Though it is nominally called an "energy" bill, the Senate just passed the largest farm-subsidy bill in history:
The legislation would require ethanol production for motor fuels to
grow to at least 36 billion gallons a year by 2022, a sevenfold
increase over the amount of ethanol processed last year. It also calls
for boosting auto fuel economy to a fleet average of 35 miles per
gallon by 2020, a 40 percent increase over current requirements for
cars, SUVs, vans and pickup trucks.
The evidence is absolutely unequivocal that corn-based ethanol doesn't reduce net energy use, since it takes at least as much energy to grow and produce as it provides. It is even worse as environmental policy, since it almost certainly increases total pollution and CO2 production, particularly as ethanol is produced with Midwestern coal-powered electricity. In addition, it is going to cause marginal lands and open space to be brought into corn production, reversing a 70-year trend in the US towards increases in wilderness and forested land. It is going to increase fuel costs to no real purpose. This is dumb, dumb, dumb. So stupid that I can't even get the energy to criticize the new CAFE standards. If they really wanted to meet their goals, a carbon tax would have been cheaper and more effective, but that would have taken political guts.