The New Republic reports that retired general and former presidential hopeful Wesley Clark has become an unlikely champion of the ethanol industry.
Earlier this year Clark was appointed co-chairman of Growth Energy -- a DC-based group that advocates for ethanol use. After his failed presidential bid in 2004, Clark, who was largely overlooked by the Obama campaign in 2008, took up the biofuels cause.
"I'm happy to talk about ethanol, I'm a big believer in this thing, but I'm a businessman!" Clark exclaimed, pounding the table for emphasis. "I want to actually build things that hire people and change America, not just talk about it."
Despite ethanol's shortcomings -- the industry is dependent on billions of dollars in federal subsidies and hasn't proven to be an environmentally-sound substitute for gasoline -- Clark holds firm to his belief in the alternative fuel. Growth Energy has brought in a team of experienced Washington professionals to help craft an aggressive political approach.
Still, Clark's public speaking engagements on ethanol use rarely touch upon the environmental case for ethanol -- he also works for a Canadian-based petroleum company that is exploring shale gas in the United States.
In a Growth Energy press release announcing his appointment, Clark touted the benefits of ethanol fuel:
"Ethanol is America's best renewable fuel because it can help create green-collar jobs, boost our domestic economy, and improve our environment right now," General Clark said.
The president of the National Corn Growers Association sent a memo to his association's state branches warning that a feud between Clark's organization and the Renewable Fuels Association was hurting the industry's lobbying efforts:
Growth Energy said it would not agree to arbitration with the Renewable Fuels Association because its lawyers said doing so may violate anti-trust laws.