Wednesday, November 13, 2013
The ethanol industry in the US is living in an emerging crisis, and it needs to ask hard questions about itself in order to survive an onslaught of negative publicity. It is hard to remember that a few years ago, ethanol produced primarily from corn was considered a vital part of energy independence. Then came horizontal drilling and fracking and suddenly, the nation has all the natural gas and much of the petroleum it needs, especially with continued conservation of energy. Critics of ethanol, who were always there, are now getting a hearing from people worried about food prices and security. The ethanol industry has already scaled back, but now it is looking at its existence and must fight for a place at the resources table. Part of the problem is that urbanites and suburbanites do not understand the agriculture or the technology behind ethanol production. Their criteria is affordable food and energy. If they can get both with ethanol production, they will support it. If one or the other commodity rises in price, they will protest. Ethanol's future rests with policy makers in Washington. It will be interesting to see what happens to the industry in the next three years.