The Way I See IT

Politically motivated decisions often get in the way of meaningful progress
By Mike Bryan | April 01, 2002
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For some years now, I have been far more involved with the production side of the ethanol industry rather than the political side, so I am admittedly a political neophyte compared to our folks in Washington. Perhaps that is why I simply cannot understand all of this nonsense going on in California

It appears that it is not okay to import ethanol from the Midwest, but it is okay to import oil and MTBE from other countries? It is not okay to pollute the air in California, but it is okay to pollute the groundwater? And it is not okay to push back the implementation of clean air regulations that govern automobile and industrial emissions, but it is okay to push back the ban on MTBE and the implementation of the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS), both of which could have significant impacts on the air and water quality in the state.

The confusing part to me (this must be where my political naivet starts showing) is that some things have virtually no support outside of the political arena. That would clearly include the postponement of the ban on MTBE. Who supports that concept? Certainly not the general public, and it appears that most of the oil industry doesn't even support it. The environmental groups are opposed to any action that would continue the pollution of California's ground water for yet another year. Yet politically it is portrayed to be a "big win" for California.

I don't recall the last time a group of Midwest farmers decided to hold a state hostage for ethanol. And it's pushing the envelope of one's imagination to envision tanks from the California National Guard rolling into southern Minnesota in order to secure the continued flow of ethanol. Personally, I think that ethanol supply had nothing to do with Governor Davis's decision to push back the ban on MTBE (hmm!). No, I think it was one of those politically motivated decisions (double hmm!).

The farmers I've met in California are no different than the farmers in the Midwest; they all want to do something to add value to the crops they grow. And right now, they must be wondering why their governor would not encourage the development of an ethanol industry in the state (even if at first it is imported from the Midwest), when there is a need from Sacramento to El Centro to support a desperate rural economy.

Politics. . . it's a way of life round the world, but for the average person, it sure seems to get in the way of common sense.

Mike Bryan
President, BBI International