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Editor's Note: Stick to the Science
by Kristin Brekke

I’m glad I had the chance to be on the media call when the Administration announced rules for the Renewable Fuels Standard. Though the EPA still insists on including “indirect land use change,” they are at least using new figures that more accurately represent corn ethanol’s ability to reduce gasoline emissions.

During the Q&A portion of the call, a reporter from California asked EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson about the reason for the change in the corn-based ethanol numbers – his tone implied special treatment was to blame. Jackson firmly and straightforwardly replied that the science lead them to the newer, more up-to-date figures. First order of business: crop yields.

If memory serves correctly, I believe she used the word “wrong” when describing the numbers they had previously used for corn yields, saying they hadn’t taken into account modern efficiencies in agriculture and the increasing average yields each year. The other updates EPA made, as you’ll read in Brian Jennings’ column, include more credit given to distillers grain and a wider scope of study on land-use change in other countries. We enjoyed hearing EPA come around on some of these points. The RFS rules are far from perfect, but progress is being made.

The cover story of our March/April issue is all about EPA’s first area of correction – corn yields. Our thanks to contributing writer Jonathan Eisenthal for this article, which explores the reasons behind the upward trend in corn yields. It appears we may only be at the beginning of the trend.

Here’s a fun statistic – American farmers produce 588 percent more corn per acre than they did 80 years ago. And experts believe the average corn yield could double again in the next 25 years. Farming today is a high-tech business, and it’s important that agriculture, and ethanol production, be given credit for the modern technologies and efficiencies that lead to this productivity.

In this edition we also focus on California and its good news/bad news situation for ethanol. The state has always used a 5.7 percent ethanol blend, but today they are in the midst of a switch to E10. This is a nice increase in what is already ethanol’s largest market. The flip side is their low carbon fuel standard – if it moves forward as written, with the indirect land use penalties in place, it could lock ethanol out of this key market. This article begins on page 34.

You’ll notice a new format with this double issue for the months of March and April. We’ll do the same in August and September, but the rest of the months will remain the same. Thank you for reading Ethanol Today, which celebrates its seventh anniversary this month. Our magazine continues to evolve, just like the ethanol industry, to find its best and most efficient position. We hope you enjoy reading the information we provide in these pages, and we look forward to serving you for years to come!

© American Coalition for Ethanol, all rights reserved.
The American Coalition for Ethanol publishes Ethanol Today magazine each month to cover the biofuels industryís hot topics, including cellulosic ethanol, E85, corn ethanol, food versus fuel, ethanolís carbon footprint, E10, E15, and mid-range ethanol blends.
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