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Senator Daschle May Have An Alcohol Problem.

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South Dakota Democrat Senator Tom Daschle
is the main author of a mandate to double the use of ethanol alcohol and
may have a real problem
with this.  [Wall street Journal 9/25/03: Daschle’s
Ethanol Dilemma
– requires subscription for online access.]

This is part of the energy bill in conference right now and will
raise gas prices by $33 billion over the next four years. Other ethanol-loving
senators include Democratic Senators Evan Bayh and Russ Feingold, both from
two of the largest corn-producing states (5th and 6th – the Wall Street Journal
didn’t list the names of those from states 2, 3 and 4. What are the odds they’re

The Wall Street Journal advises Republicans to let the Dems have
their gouge on gas in return for getting them (the Dems) to agree to allow
drilling for oil in the Alaskan wilderness:

"In the eternal battle between principle and pork, we know what usually
wins in Congress. If Republicans play their cards right, they may be able
to force Tom Daschle to make such a choice and get new Arctic drilling
in the bargain." [WSJ]

As the railroad tycoon said to the reporter : "The public be damned" (circa

But don’t feel bad – this alcoholic binge hits
California even harder than the rest of the country, thanks to the White
House insisting that we
continue to use MTBE or ethanol in our gasoline. MTBE is a gasoline additive
(an "oxygenate") meant to reduce pollution and it does that. It’s
also a hazard to health and the country’s water supply. Senator

"U. S. EPA has indicated that ‘MTBE is an animal carcinogen and has
a human carcinogenic hazard potential.’
" There are acute effects in occupationally-exposed workers, including headaches,
dizziness, nausea, eye and respiratory irritation, vomiting, sensation of spaciness
or disorientation and burning of the nose and throat."

And it is polluting groundwater and wells as you read this, reducing

the availability of drinking water throughout the country. California was
the first to decide to do something about it, but then the feds stepped in. Rep.
Henry Waxman testified to the problem
at an April 23, 2002 hearing on
energy policy :

" Faced with over 10,000 MTBE contaminated sites in California, Governor
Davis decided in 1999 to phase out the use of this terribly polluting fuel
additive. To facilitate the phase out, the state of California requested
a waiver of the federal oxygenate requirement for reformulated gasoline.
This waiver would have allowed the state to maintain the cleanest fuel
standards in the country while shielding California consumers from gasoline
price shocks…
EPA’s technical staff examined the facts and found that a waiver
was warranted.

Unfortunately, the White House reversed EPA’s decision after meeting
with special interests
. As a result of the Bush Administration’s decision,
the Governor has had to delay the ban on MTBE to avoid dramatic price increases
at the pump. This means California groundwater will continue to face the
threat of contamination."

California is still fighting. In July 2003 a federal
appeals courts ruled
that: "The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was wrong in denying
California an exemption to federal regulations on the content of its gasoline…
Ethanol producers said they hoped the EPA would stand by its earlier decision."

In the meantime, we’re still getting it in the gas.

Background: major corn-producing (and legislation-influencing)
states are South Dakota, Indiana, Wisconsin, Michigan, Missouri and Ohio. [See
also: Republican Senator Voinovich’s "Ethanol is good for Ohio" to
get a reading on how they’re doing
If you’d like to try
to influence the outcome, contact your Senator or Representative.

More background: it costs about $1 million to clean
up an MTBE-contaminated well, $5 million for a reservoir, and there are tens
of thousands of contaminated sites around the county.

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About Hal

  • Ralph Del Rio

    More ethanol means changes in farm subsidies. Anyways, I think it goes without saying that we need to become more energy self sufficient. So perhaps some wheeling and dealing can jump start all sorts of activity regarding energy production.

  • Phillip Winn

    I used to live in South Dakota, the place Senator Daschle still visits at least once per year and pretends is his home. Oddly (from the perspective of everywhere else I’ve ever been) the 89 octane fuel there was cheaper than the lower-grade 87 octane fuel. Why? Because the 89 octane fuel contains ethanol, of course, and so was subsidized in some way.

    No real substance to add to this conversation, sorry.

  • warren meyer

    First, keep up the fight!

    Second, though, your attribution of the public be damned I believe is incorrect. As you can imagine with many anti-business quotes, its not really in context. I believe it is from a Vanderbilt decscendent running the NY Central. It was in response to a question about running more limited trains (non-stop trains, particularly between NY and Chicago) to satisfy public demand for speedier transit. The NYC exec said I believe “the public be damned, I’ll run limiteds because the Pennsylvania [RR] runs limiteds”. If I am right, then your date is off as well since the great business battles of the limiteds occured in the early 20th century.

  • warren meyer

    ok, I was half right. The context part was right but it was earlier than I thought – in 1883.

  • Hal Pawluk

    Re: (3, 4)

    I removed the incorrect date, but my usage is appropriate.

    The original statement was made by William Vanderbilt and here’s one version of the story:

    ‘In the late 1880s, the New York Central railroad decided to discontinue the Chicago Limited, a fast, extra-fare passenger and mail train which ran between New York and Chicago. Reporters interviewed William Henry Vanderbilt, son and heir of the Commodore. They asked, “Don’t you run it (the train) for the public benefit?” Vanderbilt’s famous answer, “The public be damned”…’

    It gained a lot of notoriety and came to used when businesses and others did not live up to their responsibilities to their customers and constituents.