The Coming Collection

While I’d never claim to be clairvoyant, I’m willing to bet you’re all pondering the same question I have about the ethanol boom: When will the madness end?

With the summer in full swing and the mega-busy spring behind us, there’s a bit more time to contemplate such questions, and this one in particular leads to headaches requiring double doses of ibuprofen. Exactly which trend, vulnerability, blind spot, etc., will “deep six” the boom that has rearranged the cosmos for U.S. agriculture? And, what happens to us when it does?

Most experts agree that virtually nothing could serve to derail the “biofuel” movement, with “biofuel” being the operative word. But what happens between now and the ultimate destination — a biomass-to-fuel production system that produces biofuel at a reasonably consistent level of profitability, not to mention without the ethical baggage and economic impact of the food vs. fuel question — could serve to be a pretty bumpy ride.

Of course, in the grand American tradition of celebrating success one day only to wake up the next morning and rip it to shreds, ethanol is taking it full on the chin these days. Despite its amazing accomplishments to date, the ethanol movement has more recently been characterized as strictly a gold rush for greedy businesses to try to cash in on something that will prove completely impractical in the long run.

While it would be naive to assert that there aren’t gold diggers in the ethanol fray, let’s take a deep breath here. For many, many years, the ethanol movement existed in a state of suspended animation in the U.S., waiting for an opportunity to cash in on its hard work. I’ll never forget visiting the ethanol booth at the 2005 Commodity Classic, a modest in-line tabletop with a guy who was only slightly less lonely than the Maytag repairman. Who could blame the industry for its exuberance?

Simultaneously, row crop growers in the Midwest looking for any port in an uncertain market have rapidly embraced corn production to the tune of an estimated 90 million-plus acres in an effort to feed the 115 bioenergy plants currently online, and 79 under construction.

Now, a whole host of factors are weakening the walls of the continuously inflating ethanol balloon. The world, as well as earmarked funding in the Bush administration’s farm bill proposals, target cellulosic production methods. Land values continue to rise, tapping into farm profitability. The prospect of $4 corn might have growers salivating, but it cripples the ethanol plant’s ability to operate profitably. New plants under construction now cost significantly more than their predecessors, consequently extending the payback timeframe by years.

Then, of course, there’s the “food vs. fuel” issue. Consumers are being told alternately that food prices are going up because of corn going to ethanol, and then because of the cost of energy in general. If food prices do increase beyond the point of consumer tolerance, and the media decides to create a villain out of the ethanol industry, it won’t matter much who’s right or wrong.

All challenges aside, biofuels are here to stay. But all signs point to a market “correction” in the not too distant future that will once again challenge U.S. agriculture to adjust and adapt. 

Leave a Reply

Latest News
CropLife 100Allied Ag Distributors Adds Four New Owners
July 30, 2015
Aligned Ag Distributors LLC has announced the addition of four new customer/owners to Franklin Holding Co. LLC. They are: The Read More
FungicidesReport: Sudden Death Syndrome Symptoms Appearing In Soy…
July 30, 2015
Last week, symptoms of sudden death syndrome (SDS) began to appear in April 15-planted soybeans at the University of Illinois’s Read More
Seed/BiotechAdvanta Seeds Adds New Phoenix Corn Hybrids
July 30, 2015
Corn growers in the High Plains and Western states have new options available for the 2016 growing season from Advanta Read More
ManagementTechnology and agriculture: a Futurist’s Perspective
July 30, 2015
Futurist David Zach, speaking at this week’s InfoAg Conference in St. Louis, shared thoughts on the benefits and limitations of Read More
Biofuels Plant in Lousiana
Industry NewsIdle Biofuels Plant In Louisiana To Reopen As Ammonia F…
July 30, 2015
A Lithuania-based company plans to spend $265 million to reopen an idle biofuels refinery in Grant Parish as an ammonia Read More
FFA at Monsanto Booth at the 2015 National Farm Machinery Show
Industry NewsFive Students Receive The 2015 Monty’s Plant Food Compa…
July 29, 2015
This fall, five college-bound students will have financial support through the Monty’s Plant Food Company FFA Scholarship. All five scholarship Read More
GYPSOIL Blendable Pellets
Crop InputsBeneficial Reuse Management Launches Pelletized Gypsum …
July 29, 2015
Beneficial Reuse Management (BRM) announced this week at Ag Media Summit that its GYPSOIL Pelletized Products Division will open a Read More
StewardshipOhio Water Quality Project To Determine How Much Phosph…
July 27, 2015
Researchers with the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences at The Ohio State University are looking for farmers in Read More
FertilizerKoch Agronomic Services Launches N-TEGRATION Technology
July 27, 2015
Koch Agronomic Services, LLC (KAS) has launched  N-TEGRATION Technology, a process technology platform designed to enable production of enhanced efficiency fertilizers at Read More
HerbicidesExpert: IARC Herbicide Classifications Leading To Confu…
July 24, 2015
Few people in the crop protection industry had heard of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) before this Read More
ManagementFCI Trade Summit Update & Precision Tank Turns 50
July 23, 2015
Editors Dave Frabotta and Eric Sfiligoj discuss the upcoming FCI Trade Summit in Las Vegas, NV, and how Precision Tank Read More
Palmer pigweed seedhead in cotton
HerbicidesUSDA Deregulates Dow AgroSciences’ Enlist Cotton Trait
July 23, 2015
The USDA today issued its decision deregulating Dow AgroSciences’ Enlist cotton trait in the U.S. The USDA has now completed its Read More
Industry NewsVerdesian Life Sciences Showcases Versatile Product Por…
July 23, 2015
Technology has revolutionized agriculture by bringing farmers, retailers and distributors to the forefront of the digital age. To meet the Read More
FertilizerWSJ: Cf Industries Exploring Merger With Dutch Chemical…
July 23, 2015
U.S. fertilizer maker CF Industries is in advanced merger talks with Amsterdam-listed chemical company OCI NV, the Wall Street Journal Read More
HerbicidesNufarm Releases New Panther SC Herbicide
July 23, 2015
Nufarm has announced the availability of new Panther SC herbicide. Panther SC is the first liquid formulation of flumioxazin available Read More
EquipmentFarmLink Launches Farm Equipment Sharing Program
July 23, 2015
FarmLink has introduced a new online farm equipment sharing community – MachineryLink Sharing – leveraging this new economy business model Read More
HerbicidesCould The South’s Most Troublesome Weed Represent A Thr…
July 22, 2015
Palmer amaranth is undoubtedly the most troublesome weed in the southern United States, taking a devastating toll on both cotton Read More
Industry NewsH.J. Baker Hires New Director Of International Sales
July 22, 2015
Global Agriculture firm H.J. Baker announced today that Steve Langley has joined the company’s Crop Performance Division and Animal Health Read More