Traverse City Record-Eagle

November 24, 2013

Forum: Article biased against Ethanol production


Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — By Paul Wagner

An Associated Press story published in the Nov. 13 Record-Eagle told a one-sided story that ignores the benefits of ethanol.

The Renewable Fuel Standard, which calls for blending ethanol into our transportation fuels, saves U.S. consumers money by driving down gas prices, sparks new investment and rural economic development, and reduces our addiction to foreign oil.

Unfortunately, the article presents a biased account of corn farming and ethanol production that ignores these benefits while giving oil companies a free pass.

The RFS brings down the price of gas at the pump so American consumers can keep more of their hard-earned money. In 2011, U.S. drivers saved an average of $1.09 a gallon because of the RFS. And unlike oil companies, which continue to receive $4 billion in taxpayer support despite continued record profits, ethanol production is not subsidized.

In Michigan, investment in ethanol is paying off for our communities, including northern Michigan. According to a recent Michigan State University study, the RFS generates $433.3 million in economic activity for our state each year. That’s money that goes back into our local community, supporting our local businesses and farmers and driving investment and development in our rural areas. Ethanol is produced right here in Michigan using Michigan workers and locally-grown corn. When we use more ethanol, we help diversify our energy choices and reduce our dangerous dependence on oil. That means more of our money stays here, instead of being sent overseas to buy foreign oil, often from countries that are hostile to the U.S. and our way of life. Last year, the RFS reduced U.S. reliance on foreign oil by $44 billion and replaced the need for imported oil by more than 462 million barrels.

The alternative to diversifying our energy mix is continuing to rely on foreign oil for our fuel needs. We’ve already seen the dangerous and deadly consequences of the status quo.

Numerous peer-reviewed studies have documented the significant benefits of ethanol for our air, water and land. According to the Argonne National Laboratory, corn ethanol reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 34 percent compared to gasoline.

The Associated Press article presents cherry-picked facts to falsely claim that ethanol production uses up more land when the truth is that today’s farmers are producing higher yields on each acre of land due to new technology. Tom Vilsack, the U.S. secretary of agriculture, recently told reporters the total number of acres in the nation’s conservation stewardship programs has actually grown by 71.5 percent. At the same time, the total acres of land used for corn in Michigan have decreased by 15 percent over the last 30 years.

The choice is clear: ethanol is better for the environment, and better for Michigan consumers, businesses and communities.

About the author: Paul Wagner is a fifth-generation farmer who co-owns and operates A&P Farms in Grawn. He is a board member of the Corn Marketing Program of Michigan.

About the forum: The forum is a periodic column of opinion written by Record-Eagle readers in their areas of expertise. Submissions of 500 words or less may be made by emailing letters@record-eagle.com. Please include biographical information and a photo.