Accuracy, balance lost in ethanol article

November 24, 2013 

The BND recently ran an Associated Press article about the negative effects of ethanol and ethanol production. Unfortunately, the article misses the mark both in accuracy and balance.

One of the most egregious claims is that 5 million acres of land have been pulled out of conservation programs, while 1.2 million acres of virgin grassland have been converted to corn production. AP used government satellite data to arrive at these figures. Had they looked at actual data rather than satellite pictures they would have come to a much different conclusion.

A recent study of historical land use patterns across seven Midwestern states -- including Illinois -- showed little net movement of habitat to cropland and negligible impact on land use even by federal program crops or those covered by crop insurance. Since 2007, only 3 percent of the total land area in the seven-state study area shifted away from grassy habitat.

The article states that 44 percent of last year's corn crop was used for fuel, about twice the rate in 2006. The actual percentage, according to USDA, was 39 percent on a gross basis. AP failed to report that one-third of all bushels of corn used to produce ethanol also produce livestock feed as a co-product. So ethanol's net use of the U.S. corn supply is 26 percent.

Unfortunately, these aren't the only mistakes. The AP incorrectly makes assumptions about corn prices, greenhouse gases, fertilizer application and the growth of conservation programs. In each case, a review of independent studies and information readily available from the USDA proves their assumptions wrong.

We like to think of the AP as a source of reliable, balanced news and information. In this case, nothing could be further from the truth.

Philip Nelson, President

Illinois Farm Bureau


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