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Your Opinion: Corn is food, not fuel

Your Opinion: Corn is food, not fuel

July 28th, 2012 by James H Beck, Holts Summit in News

Dear Editor:

Following is a single paragraph from correspondence sent to Missouri's US Congressional delegation, many state legislators, and local media in early 2009.

Increased demand for corn created by ethanol and the resulting decrease in stored reserves places an important part of our food supply increasingly at the mercy of cropping conditions. The prospect of a major or even moderate drought across corn-producing areas is an alarming prospect. It has happened in the past and it will happen again. If we continue down the current path we may parlay an energy crisis into an energy/food crisis.

Many news accounts report the effects of the 2012 drought on food prices. Few consider that we are using nearly 25 percent of corn supplies for ethanol production. Add that 25 percent back into the supply and the effects of the drought on food availability and price would be significantly reduced. And yes it is time to say: "I told you so."

The use of corn for ethanol reduces amounts available for food and also our long term ability to produce. We plow and plant more and more highly erodeable acres. Top soil lost is never replaced.

Even more alarming is the long-term effect on the availability of ground water. The Ogallala Aquifer (wikipedia) provides 30 percent of the ground water used for irrigation. Some experts say it will dry up in as little as 25 years. Yet we use more and more water on semi-arid lands to produce corn for ethanol production and the production process itself.

In 2008, Archer Daniels Midland, John Deere, Monsanto, and DuPont committed "big bucks" to promote ethanol and to convince consumers and politicians that farmers can produce enough grain for both food and biofuels. All four companies will gain from expanded use of ethanol.

I am not convinced. Unfortunately, there is no organized group to present the downside of the ethanol story. I am reminded every time I visit the gas pump or the grocery store of the many reasons we should not be mandating and subsidizing ethanol. I speak as a frustrated consumer, but I also know something about economics and agriculture.

Ethanol is an inefficient product produced by burning food. We should not be mandating or subsidizing its use.

Call or e-mail your congressional delegation, both state and federal. Demand that our fuel be food free.