Traverse City Record-Eagle

August 21, 2013

Forum: Corn producers stick to facts, science


Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — As two of Michigan’s more than 20,000 corn farmers, we are not surprised by the recent actions of the major oil companies or shocked by how they are portraying the “evils of ethanol.”

The American Petroleum Institute recently began running a multi-million dollar ad campaign using misinformation in its goal to repeal the highly successful Renewable Fuel Standard.

The RFS was established in 2005 to lessen America’s dependence on foreign oil by introducing low-cost, eco-friendly biofuels, like ethanol, into the marketplace. The RFS has helped create jobs, improve our environmental footprint and cut gas prices. In 2012 alone, the RFS supported nearly 400,000 jobs across the country, displaced the equivalent of 465 million barrels of imported oil, lowered the price you pay at the pump by at least 89 cents per gallon and helped U.S. drivers regain control of their fueling options.

The actor-mechanic in the ads says that “there’s an EPA gasoline mandate that’s bad news because it diverts crops from food production to ethanol, and it could raise food prices too.” That contradicts what the World Bank reported earlier this year when they found that two-thirds of the rise in food prices since 2004 are the result of the increased price for crude oil.

API’s “mechanic” continues, “And AAA says too much ethanol could cause engine damage that’s not covered under warranty.”

This tactic brings powerful and respected AAA into the picture to try and provide credibility to the major oil companies’ argument. Well, the truth is that the study AAA was referring to was funded by, you guessed it, the American Petroleum Institute in a very limited study (eight engines). And the study’s procedures and validity have been widely questioned by experts, including Dr. Greg Davis, who has been doing ethanol-related research at Flint’s Kettering University for more than 20 years.

The real issue, of course, is protecting their market share. Since the RFS was introduced, access to ethanol blends (E10, E15 and E85) and increased use of flex fuel vehicles have absorbed 10 percent of their market share. Repealing the RFS is a first step in regaining their stranglehold on the market and limiting drivers’ fuel options.

Even though Americans have been burning ethanol in their gas tanks for decades — currently 95 percent of the gasoline sold is E10, a 10-percent ethanol-gas blend — the major oil companies continue to say that it will hurt your engine. Again, this is contrary to the facts. NASCAR has been using E15 ethanol in their expensive, high-performance vehicles for three years now and is nearing five million miles in use. And, after conducting six million miles of testing (on 86 engines), the EPA recently approved the use of E15 in all vehicles 2001 and newer.

Your corn farmer neighbors are proud of the fact that we are sharing our message using facts and science rather than scare tactics and smoke screens.

About the authors: Scott Lonier, president of the Michigan Corn Growers Association, is a fifth-generation farmer who currently farms nearly 3,000 acres of corn and soybeans with his brother Steve and his father Jim at Shady Lodge Farm, LLC in the Lansing area; Mark Kies, president of the Corn Marketing Program of Michigan, is owner of Kies Farms, LLC, in Allen, Mich. He currently farms 2,800 acres of corn, soybeans and wheat, and also raises beef cattle.

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.