During President Obama's recent Midwestern swing, he planted a seed in the Corn Belt.

He talked about ethanol which is hardly surprising, given that he comes from a big corn-producing state and that his administration has enthusiastically endorsed the need for biofuels as national policy.

But in Atkinson, a farm village just north of Kewanee, he talked about going beyond corn-based ethanol. Obama talked about diversification, following up an earlier announcement to establish new refineries to distill fuel from non-corn sources such as wood chips and grasses.

That's a move away from walking in lockstep with the nation's corn farmers to produce a renewable energy source that's not dependent on the Mideast.

Obama's diversification address even prompted a response from Bob Dinneen, president of the Washington, D.C.-based Renewable Fuels Association.

Dinneen objected to the president's point about ethanol's impact on the nation's supply of grain. "The existing ethanol industry has not 'diverted' grain away from other uses. Rather, annual grain supplies have grown large enough to satisfy increased demand from all end users," said the RFA head.

Media accounts followed Obama's ethanol statements. The U.K.-based Guardian led with, "The evidence against ethanol is clear. Now the White House is betting on the next generation of biofuels."

The Economic Times noted that Obama "highlighted the need to develop biofuels out of things that do not involve food chain, arguing that increase in demand from India and China would drive up the food prices."

While the ethanol debate has sharpened in recent years, led by a strange coalition of environmentalists, livestock producers and oil interests, one fact remains clear: Without developing an ethanol infrastructure and building ethanol plants, there will be no "next generation" of biofuels.

As has often been stated, corn-based ethanol is a bridge to another fuel source that, in the meantime, provides jobs for rural America and better prices for corn farmers.

One day, we may be able to turn our garbage into fuel, but we won't get there if we abandon the concept in mid-stream.

Monitor man

I cited my long-ago summer employment at the Christian Science Monitor in a recent column, but I neglected to mention that Frank Radosevich, a former Journal Star staffer, now writes for the Monitor.

Currently living in Sweden, Radosevich has been involved in a number of high-profile stories, such as the economic struggles of the Saab auto company and the Norway mass-murder case.

by Steve Tarter

source: pjstar


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