In the waning days of the lame-duck Congress, a bipartisan fight is brewing over federal handouts to encourage production of corn ethanol, with competing letters urging the continuation or end of these subsidies.

The 16 senators calling for the end of ethanol subsidies come from across the political spectrum: From senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) on the left to Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Jim Webb (D-Va.) in the middle to Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) on the right.

But a group of bipartisan Midwestern senators have responded with a letter of their own. The signees include Sen. Debbie Stabenow teaming up with likely presidential hopeful John Thune (R-S.D.).

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The overwhelming evidence from scholars all across the spectrum shows that ethanol subsidies benefit a well-protected industry at the expense of everyone else. Even green guru Al Gore wants the subsidies to end. As a Capitol Confidential story quotes from one expert:

Contrary to popular belief, ethanol fuel does little or nothing to increase our energy security or stabilize fuel prices. Instead, it will increase greenhouse gas emissions, local air pollutant emissions, fresh water scarcity, water pollution (both riparian and oceanic), land and ecosystem consumption, and food prices.

Milton Friedman once said that nothing is as permanent as a temporary government program. But if our newly elected Congress is serious about cutting spending and removing unnecessary government programs and subsidies, one can hardly think of a better place to start than corn ethanol subsidies.

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