US ethanol takes unfair flak from food-versus-fuel debate - RFA

21 February 2011 19:16  [Source: ICIS news]

PHOENIX, Arizona (ICIS)--The US ethanol industry will continue to fight the notion that the biofuel causes the price of food to rise even though ethanol has little to do with higher food prices, trade group Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) said on Monday.

“The food-versus-fuel canard, which has been recycled for 30 years now, will likely be resurrected with new vigour again this year,” said RFA president Bob Dinneen at the opening of the National Ethanol Conference in Phoenix.

Dinneen dismissed the notion that ethanol causes food prices to rise, saying instead that ethanol is actually responsible for making the US produce more corn.

“Increased demand for grain created by the ethanol industry is enabling innovation and driving increased productivity on the farm and in the labs of seed companies across the country,” he said.

“Yields exceeded 152m bushels per acre, meaning we are growing twice as much corn on the same amount of land as we did when the RFA was formed,” Dinneen said, referring to the founding of the ethanol group 30 years ago.

US farmers grew about 12.5bn bushels of corn last year, according to the RFA.

“It was the third largest corn crop in history," Dinneen said. It was the fourth crop in a row that exceeded 12bn bushels.

“We need to start taking credit for it,” Dinneen told delegates at the conference, adding that the grain used in US ethanol production represents only 3% of the world’s grain supply on a net basis and none of its food-grain supply.

Only 20 cents of every dollar spent on food goes back to farmers, he said.

The main threat to global food supplies is not biofuels, but rather it is underinvestment in agriculture and, more significantly, the skyrocketing level of energy costs, the RFA claimed.

“Energy touches every element of food production, marketing and distribution, from the fertilizer used to produce the crop to the plastic it’s stored in to the diesel used to get it to the grocery store,” Dinneen said.

The 16th National Ethanol Conference opened on Monday. The event, which is organised by the RFA,  will close on Tuesday.

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By: William Lemos
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