Earlier this week, in the wake of the expiration of some federal subsidies and protections for ethanol, agriculture industry giant Archer Daniels Midland announced that they were closing an ethanol plant based in Walhalla, ND. This wasn’t surprising news. Located far from the nation’s corn belt, the ethanol plant has been a marginal enterprise for decades now going through multiple closings and re-openings. The expiration of subsidies, not to mention tariffs on imported ethanol, all but put the nail in the coffin for the plant.
But now the politicians are rushing to keep the plant open. Former Governor, and current US Senator John Hoeven has requested that ADM consider alternatives to closing the plant. Now current Governor Jack Dalrymple wants the state’s Commerce Department to get involved:
Dalrymple has directed the state Commerce Department to work with ADM and local officials to analyze potential uses for the plant. He says Commerce also will help identify and recruit potential investors, and also is prepared to offer loan help, job training and other support programs.
Job Service officials also will go to the plant to help workers with unemployment and job-searching.
ADM is giving the workers severance packages and the opportunity to apply for jobs at other company facilities.
Republicans aren’t supposed to be in favor of picking winners and losers in the market place. Republicans, conservatives, are supposed to believe in free markets, and in free markets companies that can’t survive on their own are allowed to fail to make room for companies that can survive.
Both Hoeven and Dalrymple are Republicans, so why are they trying to bail out this ethanol plant? What other business, faced with going out of business, would get the personal attention of both a US Senator and a Governor? Shouldn’t all businesses be treated equally?
When are we going to admit that the only market that has ever existed for ethanol is one that the government has subsidized and mandated into existence? If ethanol can’t survive in the energy market on its own, then let it fail.