Supporters and critics of corn-based ethanol fuel are clashing over an Associated Press story about the environmental impact of ethanol production.
Leroy Perkins is a southern Iowa farmer quoted in the AP story because he’s considering plowing under 91 acres of grassland that’s been enrolled in the Conservative Reserve Program. Perkins said during a telephone news conference organized by the ethanol industry that he supports ethanol production.
“I think it’s good for the environment and it’s been great for the farmers around here because it’s created a lot of economic activity and income for the farmers and businesses here in Wayne County as well as across Iowa and the Midwest in general,” Perkins said.
Perkins told reporters he began using the corn-based fuel in his vehicles years ago when it was first called “gasahol.”
“It’s a product of the land and it’s not something we’re going to run out of and I feel it is much better than oil,” Perkins said, “because it’s made right here in the U.S. of A.”
Critics contend ethanol production has prompted farmers to plow under highly-erodible land and plant corn, leading to farm fertilizer run-off that eventually pollutes drinking water. Ethanol supporters counter that the loss of federal rental payments for more than seven million acres of ground that had been enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program accounts for much of the shift.
“I think there’s probably more truth in this week’s National Enquirer than there is in the AP story,” Geoff Cooper, vice president of research at the Renewable Fuels Association, said during the telephone news conference.
Cooper said using Perkin’s home base as an example, farmers there are planting less corn than they used to plant.
“All you have to do is go look at USDA records and they’ll show you that in 1985, for instance, 88,000 acres of corn were planted in Wayne County,” Cooper said. “That compares to 58,000 acres that were planted last year, so a 34-35 percent reduction since the mid-80s.”
The senior managing editor for the Associated Press issued a statement, saying the story was the result of “months of work” and the AP stands behind its reporting.
Some members of congress are trying to do away with the federal mandate that requires oil companies to blend ethanol into gasoline. The Obama Administration opposes that move, but the Environmental Protection Agency is rumored to be considering a slight reduction in the federal which stipulates the amount of ethanol that must be produced in 2014.