Ethanol Debate Heats Up

In recent statements, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) came out in favor of increased ethanol production and research. Citing America’s increasing dependence on foreign oil, Grassley emphasized the strategic dangers American foreign policy faces without energy independence. American taxpayers have long funded military involvement in Middle Eastern nations, largely to protect and secure American oil interests, Grassley argued. That coupled with the increasing growth of nations like China and India, both of which are consuming more and more finite fossil fuels, requires new directions in American energy research.

The benefits of ethanol are certainly many. Ethanol research and production would limit America’s dependence on foreign oil, allowing the U.S. to divest ourselves of Middle Eastern unrest and turmoil and allow us to limit our overall involvement in international military adventures. In addition, ethanol is a less finite resource than petroleum. Corn (and as technology advances, grass, wood waste, and other biofuels) is easier to acquire than fossil fuels.

However, ethanol has many critics in the U.S. Ethanol production, while cleaner than fossil fuels, is not an entirely green energy source. The Environmental Protection Agency recently concluded that ethanol barely met the 20% reduction in emissions to qualify as a renewable energy source. The EPA also questioned the long-term impact of ethanol production, as increased farming could damage the soil and harm biodiversity. Ethanol production also takes corn off dinner tables and could lead to food shortages. In a statement last month, former President Bill Clinton warned that American agricultural policy should keep the developing world in mind and should be wary to contribute to food shortages worldwide.

The role of ethanol will certainly play a major role in U.S. politics over the next several months as the Senate debates the upcoming Farm Bill. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan), the chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, has hinted that she will put ethanol research and development at the forefront of the Farm Bill.

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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer