Former Vice President Al Gore is admitting that he was wrong about “first generation” ethanol subsidies, calling them “not good policy” and admitting his support of them were clouded by his presidential ambitions.

From Reuters:

“It is not a good policy to have these massive subsidies for (U.S.) first generation ethanol,” said Gore, speaking at a green energy business conference in Athens sponsored by Marfin Popular Bank.

“First generation ethanol I think was a mistake. The energy conversion ratios are at best very small.

“It’s hard once such a programme is put in place to deal with the lobbies that keep it going.”

He explained his own support for the original programme on his presidential ambitions.

“One of the reasons I made that mistake is that I paid particular attention to the farmers in my home state of Tennessee, and I had a certain fondness for the farmers in the state of Iowa because I was about to run for president.”

Gore also said that rising food prices could be fueled by the ethanol craze. “The competition with food prices is real,” he said.

But Gore didn’t give up on a fuel subsidies altogether. Instead, he supports technology that extracts fuel from other things such as wood and grass. He called that process “second and third generation” ethanol, and supports it because he says it won’t compete with food.

UPDATE:

As Noel Sheppard over at NewsBusters reminds us, “Gore was the tie-breaking vote in the Senate mandating the use of ethanol in 1994.”

Sheppard shares his thoughts:

So more than ten years ago, Gore supported an expensive, “not good policy” because he thought it would help him get elected president.

Yet media don’t believe he’d misrepresent the threat of manmade global warming in order to become extremely rich.

UPDATE II:

As Hot Air’s Ed Morrissey points out, a 2005 Slate report shows that the next generation of ethanol production as touted by Gore is just as expensive as the “old” kind:

David Pimentel, a professor of ecology at Cornell University who has been studying grain alcohol for 20 years, and Tad Patzek, an engineering professor at the University of California, Berkeley, co-wrote a recent report that estimates that making ethanol from corn requires 29 percent more fossil energy than the ethanol fuel itself actually contains.

The two scientists calculated all the fuel inputs for ethanol production—from the diesel fuel for the tractor planting the corn, to the fertilizer put in the field, to the energy needed at the processing plant—and found that ethanol is a net energy-loser. According to their calculations, ethanol contains about 76,000 BTUs per gallon, but producing that ethanol from corn takes about 98,000 BTUs. For comparison, a gallon of gasoline contains about 116,000 BTUs per gallon. But making that gallon of gas—from drilling the well, to transportation, through refining—requires around 22,000 BTUs.

In addition to their findings on corn, they determined that making ethanol from switch grass requires 50 percent more fossil energy than the ethanol yields, wood biomass 57 percent more, and sunflowers 118 percent more. The best yield comes from soybeans, but they, too, are a net loser, requiring 27 percent more fossil energy than the biodiesel fuel produced. In other words, more ethanol production will increase America’s total energy consumption, not decrease it. [Emphasis added]