Friday, August 3, 2012

A Minor Musing About Ethanol And The Drought

The Argus Leader emphasizes the drought's impacts:
The ongoing drought, combined with global economic turmoil, is hurting business in nine Midwest and Plains states and boosting worries about the possibility of another recession, according to a monthly report released today.
The biggest problem facing ethanol producers seems to  be higher prices:
The drought already is negatively affecting ethanol and food processors in the region. Goss said many ethanol plants either have closed temporarily or reduced operations because of the higher corn prices that come with the drought.
 Meanwhile, the rest of the world has other concerns. The Guardian reports:
The worst drought in 50 years has intensified across the US midwest, not only condemning this year's corn crop but threatening the prospects for next year's too, new figures showed on Thursday.

The political fallout intensified as well, with growing pressure for the Obama administration to end its support for corn ethanol.

Critics say diverting food to fuel for corn ethanol production risks a global food crisis, tightening supplies and driving up prices. Nearly a third of Congress members signed on to a letter calling on the Environmental Protection Administration to scale down its support for corn ethanol.
I  may have missed American coverage of the drought, but it seems to be concerned about the next three or four months. I find it interesting that European coverage has started looking a year down the road:
. . . . And there is little prospect of relief for the drought in this growing season, Mark Svoboda, another climatologist at the center, said. What matters now is whether there will be enough rain to get next year's crops off to a good start.
This drought isn't going anywhere," he said. "The damage is already done. What you are looking for is enough moisture to avert a second year of drought," he said.
However, Svoboda conceded that might require a freak event, especially in the mid-west which has already passed its rain season. "In the entire corn belt, from Indiana to Nebraska to the Dakotas, we have already reached the maximum precipitation periods for year. From here on in, it's all downhill," Svoboda said.
"As far as widespread general relief for the whole region it would take a really freakish dramatic change to make that happen. That doesn't appear to be in the cards, given the time of year we are in."
I'm also curious what South Dakota's congressional delegation will do if the choice comes to voting to end a food crisis or supporting ethanol subsidies.

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