August 27, 2006 - Ethanol - The Controversy

Life is full of challenges and we weren’t promised that anything would be easy. That is certainly the case for corn growers and supporters of ethanol.

It took a couple of decades to get people to even recognize ethanol as a source of energy; then finally, it became part of the National Energy Program and now more people are jumping on the ethanol bandwagon every day and investing money in more plants to produce our own energy in this country.

But now there is a new challenge to ethanol and one we can’t ignore.
It was outlined in a recent Forbes article by Lester Brown. He is the President of the Earth Policy Institute and over the years has made some dramatic “the sky is falling” predictions. You may recall about 30 years ago when he predicted that half of the world’s population would be starving to death by the turn of the century.

That didn’t happen but we do need to pay attention to what he is saying in the article he authored for Forbes, an article headlined “Ethanol Could Leave the World Hungry”. He talks about the ethanol craze and states.... “We are facing an epic competition between the 800-million motorists who want to protect their mobility and the two- billion poorest people in the world who simply want to survive. In effect, supermarkets and service stations are now competing for the same resources.”

He goes on to say “The grain required to fill a 25-gallon SUV gas tank with ethanol could feed one person for a year. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, world grain consumption will increase by 20-million tons this year, roughly one percent. Of that, 14-million tons will be used to fuel cars in the U.S. leaving only 6-million tons to cover the world’s growing food needs.”

He is not alone because other people are raising the same question... Can we take food needed by hungry people to produce energy here in the United States?
I think we can because we are not really trading the food for energy. Supporters of this renewable energy know that once we take the ethanol out of the bushel of corn, there is still livestock feed, wet or dry digestible nutrients, that can feed livestock and poultry.

We need to continue to tell the positive ethanol story...it cuts our dependence on foreign energy; it’s produced by American farmers and processed by American workers; it benefits agriculture and the environment; and we do not trade food for energy. But, ethanol supporters, be prepared to respond to more Lester Brown-type stories because more people are joining his chorus.

My thoughts on Samuelson Sez.