Reuters. Farm and oil industry lobbyists are waging a pitched battle of dueling facts and figures on the costs of corn-blended ethanol as the full Senate prepares to debate the energy bill that includes a provision for an 8-billion-gallon Renewable Fuel Standard. (Earlier post.)
The National Corn Growers Association and other backers of the RFS plan to require US refiners to blend 8 billion gallons of ethanol into gasoline a year by 2012 say it will give the oil-addicted economy a home-grown substitute. Gasoline prices should fall as more ethanol is used, they say.
Meanwhile, the American Petroleum Institute and refiners see it as a boondoggle benefiting a handful of Midwest farm states. They say an ethanol mandate will drive up pump prices and make corn—as well as groceries—more costly.
On Tuesday, the Senate will wade into the fight between the two politically powerful lobbies when it takes up energy legislation. The $11 billion package also includes incentives to boost domestic oil, natural gas, coal and nuclear supplies.
In this market, my money’s on the farm lobby.
But Republicans and Democrats alike from farm states are eager to bump up ethanol incentives before next year's congressional elections.
Presidential hopefuls are also keen on ethanol. No aspiring presidential candidate aside from Republican maverick John McCain has dared oppose ethanol ahead of Iowa’s political caucuses that kick off the presidential election season.
Obscured by the dueling behemoths is the potential for non-corn ethanol in scenarios for sustainable mobility: ethanol fermented from non-corn sugar feedstocks, cellulosic ethanol from biomass waste, or ethanol produced via gasification of waste and subsequent biocatalysis.
Indeed, in the USDA’s and DOE’s Billion Ton Vision (earlier post) in which the two agencies conclude that the land resources of the US could produce a sustainable supply of biomass sufficient to displace 30% or more of the country’s present petroleum consumption, corn grain plays only a partial role.
But neither the farm lobby nor the oil lobby is going to want to talk about that.