2014 Resolution: Put Environment Back in EPA

In Activism, American Ethanol, Biofuels, Conservation, Corny News, Environmental, Ethanol, General, Policy, Water by Mark

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

In General by Ken

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.

 

Seed Treatment Stewardship

In Audio, Farming, Sustainability by Cindy

Seed treatments could arguably be called one of the greatest advancements in agricultural production since the plow. That’s why proper stewardship of this important technology for farmers is so critical.

nafb13-asta-andyAmerican Seed Trade Association (ASTA) CEO Andy LaVinge says seed industry and agricultural organizations have partnered to develop a new guide for farmers under the industry banner of Seed Treatment Matters. “We got together with CropLife America, and the major grower groups – National Corn Growers, American Soybean, National Cotton Council and American Farm Bureau Federation – to talk about the adoption of new technologies we’ve seen on seed,” he said. “We want to make sure that technology is properly stewarded.”

“Seed treatment does matter,” LaVigne added. “As farmers look at their seed treatment and seed plantings, we want to make sure that it matters, what they plant and how they steward it.”

The guide developed by the groups is available at seed-treatment-guide.com and it will also be offered and discussed at 2014 grower meetings.

Listen to my interview with Andy here: Interview with Andy LaVigne, ASTA

Big Win for Big Oil?

In Biofuels, Environmental, Ethanol by Cathryn

Washington-insider newspaper, The Hill, published its top ten list of lobbying victories in 2013 today and, in doing so, dealt a death blow to arguments that the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposal to lower the volume of ethanol required under the Renewable Fuel Standard in 2014 is based in a sound argument. Giving the number five slot to the American Petroleum Institute, the Grocery Manufacturers Association, the Association for Convenience and Fuel Retailing, and the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, the paper chalked up the decision as a big win for big oil’s powerful lobby.

“The oil and gas industry, with a little help from food producers, won a victory over the ethanol mandate in 2013.

“Breaking with precedent, the Environmental Protection Agency for the first time declined to increase the amount of ethanol and other biofuels that must be mixed into gasoline.

“The EPA is now proposing to lower the mandate, beginning what ethanol opponents hope will be a steady retreat away from the fuel requirements in the years ahead.”

The EPA, a government agency presumably tasked with basing decisions in sound science with consideration given to economic implications, should be better than this. Depriving American consumers of renewable, sustainable biofuels in the service of Big Oil does not make environmental or economic sense. This politically-motivated policy does not meet the high standard the American people should set for such a powerful agency.

Let the EPA know that its proposed rule will be scrutinized outside of the Beltway, where the tax revenue that supports DC salaries is actually generated. Learn more about NCGA’s Don’t Gut the RFS campaign by clicking here.

How to Write Like an Angry GMO Expert

In Activism, Animal rights, Biotechnology, Food by Cindy

judeDr. Jude Capper is a livestock sustainability consultant, professor of animal sciences, and a “bovidiva” according to her blog of the same name.

Last week she did a great post entitled “Activism 101 – How to Write Like An Angry Internet “Expert” on GMOs.” An asterisk after the word “expert” points to a footnote:

*Note that being an “expert” does not involve education, higher degrees or being employed within the industry in question. Nowadays you can only be an expert if you are entirely impartial, third-party, and preferably know nothing whatsoever about the system in question. On that basis, I’m off to write a book about Zen Dentistry.

She offers nine points on how to write like an angry GMO expert, the final one being – “If all else fails, invoke the name of the evil that must be named….ahem, Monsanto. If you say it three times into a mirror, an ancient agricultural god will appear and wreak vengeance upon the earth. Honestly, I saw it on Oprah.”

Jude is hilarious, satirical, and often outrageous and if so much of this blog post were not sadly true it would be a lot funnier.

Read it and weep or LOL – or both.

Oil Survey Shows Ethanol Is Clearly A Target

In Activism, American Ethanol, Biofuels, Current News, Environmental, Ethanol, Politics by Mark

What was the second biggest policy story of the year in eyes of the petroleum industry? According to a recent membership survey by the American Petroleum Institute reconsidering biofuel (ethanol) blending. What was the second biggest transportation, storage and refining story of the year? The battle over biofuels blending. And what was listed 2nd on oil’s list of things they most want to see happen in 2014? Yep, reduction in EPA blending requirements.

