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Letter: Setting record straight on ethanol

Published: Friday, Nov. 15, 2013 11:34 p.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, Nov. 15, 2013 11:34 p.m. CDT

To the Editor:

The Daily Chronicle recently ran Associated Press articles about the negative effects of ethanol and ethanol production. Unfortunately, the article misses the mark both in accuracy and balance. 

One of the most egregious claims is that five million acres of land have been pulled out of conservation programs, while 1.2 million acres of virgin grassland have been converted to corn production. AP used government satellite data to arrive at these figures. Had they looked at actual data rather than satellite pictures, they would have come to a much different conclusion. 

A recent study of historical land use patterns across seven Midwestern states – including Illinois – showed little net movement of habitat to cropland and negligible impact on land use even by federal program crops or those covered by crop insurance. Since 2007, only three percent of the total land area in the seven-state study area shifted away from grassy habitat. 

The article states that 44 percent of last year’s corn crop was used for fuel, about twice the rate in 2006. The actual percentage, according to the USDA, was 39 percent on a gross basis. AP failed to report that one-third of all bushels of corn used to produce ethanol also produce livestock feed as a co-product. So ethanol’s net use of the U.S. corn supply is 26 percent.

Unfortunately, these aren’t the only mistakes in the AP article. AP incorrectly makes assumptions about corn prices, greenhouse gases, fertilizer application and the growth of conservation programs.

In each case, a review of independent studies and information readily available from the USDA proves their assumptions wrong. 

We like to think of the AP as a source of reliable, balanced news and information. In this case, nothing could be farther from the truth. 

Philip Nelson

President, Illinois Farm Bureau

Bloomington

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