Putting Respectable Journalism on the Grocery List
By Mark Justice
|Truth, Justice, and Eating Worms
June 2, 2009
In case you missed the news flash….the Wall Street Journal likes ethanol about
as much as eating worms. They maintain a drumbeat of negative misinformation
regarding our favorite renewable fuel despite yeoman like efforts by the
National Corn Growers Association and many academics and scientists to educate
On any subject you can find a naysayer, some even with a reputable sounding job
title. But when a preponderance of third-party, unbiased folks say you are off
base that constitutes an agenda or at least bad judgment. Today’s opinion piece
in the WSJ is a perfect case in point.
Ethanol is the right choice for America. It works, ask any Indy driver. It burns
cleaner, ask any chemists, and it’s made here in the U.S. Hopefully, American
jobs, 494,000 of them, and national security need no explanation. In a recent
letter to the Governors’ Biofuels Coalition, President Obama noted improved
energy efficiency combined with biofuels “is the primary near-term option for
insulating consumers against future oil shocks and for lowering the
transportation sector’s carbon footprint.”
Insinuating ethanol is a major factor in food prices is also plain silly. Last
year’s high oil prices pushed up food prices. Remove the spin from the WSJ take
on the Congressional Budget Office study and it says corn-based ethanol was
responsible for only a fraction of food inflation between 2007 and 2008,
representing 0.5 to 0.8 percentage points of the 5.1 percent food price
The CBO report notes 85 to 90 percent of the increase in food prices over the
measured period came from something other than corn and ethanol. Perhaps an
enterprising journalist should be asking why food prices have not declined
despite plenty of cheap corn and drastically lower oil prices.
While our reliance on foreign oil is sucking the life’s blood out of our
economy, ethanol generated $11.9 billion in tax revenue for the federal
government and an additional $9 billion for state and local governments. Makes
the government incentives for ethanol production seem like a sound investment.
Record production is good news. Yield increases alone are meeting our needs for
ethanol. We should be embracing the productivity gains made possible through
technology and innovation on the nation’s farms. Corn yields in the United
States have doubled over the last 30 years, and will double again in the next 20
years. It’s not about food or fuel, but both.
Trying to make a tenuous connection between U.S. ethanol production and land use
choices overseas in places like Brazil is also counterproductive. Anyone who has
studied the issue will tell you clearing of land in South America is about pure
economics and is fueled by efforts to transfer land to the poor as a social
program, petro dollars, or timber and mining profits.
Until thought leaders, like the news media, begin to understand this, the
rainforests will remain at risk, and we will continue to hold back the ethanol
industry in the U.S. which has real environmental contributions to make. The
vast majority of Americans understands this and survey after survey show they
support alternative fuel sources like ethanol.