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Ethanol is Helping Form the Backbone of a New Rural Economy

April 26, 2011


Ethanol has been a success story for farmers, rural America, and those concerned with our dependence on foreign oil. The same cannot be said for the agenda of the environmental, junk food, and oil lobbies.  Still, these groups continue to hide behind manufactured "science" and irresponsible rhetoric to attack and belittle the contributions of ethanol producers to rural America. The most recent case in point is a new paper from environmental activists at Food and Water Watch which erroneously assumes that America's ethanol industry is becoming dangerously concentrated. It assumes that large ethanol producers are gobbling up smaller producers and concentrating ethanol production into the hands of just a few companies.  But, we all know what happens when you assume. The truth is America's ethanol industry is getting increasingly diverse as new entrants and new technologies enter the marketplace.  In fact, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) found in December 2010 that America's ethanol industry was anything but concentrated. In fact, the FTC report stated "the [ethanol] industry remains less concentrated than it was in 2008." The same cannot be said for the petroleum and corporate livestock industries. The report, ridiculously entitled 'Crystal Eth: America's Crippling Addiction to Taxpayer-Financed Ethanol,' ignores many facts about 21st century ethanol production and contains the kind of dangerous and irresponsible rhetoric too often found in publications by ethanol critics. Notably, the premise assumes that when ownership of ethanol biorefineries change, the plants somehow disappear. Chuck Woodside, Chairman of the RFA and the CEO of farmer-owned KAAPA Ethanol in Minden, Nebraska, knows a little bit about what it takes to run a modern ethanol biorefinery.  "Operating an ethanol plant requires Americans be working at the plant. These jobs cannot be done from a remote computer or be outsourced to a call center in India," said Woodside.  "Neither can the production and delivery of the corn from which these facilities produce both food and feed. The premise and the rhetoric of this report are equally laughable and sophomoric." Since 1980, America has built more than 200 ethanol biorefineries, creating hundreds of thousands of jobs and hundreds of billions of dollars in economic activity in rural communities across the country. Regardless of business model, these biorefineries have helped strengthen the market for corn, provided farmers more income from the market than the federal government, added good paying jobs in communities often left out of economic boom times, and contributed to the tax base in communities and counties to pay for first responders, school teachers and roads. America's commitment to renewable fuels has reduced our dependence on foreign by more than the total amount of oil we import from Saudi Arabia each year. It has increased our balance of trade by more than $35 billion dollars. Using 13 billion gallons of ethanol last year alone reduced dangerous greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles by the equivalent of removing 3.5 million cars from American roads. Irresponsible and hypocritical advocacy by some in the environmental community is threatening to keep America's energy, economic and environmental agenda stuck in neutral. By nearly every measure, domestically-produced renewable fuels are superior to last century's energy technologies and offer real opportunity for tens of millions of Americans to actively participate in America's energy future.