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Ethanol detractors

Agriculture.com Staff 05/24/2007 @ 2:24pm

Ethanol's detractors have been around almost from the beginning, and we have heard most of their arguments for some time. Lately, it seems the opponents of ethanol have been getting more numerous and more strident in their opposition of ethanol having any future in our country's energy plan.

Ethanol will never replace gasoline gallon for gallon for many reasons. The main reason is that we do not have the corn producing capability to do so. Cellulosic ethanol is on the horizon, but until more research is done, it is too early to predict the impact of cellulosic ethanol.

What ethanol will do is offer another choice when filling at the pump. In Iowa, we can buy straight unleaded gasoline or gasoline with a blend of 10% ethanol. Typically, the ethanol blend is cheaper by five cents a gallon. Yesterday, I saw locally unleaded gasoline at $3.35 a gallon and the 10% ethanol blend at $3.29. Some places offer a blend of 85% ethanol. If your vehicle is equipped to burn it, there is an even greater savings.

The newly constructed ethanol plants have added to the refining capacity of our country, something that has been in short supply since the 1970s when the last crude oil refineries were built.

A Wall Street Journal editorial dated May 18 told of the problems ethanol has created because of the higher price for corn. According to the Journal, ethanol's increasing share of the consumption of corn has made it difficult for creators of corn sweeteners. The livestock industry and environmentalists are alarmed at what will happen to (what else?) the environment.

Last week I received a magazine in the mail titled The American. The cover told of an article inside the magazine that was going to answer the question, "Is the biofuels boom headed for a bust?" Opening the magazine to the page where the article began showed the article's title as "Biofuels or Bio-fools?"

The writer told of venture capitalists that were making large sums of money available to those people developing ethanol from cellulose. The article told of the political influence of ethanol going as far as using the term "Big Corn."

I have heard of Big Oil and Big Tobacco, but Big Corn is a first. The author used ADM as one of the members of Big Corn along with corn growers and organizations promoting renewable fuels. Use of the phrase Big Corn is a pejorative term and reveals the writer's agenda.

This same article referred to farmers as "bootleggers" referring to the days of Prohibition when bootleggers needed the law that created Prohibition to make their profits.

Toward the beginning of the article, the author told of an ethanol plant in the state of Indiana that was built in 1984 and produced a smell like "baking bread that had gone wrong." I live across the road from an ethanol plant and about twice a month when the wind is from the southwest (a requirement), I get a smell of fermentation. The mayor of our town described it as a smell like "stale beer" and I would have to agree. I have smelled worse, much worse, in my life.

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