In typical glass-is-half-empty reportage, Wednesday’s Wall Street Journal featured a front-page story on ethanol that emphasized the negative while skirting around all the positive sides of the issue that would have made for a much more balanced discussion. It is sad that a paper the caliber of the Journal would recite, without checking the facts, the usual litany of complaints and urban myths.
The fact is, without bothering to repeat the negatives, corn growing has become more sustainable, with fertilizer, herbicides and insecticide use on the decrease, as well as tillage and irrigation. What is most exacerbating is that the Journal cites Big Oil and certain livestock organizations as ethanol critics, without going into detail about how their concern is more about their own pocketbooks than protecting the environment or promoting energy security.
The National Corn Growers Association had an opportunity to share its side of the story with the newspaper. Unfortunately, the newspaper did not deem it worthwhile to share it with its readers.
Perhaps more unfortunate, however, is that the story distorted the American Lung Association’s position on ethanol. One official of the ALA in Minnesota had this to say on a few blogs (here and here, for example):
... the American Lung Association of the Upper Midwest has led a nationally-recognized E85 (an ethanol-based alternative fuel that can be used in flex-fuel vehicles) pilot program since 1998. We remain a strong supporter of E85 and biodiesel, both of which have been tested and approved by the Environmental Protection Agency as cleaner-burning alternatives to traditional petroleum fuels.