Ethanol Under Siege
It’s interesting to me that of all the criticisms targeted at modern agriculture, ethanol keeps getting a lion’s share of the negativity. Since corn-based ethanol first started gaining steam in the mid-2000s, it has been regularly labeled by opponents as a wasteful government-sponsored bonus for corn growers at best to a sinister ploy to take food out of the mouths of hungry Americans at worst.
And I’m not alone in seeing this tide of venom when it comes to ethanol. At the recent Commodity Classic show in Tampa, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack weighed in on the anti-ethanol debate. “Those that seek to slow down the biofuels movement don’t understand the importance of this effort,” said Vilsack. “It’s irritating to me that we have to read about this food vs. fuel issue all the time. I’m convinced U.S. growers can meet all our needs without anyone suffering.”
Now, at least one Senator is getting in on the anti-ethanol act. Earlier this month, Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) proposed an amendment to the small business reauthorization bill that would immediately repeal the Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit. If passed, the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) explains what this could mean for the nation’s fledgling ethanol industry.
“If this amendment passes, it could result in the ethanol industry reducing its production volume by 38%,” said the NCGA release. “That is approximately four billion of the 10.75 billion gallons produced in 2009. This loss in ethanol production would result in the shedding of approximately 112,000 jobs in all sectors of the economy.”
The Renewal Fuels Association (RFA) took a similar view. “Given Senator Coburn’s interest in what he deems unnecessary subsidies, we would encourage him to offer an amendment that would eliminate subsidies to oil companies posting tens of billions of dollars in profits quarterly,” said the RFA release. “In lieu of that, the RFA urges the Senate to ignore this frivolous amendment.”
The numbers speak for themselves. Hopefully, the Senate will heed the advice of the NCGA and RFA. Otherwise, the current booming agricultural economy could suffer a serious demand hit.
And that would benefit no one.