If you've been reading this blog for long, you know I have a certain passion for justice and have a particular interest in agricultural policy; not enough to be an expert, but enough to write about it from time to time. For example, this post, written in response to an Economist article about "The End of Cheap Food" that linked rising food costs to American ethanol and Western agricultural subsidies. It's the second in a series of 5 or 6 (at least) food-related posts I wrote in December, January and February.
Anyway, this morning I was disheartened reading an article in the NY Times entitled, 'Obama Camp Closely Linked With Ethanol'. I also read a few weeks ago that he supported this year's farm bill, which, in addition to sustaining enormous grain subsidies for agribusinesses, also proposed to significantly decrease welfare/food stamp funding 5-10 years from now.
This concerns me for several reasons. 1) In today's NY Times article, it mentions his stance against foreign ethanol (the article mentions Brazilian sugar cane ethanol), because it doesn't 'reduce foreign dependence', despite the significantly lower amount of energy required to produce sugar cane ethanol. In a world where energy is in increasing demand, it seems off to reject a fuel that is more energy efficient in favor of a fuel that gets you elected by supporting subsidies for it. And that doesn't even touch on the foreign policy side of things - what's wrong with buying fuel from Brazil? (I'm sure there are many issues here, especially considering I know very little about the working conditions of sugar cane plantation employees or how sugar cane ethanol revenue would be used in Brazil...but I digress).
2) I am also concerned because it seems to me that Mr. Obama is backtracking. Or flip-flopping, however you'd like to look at it. When he first started campaigning, and even as recently as a month or two ago, his speeches were peppered with language about a new kind of politics, a kind of politics that isn't based on the interests of powerful lobbying groups or controlled by "corrupt", old-guard politicians. Between this stance on ethanol (i.e. support for agribusiness) and his recent rejection of public financing for his campaign, I'm less than impressed with Obama's "new way of politics". It doesn't look much different than the old way from where I sit.