AP ethanol stories were incorrect

Published 10:55 am Thursday, November 14, 2013

Earlier this week the Associated Press released “The secret environmental cost of U.S. ethanol policy” and several side stories. The report was rife with misrepresentations about the renewable fuel industry and the rural American economy — a particularly fruitful industry here in Minnesota. Poet Biorefining in Glenville produces 42 million gallons of renewable fuel annually. Not only does the plant ensure good-paying jobs in the region, but it also moves us forward in our quest for energy independence.

Renewable fuel is important to the rural economy, and I want to set the facts straight.

The story stated that farmers planted “15 million more acres of corn last year than before the ethanol boom.” However, this is just incorrect. In fact, farmers are growing more corn with less by increasing their productivity and sustainability practices. Corn yields are up by 64 percent since 1980. This doubling of the U.S. corn crop was achieved by planting just 3 percent more corn acres in 2009 than was planted in 1980. Additionally, one-third of every bushel used in the ethanol process is returned to the livestock feed market in the form of dried distillers grains or corn gluten. This highlights the industry’s ability to both fuel and feed consumers.

Email newsletter signup

This is just one of the many inaccuracies in the AP’s story. However, the AP did get one thing right — that “the environmental consequences of drilling for oil and natural gas are well documented and severe.”

The one thing we know for certain is the fossil fuels we burn today have a dangerous impact on our environment, but we do have a choice. We have a choice to continue using energy sources that cause irrevocable harm to our environment or we can continue to invest in cleaner alternatives, such as renewable fuels.

We have a choice, and here in Minnesota we are choosing a clean energy future. Here at Poet, we firmly believe that conservation is important to both our environment and the agriculture community. However, we will not apologize for helping farmers make a profit for the first time in decades. The ethanol industry supports 400,000 direct, indirect and induced jobs nationwide and has reduced our nation’s dependence on unstable sources of foreign oil by 15 percent. The AP’s smear of the industry is not only inaccurate but is a direct assault on the nation’s farmers who work so hard to bring alternative fuel sources to consumers and more affordable options at the gas pump.

In a time when our nation is facing fiscal challenges, we need to work with our elected officials here in Minnesota and in Washington to ensure that policies like the Renewable Fuel Standard remain intact. Such policies encourage further growth of the renewable fuel industry and support the backbone of our nation’s economy: the American farmer.


Steve McNinch
general manager
Poet Biorefining