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OUR VIEW: Biodiesel, government and jobs


What can the government do to create jobs? The biodiesel industry provides an example.

The Sioux City Journal recently reported: “For much of last year, the Western Iowa Energy biodiesel plant (in Wall Lake) limped along with a skeleton staff, but after federal lawmakers renewed an expired federal tax credit last December, the plant ramped up production and recalled dozens of idled workers.”

That supports a later contention by the National Biodiesel Board that “without the incentive, production dropped dramatically last year as dozens of plants shuttered and thousands of people lost jobs. Since its reinstatement this year, biodiesel production is thriving, with plants ramping up production again and hiring new employees.”

However, many taxpayers don’t want the government doling out subsidies in any form; they want jobs created via lower business taxes and decreased regulation.

Would they make an exception, considering the dismal state of our economy? A short-term exception?

When it comes time to count votes, we’re guessing they might. The nation has changed, and whatever matters most to this or that voting bloc, jobs now matter more.

The way we see it, using tax incentives to put people back to work is an easy choice – for now.

Here in the home of the World Food Prize, however, it seems clear that feed grains cannot serve as the predominant answer to our energy problems. We can debate whether corn-based ethanol or soy-based biodiesel is a better place to focus attention, but we shouldn’t get too starry-eyed about either one.

A few years ago, researchers at the University of Minnesota compared those two forms of fuel and, along with their conclusions about energy-per-acre and toxic emissions, wrote: “There is a great need for renewable energy supplies that do not cause significant harm and do not compete with food supply.”

For now, boost employment. As soon as possible, shift resources to find even better forms of energy.

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