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Talking Energy With a Texas Republican

Tuesday, 24 Jun 2008 | 6:26 PM ET

Ethanol is an experiment gone awry. What was hoped to be a cleaner-burning gasoline has caused more problems than it ever solved.

The demand for the corn used to make ethanol has pushed up food prices across the board. Farmers plant corn instead of wheat to fetch higher prices for their crops. Now there’s a wheat shortage. Americans are paying more for their beef, chicken and pork because expensive corn has pushed up livestock-feed costs. (Just ask Tyson Foods or Pilgrim's Pride.)

Cramer's Crackin' Corn
Discussing the ethanol mandate, with Sen. Hutchison, and Mad Money host Jim Cramer.

But has Congress recognized these problems and done anything to correct its own ethanol mandate? No.

“You would think that Congress would see the light and that we would at least put a freeze on the mandate,” said Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, “and let us look at the other forms of alternative fuels to make up the difference and try to get corn prices back in line.”

“Unfortunately, however,” the Texas Republican told Cramer today, “remember you’re dealing with Congress.”

Hutchison has introduced legislation to freeze the biofuels mandate at its present levels, instead of letting it increase steadily through 2022, as the current law stipulates.

Responding to a question about finding a much-needed balance between environmental concerns and the fierce urgency of now when it comes finding new energy sources, Hutchison said the U.S. needs to focus both short and long term.

The search for clean alternative energy is imperative, she said, but for right now we need to maximize the energy we have available to us, even if it’s in the form of fossil-burning fuels.

“We’ve got to get these prices of gasoline down at the pump,” Hutchison said. “We’ve got to get food prices down to help American families and small businesses.”

As for the environmentalists that are so concerned about offshore drilling, Hutchison said “it looks like the environmentalist community went to sleep in 1950 and haven’t woken up yet.”

Technology’s come a long way in the past 20 or 30 years – when’s the last time you heard of a nuclear accident? – enough that offshore drilling and other “risky” forms of energy development can be done safely, she said, “and that’s what we ought to be doing to bring the price down.”

“I’m an environmentalist. She makes sense to me,” Cramer said. “I think you should stick with the senator.”


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