Last November, the Associated Press did a one-sided take down of American agriculture, painting the U.S. farmer and the ethanol industry as culprits in the loss of CRP land for crop production.
It wasn’t the first time, nor will it be the last, that certain members of the mainstream media disregard facts to boost their headline impact. It’s important for the ethanol industry’s supporters to know the truth and remember that sustainability is one of the key advantages that biofuels bring to the table.
Our business is built on a cornerstone of American agriculture, and its sustainability is what makes our fuel the long-term answer to the nation’s energy problems. We depend on the land and the farmers who manage it. Virtually all of the attacks our industry takes on the environmental front are, in fact, attacks on agriculture. I’d like to refute just a couple of the most recent allegations.
Claim 1: If agriculture is profitable, farmers will disregard sustainable land management.
Truth: I’m proud of the fact that ethanol helps farmers get a fair price for grain. We’re not going to apologize for that. The notion that environmental policy requires depressed land value and lower farm income is ridiculous.
Claim 2: The AP alleges that profitable farming (due to ethanol) led to a loss of 5 million acres of CRP land since Obama took office.
Truth: The 2008 Farm Bill cut 7 million acres worth of funding for CRP.
Claim 3: Profitable farming has caused landowners to fill in wetlands to expand crop area.
Truth: The acreage enrolled in the Wetlands Reserve Program hit a record in 2012.
The rhetoric from many of these media outlets, who are far removed from farm country, doesn’t match reality. It is important to listen to what the media and environmental groups have to say, but it’s also important to check their claims. Some claims come from a poor understanding of agriculture and the reality on the ground in the Midwest.
What I see in the Midwest is an agriculture industry that has consistently increased production, improved efficiency, and lowered inputs such as water and fertilizer as they go about feeding and fueling the world. Those claims pass the eye test, and USDA’s own data supports them.
Environmental consciousness isn’t just in the field. POET has its eye on sustainability within our facilities as well.
Our sustainability initiative, which we call “Ingreenuity,” is now entering its fourth year, and we have made significant progress in all areas since its inception:
1) We have dropped our water use from 3 gallons per gallon of ethanol to 2.6, with an ultimate goal of 2.33.
2) We have improved ethanol yield by more than 3 percent, with an ultimate goal of 10%.
3) We have lowered our greenhouse gas emissions by 3.3 percent.
4) We have produced more than 700 million pounds of bio-based products, primarily from corn oil, surpassing the goal of 500 million pounds.
The progress we have made comes from a constant focus on improving our processes and placing a priority on engineering, research and product development. We don’t just pay lip service to sustainability. It shapes everything we do, both to improve the environment and to improve our competitiveness in the fuel market.
We adhere to a bold mission here at POET: to take the abundance created from fertile American soil, add human ingenuity, and create energy and food solutions for the world. Along with our partners on farms across the Midwest, we are achieving that mission. Ethanol is unquestionably superior to gasoline as an environmental and sustainable energy source. We are changing the world. Take pride in that fact.