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U.S. Farm Report Mailbag

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Comments, questions, opinions...this is your chance to speak out regarding anything and everything reported on U.S. Farm Report. Viewer feedback updated regularly.

The Ethanol Debate...Continued...

Apr 23, 2009
***Editor's Note:  We continue to receive viewer feedback regarding John's recent comments on ethanol.  Along with the feedback below, we have posted a transcript of John's comments...
 
I have watched with disbelief the last 2 weeks regarding John Phipps’ comments on the ethanol industry.  First, he mischaracterized the request for a higher blend of 15% as a new “mandate,” which it is not.  It is merely the request for the flexibility to blend higher rates based on market signals.  Then, in this past week’s diatribe, he responds to a livestock caller who agreed with his “mandate” stand, saying ultimately the taxpayers will have to pick up the tab, and urging those who oppose a higher blend to contact their legislators ASAP.  When he stated this week that corn ethanol brings only marginal environmental benefits, and basically it is not sustainable, and really causes an increase in petroleum imports from the middle east, he went too far with his inaccurate portrayal.  There are peer reviewed studies that say otherwise.  If he would have just talked about reliance on the importation of foreign oil, he would have had to say it different.  The first oil imports reduced would naturally be the most expensive ones, and OPEC oil is not the most expensive.  But to state that corn ethanol does not do much to reduce our dependence on foreign oil is simply inaccurate.  The amount of corn ethanol used today amounts to the total liquid fuel used in my state of Ohio.  That is significant.  If he has a personal bone to pick with the corn ethanol industry, I wish he would deal with it off air.  I think it is embarrassing that the US Farm Report would allow such one-sided perspectives to air. 
 
In the future I would hope if John continues to pick on biofuels and their subsidized unsustainable existence, then he also needs to apply the same argument to subsidized unsustainable production of gasoline.  Perhaps we just need to go back to the horse and buggy.
 
Sincerely,
Fred Yoder
Plain City, OH


John,
    I should have contacted you a few weeks ago when you had negative comments about ethanol and the waiver request but I failed.  Your comments this weekend showed you are dangerously missing facts and are harming agriculture and I believe our country.
   First to the comment a few weeks ago.  The primary miss was the request to allow up to 15% you promoted as a mandate and it is not.  It is to only to allow up to 15% which makes a lot of sense when you look at the facts, which leads me to this week’s comments.
   You begin by agreeing with the caller who inferred ethanol is harming all small engines. This is false.  I (and my father before me) have used ethanol in every gasoline engine on the farm with NO adverse effects.  To the contrary, ethanol in the gasoline has eliminated any water in the gas caused by engines setting for extended periods.  Ethanol has helped my spark plug life as well by burning cleaner.  This includes 2 cycle engines as well as the 4 cycle ones.  In fact I have been running 20% and higher blends with no problems.
   You mention environmental benefits in a negative tone.  How much more documentation do you need?  From Argonne to the American Lung Association have the facts and are proponents of ethanol use.  You may call the benefits small but ethanol blended gasoline has removed millions of tons of carbon dioxide from the air and is proven to clean up the air from Chicago to Los Angeles.  This is one of the biggest environmental gains we have in practice today, especially in regards to liquid fuels and you trash it. 
   Your statement that ethanol is not economically viable with oil prices below $60 is just your ill-informed opinion and should not be stated as fact until you get current facts.
   Your economic misinformation continues when you talk about mandates and subsidies.  They are a way of life in the energy industry.  Did you ever try to add up the subsidies for the petroleum industry?  We are building a new industry that is trying to compete in a highly subsidized market so why pick on ethanol (when you should be a supporter).  On economics think about this one: every new or untapped source of oil is more expensive than the last so the real cost continues to go up.  Ethanol production from the farm to the gas tank is getting more efficient and the real cost continues to come down.  Just another factoid that gets lost.
You finish with a comment I do not understand how you can make.  “Ethanol production is the cause for an increase in imported oil.”  This is not even close to a fact.  Study after study shows the net energy gain from corn based ethanol and once again we continue to get better.
   John, I am shocked you would fall into the anti ethanol camp.  Your background should serve you better.
 
