Al Gore admitted today that corn ethanol was “not a good policy,” according to Reuters — but that’s not the end of the story.
Though he campaigned for ethanol in the past, Gore said,
“It is not a good policy to have these massive subsidies for (U.S.) first generation ethanol… First generation ethanol I think was a mistake. The energy conversion ratios are at best very small… It’s hard once such a programme is put in place to deal with the lobbies that keep it going… One of the reasons I made that mistake is that I paid particular attention to the farmers in my home state of Tennessee, and I had a certain fondness for the farmers in the state of Iowa because I was about to run for president… The size, the percentage of corn particularly, which is now being (used for) first generation ethanol definitely has an impact on food prices… The competition with food prices is real.”
Gore then went on to support so-called second generation technologies which do not compete with food, for example cellulosic technologies which use chemicals or enzymes to extract sugar from fiber in wood, waste or grass. He said,
“I do think second and third generation that don’t compete with food prices will play an increasing role, certainly with aviation fuels.”
Is this a genuine mea culpa on the part of Gore or crocodile tears?
If we turn to the investment portfolio of the venture capital firm of Kleiner Perkins Caulfield and Byers (KPCB) where Al Gore is a partner, we find that KPCB has invested in Mascoma Corporation, whose business is cellulosic ethanol. Here’s how KPCB’s web site describes Mascoma,
Leading in the development of bio and process technology for cost-effective production of cellulosic ethanol, an inexpensive and source of renewable energy. Cambridge, MA
In 2008, Mascoma received $61 million in financing from a group that included KPCB. In 2006, KPCB was part of a $30 million financing package for Mascoma.
And who knows what other cellulosic ethanol ventures KPCB and Gore have going?
The Reuters reporters didn’t ask Al Gore about his cellulosic ethanol business interests and, of course, Honest Al Gore didn’t volunteer those revealing tidbits either.
So while Al Gore appears to be lamenting bad policy that he supported, instead he is really just trashing corn ethanol in hopes of advancing cellulosic ethanol and his investment in Mascoma.