Ethanol subsidies help secure America's energy future

March 14, 2011

The Baltimore Sun's editorial of Monday criticizing American ethanol subsidies missed a few choice facts that its readers may want to know and based its argument on a few misleading or outright inaccurate statements ("End subsidies for corn-based ethanol," March 14).

First, our nation's addiction to foreign oil has cost taxpayers approximately $225 billion annually over the last 30 years, for a total of more than $7.3 trillion in taxpayer funds dedicated to protecting oil shipping routes, according to an analysis by Princeton University.

Second, grain ethanol is 59 percent cleaner than conventional gasoline derived from ethanol, and cellulosic ethanol is at least 86 percent cleaner, but both are continually getting cleaner through low-carbon innovations both at the ethanol plant and in farming.

Third, our nation's farmers are generating a surplus of corn. The Sun is wrong in suggesting that American farmers cannot meet demand for export, demand for U.S. livestock feed and demand for biofuels.

Globally, only 3 percent of corn goes to ethanol. In the U.S., a third goes to ethanol, and of that, a third is returned to the food chain as a highly-valued livestock feed that is more nutritious and affordable for livestock producers.

The corn that goes to making ethanol is Yellow No. 2 corn. It is not sweet corn, table corn, canned corn or candy corn. It cannot be eaten by humans.

In fact, ethanol is not a major contributor to increasing grocery prices. Corn costs amount to about 3 cents of every grocery dollar: The truth is that the expenses of transportation, marketing and packaging costs related to the manufacture of groceries, which are all tied to oil, are the major drivers of grocery prices.

If The Sun wants to cut wasteful subsidies for industries that send money overseas and harm our environment, they should look at Big Oil first. Meanwhile, the ethanol industry will continue to create jobs, strengthen our economy and displace foreign oil.

Chris Thorne, Washington

The writer is public affairs director of Growth Energy.

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