Letters to the Editor

Ethanol defended

May 11, 2008

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To the editor:

As a corn farmer in Douglas County, I'm proud to say that the U.S. farmer produced more corn in 2007 than ever before in history, meeting expanding domestic needs and exporting a record number of bushels.

Ethanol has been accused lately for increasing food prices. Actual food inflation this year is estimated to be only 5 percent in the United States, even though many raw ingredients used to produce food have doubled in price, proving the efficiency of our food chain.

Agriculture prices and overall food prices are higher due to growth in foreign food and fuel demand in emerging markets, higher energy prices, bad weather, low productivity in parts of the world, export restrictions and the weak U.S. dollar. Preventing the use of biotech crops by foreign governments has slowed the growth of global food production.

Crude oil at over $110 a barrel is increasing the cost of everything we buy, especially fuel. Take away ethanol, and gasoline prices would be even higher, some estimate by at least $1.10 a gallon.

Ethanol is part of the solution, not the problem.

Pat Ross,

Lawrence

Comments

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 10 months ago

"I like thinking that in my case, it's at least 10% less oil I'm buying from people who hate us. "Given the amount of fossil fuels it takes to get that ethanol into your tank, at best, you're only decreasing your oil consumption by about 1%, and paying out huge subsidies to get it.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 10 months ago

I have no problems with limited subsidies to promote rational policies for the greater good. But subsidies whose only purpose is political pandering for the exclusive benefit very narrow financial interests are just plain stupid.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 10 months ago

Farmers should be free to sell their corn for ethanol production-- they just shouldn't be getting taxpayer subsidies for it, since it makes absolutely no economic sense. The amount of fossil fuels it takes to produce the corn, turn it into ethanol and get it into gas tanks makes it a Rube-Goldbergian process, at best.

Brent Garner 6 years, 10 months ago

The writer of this letter to the editor makes some very good points. However, I maintain that ethanol is still a false hope. Why?First, numerous studies have shown that even if the US planted ALL of its arable (farmable) land to corn, it would not produce enough corn to make enough ethanol to fuel our vehicles. Can't be done.Second, there is open debate on whether or not ethanol is a cost effective replacement for gasoline. Depending on how you count the cost of production, ethanol etiher comes out with either a slight edge or at break even versus gasoline/diesel. To be effective it needs to be less costly to produce than the fuel it will replace. Third, ethanol does not, on a unit volume basis, have the same energy content of gasoline. If you burn a gallon of ethanol versus a gallon of gasoline you will get less total energy out of the ethanol than out of the gasoline. Some reports I have read put that disadvantage at ethanol having 2/3'rds the energy content of gasoline. So, if you're going to burn ethanol in your vehicle it needs to cost approximately 2/3'rds what gasoline does. But, that is not what we see at the pump.Notice, I have deliberatley left out the argument as to whether or not the diversion of a food crop to make fuel has an impact on food prices/availability. Nor, have I gotten into the swamp of whether or not ethanol is an environmentally friendly fuel. There is plenty of debate on both those topics.

Moderateguy 6 years, 10 months ago

Regardless of environmental issues, (that is to say taking that part out of the equation for now) I like thinking that in my case, it's at least 10% less oil I'm buying from people who hate us. Anybody else receive photos lately in e-mail of some arab prince's newest multi-million dollar sickeningly gawdy car? I would rather keep at least a little bit more in this country if I can.Down the road, I would love some sort of next generation plug-in hybrid with wind / solar on my home.

MCwzMC 6 years, 10 months ago

"Ethanol has been accused lately for increasing food prices. Actual food inflation this year is estimated to be only 5 percent in the United States, even though many raw ingredients used to produce food have doubled in price, proving the efficiency of our food chain."----Sorry, I stopped reading after the first part of this sentence.Inflation of "only" 5%????? If that's not enough to prove that this guy has no idea what he's talking about, I guess the rest of the sentence makes it abundantly clear.-----"[E]ven though many raw ingredients used to produce food have doubled in price, proving the efficiency of our food chain."----Inflation is gaged on a mixed basket of goods - not merely food prices. If food prices and inflation increased in a1-to-1 ratio, then the only factor considered in the inflation index would be...well...food prices. What this "proves," is absolutely nothing. Thanks for the worthless propaganda.Ohh well, time to doll out more Agro-business welfare. Ethanol, farm subsidies, what's next? http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0508/10183.html

