Ethanol production not hurting corn supply

September 01, 2012

Charles Campbell's letter ("U.S. must abandon corn-based ethanol," Aug. 29) blames American biofuels for everything from air pollution to malnutrition.

But the facts tell a very different story.

Far from having no impact on air pollution or actually contributing to it (and Mr. Campbell makes both claims), greenhouse gas emissions from ethanol are "... equivalent to a 48 percent to 59 percent reduction compared to gasoline, a twofold to threefold greater reduction than reported in previous studies," according to a study published by Yale University's Journal of Industrial Ecology.

Nor does U.S. ethanol production "double the price of fuel worldwide." In the U.S., ethanol's impact is insignificant because 86 cents of every dollar spent on food pays for energy, transportation, packaging and other supply chain costs. Only 14 cents pays for agricultural costs, of which corn is only one. Instead of creating feed shortages that cause ranchers to slaughter cattle, as Mr. Campbell claims, U.S. ethanol production yields at least 33 million metric tons of livestock feed as a co-product annually — enough to provide every American with four quarter-pound hamburgers every week for a year.

Worldwide, U.S. ethanol production uses only 3 percent of the world's corn supply. As for food prices outside the U.S., this year's worldwide corn crop will be the second-largest ever, and, in Africa and Asia, wheat and rice are much more important than corn.

Blaming ethanol for every problem is easier than thinking through real solutions.

Christina Martin, Washington, D.C.

The writer is executive vice president of the Renewable Fuels Association.

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