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The ethanol effect: When alt fuels go bad

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Iowa grows corn. Miles and miles and miles of it. We don’t eat it, of course—it’s not that kind. We feed it to cattle and hogs, and we send it by the trainload to processing plants that make it into that “high-fructose corn syrup” that’s in everything else we eat. Read the labels in your pantry.

And, this year especially (the angst of the times being as it is), we plant corn in every available corner in order to save the planet (and make pretty good money) by selling it to ethanol plants.

Trouble is, it’s a little like tobacco and Kentucky: government subsidies contribute to the growth of something that we’d probably be better off without. Check out MotherJones excellent explanation:

clipped from
EVERYTHING ABOUT ETHANOL IS GOOD, GOOD, GOOD,” crows Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley, echoing the conventional wisdom that corn-based ethanol will help us kick the oil habit, line the pockets of farmers, and usher in a new era of guilt-free motoring. But despite the wishes of Iowans (and the candidates courting them) the “dot-corn bubble” is too good to be true.

Click the thumbnail below to see the larger image
The Ethanol Effect
  blog it

And it’s impact on soil conservation is not good.

Corn is a hot potato here in Iowa. Though not a lot of us are still farmers, our friends, our industry, and our economy are linked to corn in a big way. But in the long run, it’ll be a bust. We need another scheme for agriculture, and we need pioneers and politicians and professors who’ll help us get there.

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Written by Monte

April 3, 2008 at 10:48 am

Posted in Environment, Iowa, Politics

Iowa Ag race in NY Times op-ed

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Blogger Chris Woods spotted a mention of the Iowa Secretary of Ag race in the New York Times.

It’s an interesting piece. For instance:

Both candidates support ethanol production, and who wouldn’t when ethanol has given Iowa the lowest fuel prices in the nation? But otherwise they are about as different as it is possible to be and still be an Iowan for agriculture. Bill Northey, a Republican, farms corn and soybeans and has been endorsed by the Farm Bureau. His Democratic opponent is Denise O’Brien, who raises poultry, apples and strawberries. She and her husband farm organically, and her campaign vehicle is a green biodiesel school bus.

The candidates capture a real split in the farm world — in Iowa and the nation as a whole. Mr. Northey proudly represents the industrial vision of farming that has turned Iowa into the land of the two-crop, corn-soybean rotation, a place where the chance to produce corn-based ethanol looks like diversity. Ms. O’Brien . . . is a reminder that Iowa would be better off with greater agricultural diversity, stronger communities and a greater emphasis on the health of its natural resources.

Sometimes it seems like the parties don’t give us much choice.   In this case, a first glance suggests that we may actually get to say something about the future of Iowa farming.

Click here for Woods’ comments or here to see it in the Times itself. Know any details?

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Written by Monte

October 11, 2006 at 12:42 pm

Posted in Environment