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Beall: No future in ethanol

BY MIKE BEALL | DECEMBER 18, 2013 5:00 AM

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There is “a war on corn” according to Gov. Terry Branstad — the Environmental Protection Agency has proposed cutting the amount of ethanol to be produced and blended into the fuel supply.

Last month, the EPA proposed reducing the amount of mandatory biofuel production next year to 15.2 billion gallons. That’s 3 billion gallons fewer than Congress mandated for 2014 in a 2007 law.

Branstad and other Iowa politicians are quick to blame the Obama administration and the EPA for being in the pocket of the oil lobby, conspirators set on destroying ethanol. These assertions are irresponsible, false, and frankly just plain silly. The EPA is not a friend of the oil industry; it is the industry’s biggest enemy.

Branstad contends that the cuts to ethanol will devastate Iowa’s economy. While it would certainly hurt, the governor’s claims are vastly exaggerated. The problem we are having in Iowa is not that ethanol production is being cut, it’s that no one in our state can have an honest conversation about ethanol.

Branstad can claim Big Oil is behind the proposed cuts, but it is a fact that Iowa’s politicians are siding with the agriculture lobby. These are not the mom-and-pop farms our elected officials claim to protect, it is big corporate farming.

Last month, Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds launched a website, www.ProtecttheRFS.com, to protect the bio-fuel industry’s interests. This website is littered with inaccuracies and exaggerations.
There are many reasons Branstad is wrong and that ethanol production should be cut, and none of them have to do with the oil lobby.

Ethanol is not better for the environment. Yes, on paper ethanol has lower carbon emissions than regular gasoline, but the manufacturing of ethanol creates more pollution than gasoline.

Ethanol is worse for cars than regular gasoline and has worse fuel economy. The U.S. Department of Energy reports that cars get 3 to 4 percent fewer miles per gallon using E10 fuel instead of regular gasoline.

Ethanol isn’t cheaper than gasoline. Ethanol prices fluctuate depending on the price of corn and can be more expensive than gasoline. The only reason it can seem cheaper is because it is subsidized by taxpayers.

Ethanol also diverts farmland that could be used more productively. According to a 2013 report from the National Corn Growers Association, 31 percent of the corn grown in the United States is used to make ethanol.

It is downright irresponsible to use food as a fuel source when large portions of our society and people around the world suffer in poverty. Ethanol also forces food prices up, which in turn pushes prices of almost every food product in your grocery store upwards. Ethanol, to put it simply, is a waste of food.

Outside of the cornfields of the Midwest, these arguments are widely entertained, but in Iowa, we are left in the cold. To talk negatively about the agriculture industry is to attack Iowa.

Never mind that there are really very few farmers in Iowa in the grand scheme of things.

The truth is that ethanol is not the future. Not for Iowa and certainly not for the United States. We are being tricked by a powerful industry into thinking what is best for them is what is best for the rest of us.


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