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In Corn Should We Trust?

by 5m Editor
13 August 2007, at 10:26am

US - The smiling family looked happy enough in the life-size image plastered across the side of the Ethanol Promotion and Information Council motor coach as it stopped in a Henrietta parking lot earlier this month on its national tour touting the advantages of ethanol.

But that family, skipping hand in hand across a green plain, almost surely wasn't coming from the grocery store.

Biofuels such as ethanol — touted as one of the great hopes for lessening America's dependence on foreign oil, as well as a key part of the Rochester region's economic future — now are getting the blame for rising prices of everything from gallons of milk to shrink-wrapped ground chuck.

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"Suppose we converted 100 percent of all corn into ethanol. It would provide 7 percent (of the nation's fuel needs). It's not going to make the U.S. oil-independent.

Jeff Williams, deputy director of public policy for the New York Farm Bureau

A study by Iowa State University's Center for Agricultural and Rural Development found that U.S. ethanol production from corn already has pushed up food prices by $14 billion — or about $47 per American — a year.

Poultry giant Tyson Foods said that rising costs of feed were driving chicken prices higher. Analysts also have blamed ethanol for the higher prime beef prices.

The average retail price of a gallon of whole milk is hitting record highs, reaching $3.80 a gallon, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Corn prices, meanwhile, rose to a record earlier this year but tapered off on expectations of a big harvest. The Agriculture Department announced Friday that this year's estimated corn harvest — 13.1 billion bushels — would be the nation's largest in 74 years.

About 20 percent of the nation's corn went into making 5 billion gallons of ethanol, pushing up corn prices and thus the cost of food, said David Pimentel, a Cornell University ecologist and frequent critic of ethanol.

"Five billion gallons is a lot of ethanol," said the ecology and agriculture professor.

"Suppose we converted 100 percent of all corn into ethanol. It would provide 7 percent (of the nation's fuel needs). It's not going to make the U.S. oil-independent. We're importing oil from Saudi Arabia and Venezuela to make the ethanol," Pimentel said.

Source: Democrat and Chronicle.com

5m Editor