Friday, November 22, 2013

US Government Okays Reduced Ethanol Output in 2014

" We may not like the health or environmental toll it will take over time."

Recently the United States government has authorized the reduced output of the gasoline additive, ethanol from US stocks for the year 2014, citing reduced support for the program which the Congress passed in 2007 to reduce dependence on foreign oil and to (ostensibly) improve the quality of air in the continental United States. However with the droughts of 2011 and 2012, public outcry over the use of important food grains such as corn for fuel has caused some to rethink this issue.

In a twist of marketing, on November 15 the United States  Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said it would propose reducing the 2014 mandate for blending gasoline with corn-based ethanol to between 12.7 billion and 13.2 billion gallons, down from the current legislated mandate for next year of 14.4 billion gallons. This reduction would be about 500 million bushels, with one bushel of corn producing about 2.8 gallons of ethanol. Ethanol has less available energy output per gallon than petroleum based fuels.

Meanwhile over at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), in its November World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates, projects 4,900 million bushels of corn may go into ethanol production in the 2014 fiscal year. But some analysts also suggest the lower ethanol mandate may have less of an impact on corn demand than indicated by the market’s reaction.
They note that recent low corn prices have spurred ethanol production as margins have improved to at least $1.00 a gallon. Several ethanol facilities that have been out of service for months now have been brought back into production recently. If the current market conditions hold, ethanol production and thus corn demand would remain strong-- with excess ethanol output likely to be targeted for export, analysts predict.

In the twisting, turning ways of inter-governmental agencies, two competing statements are now made: From the environmental side, the EPA, there have been several important, unintended consequences of the ethanol legislation noted, the first of which is taking food from people in need around the world and converting it to ethanol (a type of grain alcohol) to burn in cars while some around the world starve in drought years, as recently experienced in the United States. Additionally there are the issues of deforestation, loss of native species' habitat and soil erosion to name a few.
Joel of the Bible warned in ancient days,
"The field is devastated;
the farmland mourns,
Because the grain is devastated,
the wine has dried up,
the oil has failed.
Be appalled, you farmers!"

And based on rosy forecasting by the USDA, and in a resulting effort to make more profit, many farmers are cutting and eliminating any and all forested areas to create more land for growing crops. This activity takes no consideration about how big or small the wood lots are or have been.
It leads to an overall reduction in oxygen producing foliage and the loss of habitat for native species of animals. There is increased tillage of prairie lands, land once idle and evironmentally balanced.
In addition the now increased plantings adds to soil erosion due to tillage, and the increased pressure for use of chemicals required for intense farming practices--everything from fertilizers and pesticides, fungicides and herbicides.

The American farmer by and large is no friend to the environment. They are driven by profit motives and are unlikely to change their habits until there is lack of profit to continue.The "family farmer" is figured into this equally.  It is up to the average person to be the call for the end to ethanol production in this country. Without knowledge, the 98 per cent of Americans (who have minimal to no contact with food production) remain idle while profit motives urge farmers into unsustainable agricultural practices. This call goes beyond supporting local sourced food, beyond "slow food" and beyond community gardens.

The two percent who produce for the other 98 per cent have their pocketbooks front and center; we may not like the health or environmental toll it will take over time. Urge best practices in farming, practices that preserve air, soil and water quality; practices that provide food for the most in a way that protects wildlife and creates a cleaner future for all.

No comments: