Now he tells us. Al Gore says his support for corn-based ethanol subsidies while serving as vice president was a mistake that had more to do with his desire to cultivate farm votes in the 2000 presidential election than with what was good for the environment.
"It is not a good policy to have these massive subsidies for first-generation ethanol," Gore said at a green energy conference in Athens, Greece, according to Reuters
. First generation refers to the most basic, energy-intensive process of converting corn to ethanol for use as a motor vehicle fuel additive.
On reflection, Gore said the energy conversion ratios -- how much energy is produced in the process -- "are at best very small." "One of the reasons I made that mistake is that I paid particular attention to the farmers in my home state of Tennessee," he said, "and I had a certain fondness for the farmers in the state of Iowa because I was about to run for president."
Federal ethanol subsidies reached $7.7 billion last year, Reuters said, and the bio-fuel industry faced criticism in 2008 as food prices rose with ethanol consuming ever more of the corn crop and drawing down feedstocks. Gore now favors second-generation ethanol, using farm waste and switchgrass to produce the fuel.
Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis, representing ethanol producers, took issue with Gore on Tuesday. "The contributions of first generation ethanol to our nation's economy, environment and energy production are not a mistake, but a success story," he said in a statement.
On the political front, Gore said he was not optimistic that Congress would pass a clean energy bill or climate legislation over the next two years with Republicans in control of the House of Representatives.