Corn Growers Take 2 in the Ethanol Debate

Iowa Corn Growers Association leader notes a couple of new developments regarding ethanol's positive energy balance.

Sometimes the misinformation can be overwhelming, so confirmation for what corn growers have been saying for decades deserves attention. This week, a long-time ethanol critic noted for using obsolete numbers finally updated his information and proved ethanol's efficiency, and a national business publication reported on the financial benefits to consumers at the pump because of ethanol production.

"The naysayers' wall of misinformation is beginning to crumble," says Tim Burrack, a long-time Iowa Corn Growers Association leader from Arlington in northeast Iowa. "Corn growers have been touting the benefits of ethanol for more than 30 years and we pride ourselves on using sound scientific data to support our product."

A recent Natural Resources Defense Council analysis of energy balance concluded, like an earlier study at the University of California-Berkeley, that ethanol offers a positive energy balance, although how much energy is gained differs among ethanol production feedstocks and technologies.

Ethanol blends help stretch gasoline supply

Along with information about a positive energy gain, a Wall Street Journal article last week reported that ethanol production is expected to depress gasoline prices this summer.

A Merrill Lynch study quoted in the WSJ estimates that U.S. gas prices would be 15% higher without the increasing effect of biofuels - or more than $3.70 per gallon instead of the recent average price of $3.25 a gallon.

The Ethanol Promotion and Information Council reported last summer that ethanol reduced consumers' average cost of gasoline by 45 cents per gallon. "Corn growers are consumers, too, and we feel the effects first-hand of rising energy costs. What we are doing is looking at the problem and finding the best solution we can," says Burrack.

One of those solutions has been the improvements in ethanol production efficiency and the increased availability of E85 ethanol blends for motorists. Corn growers are also helping to ramp up production of ethanol on two fronts: increasing their ability to produce more corn per acre and to continue to fund research to improve the ethanol manufacturing process to produce more ethanol per bushel of corn.

"We are responding to the marketplace with our product just like any other business," says Burrack. "With planting right around the corner, the future for corn-based ethanol continues to be our most viable option for reducing our dependence on foreign oil, increasing our Iowa economy, and preserving our environment. It will continue to be an uphill battle getting ahead of the misinformation on ethanol, but this week we were glad to see some sensibility."

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