Does Increased Pitch Herald Demise of Ethanol Critics?

By Mike Bryan | April 18, 2011

There appears to be no place for complacency in the defense of ethanol, given the tenacity of those opposed to the industry. After nearly 30 years of constant growth and enormous contributions to our environment, the rural economy and our nation’s energy security, the attacks on ethanol continue.

Two examples: Transparent attacks such as legislation to stop the subsidies for fuel ethanol, while continuing with subsidies for Big Oil, by Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., and claims that ethanol is driving up the cost of food to consumers from the grocery industry, which has steadfastly refused to lower prices when commodity prices came down. These transparent actions don’t reflect reality, rather they shout self interest and last-ditch efforts.

I suppose there’s a certain pride that can be taken in the fact that the more successful ethanol is, the more vigorously the opposition screams and the more outlandish the allegations become. In desperation, opponents rail on at an increasingly fevered pitch, thereby heralding their impending defeat.

In truth, the future of ethanol has never been stronger. Ethanol blends represent an ever-increasing percentage of our nation’s liquid energy needs and the thought of legislatively destroying such a vital industry built on the backs of the American farmer could never get the broad-based support of Congress.

Ethanol producers are willing to sit at the table and discuss ways to work with Congress to lessen the economic impact of its subsidies. It must, however come at an equal price to the oil industry in reducing subsidies paid to them. There can be no compromise on that issue. For the oil industry to make tens of billions of dollars in domestic profits by sending hundreds of billions of dollars to foreign countries and then getting more billions of taxpayer dollars in subsidies, while pointing its finger at ethanol subsidies, is ludicrous, to say the least.

No one has ever said that ethanol is a perfect fuel, or that it will totally replace gasoline. Rather it is a transitional fuel, a fuel that will help take us from our near total dependence on fossil fuels to a new era of cleaner burning, domestically produced fuels. How long that transition will take depends on how committed America is to maintaining and growing its domestic sources of energy.

There are those who lash out against wind, solar, biodiesel and ethanol on the basis that they are not competitive with gasoline. I have never understood why we would use an environmentally harmful, imported product as a standard for comparison for cleaner-burning, domestically produced energy sources. To me, gasoline should be held up to renewable energy and made to meet those standards, not vice versa.

The commitment to renewable energy ebbs and flows, based on the price of oil and the resulting price of gasoline. It’s difficult to build and sustain an industry based on a moving target. Legislation that would hurt domestic energy production should never see the light of day. It should be dead on arrival to the floor of Congress. As long as we keep entertaining transparently biased legislative efforts, such as that introduced by Sen. Coburn, it will only serve to encourage such silly, counterproductive initiatives. Let’s focus on building and refining new forms of energy, not perpetuating the past.

That’s the way I see it.

Author: Mike Bryan
Chairman, BBI International
mbryan@bbiinternational.com