Getting “Fired Up” About Ethanol

Today I had my first ever mini twitter debate and I must admit that I enjoyed it a bit.  If you’ve ever met me in person you know that I love a good debate and sometimes I may argue a point just for the sake of a good argument.  This morning I was just killing time on the internet and was reading a couple articles about lobbying going on in regard to the expiration of a tax credit for ethanol blenders as well as a tariff on imported ethanol and it got me into a ranty mood and led to an anti-ethanol tweet that sparked the conversation.

Obviously, as a pig farmer, I’m not a big fan of ethanol because it has raised the cost of my biggest variable cost (feed) while also impacting the demand for land and other inputs.  Beyond the farmgate, my problems stems from the fact that without government support and usage mandates, corn based ethanol would not exist beyond the cottage industry it once was.  It is a lower quality fuel in comparison to conventional gasoline and we lack the infrastructure required to transport ethanol because it cannot be sent through our pipeline systems that have been developed for petroleum products.  Furthermore, there have been countless peer reviewed studies that show ethanol to be, at best, energy neutral in terms of the energy needed to produce ethanol versus the amount of energy that it can provide,  (in fairness, there have been peer reviewed studies that have found a positive net energy balance).  At the end of the day, taxpayers are supporting an industry that makes their food more expensive under the guise that it is cleaner and will reduce foreign oil dependence; shaky conclusions that lack consensus in the research community.

But my loathing for ethanol goes far beyond the aforementioned reasons.  I find it morally unacceptable that we are burning food in our cars when there countless millions around the world and right here at home that that will go to bed hungry tonight.  My detractors will claim that we make enough food and it a problem of distribution.  In retort, I say first use our resources to fix the problems of distribution, then worry about how we can burn food in our cars.  I do believe that renewable fuels do have a place in our future, (Biomass, Miscanthus, etc.) I just don’t think that we should be building an entire policy around an inefficient process like corn ethanol.

I promise I won’t rant next time but once and awhile it feels nice


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