Pioneers Get the Arrows, Settlers Get the Gold

By MIke Bryan | August 09, 2013

Corn to ethanol has provided the necessary pathway to a strong renewable fuels program in North America. I think we can safely say that without the corn-to-ethanol program, we likely would not have a renewable fuels program, period.

In today’s hostile environment, corn seems to have gone from the darling of the dance to dregs of the dungeon in just a few short years. Yet it remains the pathway to the future. Without the corn-to-ethanol program, the renewable fuels industry is dead in the water. It appears the oil industry is also well aware of that fact, hence the onslaught of ridiculous invitees like Wendy's into the renewable fuels standard (RFS) debate. Seriously, come on, the RFS costs one Wendy’s franchise owner with four restaurants $120,000 per year? Do these people think we’re stupid? Apparently they do, because each claim is becoming more and more unbelievable.  Is anyone in Congress actually making them substantiate these crazy claims, or do they just take it at face value and say, “Wow, I didn’t realize that?”

Without the RFS, corn to ethanol is dead! Without corn to ethanol, at least for the present, the renewable fuels industry is dead. This is why the focus has been less on the actual use of ethanol, but more on the use of corn to make the ethanol. Corn, like it or not, has become the soft underbelly of our industry, yet it is our lifeblood.

In the years ahead, as cellulose, algae, sweet sorghum and other promising feedstocks emerge, corn will take its rightful place as the pioneer of this industry. As the saying goes, the “Pioneers get the arrows and the settlers get the gold.” Corn pioneered this industry and remains a vital part of our future. In time, however, as corn growers continue to find other exciting avenues for development, it will become less and less of a target for the arrows flung by the dizzying array of archers bought and paid for by Big Oil.

Corn farmers have stood toe to toe with Big Oil over the past 30 years and won battle after hard-fought battle. Not because they were smarter, richer or better organized, but because they were and are on the right side of the issue. Agriculture, not Wendy’s, or some other oil industry flunky holds the keys to the future. 

So let’s be clear: While corn is taking the arrows, the real target is ethanol and the market share it’s taking from is oil.   
That’s the way I see it.

Author: Mike Bryan
Chairman, BBI International