A story released today bashes ethanol and blames the renewable fuel for a negative effect on the environment. To read the Associated Press story as published in the Huffington Post, click here.
Is the story really about ethanol? Yes. But the point of the story was equally about criticizing the Obama Administration for supporting ethanol, and timed specifically to coincide with an EPA announcement this week on the Renewable Volume Obligations as outlined in the Renewable Fuel Standard II.
Rumors are that the EPA will reduce the amount of corn-based ethanol gasoline retailers have to use in 2014. The RFS II mandates 14.4 billion gallons of ethanol be used next year. Speculation is that the EPA will announce 13.0-13.8 gallons instead which is an interesting change given that farmers fueled 13.8 gallons in 2013 during the worst drought in recent history.
The pressure and criticism the story placed on Obama’s support of the ethanol industry will make it that much harder for the EPA to stand behind the intent of the RFS which is to reduce American dependence on foreign oil.
Sadly, that’s what this is really about. It’s about ethanol; it’s about the Obama Administration. But it’s really about the oil industry fighting to deny ethanol “shelf space” at their stations. The oil industry doesn’t want consumers to see a liquid fuel that is a dollar cheaper than theirs. It doesn’t want to install E85 pumps and E15 pumps to give consumers the choice to fuel up with less petroleum. It doesn’t want consumers to have access to renewable, domestically produced, cheaper fuel.
All that aside, IL Corn understands that reading these attacks on a renewable fuel industry that you’ve built with your blood, sweat and tears is heartbreaking. If you are interested in responding to a local paper that carried any part of the AP story, you can download a draft Letter to the Editor here. IL Corn encourages farmers to edit the letter to provide a more local view.
And if you find yourself responding verbally to your neighbors at church or during the local pancake breakfast, familiarize yourself with the following talking points:
1. The AP story discusses land enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), yet the discussion around it misses the most fundamental facts regarding CRP.
- Only land that had a crop production history was eligible for CRP enrollment. This wasn’t virgin land to begin with.
- CRP acreage was capped at 32 million acres beginning in 2010, down from the previous cap of 39.2 million acres as a result of the 2008 Farm Bill. It is impossible to legally get back to the all-time high enrollment of 36.8 million acres (2007) because of this cap, not because of ethanol.
- While acreage cannot go back to its 2007 high due to the cap, acreage in restored wetlands and other high-value practices is likely to increase, according to USDA.
2. Current law strictly prohibits the conversion of sensitive ecosystems to cropland. The provisions of the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) require that corn and other feedstocks used to produce renewable fuels for RFS may only be sourced from land that was actively engaged in agricultural production in 2007, the year of the bill's enactment.
3. The Field to Market Initiative has documented that from the period 1980-2011 farmers have done a better job in managing soils, water, and nutrients and at the same time have increased productivity. For corn:
- - Productivity is up 64%
- - Land use/bushel is down 30%
- - Irrigated water use/bushel is down 53%
- - Energy use/bushel is down 43%
- - Soil loss/bushel down 67%
- - GHG/bushel is down 36%