Saturday, April 14, 2007

Fueling cars or cows?

Buried in USBank chief economist John Mitchell's economic update this month was this little nugget on agriculture:
The Agricultural Statistics Service reported data on Oregon wineries and production for 2006. ... There were a total of 52,000 acres of corn planted in Oregon, well short of the 800,000 acres required to fuel the planned ethanol plants in the state.

Two big ethanol plants are scheduled to come online in 2008 in Oregon. Pacific Ethanol's 35 million gallon facility in Boardman and Cascade Grain Products' 113 million gallon plant near Clatskanie. And US Ethanol just started construction on a 55 million gallon one across the river in Longview, WA.

If an acre of corn produces about 328 gallons of ethanol, according to a Cornell researcher, and if all the corn grown in Oregon was used to make ethanol it would still only produce about 17 million gallons.

Where will all this corn come from? And what is the ultimate price? I've read several articles in the past few weeks indicating that the higher demand for corn created by the demand for ethanol has led to higher food prices because feed corn for cows and chickens is suddenly more expensive. Oregon, with its shocking hunger statistics should think very carefully about the road it takes in promoting alternative fuels.

No comments: