Ethanol Production Used More Corn than Farmers in Past Year
October 13, 2011 1:01 PM
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Much of the ethanol produced from the corn was exported overseas
When it comes to removing our dependence on foreign oil there are other options than using electricity or hydrogen to power cars. One of the options is using
to replace some of the petroleum used in our gasoline. The big downside is that most of the ethanol produced in the U.S. today is made from corn.
Corn is an important food crop that is consumed by humans and used as feed for livestock and other animals. Scientific America reports that for every ten ears of corn grown in the U.S. today, only two are consumed by humans as food. The other ears are used for animal feed and ethanol production.
The numbers show that for the year spanning August 2010 to August 2011 the biofuel industry used more corn than farmers used for animal feed and residual demand. This is the first time more corn has been used for ethanol and shows a shifting balance that could spell trouble in the future. Over that year span, farmers used 5 billion bushels of corn and ethanol production used 5.05 billion bushels. Some of that corn did return to the food supply as animal feed and corn oil.
The fear is that the shift from food being the largest use for corn and fuel taking the top spot is a concern that could have significant impact on the world grain market. One of the reasons for the shift to ethanol use for corn is the government subsidies and the import tariffs on foreign ethanol.
Steven Rattner said in a piece written for the
, “Because of the subsidy, ethanol became cheaper than gasoline, and so we sent 397 million gallons of ethanol overseas last year. America is simultaneously importing costly foreign oil and subsidizing the export of its equivalent.”
That means much of the corn being used for fuel isn't making it into American fuel tanks so we still have to import more foreign oil to meet our fuel needs. Some in Congress are working hard to get the subsidies repealed and to lift the import tariff so that cheaper biofuels made from sugarcane can be imported from Brazil. There is also a lot of research going into making ethanol from other crops like
Rattner also wrote, "Even farm advocates like former Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman agree that the [ethanol] situation must be fixed. Reports filtering out of the budget talks currently under way suggest that agriculture subsidies sit prominently on the chopping block. The time is ripe."
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Fix what problem?
10/13/2011 5:09:06 PM
Is it odd that I read that entire story and don't understand why they think there is a problem? Because the ethanol market is growing (a good thing), and that we are exporting ethanol (sure why not... helps the trade imbalance).
The reason we don't use more here is that the government has capped the amount we CAN use. Right now that's at 10% of the fuel market. We have that. E15 is not in the market yet, so our limit is still 10%. Lift the limit - for real this time - and we can replace more oil!
Ok, and everyone should know by now that 1/3 of the corn used to make Ethanol goes back into the market as distiller's grain. So... 5 Billion bushels of corn for feed + (1/3 of Ethanol's corn -or- 1.68 Billion bushels) = 6.68 Billion bushels of corn/grain used for animal feed.
Also, lets remember that corn yields go up every year. So just because one consumer is using more doesn't follow that other consumers are using less! THIS IS AN IMPORTANT FACT they don't tell you.
50 years ago we grew 35 bushels per acre. Now the national average is up over 150 bushels per acre... and it keeps going up.
And if you want to talk subsidies... let's look at how much we "subsidize" the oil market... with our $ and kids out in the gulf.
RE: Fix what problem?
10/17/2011 10:34:39 AM
The EPA is trying to ram this through (E15), despite all automobile manufacturers (and everyone else who actually knows what they are talking about) warning them that E15 will be harmful or fatal to car engines and fuel systems.
If we want to increase ethanol used as transportation fuel, make E85 more available, but keep it separate as its own pump so its voluntary. There are a large number of E85 vehicles that can tolerate the high ethanol content.
E10 is already bad enough for fuel lines, tanks, and carburetors designed for strictly gasoline.
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