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Thursday, Aug. 23, 2012 07:08 am

Black liquor moonshine

Question: If you mix a cocktail of “black liquor,” biofuels, diesel and a generous splash of tax subsidies – then have it shaken vigorously by a U.S. senator and served in a golden goblet by corporate lobbyists – what do you call it? Answer: Koch Brothers Moonshine.

Black liquor is the key ingredient here, though don’t mistake it for an adult beverage like Johnnie Walker “Black Label” scotch or the relatively new wine named “Black Box.” No one drinks this black liquor moonshine. But fasten the seatbelt on your barstool, for you do pick up the tab for it – and the billionaire Koch boys do appreciate your civic generosity.

What we have here is an alcoholic sludge. Yuck! Yeah, you would never imbibe the nasty goo, which is a byproduct of the papermaking process, but it is a useful fuel that the industry uses to power its mills. Fine – it’s an example of creative recycling.

But, next thing you know, the scheming honchos of these very profitable paper corporations went from creative to cabal. Conspiring with Sen. Mike Crapo and other practitioners of the legislative black arts, they turned their humble sludge into a slick, $3-to-4-billion-a-year corporate welfare freebie.

In 2007, Crapo and a covey of corporate lobbyists quietly made their “liquor” eligible for a subsidy meant to help wean America off of oil by encouraging the production of a biofuel-gasoline mix to power cars and trucks.

Taking advantage of this subsidy meant for the common good is not at all fine. One, the subsidy for black liquor benefits so few at such a high price for no public purpose. Two, mill sludge can’t be used in vehicles, so the subsidy perverts the law’s integrity. And three, rather than adding a biofuel to their sludge, the papermakers add diesel! So these sneaks are siphoning off billions of dollars from a clean-fuels program by making a dirty fuel even dirtier.

Wait, there’s more. Crapo’s cynicism and hypocrisy are truly breathtaking, for this Idaho Republican routinely blasts other senators for making the federal deficit worse by creating tax loopholes for – hello – special interests. Moreover, not wanting to be seen as just another senatorial servant of industry, deficit hawk Crapo performed his black magic in the dark, working behind closed doors early this year to preserve the fuel-funding loophole for black liquor.    

Who’s profiting from this load of moonshine? Right at the top are the infamous, far-right-wing Koch brothers. The secretive multibillionaire political extremists have long been financing everything from dozens of corporate front groups to the tea party in their relentless effort to impose their plutocratic agenda on our country.

One major way they pay for this onslaught is by tapping directly into the blatant corporate welfare of the black liquor loophole. The Koch industrial empire includes Georgia Pacific, one of America’s largest papermakers, which produces such household products as Brawny and Sparkle brand paper towels, Dixie paper plates and paper cups, Angel Soft and Quilted Northern brand toilet paper, and Vanity Fair paper towels. GP – and the Kochs – are the happy recipients of as much as a billion bucks a year from the perverted biofuel subsidy.

A dirty windfall from a dirty fuel to underwrite dirty politics. You don’t need a bloodhound’s nose to sniff this one out. The whole thing stinks.    

Jim Hightower is a national radio commentator, columnist and author.  
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