Amazingly Ignorant Anti-Ethanol Activist

On May 20, the Washington Times published a guest column by Jerry Jung, founder of the group “Rethink Ethanol,” in which he demonstrates a complete misunderstanding of the federal policy he seeks to “rethink.” RFA President and CEO Geoff Cooper responded with the following letter, which the newspaper has not chosen to publish.

To the Editor:
Jerry Jung runs a shadowy coalition of clean-energy opponents called “Rethink Ethanol.” Based on his obvious misunderstanding and confusion about today’s ethanol industry, Jung should take his own advice: He should rethink everything he claims to know about America’s top renewable fuel.

How are we to trust Jung when he can’t even get basic facts about the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and ethanol correct? He claims the EPA “mandated” the production of 20.77 billion gallons of corn ethanol this year. No such mandate exists, nor has there ever been a requirement to use corn ethanol. Rather, EPA has proposed to require the use of 20.77 billion gallons of all renewable fuels under the RFS in 2022. Oil companies are free to choose the renewable fuel that makes the most sense for them to blend, be that biodiesel, biogas, renewable diesel, sustainable aviation fuel, cellulosic ethanol, or any number of other renewable fuels. Far from “mandating” corn ethanol, EPA in fact places a limit (15-Bill gallons) on the amount of corn ethanol that can be used to fulfill the RFS requirements.

Jung goes on to suggest that 41.9 trillion (yes, ‘trillion’ with a ‘t’) acres will be used to support ethanol production this year. Notwithstanding that such an area would be 330 times more land than exists on planet Earth, Jung neglects to mention that every acre of corn used for ethanol also results in the production of 1.5 tons of high-protein feed for beef and dairy cows, swine, poultry, and fish. The truth is, more corn is available globally today for animal feed and other non-ethanol uses than at any time in history. According to USDA, only 16 cents of every consumer dollar spent on groceries pays for the raw farm commodities and ingredients in those grocery products. And less than 3 cents of every consumer dollar spent on food can be tied to corn. So even if ethanol demand caused corn prices to jump by 50% (which has not happened), the impact on consumer food prices would be no more than 1.5%. Simply put, eliminating the RFS, as Jung advocates, would have no detectable impact on food prices.

Jung is correct that ethanol has a “dramatic” impact on consumer gasoline prices—but that impact is the exact opposite of what he suggests. Today, ethanol is selling for $1 per gallon less than gasoline at wholesale fuel blending terminals. Thus, adding ethanol to gasoline reduces prices at the pump—just go to any retail station selling both gasoline with 10% ethanol (E10) and “ethanol-free” gasoline (E0) for evidence of this. Blends containing more ethanol, like E15, are selling for as much as 60-80 cents per gallon below E0.

Let’s be honest. Jung’s beef with ethanol has nothing to do with the environment or fuel prices. This is about protecting his pals in the oil industry, whose talking points against ethanol are prominently featured all over Jung’s website (lest we forget, Jung made his fortune selling Caterpillar equipment that consumed millions of gallons of dirty petroleum fuels). At a time when oil refiners are rolling in record profits, they want to eliminate a renewable fuel that lowers both pump prices and emissions of greenhouse gases and harmful air pollutants. And Jung is all too eager to help. Before “rethinking ethanol,” Jerry Jung should actually take the time to learn about it first.

Geoff Cooper
President and CEO
Renewable Fuels Association

3 COMMENTS

  1. Ethanol for a motor full is a foolhardy effort. Why would we burn our FOOD in our Cars? If the concentrations is too high it can damage vehicular motors. Ethanol isn’t as powerful as gasoline. So the higher the concentration the lower your mileage is. With gasoline/ethanol at $4.50+/gallon that can be very expensive. The only people who make out with ethanol as a motor fuel additive are the big agribusiness companies. Someday, we might wish to rather have a can of corn to eat than a gallon of gas we cannot afford. With the policies of Dopey King Xo the Idiot of Brandonville that day is a lot closer than most think it is.

    I hope all you who didn’t like the Trump mean tweets are happy as you walk to work, if you still have a job, or cannot feed your kids.

  2. Self interest of agribusiness is behind the push for ethanol pure and simple. It strikes me ironic to refer to a “shadowy group of opponents” behind what appears to be a self funded organization vs. a PR group “Renewable fuels association” lobbying for agribusiness. From what I’ve read, Mr. Jung’s motivation is for proper use of natural resources. He doesn’t appear to have any skin in the game (looks like he’s got plenty of his own self gained resources though!) vs. the author. Mr. Cooper should come out from behind the curtains and make obvious who’s really paying for his sneakers before disparaging what is obviously a self funded concerned group of one trying to make the planet a little better.

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