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Media survey: Politicians rethink food-based ethanol

Drawbacks appear in a process once touted as an answer to global warming.

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The Mid Missouri Energy ethanol plant rises out of the cornfields near Malta Bend, Mo. The plant takes about 20 percent of the 90 million bushels of corn grown in the surrounding area to produce ethanol

AP Photo/Southeast Missourian, Aaron Eisenhauer

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Not too long ago, corn ethanol was being touted as the energy wave of the future for fighting global warming. It was said to be much better than coal and oil, those carbon-based sources of greenhouse-gas emissions.But lately the drawbacks to this form of energy production have become more obvious, its critics more vocal, its supporters on the defensive.For one thing, there's evidence that the rush to produce ethanol made from corn is contributing to the recent rise in domestic food prices.Late last week, two dozen Republican senators said they wanted to ease the congressionally mandated requirement that more ethanol be blended into the gasoline supply. Among those GOP lawmakers is presumptive presidential nominee Sen. John McCain of Arizona, who's been critical of ethanol subsidies. A Wall Street Journal article noted that:

"The move by the Republican Senate group is the latest sign that Washington's support for turning corn into motor fuel is wavering in the face of soaring food prices, despite the popularity of ethanol subsidies in farm states critical to the November election…. There are also signs of anti-ethanol backlash at the state level. The governors of Texas and Connecticut have requested that the EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] issue waivers from the mandate, arguing that the ethanol impact on food prices is too onerous."
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