EPA is pressured to drop ethanol mandate while drought drives corn prices up
August 21, 2012
Corn prices are up 60 percent this summer, Christopher Hurt, a Purdue University economic professor, estimates. And now Democratic governors from Maryland, Delaware, North Carolina and Arkansas have joined ranchers, poultry farmers and the United Nations director-general for food and agriculture in asking the Environmental Protection Agency to waive the federal requirement that gasoline contain 10 percent ethanol.
"It's universally acknowledged that ethanol is raising the price of food," Kenneth Green of the American Enterprise Institute said. "It's not lowering the price of gas. In fact, it may be raising the price of gas, and it's having a devastating environmental effect in terms of coastal pollution."
Green says coastal "dead zones" may be increasing because of the run-off from fertilizer-intensive corn crops. But the human economic costs are potentially more severe.
The Department of Agriculture estimates that food inflation will hit 3 percent to 3.5 percent this year, then 3 percent to 4 percent next year. The U.S. is the world's largest food exporter. For the poorest countries dependent on U.S. exports of corn, the impact may cost lives.
The Obama administration, however, hasn't acted to waive the ethanol mandate.
"What I can tell you is that the EPA has made it clear that they are working closely with the Department of Agriculture to keep an eye on yields," White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters Friday. "They will evaluate all the relevant information when assessing that situation."
More recently, when asked about the president's commitment to ethanol, Deputy White House Communications Director Jen Psaki said, "He absolutely believes in it. He thinks it's a driver of the economy here and a key component of renewable energy."
Indeed, ethanol mandates have won favor in the corn belt -- where corn prices and profits have set records in recent years. As evidence of that, more corn now goes to the production of ethanol than to the production of food and cattle and poultry feed. Many of those same corn belt states, including Iowa, Ohio, and Michigan, happen to be key swing states in the upcoming presidential election.
Even if there were political will to challenge the mandates, the ethanol industry has now become an entrenched player in Washington.
"Once it's entrenched, you have a locked-in lobby that won't let you pry it out," Green said. "No matter that your environmental groups have walked away from it, international groups have walked away from it. Everybody has acknowledged it's bad public policy, but it's dug in like a tick."
January 29, 2015
“Close your eyes and imagine you are living 200 years from now. Get up in the morning and you are not allowed to touch fossil fuels,” is the contemplative daydream of Dr. Rakesh Agrawal, distinguished professor of chemical engineering at Purdue University, master inventor and revolutionary thinker who simply cannot help himself, he said, in elevating the discussion of energy solutions and the everyday challenges a solar economy would resolve. Agrawal gave the prestigious fall public lecture for Texas A&M’s Institute for Advanced Study, for which he is a current Faculty Fellow. He addressed the plight of finite energy sources in light of practical, societal needs and the impact of which that has influenced progress and modernization, spanning the history of the human race.Read Full Story
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Research probing the complex science behind the formation of "dendrites" that cause lithium-ion batteries to fail could bring safer, longer-lasting batteries capable of being charged within minutes instead of hours.Read Full Story
January 20, 2015
Purdue University is part of a deep and diverse team selected by the U.S. Department of Energy to lead a $259 million initiative to develop the next generation of energy-efficient vehicles and wind energy and compressed-gas storage technologies.Read Full Story