Counterpoint: AP missed the mark in ethanol story

  • Updated: November 12, 2013 - 5:59 PM

Story disregarded key facts to fit a narrative that’s all too common.

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Kurt Strazdins/MCT

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As a corn farmer, I cringed while reading the Associated Press attack on ethanol published Tuesday on the Star Tribune’s website (“AP Investigation: Obama’s green energy drive comes with an unadvertised environmental cost”). Farmers and ethanol supporters are used to criticism, so the story’s anti-ethanol agenda wasn’t what bothered me.

What did bother me was the reporter’s obvious disregard of key facts. For example, the AP claimed that, because of ethanol, the majority of U.S. corn is being used for fuel instead of livestock feed. This simply isn’t true. Every 56-pound bushel of corn that goes into an ethanol plant produces about 2.8 gallons of ethanol and 17 pounds of high-protein livestock feed.

When you factor in co-products, the vast majority of corn is still being used for livestock feed. In 2012, 26 percent of the corn crop was used for ethanol and 50 percent for livestock feed.

The AP story also completely missed the mark on how ethanol impacts corn prices. The story claimed that corn has been around $7 per bushel for most of 2013. Corn prices are currently around $4 per bushel, their lowest since 2010. It’s not ethanol that caused corn prices to spike last year; it was a massive drought that hit most of the Corn Belt.

The story also made outrageous claims about farmers filling in wetlands (Fact: According to the DNR, Minnesota gained 2,080 wetland acres from 2006-11); polluting waterways by using excessive amounts of fertilizer (Fact: USDA data show the use of nitrogen fertilizer was down in 2010 compared with the mid-1980s, even though today’s corn crop is much larger); and planting corn on “virgin land” (Fact: Corn is being planted on land that used to have soybeans or other crops, not on land that was previously unplanted).

To be fair, the AP did get one sentence right: “Ethanol still looks good compared to the oil industry, which increasingly relies on environmentally risky tactics like hydraulic fracturing or pulls from carbon-heavy tar sands.”

As a corn farmer, I’m committed to growing a product that both feeds the world and provides a homegrown and renewable fuel. I’m also committed to honesty and integrity when discussing how I farm and what ethanol means for our country. It’s unfortunate that the AP doesn’t feel the same way.

RYAN BUCK, Goodhue, Minn.

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