Tom Vilsack — former two-term Governor of Iowa, strong biofuels supporter, and former democratic candidate for president himself — has been leaked as President-elect Obama’s frontrunner for Agriculture Secretary.
From a biofuels standpoint, the choice of Vilsack would be a clear indication of the direction an Obama administration would likely take. As a political leader from a corn farming state, Vilsack has shown strong allegiances with the corn ethanol industry in the past and has been an outspoken advocate of alternative energy.
Yet, although Vilsack has ties to the corn ethanol industry, he has also shown an understanding that the future of biofuels lays in non-food sources. From an interview last year, Vilsack stated:
“Don’t assume that I necessarily think corn is the answer. I think it was a great way to start the conversation but in the long run there is not enough corn and we do not want to create a competition between food, fiber and fuel.”
“We need to encourage the research and development of alternatives to corn. We also need to take a look at the tariffs in terms of Brazil. We need to reduce and ultimately eliminate those tariffs, bring the Brazilian ethanol into this country, create a demand for E85, put pressure on Detroit to create more flexible-fuel vehicles and you’re going to see a growing economy and a less-dependent oil economy.”
With those statements, it seems Vilsack clearly agrees with John McCain that the Brazilian ethanol tariffs should be eliminated. This was somewhat of a hot topic during the presidential campaign and was brought up several times in the debates.
In the past, Obama has defended the ethanol tariffs saying that it doesn’t make sense to replace one foreign source of energy with another and that “the U.S. needs to dramatically expand domestic biofuels production, not embrace a short term fix that discourages investment in the expansion of the domestic renewable fuels in industry.”
If Vilsack does become Agriculture Secretary under President Obama, it should be interesting to see how the two reconcile their differences over the Brazilian ethanol tariff situation.
Source: Biofuels Digest
Image Credit: Wikimedia in the public domain