Gifts Under $30 Gifts Under $50 iPhone Emergency SOS Saves Man MyHeritage 'Time Machine' Guardians of the Galaxy 3 Trailer White Bald Eagle Indiana Jones 5 Trailer Black Hole's 1,000 Trillion Suns
Want CNET to notify you of price drops and the latest stories?
No, thank you

The new ethanol mantra: American as apple pie?

Ethanol is moving full speed ahead, thanks in part to government subsidies. But's Charles Cooper says it's only a half measure--and an expensive one.

In the battle for congressional funding, sounding the national security alarm is a proven winner.

So it is that the Renewable Fuels Association--yes, there's a trade group for everything under the sun, folks--is arguing that renewable fuel is "critical to reducing dangers associated to increasing foreign oil dependence."

That's the headline of a press release which crossed the wires earlier today. And to be fair, you can make a strong argument that energy alternatives, which include renewable fuels, offer a way out of our reliance upon Middle Eastern (and Venezuelan) oil.

The problem with ethanol, as I and others have written in this space, is that it's only a half measure--and an expensive one. Not to mention that there's an opportunity cost: Inefficient investments in biofuels means that those same billions of dollars don't go into developing better ways of generating energy.

But so far, the RFA's argument is working. Ethanol production is moving full speed ahead, thanks in part to huge government subsidies. Based on the RFA's own statistics, ethanol capacity in this country increased by 1.1 billion gallons last year and by about 700 million gallons more through July.

Back to Washington today where the RFA trotted out choice quotes from a seminar featuring former Director of Central Intelligence R. James Woolsey. I suppose we're meant to be impressed, but the CIA doesn't have the best of reputations these days. And in case you weren't paying close attention, Woolsey was one of the talking heads regularly featured on cable television during the run-up to the Iraq War warning about WMD stockpiles. (His predictive track record for the post-war period was similarly unimpressive.)

But maybe if Iraq was overflowing with ethanol it would have been worth it? Just kidding.