Big Oil vs. Agriculture

My experience in ethanol production started on the farm. My father held to the conviction that good farmland should be put to good use. He didn’t like being paid by the government for “set-aside acres.” He wanted to turn corn into a higher-value product like energy. So he did just that. Our family built a small ethanol plant to make clean-burning fuel.

Farming and energy have always gone hand-in-hand for me.

That connection between farm and fuel production is stronger today than it ever was, and it’s no coincidence that the success of the ethanol industry in recent years has been mirrored by a boom in agriculture. I see it today with my own eyes at our plants, and it was recently confirmed for me yet again when the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that U.S. farm income jumped 28 percent this year and set a new record.

All of us at POET are so thankful for the corn supplied to our plants by hard-working American farmers. And I’ve heard many times about how glad the farmers are to have the market for corn improved by the ethanol industry. New jobs and new income for people at the plants and in the fields have helped bring new life to rural areas and bolstered the economy of the entire Midwest.

The expression “win-win” doesn’t even do it justice, because ethanol and agriculture aren’t the only winners. We all need alternative fuel. We need something other than oil, because that model’s days are numbered. And ethanol, produced from corn grown on American farms, has provided that.

This success has come through hard work and perseverance. It has not been an easy road, and it is not going to get any easier. We must continue to fight against groups at home and abroad who rely on our addiction to oil for their own success. These groups have fostered a war between fuels and industries. The battles are being fought on many fronts, with casualties, wins and losses on both sides.

Many think this is a fight between ethanol and oil. But in reality, the war is between agriculture and oil.

We’ve seen how this fight plays out nationally. A food vs. fuel campaign largely funded by our opponents tarnished the image of ethanol in 2008. Research shows that during that food price hike, ethanol accounted for only a 0.5% to 0.8% increase, with energy and other factors largely to blame. Yet much of the public still believes ethanol played a major role in the increase in consumer costs.

We’ve seen lobbying and lawsuits to fight the Growth Energy Green Jobs Waiver, approved by the Environmental Protection Agency to allow up to 15 percent ethanol blends to be used by standard vehicles 2001 and newer. Those efforts have delayed E15’s introduction to American drivers.

Indirect Land Use Change theory was successfully inserted into legislation. Blame for the Dead Zone in the Gulf of Mexico has been laid at the feet of the ethanol industry by groups claiming farmers are a primary pollution problem in our nation. These are a few of the challenges we’ve faced.

Competing with well-funded opponents is challenging given the limited budget resources we have available. When something is repeated many times, it becomes more difficult to convince people of the truth. In my opinion, it will take the joint investment of farmers, ethanol producers and ag companies to defeat our opponents.

Groups like Growth Energy, with the support of farmers and other industry proponents, have made strides in spreading the truth. For instance, I’ve noticed in more national media accounts this year that ethanol is no longer the sole target when food prices rise. Market speculation and the rise of oil prices have been rightly taking a larger share of the blame than in the past. All of our efforts continue to make a difference.

There is a lot at stake. We’ve seen the benefit to rural communities and the entire Midwest economy if agriculture wins and ethanol is allowed to expand. It brings jobs and prosperity, and the competition keeps oil prices lower for all Americans.

If Big Oil wins this war, the opposite is true, and increasing corn yields and cellulosic ethanol technology will never be put to good use. Oil will have no competitor; there will be nothing to hold back skyrocketing gas prices. Prosperity will be in OPEC nations, commodity prices will collapse, agriculture and the Midwest economy will suffer.

We need our grassroots movement to grow if we want ethanol to take its rightful place as the dominant fuel source. We need your help to make it happen. Please join Growth Force at, write letters to the editor, talk to your congressmen and senators and educate your friends.

Help us win this war, for yourself and your family, for the ethanol industry, and for the good of the entire country.



Vital is a news & media resource published by POET, presenting a variety of stories with the thought leadership one expects from the largest, most forward-thinking ethanol producer.