Corn Commentary

2014 Resolution: Put Environment Back in EPA

oil spillI am rapidly getting in the holiday spirit but before I get to relaxed and magnanimous I have to send one final love letter to my friends in the petroleum industry. So with thoughts of sugar plums dancing in my head here goes:

In doing my regular reading today I came across three separate stories that if looked at individually are disturbing. The first touts fracking as the main driver in a U.S. energy revolution.

“America is in the midst of a game-changing energy revolution. This potential has been unlocked by innovations in hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling that have made America the world’s top energy producer,” John Felmy, the American Petroleum Institute’s chief economist said. said.

No argument there but let’s drop the other shoe or pair of shoes if you will. I keep asking the same questions regarding fracking; at what cost? What are the environmental consequences of this intrusive, earth rending form of energy extraction? How long will the boom last?

More and more experts are saying enjoy our current respite of available energy because it won’t last. And now the US Coast Guard is looking into the possibility of allowing fracking waste to be barged along American rivers. Granted if they have to ship it this is likely the best way (or at least safest and most economical way), but isn’t it enough that international oil has slimed our oceans on a consistent basis for decades. Now they want to put these toxic substances on our rivers and risk our fresh water too?

Thus, the second article and issue; Every year petroleum finds itself wrapped up in a string of environmental misadventures, and many take place in remote locations and out of the glare of public scrutiny diminishing the attention but not the damage done. From pipeline spills in Arkansas to explosions in Qingdao, China petroleum is the gift that keeps on giving.

Sure they get fined, but amounts that amount to pocket change for Big Oil. On the rare occasion they really get their hand slapped, such as the with the Deep Water Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico, they put on a good show for the media and as time passes they fight in court to get those penalties reduced.

The third leg of this nauseating oil epic is the ongoing efforts by the Obama Administration (hey, it’s your Environmental Protection Agency so you better own it) proposal to hamstring the only economically viable and environmentally responsible alternative to oil….ethanol.

For 2014, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has proposed a 1.4 billion gallon reduction in how much corn ethanol will be required under the Renewable Fuel Standard, the federal law that helps get domestic, renewable, cleaner-burning corn ethanol blended in the nation’s fuel supply.

“It is unfortunate that the Obama administration has caved in to Big Oil rather than stand up for rural America and the environment,” said Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey at a Protect the RFS rally on November 22, 2013. “The renewable fuels standard needs to be protected as it has helped hold down prices at the pump, created thousands of jobs in rural Iowa, and benefited the environment. The President should be focused on jobs and the economy rather than looking for ways to hurt rural America.” Read more here.

It’s still not too late to do something about this. So if you support renewable ethanol and want to put the environment back in EPA send a note. Oh, and Merry Christmas.

AAA Scores an FFF on Ethanol

The American Automobile Association claims to be a longtime supporter of ethanol, but its recent policy statement leaves one wondering to what degree this is really the case.

The fact is, E15 is the most tested gasoline blend ever. To assert, like AAA, that consumers are ignorant of the new fuel blend does a disservice to consumers, and shows that AAA and its allies have not done their job to properly educate consumers that E15 is an acceptable and safe blend for most of the cars on the street today. We need to trust consumers to be smart, especially when labels and choices are clear. You simply don’t see a lot of people trying to pump diesel into cars.

When it comes to the safety of E15, in addition to our information page that lists research demonstrating this, this document from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory includes a lot of very good information. Interestingly, the key piece of research cited by E15’s opponents has been shown by the U.S. Department of Energy to be clearly flawed.

Also, AAA errs when it talks about how many vehicles qualify for using E15 fuel. The EPA reports that it can safely be used in all light-duty vehicles from model year 2001 and newer. These vehicles represent up to three-quarters of the vehicles on the road today.

When it comes to the Renewable Fuel Standard, corn growers and the ethanol industry have done our part. In fact, we’ve done more than our fair share. Now, it’s time for automakers and the oil industry to get on board and give consumers what they want – the ability to choose a domestic, renewable fuel when they fill up at the pump. AAA should stand up for what’s in its members best interest – real fuel choice that’s good for the economy, energy security and the environment.

 

More to Gasoline Than Meets the Eye

Ethanol isn’t poison and gasoline is. There….I have said it. It boggles my mind how much of the public buys into the oil industry propaganda related to ethanol, most notably some of the environmental community. Why someone who considers themselves an environmentalist would listen to big oil on energy topics and what is best for consumers leaves me perplexed. Even on a good day when gasoline isn’t $3 to $4 a gallon, it remains a really bad idea when it comes to our health and the environment.

Ethanol is ethanol. There are no additives and it is the same product chemically that some drink in the form of martinis and other cocktails. Drink ethanol and  you just think you are better looking and funnier. Drink gasoline and you get dead. Gasoline has terrible environmental risk and repercussions and they are getting worse as we find new ways to dig, steam, and frack to get it out of the ground and the ocean bottom.