Most of the public are too focused on their jobs, raising families and just paying the bills to have a deep understanding of the growing role of biofuels and renewable ethanol in our nation. However, years of education by supporters of the domestic fuel have generated a basic awareness of ethanol’s benefits such as job creation, reducing greenhouse gas, and providing a fuel choice that makes us less reliant on imported petroleum.

Because of this hard fought and well deserved perception that ethanol is good, many of my friends have been asking me lately what the heck is going on with the rash of negative information related to ethanol. How did proven ethanol suddenly become a bad idea over night? Most recently, the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposal to reduce the amount of ethanol to be blended in our fuel supply has been getting a lot of media attention.

Put simply, the oil industry has always been ok with ethanol as long as the market share didn’t get too large. In fact they need a certain amount of ethanol because it allows them to provide a high octane product at less cost…meaning more margin for them. Without ethanol they would be forced to do more extensive and costly refining in order to produce a product that won’t leave your car sputtering curbside.

But in today’s market things have changed. Increasing domestic oil production, more fuel efficient vehicles and a soft economy have shrunk the volume of fuel needed. Thus big oil finds themselves looking at the bigger market slice on ethanol’s plate and thinks “hey we want some of that back.”

The unspoken part of the previous statement is “and yes we will pay nicely to get it.” And they have done so in recent years. Their most recent onslaught has been sustained by millions of dollars of lobbying, advertising and poor pseudo-journalism.

You might be inclined to think the family farmers and independent businessmen that make up the ethanol industry are just paranoid but given the aforementioned high priority petroleum has placed on this issue, “it ain’t paranoia if they’re really out to get ya.”

 

Journal to Retract Seralini Rat Study

In Activism, Biotechnology, Guest Blogger by Cathryn

Today, Corn Commentary shares a guest post that originally ran on The Farmers Life. This blog, authored by Indiana farmer Brian, provides a window into ag and thoughtful, open conversation about the issues impacting farmers today.

Journal to Retract Seralini Rat Study

Last year French scientist Gilles-Eric Seralini made news when a paper by his team was published in Food and Chemical Toxicology.  Data concerning long-term feeding of genetically modified Monsanto corn and the herbicide glyphosate (Roundup) in the Seralini study suggested the rats being studied developed cancerous tumors.  Of course this news spread around the internet like wildfire among those who detest biotech crops.  Finally they had a really high profile study published proving their point.

Criticism of Seralini Study

The scientific community widely criticized the study’s statistical methods.  The number of rats used was questionable, and the data drawn from test and control groups seemed incomplete at best. Test groups of Harlan Sprague-Dawley rats used in the feeding study were given various amounts of NK603 corn over a two-year period.  Test subjects were also given varying amounts of glyphosate in drinking water.  Control rats received non-GM corn and regular drinking water.  Rats fed GMO corn and glyphosate developed tumors during their two-year life span, and pictures of tumor riddled rats plagued the internet.

Seralini rats as described by scientist Kevin Folta. “Sometimes the way data are presented can expose the relative objectivity and hidden intent of a study. Left-rat that ate GMO corn. Center- rat eating GMO corn and roundup. Right- rat fed roundup. Their associated tumors shown on the right. Wait! What about the control rats, the ones that also got tumors? How convenient to leave them out!”

Seralini rats as described by scientist Kevin Folta. “Sometimes the way data are presented can expose the relative objectivity and hidden intent of a study. Left-rat that ate GMO corn. Center- rat eating GMO corn and roundup. Right- rat fed roundup. Their associated tumors shown on the right. Wait! What about the control rats, the ones that also got tumors? How convenient to leave them out!”

But what about the control rats?  They developed tumors as well.  Sprague-Dawley rats are known to develop tumors during their lifespan. In fact a majority of them are known to do so within two years.  Further analysis of Seralini’s data shows rats fed NK603 corn and Roundup-laced water sometimes had less incidence of tumors than the control group.  Shouldn’t that bit of information thrown up some red flags possibly before the study was originally published inFood and Chemical Toxicology?  Flags were thrown for and by many scientists, and now the tables are turning as the editor of the journal, A. Wallace Hayes, stated this week he would retract the paper from the journal if Seralini did not withdraw it himself.