Leon Corzine

Editor's Note:  Below is the full transcript of John's comments on ethanol that aired as part of the Farm Report Mailbag segment the weekend of April 18-19, 2009:

    TIME NOW FOR OUR WEEKLY LOOK INSIDE THE FARM REPORT MAIL BAG...
    OUR STORY LAST WEEK ABOUT EFFORTS IN MINNESOTA TO RAISE THE SO-CALLED BLEND WALL PROMPTED SOME OBJECTIONS LIKE THIS PHONE CALL FROM BUCK JOHNSTON IN COUER-D'ALENE, IDAHO.
    "BOAT OWNERS HERE ARE HAVING GREAT DIFFICULTY WITH TEN PERCENT BLENDS, AND ANYONE WITH A SMALL ENGINE IS STRUGGLING WITH CLOGGED FILTERS AND DISSOLVED SEALS. GOING TO 20 PERCENT WILL ONLY MAKE THE PROBLEMS WORSE, AND THE GOVERNMENT SHOULD NOT FORCE THIS DECISION."
    THANKS FOR CALLING BUCK, AND YOUR CONCERNS MATCHED THOSE OF OTHERS WHO HAVE PROBLEMS WITH THE USE OR POLITICS OF ETHANOL.
    BUT HERE IS THE SITUATION AS I SEE IT. WE HAVE A SIGNIFICANT INDUSTRY DRIVING MUCH OF THE INCOME GROWTH IN AGRICULTURE WHICH IS BUILT ON VERY SHAKY ECONOMIC AND ENGINEERING FOUNDATIONS. WITH OIL BELOW ABOUT $60 EVEN THE CHEAPEST ETHANOL CANNOT COMPETE WITH GASOLINE.
    MEANWHILE THE ENVIRONMENTAL GAINS ARE AT BEST MODEST. FINALLY, CLAIMS OF ENERGY INDEPENDENCE ARE SIMPLY NONSENSE. AS WE MAKE MORE ETHANOL WE ARE IMPORTING MORE - NOT LESS - MIDEASTERN OIL.
    THE ONLY WAY ETHANOL CAN SURVIVE IS BY FORCE OF LAW, AND EVERYONE IN THE INDUSTRY IS AWARE THAT MANDATES, SUBSIDIES, AND TARIFFS ARE KEY TO ANY FUTURE FOR BIOFUELS. CONSEQUENTLY THOSE WHO THINK CONSUMERS AS WELL AS OTHER CORN CUSTOMERS LIKE THE LIVESTOCK INDUSTRY ARE GETTING A RAW DEAL NEED TO BE IN THEIR ELECTED OFFICIALS' FACES RIGHT NOW.
    ALSO THE EPA, WHICH WILL BE MAKING THE FINAL DECISION TO RAISE THE BLEND RATE OR NOT IS CURRENTLY SOLICITING PUBLIC COMMENTS. CHECK OUR HOMEPAGE FOR MORE INFORMATION HOW TO ADD YOUR VOICE.
 

  
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COMMENTS (4 Comments)

Anonymous
Just because ethanol has helped the price of corn most grain farmers have blinders on. Drive by a fuel station and look at the price of E85 and you can see it is now the same price as gasoline. If you use it you get 15% less mileage out of a gallon, so right now it isn't a good buy. The best customers of corn have been livestock farmers for years but they have been bitten by high corn prices. As livestock numbers dwindle who will buy all the corn? The big runnup in corn prices resulted in a big runnup in production costs. Ask yourself--are we really going to be better off? Will we ever see our input costs go back to levels seen before $7 corn? Will we gain back those livestock customers for our grain when we have a surplus again
9:51 PM Apr 23rd
 
Anonymous
Comments by folks like Mr. Phipps make me ill. I don't mind talking and debating the various issues with people who have taken the time to truly understand the issues. As a person who works in the biofuels sector I have had many such conversations. However, individuals like Mr. Phipps are often lazy and irresponsible "journalist" who skim through the writing of other "journalist" who are also misinformed and then write their own article as if they were facts. This is a common practice in the media. If he had done his homework as a responsible journalist he would have known that the waiver request is not in fact a mandate but merely a request to ease the restrictions on the allowable amount of ethanol that can be blended into our gasoline. Once he got this fact incorrect the rest of his piece lost all credibility. Unfortunately this is how our industry has received so much bad press in the last couple of years. Lazy journalism....not even so much that these journalist have an agenda to damage ethanol...they are just regurgitating what one of their peers said in some other article, TV or radio spot....what a shame for the American people.
6:27 PM Apr 23rd
 
 
 
 
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