Eileen Jones 6 years, 10 months ago

Peak oil is here and just beginning to be felt, and we need every tool we can muster.Ethanol might not be the answer by itself. We need many solutions - wind, solar, wave, water power - as well. The key is to never, ever have the entire population of this planet dependent on one energy source (and one corporate cabal) ever again.Our city commission is so short-sighted they are trying to destroy a successful public transportation system at the beginning of Peak Oil. They should instead be improving it so more people will be able to use it, because people will.

jumpin_catfish 6 years, 10 months ago

With all the money spent on waging war or various other wasteful government enterprises (IRS) perhaps we could use that money to buy everyone a hybrid car or build a national solar complex.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 10 months ago

Yes, Marion, bio-fuels will be part of the future energy puzzle. But the source of feed stock will be the "waste" of agricultural production whose primary purpose is to produce food. We simply don't have enough arable land to do otherwise.

monkeyspunk 6 years, 10 months ago

Some notes about switchgrass:www.abcnews.com"Most ethanol produced in America is made from corn -- a less-efficient material than switchgrass -- but corn producers are supported by a large lobby and huge government subsidies. There is no similar lobby or investment for grass or wood."http://www.cattlenetwork.com/Content.asp?ContentID=219871"Like most plants, it does best on fertile, well-drained soils, yet it is considered both drought- and flood-tolerant.A recent study on switchgrass as a biofuel source:http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1950902/postsMore support for switchgrass over corn:http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?id=grass-makes-better-ethanol-than-corn

kansas778 6 years, 10 months ago

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus (Anonymous) says: Farmers should be free to sell their corn for ethanol production- they just shouldn't be getting taxpayer subsidies for it, since it makes absolutely no economic sense. ********Well I'll be, bozo is really a conservative...

bearded_gnome 6 years, 10 months ago

in this recent comment thread, a large number of articles were posted showing how ethanol is increasing world food prices, world famine, and domestic food costs. obviously, it isn't the only cause since gas prices are up. this includes: dramatic increase in the price of tortillas in mexico; canadian econ study of ethanol's effects; etc. if you're growing corn to burn in the gas tank, you're not growing corn to put into somebody's belly. the amount of corn needed to fill a tank of one SUV once, could feed a person for, I forget, something like most of a year. yes, I know they're two different kinds of corn, but that is immaterial; grow more of the human fodder corn and feed stock for animals, our food prices go down and less world famine. it ain't rocket science. http://www2.ljworld.com/discussions/stories/463173/

monkeyspunk 6 years, 10 months ago

Holy shuck! Why does this always have to come down to Corn Ethanol or nothing.Maybe you all are asleep but the end of corn for ethanol is already well on its way.The new farm bill will cut subsidies for corn based ethanol by 10% per gallon and increase the subsidies for switchgrass and wood chips up to a $1.01 per gallon. Whether or not it impacts food supplies and food cost here and abroad is irrelevant. Corn for ethanol is on it sway out. And this is a good thing. Switchgrass is a much more efficient source of ethanol than corn can ever be. It doesn't require as much water to grow and can be grown in a wider variety of places.Kansas should get on this train before it leaves. Keep our fuel dollars at home. Is it going to save us from our addiction to Mideast oil? Probably not, but if it can at least cut our need for it dramatically, or allow us to only import from more local sources (Mexico and Canada). Won't that be good for you, me and our kids in the long run?

ChestnutCharlie 6 years, 10 months ago

Pat's comments appear to come from a Farm Bureau news article by Bob Young, chief economist for American Farm Bureau Federation, April 21, 2008. Farm Bureau has a certain point of view which is bordering on misinformation and propaganda--it is, after all, a lobbying organization and isn't expected to be fair or accurate or complete. For instance, I'm convinced that inflation on fresh foods that I eat is far far higher than 5%. Pat, if you are reading this, I recommend the following article: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/11/opinion/11barber.html?_r=1&th&emc=th&oref=slogin

