Lester Brown, founder of the Earth Policy Institute, held a press conference with reporters Thursday to warn that the government is underestimating the amount of corn that will be needed for fuel by next year.
According to the Associated Press, Brown says nearly twice as much corn as the government has estimated will be needed from the 2008 harvest to feed the ethanol plants that will be online by then. He blamed the lag on the failure of industry trade groups to keep up with development of ethanol plants.
According to the Earth Policy Institute’s data, U.S. ethanol distilleries now online or in the works will pull an estimated 139 million tons – or 5.5 billion bushels – of corn from the 2008 corn harvest to produce fuel for automobiles.
That’s based on 116 existing ethanol plants, 79 under construction, 11 undergoing expansion and 200 plants in the planning stages expected to be running by corn harvest time in September 2008.
The government in a February report estimated ethanol plants would use about 60 million tons – or 2.4 billion bushels of corn.
USDA’s chief economist is skeptical about the institute’s numbers and the Renewable Fuels Association questions the criteria used by Earth Policy Institute, saying some plants in planning stages included in the group’s estimates may never be built. Both say that the rapid expansion in the industry is making it more difficult to make even short term projections.
Brown’s answer is for the U.S. government to declare a moratorium on the construction of new ethanol plants until the impact of increased corn usage can be determined.
Read the full story from AP.