We in the Corn Belt are supposed to celebrate the fact that Congress in October passed a production tax credit for ethanol. It is a piddling matter, really. While we are spilling blood for oil, the tax credit will allow for construction of two new ethanol plants in Iowa.
Still, in Buena Vista County, Iowa, we cannot buy E85 -- 85% ethanol blended with gasoline. The production tax credit may make us feel good. The fact remains that the United States is importing more foreign oil than ever and refuses to use viable alternatives.
We could be running this nation on biodiesel and ethanol if we cared to. But we don't. We would rather kill our sons and daughters in the Middle East, and plenty of Iraqi sons and daughters, too.
We asked Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa -- a champion of biofuels if ever there was one -- if he could imagine us weaning ourselves from oil in his lifetime.
"Maybe if I live another 30 years," he said.
Harkin went through the history: Jimmy Carter tried to get us into alternative energy 30 years ago. Ronald Reagan took office and told us to turn up the thermostat. Plundering of alternative energy development continued under George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton (Harkin's assertion, not ours) and George W. Bush.
Back on the home front, Iowa state Rep. Mary Lou Freeman, a Republican, has tried to raise the alternative energy requirements of utility companies. They beat her back, just like the oil lobby has beat back Midwestern members of Congress.
Harkin noted that there is hope in setting a renewable fuels standard in the energy bill. It would double the amount of ethanol consumed by 2012. That's still a piddling amount. And, the energy bill languishes in Congress because neither side wants an energy bill to pass.
If ever you wonder why we are in Iraq despite Saddam Hussein posing no tangible threat, think over the past 30 years of increasing oil dependence. And think about why a tax credit is hailed as a major development when, in fact, you can't even buy biodiesel in Storm Lake.
It's a sham that spills blood for oil.
The only way to make the US secure from attack is to divorce ourselves from Middle East oil politics. Osama Bin Laden attacked us not for our support of Israel but because our troops are protecting a corrupt Saudi royal family and their oil bounty. We defended Kuwait because of oil. We attacked Iraq not because of nuclear arms but because it has the second-largest oil reserves in the Middle East. It's a truth we ignore for our immediate convenience and at our own peril.