Pennsylvania state Rep. Stephen Bloom welcomes AP report on destructiveness of taxpayer-subsidized ethanol production; many scientists feel ethanol's fuel output outweighed by energy it takes to produce fuel, finds report

HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania , November 17, 2013 () – Pa. environmentalists say energy virtues of ethanol exaggerated

State Rep. Stephen Bloom said it is a sad irony the same critics who vilify clean shale energy give ethanol a free pass as a so-called "green" fuel. "I'm encouraged to see that the destructive realities of taxpayer-subsidized ethanol production are finally being exposed," the Cumberland County Republican said Tuesday after the Associated Press published the findings of an investigation.

The wire service showed that corn-based ethanol production has resulted in widespread soil erosion, the loss of conservation land, contaminated water supplies and the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

The AP reported the consequences are so severe, environmentalists and many scientists have now rejected corn-based ethanol and are calling it bad environmental policy.

"The ugly reality behind the anti-shale hype is that ethanol production consumes exponentially more fresh water and other precious resources than natural gas fracking," Bloom said. "Attaining American energy independence is a worthy and realistic goal, but with the abundant clean natural gas we have now discovered in Pennsylvania, the way to get there is safe shale energy, not dirty expensive ethanol."

The AP report lists concerns the Sierra Club has had for years about corn-based ethanol production, said Jeff Schmidt, director of the Pennsylvania chapter of the national environmental organization that has made combating climate disruption a major goal.

Many scientists believe it takes more energy to produce ethanol than what it can generate as a fuel, Schmidt said. "It's a net energy loser."

He said it takes fuel to power the machinery to produce, transport and process the corn into ethanol.

"In each of these stages greenhouse gases are being emitted, contributing to our climate problem," Schmidt said.

Historically, Pennsylvania farmers do not grow enough corn to feed their livestock, so they have to import it from other parts of the country, Schmidt said.

"Any corn that is diverted from the food stream for animals will increase the cost to farmers of animal feed," he said.

"If you talk about ethanol production across the country, Pennsylvania is not even on the radar," said H. Grant Troop, executive director of the Pennsylvania Corn Growers Association.

Locally, Judy Miller, manager of the fertilizer department at Ag Com in Gettysburg which distributes some locally grown corn, said the corn is turned into 100 percent feed only. The business does not produce any corn for ethanol.

Statewide, the vast majority of corn grown goes to feed livestock, with only a very small percentage converted into ethanol, Troop said.

For most Pennsylvania farmers, it is not practical to pay the transportation costs necessary to truck their corn to Clearfield County, which is the location of the only ethanol-conversion plant in the state, he said.

The Clearfield County facility was something Bloom did not favor, given the taxpayer subsidies that went into building the plant, he said.

"Then it immediately went bankrupt, wasting all those tax dollars and investments in producing this destructive product," Bloom said.

Still, the growers association supports maintaining corn-based ethanol production as a marketing choice for those farmers who can afford it, Troop said.

"If the ethanol plant is paying more than the feed mill, then go to the ethanol plant," he said.

Contrary to what some believe, corn harvested for ethanol production is not completely lost, he said. He explained while the distilling process removes much of the starch from corn, it leaves behind a concentration of high quality protein as a byproduct that can be processed into feed.

In 2012, Pennsylvania farmers planted 1.46 million acres of corn and harvested one million acres for grain and 440,000 acres for silage, said Sherry Deane, an agricultural statistician for the Northeast Regional Office of the National Agricultural Statistics Service.

While silage is the whole stalk of corn fed directly to livestock, "grain" corn can be corn for seed, human consumption, processed feed or ethanol, she said. Her office does not keep statistics on how much "grain" corn produced in Pennsylvania is processed into ethanol.

The Sierra Club does not support corn-based ethanol and would rather the focus be placed on increasing engine efficiency to eliminate the need for additional sources of fuel, Schmidt said.

"We do not accept that (ethanol) is either green energy or sustainable," he said. "It is neither."

Bloom said he has heard of many complaints about the damage ethanol-blended fuel can do to engines and machinery, especially older models.

Currently in Pennsylvania, all gasoline sold in the state must contain at least 10 percent cellulosic ethanol once the in-state production reaches 350 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol and sustains the volume for three months.


Information from: The Sentinel,

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