Your Opinion: Don't lay blame on ethanol
Crude oil prices hit $120 and they don't seem to be slowing down, causing an even tighter pinch for Americans - yet corn ethanol continues to shoulder the blame for increased food prices. The agriculture, transport and food industries are sufferi...
Crude oil prices hit $120 and they don't seem to be slowing down, causing an even tighter pinch for Americans - yet corn ethanol continues to shoulder the blame for increased food prices. The agriculture, transport and food industries are suffering miserably from fuel prices, and their increased costs are passed on to our grocery bills.
Earlier in the month, Texas A&M University published findings about the increased food prices we're experiencing as a nation. And what was the main culprit? Overall energy costs. We've seen spikes in the prices of staple food items such as bread, eggs and milk as a result of global economic factors that are beyond our control. Nations such as China and India continue to grow in population and wealth, increasing their demand for grains and protein sources. In other places, wheat crops have suffered from drought and crop acreage continues to shift.
Rising food prices, both domestically and globally, are undoubtedly a grave concern for all of us. Here in the U.S., families are feeling the pinch in the supermarket checkout lane. And around the world we have witnessed panic and violence spurred by food shortages. It is simply irresponsible to blame ethanol for global factors beyond our control.
Ethanol is not taking corn from the human food supply. U.S. corn growers have in recent years planted record corn crops, and even with a projected slight dip in acres planted in 2008, the corn crop is still producing the largest surplus we've had since the 1980s. Here in North Dakota, growers planted the biggest crop in the state's history, with
2.6 million acres planted. And that crop, alongside the millions of acres planted in other states, goes into food, fuel and export.
The United States is a nation that has a long history of commitment to food aid donation. In fact, we are the world's largest donor. As we continue to support fellow nations who are unable to grow or import adequate food supplies, we must also keep in mind that the U.S. imports roughly $1 billion worth of foreign oil every day. Imagine what could be done with even a fraction of that money for the U.S. food donation. Do we want to continue to exist in a world where money that could be spent on food remains burned on massive fuel prices?
We must continue our commitment to renewable domestic energy sources, and ethanol has opened that door for us. It is homegrown, and it's readily available today. Most importantly, the ethanol industry continues to evolve and fund new technology. Cellulosic ethanol is becoming a reality, made from nongrain sources such as switchgrass and plant waste and yielding higher energy.
Let's rally around energy independence. It's something we must take seriously as a nation, for it holds the key to future prosperity and a more secure energy future.
State Sen. Heitkamp, D-Hankinson, N.D., has served District 26 since 1994. He is not running for re-election. He also is a Fargo-based radio talk-show host.