However, that is just the beginning of making commercial gasoline. Gasoline starts out as poison and it only gets better as dozens of chemicals can get mixed into the product. They get mixed in to make gas burn better during different seasons, to add octane, and even as a way for the oil industry to charge you for some byproducts of gasoline manufacturing that they otherwise would have to dispose of as toxic waste.

To this day one of my favorite news cartoons of all time showed thewhats in gas Exxon Valdez oil spill with petroleum covered wildlife effected by the disaster. The next panel showed an ethanol spill and featured google-eyed sea otters, dolphin and fish who apparently had been to happy hour.

I am a typical blogger. I have lots of opinions and I like words. But in this case I think I will show good judgement and just shut up and let the accompanying image tell the rest of the story. Take my word for it that many of these chemicals are even worse for your personal health and our future than they sound.

Smoke and Mirrors Business Approach

smoke and mirrorsBig Oil should be in the business of magic considering their recent success with smoke and mirrors regarding the changing role of petroleum and ethanol in the United States. Their virtuosity at deception, illusions, and insubstantial explanations is unrivaled.

This highly profitable and clever global industry, and their well-paid minions, continues to feed the public a regular diet of misinformation with the finesse of a Civil War solider loading cannon with a ram.

I challenge you to scan some of the information below and walk away thinking that American Ethanol is a bad idea.

The United States will shortly surpass Saudi Arabia as the largest crude oil supplier when natural gas liquids and biofuels are taken into account. U.S. liquids production is expected to reach 12.1 million barrels a day, which is 300,000 barrels a day higher than sand land. Ethanol’s role in this transformation should not be taken lightly.

Our gasoline supply is now about 10% ethanol, displacing 462 million barrels of imported oil last year alone, according to Bob Dinneen of the Renewable Fuels Association. The ethanol industry now churns out more than 13 billion gallons of the biofuel while supporting more than 380,000 jobs and adding more than $43.4 billion to the gross domestic product.

Perhaps one of the biggest fabrications is the anti-ethanol faction telling the public we don’t need renewable fuels anymore given new oil extraction technology, better mileage vehicles and slack public demand. Does anybody really think world demand for transportation fuel will stay this low?

Roubini Global Economics notes in a recent report the U.S. is still vulnerable to oil price fluctuations and all the economic chaos that brings. “Heavy oil dependence still renders the country highly vulnerable to price fluctuations in the short-to-medium term, particularly as economic growth — and fuel demand – recovers.”

A report issued last month concluded that the United States’ rigid dependence on oil to fuel cars and trucks meant that Americans kept buying the stuff over the past decade, even as prices rose, at a cost of $1.2 trillion in additional federal debt.

And finally, the U.S. leads the world in advanced-biofuel development, accounting for more than two-thirds of ventures worldwide, according to a report from Navigant Research; While North America is No. 1 in terms of demand and investment. Here is a novel thought…why don’t we try going with our strengths for once, and ethanol appears to be a big one.

 

 

 

Meaningful Act Tells a Bigger Story

I didn’t know Kyle Hendrix but I wish I had. Nor do I know Jake Moore, the young man who recently set up a moving tribute to his fellow farmer who passed away too young from cancer. Moore recently arranged a fitting recognition for his best friend, Hendrix (31) that lined up dozens of tractors and combines along the route to the cemetery.

The wordless act of placing the steel behemoths along the road spoke volumes about their friendship. It also made a meaningful statement about how rural communities still rally around each other in a time of need. The old fashioned barn-raising of years past may be gone but the spirit lingers.

My guess is that much of the same farm machinery shown in Matt Rubel’s spectacular photos will also be seen harvesting Hendrix’s crop in the days ahead.  So Godspeed  Kyle and a big thanks to Moore for reminding us all of the value of friendship and community, and Rubel for capturing the reminder in an indelible way.

Corn Crop Lowered but Record Still Expected

Despite a wet spring causing a challenging start to the season, the 2013 corn crop is still looking to break new ground this year, according to the latest USDA production estimate out Monday.

corn-field“This crop should be a record crop,” said USDA chief economist Joe Glauber. “This is our first objective yield survey of the corn crop, showing a yield of 154.4 bushels per acre, which is way off trend yields but that combined with the real large acreage we saw planted this spring means a very large crop.”

The forecast is 13.8 billion bushels, down slightly from the last estimate, but up 28 percent from 2012. The average yield estimated would be the highest since 2009. Area harvested for grain is forecast at 89.1 million acres, unchanged from the June forecast but up 2 percent from 2012.

However, Glauber points out that much can change between now and harvest, especially since crops were planted so late. “Because it’s developing late, we don’t have good ear weights yet,” he said. “These ears are going to have to fill out and right now we’re doing it on what we expect the fill out to be.” Later development also makes the crop more susceptible to early frost.

