The Real Cost of Ethanol

Our politics are as interwoven and complex as our ecosystems

From

Issue August 2014 | Published · Link to Article

Last month's article in the Delaware News Journal entitled The Real Cost of Ethanol demonstrates that our politics are as interwoven and complex as our ecosystems and food webs. There are no easy answers but finding a balance between profits and conservation should be at the top of our agendas, especially as election time comes around. 

Last month’s article in the Delaware News Journal entitled The Real Cost of Ethanol demonstrates that our politics are as interwoven and complex as our ecosystems and food webs. There are no easy answers but finding a balance between profits and conservation should be at the top of our agendas, especially as election time draws near.

 

Ethanol promised to lower our gas prices and decrease our dependency on foreign oil not to mention, lower carbon dioxide levels. Those are all worthy goals but there are some serious side effects. We now have corn being planted on 1.3 million acres that had been held back for conservation until recently. Milkweed was once common in the prairies and so were the monarch butterflies that feed on them. They have both fallen in rapid decline since the introduction of pesticide resistant corn and soybeans.

 

Since 2006 the cost of a bushel of corn has gone from about $2 to last years average of about $6. Higher corn prices also mean higher food prices. Producers of chicken, turkey and hogs say the higher feed costs added up to 100 billion a year and that doesn’t count dairy and beef cattle. Proponents say the higher costs come from higher transport costs (I thought ethanol was supposed to lower fuel costs), speculation by Wall Street traders and packaging.

 

The Renewable Fuel Association notes that ethanol offsets the need to import 485 million barrels of petroleum. They also report that ethanol has had a $42.4 billion economic impact, bringing much needed cash to farmers in rural communities. I may not have all the answers but if we can see and quantify the declining numbers of monarch butterflies, birds, native bees and thousands of other pollinators, we must act.

 

Earlier this summer, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service sent out an advisory asking people to consider planting milkweed in their backyards. This is our call to action. Every person, every garden center can play an important role in educating consumers about the importance of keeping our ecosystems whole. 

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