol is 1.5 to 1. Bioidiesel is not an Archer Daniels Midland/Cargill plot the way corn ethanol is.

Posted by Some Jerk | November 9, 2007 12:19 PM
14

ECB:
You're taking his Social Security stuff and cherry-picking quotes from longer statements, then turning them into single-phrase "declarations." I know it helps make you sound like you know what you're talking about, but really this is all about Obama going on the offensive against the only female candidate, isn't it?

Posted by Hater | November 9, 2007 12:29 PM
15

Some Jerk: you CAN make biodiesel from corn oil, and the only reason it's not an ADM plot yet is because they haven't gotten there yet. In terms of handing out billions of dollars for research, ADM would make biodiesel out of their grandmothers if it was feasible.

But yes, canola and soy are better than corn. Palm oil -- a big source of biodiesel, maybe the largest -- is even worse than corn, but in countries where Americans don't give a shit if people starve, like Malaysia.

I thought ethanol was something closer to 0.75 to 1 -- a net energy loss, once you count all the inputs.

But there's a lot more to crops of any kind than energy inputs and outputs. Washing the top ten feet of the state of Iowa down the Mississippi into the Gulf has all kinds of negative consequences -- New Orleanians should be blaming Iowa, in part, for their travails after Katrina, for instance.

I'm really unconvinced that agriculture is going to solve our energy problems. I support research, but I'd love to see the agricultural subsidy universe collapse completely.

Posted by Fnarf | November 9, 2007 12:34 PM
16

ECB, NPR's Morning Edition reported this morning that your gal stiffed a waitress in Iowa. Did you hear the report?

Posted by Luigi Giovanni | November 9, 2007 12:49 PM
17

yeah this is some serious cherrypicking, someone's on hilary's mailing list.

Posted by Kevin Erickson | November 9, 2007 12:52 PM
18

@16,

That story was slogged the other day. It's apparently bullshit. Hill tipped $100 on $157 bill and the restaurant owner kept it for him/herself.

Posted by keshmeshi | November 9, 2007 1:18 PM
19

ok, fuck ethanol, fuck coal, obama's out.

electricity, hydrogen.. hello?

Posted by Cale | November 9, 2007 1:50 PM
20

Palm oil may not be done sustainably at the moment, but it is quite an oil producer: north of 500 gallons/acre, vs about 50 for soybeans. Not really a food crop like corn, either.


But really, getting the demand up for first generation feedstocks is the most important driver of things like algal biodiesel, which do have a chance to make a serious dent in CO2.

Posted by Some Jerk | November 9, 2007 1:57 PM
21

Plus, algae is a lot more stable and easier to ship.

Posted by Will in Seattle | November 9, 2007 3:27 PM
22

@18
Your spin is bullshit.

Let the readers listen to or read the report themselves:

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=16143435

Posted by Luigi Giovanni | November 9, 2007 5:27 PM
23

Cale-

Electricity and hydrogen aren't fuels, they're just energy transfer mechanisms. The hydrogen has to come from water and the energy it takes to make the hydrogen is more than what you get from burning it (turning it back into water.) You can liberate hydrogen from hydrocarbons, and the carbon sequestering is easier to manage than in burning hydrocarbons. But you're still relying on hydrocarbons.

Biofuels: what about sawgrass? Not my expertise, but doesn't that shit grow in all sorts of places that don't support edible crops?

Posted by Big Sven | November 10, 2007 12:08 PM
24

(1) Luigi, you'll be happy to note that MSNBC determined that the tip was paid...

http://firstread.msnbc.msn.com/archive/2007/11/08/455077.aspx

"'They paid their bill, and they left a tip,' said Brad Crawford, manager of the Maid Rite restaurant in Toledo, Iowa. 'Everybody was satisfied. No question about it.'"

(2) I FUCKING love it that the Clinton campaign had a Fact Hub right off their front page dedicated to addressing blogs and rumormongering. After seven years in the wilderness, I can't WAIT for the Clinton political machine to be back in charge.

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