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Corn Growers: Ethanol Helps Economy, Environment

NCGA president responds to 'negative press' surrounding ethanol.

Last week, Jean Ziegler, a United Nations right-to-food expert, called the use of food crops for fuel a "crime against humanity", and urged a five-year halt to biofuels production. That charge plus the negative press generated from it prompted a response from National Corn Growers Association President Ron Litterer.

"Ethanol invokes a lot of emotions in those who are threatened by it. Some livestock organizations don't like an increase in feed costs," notes this Greene, Iowa, farmer.

"Big Oil sees a threat to market share. Environmental extremists see an opportunity to latch onto a manufactured crisis and win contributions.

"No one holds that ethanol is a cure-all for what ails a world so dependent on the internal combustion engine. But certain facts must be made perfectly clear," he adds.

Food-based ethanol is renewable and energy-positive. Its production results in more energy than it consumes. Its base crops are regrown each season, in an increasingly efficient manner.

Ethanol is greener and more sustainable than petroleum-based fuel. The Argonne National Laboratory has demonstrated that using ethanol produces 32% fewer emissions of greenhouse gases than gasoline for the same distance traveled.

In 2006, U.S. ethanol use reduced carbon-dioxide-equivalent greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 8 million tons. That's equivalent to removing the annual emissions of more than 1.21 million cars from the road. Whether you believe in global warming or not, this is good news.

Producing ethanol does not take food away from starving third-world children, as editorial cartoonists and U.N. officials claim. Corn used for ethanol is field corn typically used to feed to livestock.

Ethanol production results in the production of distiller grains and gluten feed. Both are fed to livestock and help produce high-quality meat products for domestic and export demand.

There's no corn shortage. In fact, there's still room to significantly grow the ethanol market without limiting corn availability.

Steadily increasing average corn yields and the improved ability of other nations to grow corn also make it clear that ethanol production can continue to grow without affecting the food supply.

Every year, (ethanol production) technology gets better and better, and new frontiers are explored, such as cellulosic ethanol.

"We agree with the Consumer Federation of America's recent research conclusion: 'Supporting increased competition in the automobile fuels market will help discipline a market dominated by a handful of multinational oil companies that are extracting monopoly profits from U.S. gasoline consumers.' " adds Litterer.

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