World Ag Outlook Board Chair Gerald Bange says the latest forecast means tighter supplies and higher prices. “We’ve gone up 10 cents on each end, between 4.50 and 5.30 per bushel for corn,” he said. The new World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimate projects ending stocks for 2013/14 will be 122 million bushels lower.

Exports are projected 25 million bushels lower with reduced domestic supplies and increased foreign competition. “We’re going to see a lot of corn coming out of places such as Ukraine, for example,” Bange said, as well as continued strong competition from Brazil.

However, Bange was quick to note that the overall export forecast for 2013-14 is up over 70%.

Catch Up with CommonGround

VideoMembers of the National Corn Growers Association understand that, with so many important, productive programs underway, it can be difficult to keep up with the successes achieved by the farmer-funded, farmer-led association. From the American Ethanol partnership with NASCAR to the development of the National Agricultural Genotyping Center, members interested in tracking how NCGA puts their dollars to good use face a myriad of information.

And let’s remember- these men and women have a full-time gig running their farms and caring for their families too.

Keeping updates short and sweet plays a key role in ensuring the grassroots that provide NCGA its strength and character know that every day efforts are underway to create and maintain opportunities that benefit them- America’s corn farmers.

So in the spirit of brevity, roll this clip. In a few short minutes, catch up on what CommonGround, a program formed by NCGA, the United Soybean Board and their state affiliates, is doing to foster dialogue between the women who grow America’s food and those who buy it.

Cultivating Our National Character

blastThe Fourth of July celebrates the birth of our nation. Through fireworks displays, historical reenactments and parades, we take time to give thanks to our founding fathers for the fortitude and foresight they showed in authoring our constitution and constructing the groundwork for a new type of nation.

As we reflect upon these historical events, upon what truly makes us unique as a nation, it makes sense to look at who the founding fathers truly were. In large part, they were farmers.

Of the 55 delegates who attended the Constitutional Convention, 14 were farmers. George Washington, the father of the nation, served as a military leader during the war for independence but, when he went home, he was a farmer.

Our nation has a strong basis in agriculture. Certainly, farming has changed over the years and evolved to meet the needs of a growing, developing society but the character of the farmer, fiercely independent, tirelessly optimistic and doggedly dedicated to hard work, remains an integral part of who we are today.

Thomas Jefferson himself often noted the importance of agriculture to the character of the young nation, famously saying:

“Cultivators of the earth are the most valuable citizens. They are the most vigorous, the most independent, the most virtuous, and they are tied to their country and wedded to its liberty and interests by the most lasting bands. “

This Independence Day, while spending time with family and community, take just a moment to think about the men and women who continue the proud tradition of our forefathers. Think about our farmers. Steadfast in their mission, they provide an abundance that sustains our people and fuels our country.

Are all Scientific Studies Equal?

For those of us who aren’t scientists it is easy to read a seemingly scientific study and assume that it must be true. We like to think that scientists would never lie or misinterpret information. They would never allow a personal bias to interfere with their work, right?

Wrong! In a recent review of Robert Lustig’s book, Fat Chance, Dr. Mark Kern exposed Lustig’s contradictions and falsities. Throughout his book his bias against fructose-containing sugars is very strong, yet in the beginning he states that he has no bias.

Lustig claims that everything in his book can be backed up by cold, hard facts. However, he cites non-peer reviewed publications and makes up facts of his own to align with his message. No reputable scientist would ever take that information seriously, so why should anyone else

On top of everything else, Lustig portrays himself as an expert on the metabolic process, yet he shows a blatant lack of knowledge on that process. This publication should lead one to ask what qualifications this man has to tell you what you should and should not consume.

Unfortunately studies such as Lustig’s are far too common and the American consumers really need to start asking questions about credibility. Pay attention to the real experts, not just those who claim to be.

To read Dr. Kern’s review of Fat Chance click here.

For the latest GMO news, check Snopes

Recent attacks on biotechnology (or “GMOs,” for those who don’t like big words) have reached a fevered pitch. And like anyone with a fever, one can expect a bout of hallucination, or seeing things that aren’t quite there. Did Russian President Vladimir Putin threaten war over GMOs? Do GMO cucumbers cause (pardon the expression) genital baldness? Is Kraft Macaroni and Cheese made from GMO wheat? And what about those Indian farmer suicides?

None of these urban legends appear to be true.

Putin?

Cucumbers?

Mac and cheese?

Farmer suicides?

A blogger recently posted a list of “Nine Things You Should Not Post on Facebook.” I recommend this for anyone who wants to be more active in social media, especially No. 1.

And when it comes to GMOs, here are a few resources for more information. I know there are a lot more, but I am sort of partial to USFRA and CommonGround:

http://www.fooddialogues.com/foodsource/topics/biotech-seeds

http://findourcommonground.com/food-facts/gmo-foods/

 

 



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