It’s hard to hail from the tall corn state and not be assumed pro-ethanol. But there is no assuming with Tom Vilsack, President-elect Obama's pick for Secretary of Agriculture. Obama selected the former Iowa governor in part for his staunch advocacy of ethanol and other bio-fuels as a way to reduce the nation’s reliance on foreign oil.
One of the first major decisions Vilsack may have to make is whether to grant the ethanol industry’s request for billions of dollars in federal aid in the stimulus bill. That should be an easy decision, as Obama has already announced support for this aid.
A tougher decision for Vilsack is whether to continue supporting biofuels subsidies, which may come under attack with overall budget cuts.
Vilsack also will battle the ethanol industry on his earlier remarks about eliminating the tariff on sugar-cane ethanol produced in Brazil. In the past, Vilsack has suggested elminating the tariff so that America receives a steady supply of ethanol that pushes car manufacturers develop the flex-fuel vehicle industry.
Still, it will be tough for the ethanol industry not to like Vilsack. In several op-ed articles he published during his short-lived campaign for president in 2008, Vilsack said “Let us build a 21st century rural economy of cutting-edge companies and technologies that lead us to energy and food security. Such an investment will revitalize rural America, re-establish our moral leadership on climate security and eliminate our addition to foreign oil.”
How can you argue with that?