donnellgroup 6 years, 10 months ago

Ethanol subsidies, what a joke. What has the US defense dept spent to keep the shipping lanes open for oil over the last several decades? That's not to mention the subsidies and tax credits the oil companies have receive over the last several decades. The money ethanol receives or will receive will never come close to what the oil companies have picked up at the trough over the years. The good news is we will not need the US defense dept to watch over our corn fields. What are we going to do in 100 years when the oil is gone? Talking about the negatives of RENEWABLE resources will start to sound rather silly soon. Cellulosic is part of the answer, ethanol/cellulosic plants are part of the answer, Hydrogen, wind and solar are components as well.The studies done at Cornell have all be discredited. The DOE has said ethanol provides a net energy gain. Read about it for yourself, it's all on line.The USA can turn all of this into a huge win. I think we can all agree that it makes no sense to send so much of our hard earned money to the middle east when we can use that money to develop renewable resources.

BigDog 6 years, 10 months ago

Personally you are right farmers can sell their product as they wish .... but taxpayers don't have to subsidize it .... also not as worried about the corn as I am the amount of water used to irrigate these fields and the hundreds of millions of gallons of water used in corn farming and producing ethanol.People are worried about oil not being plentiful ..... how about water???

kansas778 6 years, 10 months ago

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus (Anonymous) says: I have no problems with limited subsidies to promote rational policies for the greater good. But subsidies whose only purpose is political pandering for the exclusive benefit very narrow financial interests are just plain stupid.*****You're halfway there bozo. Now you just need to take the next step and realize all subsidies are just political pandering for the exclusive benefit of narrow interests.

NoSacredCow 6 years, 10 months ago

Corn based ethanol contributes to smog. We're trading one form of pollution for another. At one time the City of Milwaukee had an ethanol program to lower the city's air pollution to stay within EPA guidelines but found that the smog levels actually increased with the introduction of ethanol. That was over 10 years ago. Since then other studies have been done yet they were ignored when Archer Daniels Midland and ConAgra were paying beaucoup bucks to lobbyists. So guess who won?http://www.stanford.edu/group/efmh/jacobson/E85PaperEST0207.pdfhttp://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?id=reduce-air-pollution-do-not-rely-on-ethanol

gr 6 years, 10 months ago

"Once the prairie (or other natural ecosystem) is disturbed, it can take a long time (as in beyond our lifetimes) for it to recover its fertility."Unlike rainforest soils which are unlikely to ever recover their fertility.

Godot 6 years, 10 months ago

The Federal govenment will soon, inevitably, because of the actions of the Federal Reserve and Congress, become the owner of hundreds of thousands of acres of what was once farm land that is now covered over with houses and concrete. Perhaps the best thing .gov could do with this worthless real estate would be to bulldoze it and return it to farmland, perhaps via a land rush similar to the one they had in Oklahoma.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 10 months ago

"Why worry about producing some fuel when we are wasting great quantities of resources in producing meat?"Producing meat is fine, but feeding cattle huge amounts of grain is unnatural, and creates many serious problems. Cattle are grass eaters, and humans, cattle and the environment do better when that's what they eat.

Jason Bailey 6 years, 10 months ago

Bearded_Gnome is right. It takes 480 bushels of corn to produce one tank of gas for an SUV. If a person consumes 2,000 calories per day, that same amount of corn will feed one person for one year. Where's the outrage from the human rights folks over this one!?If we took 100% of all corn produced in the US, it would amount to a paltry 18% of the US gas need. Taking corn and turning it into gas is nuts.The 5% inflation that the letter writer quotes is waaaaay off base as well. I've seen milk spike much more than 5% in just the past few months. Everything else seems to be trending above the 5% number as well.Time for the author to take his head out of the sand and actually look at what this is doing to people around the globe.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 10 months ago

"You're halfway there bozo. Now you just need to take the next step and realize all subsidies are just political pandering for the exclusive benefit of narrow interests."That's way more than halfway simplistic.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 10 months ago

"Perhaps the best thing .gov could do with this worthless real estate would be to bulldoze it and return it to farmland"Once the prairie (or other natural ecosystem) is disturbed, it can take a long time (as in beyond our lifetimes) for it to recover its fertility. The better idea is to stop sprawl now, and that includes many proposed projects in Lawrence. It's better to redevelop that which has already been destroyed/developed.

gr 6 years, 10 months ago

"If a person consumes 2,000 calories per day, that same amount of corn will feed one person for one year. "I'm not sure that people eat all that much corn. Now if you are intending it to mean planting that same ground to wheat, soybeans, and a variety of other crops, point taken.Now, what if instead of feeding cows, that equivalent food went to people? Are you for banning meat? If it "saved the world"? Why worry about producing some fuel when we are wasting great quantities of resources in producing meat?

