Ethanol Producers Fume Over Upcoming Wire Story

Corn crops have become a flashpoint of debate between biofuels makers and the AP, which says expanded demand has hurt the land and the environment.
National Journal
Alex Brown
Add to Briefcase
Alex Brown
Nov. 11, 2013, 10:21 a.m.

An As­so­ci­ated Press re­port pub­lished pre­ma­turely last week and quickly pulled back takes eth­an­ol to task for its im­pact on con­ser­va­tion lands and the en­vir­on­ment. The leaked story, which AP says will be re­pub­lished Tues­day, pulled few punches con­cern­ing the bio­fuel that has in­creased de­mand for corn pro­duc­tion. Na­tion­al Journ­al ob­tained a copy from a lob­by­ist. 

As farm­ers rushed to find new places to plant corn, they wiped out mil­lions of acres of con­ser­va­tion land, des­troyed hab­it­ats, and pol­luted wa­ter sup­plies, an As­so­ci­ated Press  in­vest­ig­a­tion found.

Five mil­lion acres of land set aside for con­ser­va­tion — more than Yel­low­stone, Ever­glades, and Yosemite Na­tion­al Parks com­bined — have van­ished on Obama’s watch.

Landown­ers filled in wet­lands. They plowed in­to pristine prair­ies, re­leas­ing car­bon di­ox­ide that had been locked in the soil.

Spray­ers pumped out bil­lions of pounds of fer­til­izer, some of which seeped in­to drink­ing wa­ter, con­tam­in­ated rivers, and worsened the huge dead zone in the Gulf of Mex­ico where mar­ine life can’t sur­vive.

The story wasn’t out for long, but it has caused a firestorm of back­lash from bio­fuels makers and corn pro­du­cers up­set at how they are por­trayed. “There’s prob­ably more truth in this week’s Na­tion­al En­quirer than there is in the AP story,” said the Re­new­able Fuels As­so­ci­ation’s Geoff Cooper on a Monday press call. Also fea­tured on the call was Iowa farm­er Leroy Per­kins, a source in the AP re­port who said that he was de­ceived about the nature of the story and that his re­marks were taken out of con­text.

“Cro­p­land is not ex­pand­ing in the United States — cer­tainly not ex­pand­ing be­cause of the RFS,” Cooper said, re­fer­ring to the fed­er­al re­new­able-fuel stand­ard that man­dates an in­creas­ing amount of bio­fuels each year to be blen­ded with the na­tion’s gas­ol­ine sup­ply. Cooper in­sisted that corn-fueled de­struc­tion of wet­lands “just isn’t hap­pen­ing.”

The Amer­ic­an Co­ali­tion for Eth­an­ol chimed in as well. “At best, the AP art­icle is lazy journ­al­ism, but at worst, it ap­pears pur­pose­fully de­signed to dam­age the eth­an­ol in­dustry,” ACE Ex­ec­ut­ive Vice Pres­id­ent Bri­an Jen­nings said in a re­lease. “There was an in­cred­ibly reck­less dis­reg­ard for the truth in the handi­work of this hit-piece.”

AP says the story was ac­ci­dent­ally pub­lished early when it was sent to mem­ber pub­lic­a­tions. “This was just a mis­fire,” said Paul Colford, AP’s dir­ect­or of me­dia re­la­tions, not­ing that sev­er­al yet-to-be-re­leased seg­ments of the re­port will come out Tues­day as well. He denied al­leg­a­tions that the fac­tu­al basis of the story is in ques­tion and spec­u­la­tion that ac­cur­acy con­cerns led to it be­ing pulled. “This was very, very, very care­fully re­por­ted,” Colford said, and the re­pub­lished ver­sion will run with only a “fix or two, a re­ph­ras­ing here or there.” He also took aim at Per­kins, who he said “ac­tu­ally sat for hours of in­ter­views with the AP, and he was cer­tainly aware … of AP’s ques­tions about eth­an­ol.” Per­kins even helped ar­range a fly­over for AP to get an eye-in-the-sky look, Colford said.

Mean­while, The Hill notes that Ag­ri­cul­ture Sec­ret­ary Tom Vil­sack, an Iowa nat­ive and eth­an­ol ad­voc­ate, would not say if the fuel is be­ne­fi­cial for the cli­mate. “I don’t know wheth­er I can make the en­vir­on­ment­al ar­gu­ment, or the eco­nom­ic ar­gu­ment,” Vil­sack told the AP.

What We're Following See More »
ONLY BROAD PRINCIPLES
Mulvaney: Tax Reform Details Won’t Be Released This Week
0 minute ago
THE LATEST

Despite President Trump's announcement that his tax reform proposal would be released this week, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney now says it will be ready in June. This week's announcement will be limited to "specific governing principles."

Source:
OFFSHORE OIL AND GAS
Trump To Sign Order Calling For Expanded Drilling
1 hours ago
THE DETAILS

Donald Trump is expected Monday to sign an executive order which will mark his administration's first action on offshore oil and gas drilling. The order is expected to call for a "review of the locations available for offshore oil and gas exploration and of certain regulations governing offshore oil and gas exploration."

Source:
DOMESTIC PRIORITIES
Pence Cuts Asia Trip Short For Big Week
1 hours ago
THE DETAILS

Vice President Mike Pence has cut his Asia trip short "to race back to Washington, where the Trump administration faces a critical week on tax reform and a funding plan to keep the government running, an aide said on Sunday." Pence will return to Washington on Tuesday morning instead of Wednesday. Trump has a busy week ahead, as he plans to roll out a tax reform on framework, sign a number of executive orders, and works to keep the government open past Friday.

Source:
24% GOOD ENOUGH FOR FIRST PLACE
Macron, Le Pen Lead French Elections
3 hours ago
THE LATEST

"Centrist Emmanuel Macron and far-right politician Marine Le Pen led the first round of voting in France’s presidential election, according to early projections, as voters redrew the political map, placing the European Union at the center of a new political divide. Projections by the Kantar-Sofres polling firm showed Mr. Macron on track to win the first round with about 24% of the vote, ahead of Ms. Le Pen with nearly 22%." The vote marks the end of the country's dominance by conservative and socialist parties. The top vote-getters head to a runoff on May 7.

Source:
MENDING FENCES?
Trump to Deliver Keynote for Holocaust Memorial Event
3 hours ago
THE DETAILS

President Trump will deliver the keynote address for at the National Holocaust Museum's National Day of Remembrance ceremony on Tuesday. He'll speak from the Capitol Rotunda. The move is likely an effort to try to mend fences with Jewish groups. In January, "the White House ignited controversy when it didn't mention Jews or anti-Semitism in a statement on International Holocaust Remembrance Day." And certain members of his inner circle are still suspected of harboring white supremacist or anti-Semitic views."

Source:
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login