When I first heard news of Seralini’s study in 2012 I was skeptical as you might imagine.  Livestock have been fed GM corn and soybeans for almost 20 years now.  If it was so awful as to cause all the ailments claimed by those who seem to pander to anti-GMO sentiment I think it stands to reason that farmers would have backed off the stuff long ago.  But that kind of logic doesn’t fit the narrative of GMO = Bad.  The Seralini paper was, and likely still is, validation for those who were predisposed to interpret it as definitive proof that biotechnology should be outlawed.

Seralini Going Forward

Although I am glad to see this fear mongering study being pulled from publication I’m afraid the damage has already been done.  And if you’re a GMO hater you can still easily feel like you’ve won.  I’ve already seen the internet gearing up to portray the retraction as a result of great pressure applied to the journal by Big Ag and the politicians supposedly paid off by industry money.  People who believe such narratives don’t have to change their minds when new information comes to light.  Even if the old information was questionable to begin.  All they need do is move the goal post.  Kevin Folta agrees “we’ll see the wagons circle“ while suggesting steps for Seralini to take since he is standing behind his team’s research.

Science is a process, and I’m happy the process is working.

To view the original post, click here.

Corn Oil Loves Your Heart

In Research by Cindy

A new study shows that corn oil is better than extra virgin olive oil when it comes to lowering cholesterol.

corn-oil-heartThe findings were presented recently at the American Society for Nutrition’s Advances & Controversies in Clinical Nutrition Conference by lead researcher, Dr. Kevin C Maki with Biofortis, the clinical research arm of Merieux NutriSciences.

“The study results suggest corn oil has significantly greater effects on blood cholesterol levels than extra virgin olive oil, due, in part, to the natural cholesterol-blocking ability of plant sterols,” said Dr. Maki. “These findings add to those from prior research supporting corn oil’s positive heart health benefits.”

Corn oil has four times more plant sterols than olive oil and 40 percent more than canola oil. To the extent that plant sterols play a part in reducing blood cholesterol levels, they could have an important role in a heart healthy diet.

Corn oil is also better for your pocketbook, by far, and no research is necessary to tell you that. The average price for a gallon of corn oil is about $10, while a gallon of extra virgin olive oil will run you $30 or more. Love your heart and your wallet at the same time!

Harvest in the Bin

In Audio, Farming, USDA, Video by Cindy

2013 corn harvestThe 2013 harvest is considered completed at this point and the overall consensus is that it was a strange year that turned out well in the end.

Lance Honig with USDA’s National Ag Statistics Service says it looks especially good compared to 2012. “Last year with the extreme drought, we’d be hard pressed not to be above last year,” he said, adding that the growing season this year was certainly different than last year but no more normal. “What is normal these days? Nobody knows what a normal is.”

Despite all the challenges that faced farmers this season, the nation’s corn crop is on track to be a record high 14 billion bushels, according to the November crop production forecast, which was the final one of the season. “So the next report will be the final end-of-season numbers coming out January 10,” said Honig. NASS is beginning the process this week of surveying some 80,000 farmers for that report “so we can capture that actual harvest information from them.”

Leah Guffey interviewed Lance at the National Association of Farm Broadcasting annual Trade Talk last month: Interview with Lance Honig, USDA-NASS

Found this YouTube video from Cross Implement in central Illinois using Luke Bryan’s Harvest Time to help celebrate this special time of year!

Chick-Fil-A Makes a Bitter Blunder

In Food by Cathryn

Chick-Fil-A announced that, like so many others before it, the company will make the myth-based marketing maneuver to remove high fructose corn syrup from its sauce. Instead of standing for sound science and maintaining the current quality of its astoundingly popular products, these big chickens have bowed to the bogus peer pressure cited by brands when hitching their image to the anti-HFCS hype.

As Corn Commentary has pointedly examined so many times before, all sweeteners, whether they come from cane, corn or beet, are equally safe when consumed in moderation. No reputable research proves HFCS poses additional problems. No well-informed person would believe the haters’ hype after thoughtfully dissecting the data.

Yet Chick-Fil-A portends the play to be a result of consumer concerns. Whether their marketing mavens foolishly fell for the sugar industries’ self-interested simulation of actual angst or they generated the faux fears to mask the fatty truth, Chick-Fil-A is slipping on the Spanx and donning the holier-than-thou anti-HFCS halo to make itself more attractive.

Let’s show them that consumers won’t fall for their mock makeover. Tweet @ChickfilA today letting to let them know that American diners won’t be duped. Just because Chick-Fil-A doesn’t sweeten their sauce with HFCS their profits won’t grow fatter. #BitterBlunder.