Monday, June 9, 2008

The Benefits of Ethanol…

With all the controversy surrounding every issue these days, it makes it somewhat difficult to get a good grasp of all the complex details. Today, countless blogs and websites produce a plethora of information derived from credible and not-so-credible sources from all over the globe. The challenge, however, is discerning actual truth from a complex hodge-podge of contradicting opinions.
One article may promote the benefits of ethanol, citing lower carbon emissions, benefits for rural communities, etc. but sure enough, if we read on, the next elucidates in detail why ethanol production and consumption is the most outrageous project we have ever undertaken.
In light of all the contradictions, I would like to draw attention to an article written by South Dakota’s three congressional delegates, Representative Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin, Senator John Thune, and Senator Tim Johnson. This particular article ran in the Voices section of today’s Argus Leader. I was initially drawn to the article because it was written by all three delegates, making it non-partisan…something I think should be behind every issue which is concerned with making the world a better place.
Upon further reading, I was interested by all the facts surrounding the industry. Ethanol helps keep fuel prices low, by an average of 29-40 cents in some studies to upwards of 52 cents in others. The lower fuel prices then help in the effort to keep food prices low. While the article admits ethanol production does increase the costs of food (because of the corn taken off the market), it does so only slightly (3% of the 43% increase in global food prices). Ethanol production also produces distiller’s grain as a byproduct, which is a superior feed for livestock. Details pertaining to many other sectors of the ethanol industry can be discovered by taking time to read the entire article.
I would like to point out one of the most important elements of ethanol production, rather…one of its most important benefits. It significantly helps with rural development, especially right here in South Dakota. Small towns across our state have been hit hard economically by the out-migration of the youth (and anyone for that matter) for many years. This migration reduces economic diversity within communities and the number if children within the school system. The school is one of the most important (if not the most important) elements in keeping a small town alive. Without a school, people are less likely to move back to the community along with their children. Studies and surveys have also shown a general reduction in community enthusiasm after their school has to close its doors.
The benefits of the ethanol, bio-fuel, wind, solar, and geothermal forms of energy can help in the effort to revitalize rural South Dakota. It is no trivial matter; alternative energy is paramount for the future of the United States, and the globalized world. We, as South Dakotans, should try to understand our place in the complex puzzle. We have the potential to produce massive amounts of wind energy, millions of gallons of bio-fuels such as corn-based and cellulosic ethanol, and even potential to delve into the nuances of geothermal energy.
We can all work together to make sure development is sustainable throughout South Dakota, and beneficial to the natural environment. The futures of our children lie in our hands…what will we do with them?

No comments: