Doug Davenport, a Department of Agriculture official, is a true believer in the conservation of America’s land. When Davenport told the Associated Press he was deeply concerned about the havoc ethanol production was causing to these lands, he got an email from Tom Vilsack, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture. The message was to stop talking.
Vilsack wants to make sure all are in line: “We just want to have a consistent message on the topic.” Recently, he insisted to an audience of ethanol lobbyists on Capitol Hill that being for ethanol is a good thing. In contrast, environmentalists argue that the push for ethanol has increased prices for corn, incentivizing farmers to convert millions of acres of erodible land for the planting of additional corn fields. This practice has ruined the lands, poisoned streams, and devastated fragile eco-systems.
Converting corn to ethanol was conceived as a “green” program to decrease fossil fuel emissions and to therefore aid in the reduction of global warming. Unfortunately, “green” programs sometimes don’t turn out so green. The mandate which dictates that gasoline have a certain percentage of ethanol has proven to be ineffectual when looking at the overall energy equation in America.
Since Barak Obama came into office five years ago, he has proselytized and created policy encouraging farmers to reap the rewards of ethanol production. As a result, five million acres of green grassy rolling hills that had been reserved for conservation purposes are gone. Moreover, the process of growing this vast amount of corn draws upon countless other energy sources, using excessive water resources and increased natural gas and coal usage. The rise in fertilizer usage has amplified nitrates and nitrogen in water streams, creating aquatic dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico.
Sadly, children have also been stricken with “blue baby” syndrome as a result of the nitrate poisoning.
All of this leads to the conclusion that this slaughter of our environment is not only destructive but pointless. In a Congressional report on the effects of ethanol production, the EPA indicated it was “uncertain” that farmers should plant on land set aside for conservation, while the Department of Energy was resolute, saying conservation land “is unsuitable for use for annual row crop production.”
Bob Sussman, retired EPA senior policy counsel, lamented, “I don’t remember anybody having great passion for this.” He added, “I don’t have a lot of personal enthusiasm for the program.”