During a renewable energy roundtable discussion at Purdue University last week, the question was posed, why are we using food for fuel?
USDA Chief Economist Dr. Keith Collins had the chance to respond to the questioner with an important point.
“I first would say that I don’t think about using food for fuel. I think about using crops for fuel. I say that because this use has been an objective of agriculture for a long, long time. Henry Ford built a car out of plastic made from soybeans a long, long time ago. We’ve been trying to utilize agricultural commodities in industrial uses for decades precisely because the productive capacity of American agriculture has been so great. It’s often overwhelmed demand and created lower prices. That’s why we have this elaborate system of price and income support programs at USDA. So it’s not a new thing to use crops for fuel.”
Dr. Collins was one of several panelists on that roundtable. In the photo from Purdue’s Ag Communications, Collins is flanked by two Purdue professors – Dr. Bernie Tao, who’s a professor in agriculture and biological engineering and holds the Indiana Soybean Alliance chair for New Uses of Soybeans, and Dr. Michael Ladisch, distinguished professor of Agriculture and Biological Engineering, and the director of the Laboratory for Renewable Resource Engineering. Both noted that important research is being done now at Purdue and other universities to find new crops that can be used for renewable energy sources.
Read the full transcript of the roundtable, which also included Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns, Purdue University President Martin Jischke, Purdue Dean of Agriculture Randy Woodson, Indiana Director of Agriculture Andy Miller, USDA Under Secretary for Rural Development Tom Dorr and Renewable Fuels Association President Bob Dinneen.