Godot 6 years, 10 months ago

"May 11, 2008A Requiem For Ethanol (ADM)(AVR)(VSE)Very few people drive down the miles-long highways and dirt roads in the middle of the country to see combines cut grain and fertilizer trucks spread chemicals. The picture is not monochromatic, at least not up close.The expense of commercial fertilizers is so high that growing pastures for feed cattle is no longer viable. Processed human waste in pellet form is one of the few remaining methods for improving field production for crops which do not bring high prices. An entire segment of the agricultural industry is being forced to it knees.At the same moment, farmers of corn, wheat, rice, and soybeans cannot plant enough crops to keep up with demand. The price of fertilizer matters much less to them.New data from The U.S. Agriculture Department show a drop in total acres devoted to corn added to demand for ethanol production will keep prices for the commodity high through 2009. Corn now has to compete with other crops for yield-per-acre.According to The Wall Street Journal "the U.S. ethanol industry is projected to use a record four billion bushels of corn, or one-third of the harvest that U.S. farmers are expected to collect this autumn." The federal government has provided a number of incentives to keep the ethanol industry in business. The desire to replace oil demand is a powerful, but perhaps lost cause. At. least for ethanol.Wall St. is already creating the beginning of the end for ethanol stocks. Shares in Aventine Renewable Energy (AVR) are down to $4 from a 52-week high of nearly $20. Verasun (VSE) is off to $6 from a 52-week high of over $18 Of course, larger companies like ADM (ADM) have a small part of their business devoted to ethanol production, so small that the impact to the value their shares has been largely insulated.As the choice with commodities like corn moves to one of food versus fuel and commodities prices versus the price of gasoline, ethanol companies are bound to lose.Every once in awhile a promising industry grows up and then disappears, both in the matter of a few short years. The ethanol business is one of themDouglas A. McIntyre"

Bossa_Nova 6 years, 10 months ago

hey everybody, i work in this industry and my best advice for anybody i meet, is to learn to need less energy. i know that may not seem practical in the short term, but i suggest making changes now to be more efficient over the long haul, cuz this isn't going to get any better.

Bossa_Nova 6 years, 10 months ago

GRobviously you take great offence at my disregard for capitalizing my letters. honestly, i could care less. this is a blog, not an intensive writing composition class. those kinds of comments make you sound anal and looking for animosity. i seriously doubt most of the other people reading these commentaries care if i use capitals, apostraphe's, etc. most people are probably analyzing the content of my opinion to draw a conclusion towards my intelligence. as for "my logic". trust me, i'm not trying to be a hippie green freak. "my logic" is based on my experience in this industry and the information at my disposal. all i am saying is try to learn to need less energy, if you can. if you cant, ok, i personally dont care because its your money, not mine. i'm just trying to forewarn people who think we are going to miraculously get our cheap energy prices back. i would much rather see my fellow americans find ways to need less energy and not be slaves to overseas enterprises. but for those of you who insist that we are already doing everything possible to reduce our energy needs, then fine, ok. like i said, its your money, not mine.

gphawk89 6 years, 10 months ago

We don't have anywhere near enough land to grow the corn. We don't have adequate facilities to convert the corn to ethanol. We don't have adequate means to transport the ethanol to filling stations. Most filling stations don't have the means to store or pump the ethanol. Most cars still won't run on ethanol.We're stuck with crude for the foreseeable future. Maybe ethanol is a small step in a different direction, and it's bringing a lot of attention to alternative fuels, but it's not the answer to our problems.

gr 6 years, 10 months ago

Bossa, why NOT try to make yourself appear as intelligent as possible? Guess you don't care or are too lazy. Best of luck in getting people to take you seriously.

