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Fall recap: An earful of ethanol

Jordan Anderson 12/17/2013 @ 3:03pm Digital Content Editor for Successful Farming magazine and Agriculture.com

Much has happened in 2013 for the ethanol-producing world: taking a look at new sources for ethanol, an inaccurate story instigating Twitter reaction, and markets looking to ethanol as both a worry and a possible helper to the corn industry.

Sweet spot for sugar

In August, word of utilizing sugar to produce ethanol came up in the Marketing Talk forum

Kstater85 posted, “Thursday, the USDA initiated a new “Sugar for Ethanol” program to mitigate the costly US sugar storage and reduce huge stocks estimated at 2.3 MMTs. It takes roughly 400,000 MTs of sugar to replace 20 Mil Bu of corn to produce the same amount of ethanol. Some commercials argue that at least 60-70 Mil Bu of corn will be replaced in ethanol produced by sugar.”

Sugar is more unstable than corn and highly flammable. Most ethanol plants use corn for production, and switching to sugar is not the easiest process. Sugar can be abrasive to a plant's equipment. The production process might exert emissions that violate the air pollution laws of the area.

November rolled around and ethanol plants bought sugar at almost a 90% discount.

Associated Press blowout

The Associated Press released a story November 12, 2013, revealing “The secret environmental cost of U.S. ethanol policy.”

 “For years, corn ethanol has been a centerpiece of America's green energy strategy. President Barack Obama and his administration have described this homegrown fuel as a way to reduce greenhouse gases and to wean the country off foreign sources of oil. But an Associated Press investigation examines the environmental impact of ethanol production. As farmers rushed to find new places to plant corn, they touched off a cascade of unintended consequences, including the elimination of millions of acres of conservation land.” 

Inaccuracies in the story sparked big reactions, giving AP an earful of the truth via tweeters utilizing the designated hashtag, #APFactCheck. 

Iowa Corn ‏@iowa_corn: What did the @AP get right in its story on ethanol? Not much: http://bit.ly/APFactCheck  #APFactCheck

Renewable Fuels ‏@EthanolRFA: AP should report the facts. No new grassland has been converted to cropland since 2005. #APFactCheck

ChuckGrassley ‏@ChuckGrassley: Total corn cropland going down: 2013 corn acres = 97 M 1930s = 103 M- New corn acres from switching crop switch not new acres #APfactcheck

Michigan Corn ‏@MI_Corn: Fact: MI #farmers have NOT increased acres planted to corn since 2007. Fact: Acres have decreased from early 80s Source: USDA #APFactCheck

doug sombke ‏@dsombke: Ethanol has not led to decrease in conservation land; '08 Farm Bill removed funding for 7 million acres http://1.usa.gov/1fmmYbe  #APFactCheck

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