Ethanol Generates Discussion

Cindy Zimmerman

This article from the Lincoln (NE) Journal Star and accompanying comments illustrates the myriad of opinions about ethanol that stem from partial truths and speculation.

The article is basically a tirade against ethanol by commodity broker Douglas Carper, with the headline “Ethanol Skeptic Sees Painful Realities Ahead.”

As far as Carper is concerned, there is no constructive purpose to putting so much emphasis on ethanol as an answer to shrinking energy resources.

His reasons are:
“Even if every bushel of corn in the United States were turned into ethanol, it wouldn’t make much of a dent in overseas oil dependence”

Beyond that, he sees so much emphasis on ethanol leading to higher food prices. He sees what he called a tremendous negative effect on the state’s cattle feeders, possible disruption in the food distribution system and some substantial portion of new ethanol plants failing to make a go of it as profit margins inevitably narrow.

The article offers the defense of ethanol to Don Hutchens with the Nebraska Corn Board, who rebutts Carpers contention that hunger will be a result of a food or fuel fight with, “Is it the responsibility of the Nebraska corn farmer to keep prices as low as he possibly can so no one in the world has food availability issues?”

Over 40 readers offered comments on the article, with a pretty even balance between those who agreed with Carpers and those who disagreed. Of those who agreed, many seem to think that ethanol is a “scheme” between agriculture and the government, demonizing agricultural producers with comments like “farmers are not the stewards anymore, they will sellout their own children and grandchildren for a few more dollars.”

Others defended the opportunity for growers to make a living. “Ethanol is the farmers chance to market a much higher level of prices and not have to depend on taxpayers every year to bail out.”