The Republican presidential candidates are undergoing a test of character this week as the Iowa press and special interest groups are dialing up the pressure regarding ethanol subsidies and mandates. The Iowa press and special interest groups have shown an eagerness to skewer any candidate who dares to question such government handouts and special favors, and the Iowa caucuses are perhaps the most important political contest of the primary season. Under these circumstances we are learning quite a bit about the character of the individual candidates.
Free-market conservatives oppose such subsidies and mandates. Moreover, ethanol mandates and subsidies force consumers to pay more for their transportation fuel, raise food prices by restricting food supply, place enormous new strains on limited water resources, encourage the development of marginal cropland, do not reduce carbon dioxide emissions, and increase levels of other air pollutants. On the other hand, they do help secure higher vote totals in an important primary state.
Republican presidential candidates may be tempted to support or acquiesce to business-as-usual ethanol subsidies and mandates that shore up Iowa vote totals, but I suspect that voters in other states will also be watching to see what stance the individual candidates take on ethanol subsidies and mandates.