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John Block Reports from Washington

RSS By: John Block,

John Block has dedicated his professional career to the fields of agriculture, food and health.

Attacks On Ethanol

Mar 04, 2011

It seems to becoming the “in thing” for big city newspapers and big city commentators to blame ethanol for rising food prices. Even former President Bill Clinton has joined the party. Also, we have the budget hawks pointing their fingers at ethanol subsidies. 

I think we can all agree that the U.S. needs to have a policy of energy security. Our heavy dependence on Middle East oil is not good. To me, that means “drill baby drill” for our own oil, mine our own coal, wind, solar, and – yes, ethanol.
It’s too soon to throw any of these possibilities overboard. With oil prices going up and turmoil throughout the Middle East, what do you think gasoline prices would be if ethanol (10% of our auto fuel) was taken away – maybe $5 per gallon.
If they want to take away ethanol subsidies, take away the billions of dollars subsidizing oil. Take away the government subsidies for wind and solar. Ethanol is every bit as cost effective as the other sources of energy, and it is cleaner.
Let’s get this picture into perspective. In the whole world, the amount of grain that is used for ethanol is less than 3%, and after processing, 1/3 of that ethanol grain is available as livestock feed. That means that only about 2% of the world’s grain is used for fuel.
And our critics want to blame rising food prices on ethanol? I don’t think so. It doesn’t compute.
Now, I don’t support this next idea, but if the answer to feeding the world is that good farm land should be reserved exclusively for food production, then I suggest that the millions of acres growing cotton should be shifted to corn. Clothing need not be made out of cotton. I know that’s a crazy suggestion, but no more crazy than to say you can’t make fuel out of corn.
I think the persistent attacks on ethanol are unjustified and arbitrary.
In closing, I would encourage you to access my website which archives my radio commentaries dating back 10 years and will go back 20 years when complete. Check on what I said back then. Go to
Until next week, I am John Block in Washington.
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