I wrote this column in response to an editorial in the Rochester, MN Post-Bulletin. The column in its entirety may be read here.
Bill Boyne's Jan. 13 column criticizing ethanol was so dreadfully jam-packed with fictitious blather, it read either like a piece Big Oil might have penned or as something that is uninformed about how transportation fuels really work.There are many reasons to support ethanol, today and tomorrow, especially when it is the only alternative to oil that is improving conditions in our nation today and has the potential to do even more good in the future.
Boyne expresses concern about air pollution, but apparently doesn't know that fossil-fuel based gasoline remains the largest source of man-made carcinogens and the number one source of toxic emissions, according to the EPA. Ethanol burns cleaner than fossil fuels, period. Blending ethanol into gasoline reduces harmful tailpipe emissions of carbon monoxide, particulate matter, and other ozone-forming pollutants. Making sure ethanol has a future in our fuel supply is a must-do for the sake of America's environment and for all who breathe the air.
Ethanol's environmental benefits remain true even when looking at its lifecycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, contrary to what the cynics would have you believe. The most recent study of ethanol's lifecycle emissions shows that modern corn-based ethanol reduces GHG emissions 48 to 59 percent below gasoline. This is a significant reduction and will only improve as new technologies come online.
Indeed ethanol's best days are ahead and if we embrace the request pending before EPA to grant up to 15 percent ethanol in gasoline. Job creation in America can be driven by the color green – just look at the example of expanding ethanol production. The economic activity surrounding the U.S. ethanol industry supported the creation of nearly 500,000 jobs in all sectors of the economy, and moving to E15 would create another 130,000 jobs.
Boyne evidently believes abandoning ethanol today will usher in a utopia of electric cars zooming up and down the roadways. Yet, for the potential benefits, electrification of autos is years from prime time, so the practical result of moving from ethanol today would mean greater reliance on foreign oil. A recent report by the Center for American Progress indicates the United States is spending $1 billion a day on overseas oil. Ten of the countries we buy oil from are on the U.S. State Department's Travel Warning List, meaning they are dangerous and unstable.
Ethanol is as an alternative to buying oil from these foreign nations, an alternative that's here today instead of a future technology that might still be decades away from reaching the consumer.
And what about the trendy criticism Boyne latches onto, that corn ethanol forces so-called land use changes to occur which create friction for food needs and the environment? A record U.S. corn crop was grown in 2007 of 13.1 billion bushels. The 2009 corn crop surpassed that at 13.2 billion bushels.It's important to note that the new record of 13.2 billion bushels was grown on 7.1 million fewer acres than were used to grow the previous record. Land use changes indeed occurred – fewer acres used to produce more corn.
Thanks to new technologies, increasing corn yields mean farmers can be more productive on the same amount of land – supplying plenty of corn for feed, food, and fuel. The idea of the "large-scale conversion of forest and grassland to corn production" simply is not true. The hard work and ingenuity of America's farmers and entrepreneurs has built an ethanol industry in this country, one that has proven benefits today and a bright future tomorrow.
Posted by: Brian Jennings
Brian is the executive vice president of the American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE), the nation's largest ethanol advocacy association with 1500 grassroots members nationwide.