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Corn+Soybean Digest

Defending Ethanol’s Benefits

I’m about to get over my anger at the major news media for their incessant attacks on ethanol. I’ve reached a new level of resignation combined with ridicule and contempt.

When will we get some relief from discussing food vs. fuel, energy balance, and Amazon forest clearing?

We in the corn industry have visited news organizations, written letters to editors, visited legislators, and issued press releases. We never quote Missouri Corn. We have quoted experts, economists, and universities. We have carried and broadcast the research and findings of the U.S. Departments of Agriculture, US Department of Energy, Argonne National Laboratories, and the EPA. Universities such as Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of California Berkely, and others.

Our opponents offer “some consumers say”, “Senator blank claims”, “many believe”, etc.

We have fully proved our case. Yet the misinformation, misrepresentation, and urban myths keep getting repeated over and over and over. At what point does the media become embarrassed at repeating the same, already proven wrong mantra. Much of the media seem to relish promoting the best voodoo research that the oil companies, OPEC, and Hugo Chavez are able to buy.

Take for example the Amazon Rain Forest lie. Very little research is required to learn that Amazon Rain Forest destruction reached a 20 year low in 2007, the same year that ethanol production peaked in the United States. Our CEO Gary Marshall just returned from Brazil where he was told that the forest destruction was driven by illegal timber harvesting and cattle ranching. Yet Time Magazine made a cover story recently that was based on the assumption that ethanol was adding to carbon emissions because of rain forest destruction.

How many times have we seen in print, or heard, the energy balance of ethanol questioned. The usual statement recently is simply that “many question how much energy it takes to produce ethanol”. Fair enough. There are still some that question the world is round but you don’t usually see them referenced in newspapers. Why do we have to continue to prove that statement wrong over and over again, especially when it is so easy to do? At what point does a reporter feel silly by including such a statement in his writing?

I know that my frustration is felt by thousands of farmers and tens of thousands of consumers that understand the implications of being dependent on foreign oil. I know because I’m asked every day by people to step up to the plate and start defending ethanol. They have no idea how much effort Missouri Corn is putting into this battle. But it is easy for them to see and understand that the ethanol industry is being attacked and denigrated by ignorance, false knowledge, and wrong facts.

Would anyone care to guess where this constant drivel comes from? Who benefits by making consumers think that ethanol is bad for their cars, makes food costs skyrocket, and pollutes the environment. Who else might have a dog in this fight that would make it worthwhile to spend tens of millions of dollars for their effort?

I heard something really funny on TV the other day. Oil company executives were being grilled by US Congressmen about their record profits. One by one, the executives slandered the environmental benefits of ethanol. Has everyone forgotten what these guys are selling? Isn’t it pure carbon, dirty, diminishing, monopolistic petroleum that kills when it spills? They think ethanol is bad? Give me a break. Oh, excuse me – I said I wasn’t mad any more.

Well, whether we are mad or frustrated, we have to keep plugging. Now is not the time to give up and go home. All we can do is flood every negative article with responses giving our side of the story. Eventually, truth has to win, doesn’t it? Apparently, many feel it is their duty to attack ethanol daily or weekly. It is our duty to make them pay by suffering letters from irate farmers. If we don’t do our job, they win.

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