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Karl's Column - Because it wants to

by Carolyn Binder

 My dad enjoyed telling us - - the rest of the family - - of an exchange between my younger brother and him. Brother had sought permission to do something, and Dad had said “no”; little brother responded with, “But I want to. . .” So Dad carefully and thoughtfully laid out all the reasons why that was not the thing to do. My little brother responded with, “But I want to!”

That family story came to my mind as I was contemplating this column trying to deal logically with the Environmental Protection Agency’s straight-on determination to embrace the concerns of the American Petroleum Institute (Big Oil), which has been campaigning vigorously for a rollback of biofuel production. At this point, I’m thinking logic and reason are not part of the decision making.  Because it wants to, apparently. Most of us, when we see that word, biofuel, we read, ethanol.  Let’s carry that a step further, for the purposes of this discussion, and acknowledge that when we see, ethanol, we read, corn.

This whole biofuel business was undertaken for a number of stated purposes.  The most serious purpose, in my mind, was to make us free of dependence on foreign oil.  Among the other purposes, was the cleaning of the atmosphere of the pollutants inherent in combustion of petroleum based fuel.  Some folks even refer to that as “Environmental Protection”.

The Agency that carries that name seems determined to diminish, if not destroy the most effective means of  “clearing the air”, so to speak.

Within the world of U.S. Agriculture I would not have expected to find support for the EPA proposal, but I did, in the person of Steve Fogelsong, Past President of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.  The basis for his concern is predictable.  He’d like a scaleback in the national demand for corn. He says the cost of feeding a steer to market weight has increased by $200.00 a head in the past four years.  That’s not sustainable, he says in the beef industry so dependent on corn.

On the other side, I like what Chris Bliley says. He deals in Regulatory Affairs on behalf of an organization of supporters of biofuel. He says the Renewable Fuels Standard was designed to encourage investment in renewable fuels.  The scaleback proposal before EPA, he says,  would DIScourage that, and would jeopardize the success our farmers have seen by way of the certainty of RFS.

We are already sensing discomfort among producers, and hesitancy among investors because of the uncertainty  generated by the apparent determination by EPA to modify the Renewable Fuel Standard requirements for 2014.