We have reason to think positive

Thursday, August 16, 2007

It seems that some people can't help but look for the dark lining in the silver clouds - finding negatives within what is generally regarded as good news.

Higher prices for corn resulting from ethanol have generated laments about the higher prices for livestock and subsequently for meat. Now an Iowa State University expert is warning about the environmental impact of ethanol production.

Rick Cruse, director of Iowa State University's Iowa Water Center, said decisions on how to grow corn to make ethanol will dictate whether the biofuels industry becomes an ecological disaster.

There may be some validity in a warning against going too far in converting farm material to ethanol. Even the cornstalks are potential sources for conversion in a cellulosic production system, which is not currently in widespread use but is being explored.

Cruse warned that without some plant material being returned to the soil, problems occur with erosion and soil deterioration.

Other environmental dangers are posed by the fact that the price of corn encourages maximum planting rather than conservation practices. Such practices potentially take small amounts out of production to adequately filter runoff and avoid erosion.

Yes, we encourage sound conservation practices, but we still think that there is more to celebrate than to worry about in the improved market for corn and soybeans due to energy production.