Democratic Senate nominee Katie McGinty of Pennsylvania reaffirmed her support of federal ethanol subsidies and mandates this week — the same week a Philadelphia business explained the mandate is forcing it to lay off employees. McGinty’s ode to the biofuel also comes a couple of weeks after an academic study concluded ethanol may be worse for the environment than gasoline.

Given ethanol’s well-known environmental problems (even Al Gore says subsidizing it was a mistake) and its clear economic damage, it’s difficult to square McGinty’s enthusiasm for subsidizing the fuel with her image as a crusader for the planet and the working man.

When you see McGinty instead as a revolving-door green-energy lobbyist who uses her public power to enrich companies that in turn personally enrich her, her ethanol love makes perfect sense.

Here’s the background:

Ethanol is a fuel made from plant products, mostly corn in the U.S. It’s much less powerful than gasoline and cars cannot run on ethanol alone. The federal government has long subsidized ethanol, in the name of energy independence, helping farmers and helping the environment. Currently, Washington mandates the use of ethanol. Refiners are, in effect, forced to water down their gasoline with corn-juice.

Ethanol mandates are widely understood as corporate welfare that’s no good for the environment. Federal support for ethanol “was not a good policy,” Gore — an erstwhile ethanol booster — admitted in 2012. It was special-interest Iowa politics that made him support ethanol when he was still in politics.

Liberal New York Times blogger and former Nobel laureate in economics Paul Krugman summed up nicely ethanol’s impact: “Bad for the economy, bad for consumers, bad for the planet — what’s not to love?”

Pat Toomey, the incumbent McGinty is challenging, has repeatedly introduced legislation to kill the ethanol mandate. The Environmental Working Group applauded him for this, writing: “The corn ethanol mandate has failed to live up to its expectations, spewed millions of tons of greenhouse gases into air and polluted American waterways with chemical farm runoff. Worse still, the mandate has had other unintended consequences, such as engine damage and increased food price volatility.

McGinty supports the use of corn ethanol as a renewable fuel that can replace the need for some fossil fuels, according to her campaign,” the Associated Press reported Monday.

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Back in January, McGinty attacked Toomey for his efforts to end the boondoggle. “You know, Pat Toomey is also down there saying, ‘renewable fuels, we don’t need them,’ McGinty said at a farm event. “Well that’s a great market that our farmers were benefiting from. We do need that, and we will fight for it.”

In 2008, McGinty, serving as Pennsylvania’s Secretary of Environmental Protection said, “for corn ethanol, maybe at least for a time, we could dial up our enthusiasm.” She said it would be a “terrific tragedy” to end government supports for “corn-based ethanol.” McGinty walked the walk, too. When she left the state government, she took a seat on the board of Thar Energy, which developed ethanol technologies, among other “green-energy” products.

Jeff Broin is known as “Mr. Ethanol.” He founded Poet LLC, the nation’s largest ethanol company. Broin, also Poet’s CEO, has given McGinty $5,000, according to FEC records. Jeff Lautt, President and COO of Poet, gave McGinty the same amount on the same day, June 20.

But government subsidies and mandates aren’t free. They profit one company at the expense of another.

Philadelphia Energy Solutions, the East Coast’s largest oil refinery, announced recently it was hitting hard times. “Company pension contributions will be frozen, healthcare benefits will be cut, and buyouts will be offered to salaried employees, chief executive officer Philip Rinaldi said in an email to workers Wednesday,” Bloomberg News reported September 9.

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A main reason for the company’s hard times: “The company … said about $250 million in costs for government-backed ethanol blending credits this year and low fuel prices along with high East Coast inventories are forcing it to reduce spending in all areas,” Bloomberg reported. “It is draining our capital resources,” the company’s CEO wrote to employees.

McGinty’s professions of ethanol love last week came on the heels of a finding by scientists at the University of Michigan that “Biofuels increase, rather than decrease, heat-trapping carbon-dioxide molecules.”

But blending government power with private profit is the story of McGinty’s career. When she left an environmental-policy job the Clinton administration, she became a lobbyist for a company lobbying the Clinton administration on its environmental policy. When she left her job as Rendell’s Environment Secretary, she took jobs with companies she had subsidized.

So when McGinty says government should subsidize corn ethanol, it’s just more of the same: getting big government and big business in bed together, an arrangement that enriches insiders like Katie McGinty.

Timothy P. Carney, the Washington Examiner’s senior political columnist, can be contacted at His column appears Tuesday and Thursday nights on

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