Ethanol Industry Takes Environmental Group to Task

The ethanol industry has come together to take the Environmental Working Group (EWG) to task over their claims that American ethanol is not a sound strategy. The American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE), Growth Energy, the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA), and the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) have called EWG out on the table for what they claim is their misleading information about the ethanol tax incentive. A recent International Energy Agency report found that the world spent more than $550 billion in subsidies for fossil fuels in 2008. During the same time frame, the domestic ethanol industry only received $4.5 billion, which the ethanol groups are calling “a bargain by comparison.”

This attack is just one of several that various environmental groups have launched against the industry.

Also misleading, say the ethanol groups, is the discussion of tax incentives without properly attributing increases in economic activity resulting from these incentives. In 2009, U.S. ethanol production employed close to 400,000 people directly or indirectly and added more than $15 billion to federal, state and local government tax revenues while at the same time displacing more than 350 million barrels of imported oil.

“It is disappointing that some in the environmental community continue to have an irrational and unsophisticated notion of how to reduce fossil fuel use,” said Brian Jennings, Executive Vice President of the American Coalition for Ethanol. “Some say the solution is to get rid of corn-based ethanol today, in hopes that some other potentially promising, but not yet commercialized fuel will be available tomorrow. The result would be more pain at the pump and more pollution for the planet. Ethanol is the only commercially available alternative to gasoline today, and removing it from our nation’s fuel supply would mean more oil use – and we ought to learn from the painful and ongoing lesson in the Gulf of Mexico that more oil is simply not a sustainable path.”

Tom Buis, CEO of Growth Energy continued, “It is unfortunate that groups purporting to represent the environment are still criticizing the only alternative fuel — domestic ethanol — that reduces our dependence on foreign oil.”

NCGA President Darrin Ihnen noted that U.S. family farmers have provided Americans with more using less boasting five consecutive years of record corn crops on millions of acres less than previous years. “For American corn farmers, the ethanol industry provides the opportunity to add value added to our commodity while expanding the role of U.S. agriculture in our movement toward greater energy self-reliance. It needs and deserves the support it’s getting in Washington.”

Yet agricultural production is not the only industry improving –the ethanol industry continues to improve as well. According to a recent article in the scientific journal Biotechnology Letters, ethanol production alone has seen a 28 percent reduction in energy use, a 32 percent reduction in water use, and a 5.3 percent increase in ethanol yields all in less than a decade. Conversely, deep water drilling and tar sands extraction continue to drive oil’s carbon footprint even higher.

“America’s investment in domestic renewable fuels is only just beginning to pay dividends,” said RFA President and CEO Bob Dinneen. “Current technologies are directly replacing oil-based fuels in American gas tanks and creating tens of thousands of jobs. New technologies are coming online that will expand ethanol’s economic benefit while continuing to improve the industry’s environmental footprint and energy security contribution. The environmental community remains shortsighted in its dismissal of ethanol, particularly as the devastating impacts of our oil addiction are currently on full display.”

The groups reiterated that no other viable option to America’s addiction to oil exists today and stressed that ethanol is available right now. They concluded by stating, “Rather than erecting roadblocks, we would welcome the constructive input of the environmental community to expand our use of renewable fuels and reduce our need for oil. That starts by allowing the use of 15 percent ethanol blends.”

You can get more information about this issue by listening to my in-depth interview with Brian Jennings.

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