Election 2008: Energy and Agriculture

With the hot-button issues of fuel, energy and food at the forefront of national and world debate, there is no question that rural America will have a huge impact on the outcome of the 2008 presidential election.

John McCain and Barack Obama both seem to realize how important the topics of agriculture and energy are to their success.

While on the campaign trail, both have agreed the United States must take steps to reduce our dependency on foreign oil, develop new technology and invest in renewable energy. The candidates understand the importance of ethanol, clean coal, lower consumer costs and a strong economy, but each has approached these goals in very different ways.

The biggest difference between the candidates’ plans are their views on the subsidization of corn-based ethanol and ethanol import tariffs.

According to a June 23 article in The New York Times, McCain strongly opposes continuing these multibillion-dollar annual payments and supports the removal of the 54-cent-a-gallon tariff on highly efficient sugar-cane ethanol. In a speech at Fresno State University in June, McCain cited the “unintended consequences” of global price distortion, high costs to consumers and a desire to “level the playing field” for all ethanol types as the reasons for his stance.

Other key components of McCain’s plan include uniform incentives for the purchase and development of flex-fuel vehicles, new nuclear power facilities, offshore drilling expansion and a $300 million prize for the development of a car battery that would jump-start the market for hybrids and plug-ins.

Obama is placing his bet on U.S. ethanol production and the continuation of subsidies and the ethanol tariff. According to his Web site, he will push for increased ethanol production and funding and research for new cellulosic ethanol development, which he believes is the future of the fuel market. Obama does not support offshore drilling or new nuclear power plants.

Obama presented his energy plan in a speech in New Hampshire in October of last year. He outlined additional portions of his proposed policy, including a focus on increasing regulations for power plants, capping carbon emissions, a $150 billion investment in clean energy development and an immediate push to phase out incandescent light bulbs.

While these two camps continue their battle for the White House, we are left to ponder the impact of their plans. Balancing our empty pockets and our desire for a healthy America will make this a tough decision. For now, the question remains: Who will be the best candidate for the American farmer?

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