princetonmom 6 years, 10 months ago

What amazes me is that you folks who claim to be peace loving liberals are so nasty when you disagree with someone. It's unfortunate that you would resort to personal attacks on someone who is trying to do the right thing and simply wanted to share his opinion in a positive manner. Have a little class.Pat and other corn farmers are producing enough to produce ethanol and feed the world. The perception of a food shortage in the world in based more on growing conditions in other countries and their inability to produce enough wheat, rice, and other staple crops. Corn and other commodity prices are now being driven as much by hedge funds who have fled the stock market than by supply and demand. Ethanol is not THE solution, but a sustainable PART of the solution. You complain about farmers subsidies, but those help farmers in the times of low prices. Higher prices have SAVED the government over $11 BILLION in subsidies. Did you know that most of the "Farm" bill goes non-farm programs like nutrition programs, not farmers. Also, ethanol is subsidized much less than the oil industry and yes, I would rather buy part of my energy from Kansas than Qatar--any day of the week. Since when did the oil industry and the middle east oil barons become so beloved by our American people while our own farmers have become so despised?By the way--while driving my flex fuel vehicle today, I filled up for $2.78, and I sure felt sorry for those people paying $3.64 for regular!

gr 6 years, 10 months ago

Hey Bossa, To the left your letter "z" key is a wider key. It's used for capitalizing the first letter of sentences. You may want to give it a try. Hold it down while pressing another key. Who knows, it may help you seem more intelligent. Or perhaps the problem is with the key above it called, "Caps Lock". It can accomplish similar things.(Now, for your logic)If we have been saving energy all these years, like we were told to, how can we reduce more? Are you saying people waste energy, then save some, now saving more? Do you think it's like the daylight saving mentality? (Why, if I set my thermostat any lower during the winter, my air-conditioner is going to come on) Why do you think everyone is using excessive energy after all these increased prices and urging of reducing energy for many years?

Jason Bailey 6 years, 10 months ago

Give Bossa a pass....maybe he's using a Dvorak keyboard and GRs instructions on where to find the Shift key aren't accurate.After all, these boards are all about diversity, diversity, diversity -- unless you happen to be different from the regulars around here and then you're just a nutjob who can't use proper case in writing and we must all destroy you!

Bossa_Nova 6 years, 10 months ago

gr,why are you so obsessed with my lack of writing without capitals? you have strayed from the article and have decided to attack the way i choose to type. that clearly shows me that you are not interested or are uncapable of a serious discussion, or your way of arguing with someone, first starts with discrediting someone's intellect and then trying to apply a simplistic argument twisting that person's words around (this is common in people who have insecurity/confidence issues). for some reason, somewhere along the way i have offended you and your emotions are getting the best of you and you've started to attack the things that are irrelevant. as far as people taking me seriously, usually i have good feedback from these commentaries (oftentimes in agreement or disagreement, but usually well argumented, and i do welcome criticism if it's genuine and logical), unlike yours which is hellbent on attacking the way i key in the letters and simultaneously making simplistic arguments nearly unrelated to the substance of my comments. all i said was that we need to learn to use less. which started you off on a tangent about how you are already so efficient in your energy consumption and how we cant keep using less and how my logic was flawed, etc. ok, i get it! you know something that the rest of us dont and you have already perfected your energy consumption habits and there is definitely no room for your improvement. i'm proud of you! as for me, i know i can do better and improve and more so, i hate wasting money and i hate giving money to an entity that is already abusing my needs and is going to get worse as time progresses, therefore, i am looking for ways to keep from giving my hard earned cash to someone else if i dont have to. i dont know, is that flawed logic or the behaviour of an ignoramace? is wanting to keep my money and not give it to someone else so unintellectual? is trying to do things today that may save mine and my family's wealth in the future unintellectual? is it so intellectual to spend money when you dont have to? is being proactive, knowing what the future holds, so unintellectual? could be, according to you. but as for me, i prefer to keep my money. maybe that's the attitude that's gotten me where i am in life. i come from a very, very humble family and started from nothing and worked hard, and acquired nearly $1million in assets and i've not even reached my 35th birthday. oh well, i guess that's what happens when youre as unintellectual as i am.

uncleandyt 6 years, 10 months ago

Actual estimate... there we goThe turd salesman told me they were delicious.

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