By Darrin Ihnen, president, National Corn Growers Association
The National Corn Growers Association was singled out for praise last month by a business writer for Slate.com, a prominent online journal, for not taking advantage of the oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico to promote ethanol. While we have said a few things about it, we have remained relatively quiet on the matter while a number of our friends have been more vocal.
However, we cannot allow our quietness on this to imply that we disagree with what our colleagues have said. It is, after all, the worst crisis the oil industry has faced in its history and the worst environmental crisis the region has ever seen.
While the writer mentioned above gave us "props" for not taking advantage of this, another writer for Slate on Thursday said that talking about ethanol in this particular crisis was the "most disgusting aspect of the blowout."
This is scandalously wrong. People died, and the environment will take generations to rebound. British Petroleum, a major global company, is expected to suffer great financial loss, which could leave many broke and jobless, and some anti-ethanol critics are more upset about ... a little rhetoric?
It's not time for such carping. It's time for focusing on solutions, short- and long-term, and we will raise our voices about this disaster and push for continued support for ethanol, one of the best solutions to our national over-reliance on oil. We will never say that expanding ethanol will do away with the need for oil, but if we can reduce the need for more oil, then it's a good thing.
Ethanol opponents say we need to relax the ethanol tax credits (much of which goes to the oil industry) and remove the mandates to "level the playing field" in a "free marketplace." We heartily disagree. Government has a legitimate role in actively promoting and encouraging renewable domestic biofuels. We will, therefore, continue to forcefully seek an extension of these tax credits and the tariff on foreign ethanol.
Despite BP's pledges to make it all right, you cannot resuscitate the lives lost or the economic and environmental damage wrought so far. It's not a "spill" or a "leak;" It's a disaster and a disgrace.
And ethanol, produced from corn grown by American farming families such as mine, can help keep it from happening again.