This is in response to the March 14 article in The News business section "Ethanol revival renews debate on environment, food supply," by P.J. Huffstutter.
Huffstutter incorrectly states that ethanol producers receive a 45-cent-per-gallon tax credit. In fact, this credit is given to the ethanol blender (typically Big Oil), as an incentive to blend ethanol. Oil companies control fuel distribution and don't like competition; an incentive has been required to encourage ethanol use.
The article states that a debate exists about economic, environmental and food supply implications of ethanol. Much of this debate exists due to mis-information by our opponents.
The United States is the world's largest and lowest-cost ethanol producer. We are proud of our accomplishments but we don't do a good job of responding to critics.
While the arguments for ethanol are overwhelming, the following are some key facts:
* Ethanol represents 10 percent of the 140 billion gallons of annual gasoline consumption. The Department of Energy, U.S. Department of Agriculture and other researchers estimate the savings from fuel supply extension and ethanol's lower price at 20 to 40 cents per gallon, or $56 billion annually.
* More than 400,000 jobs are impacted by our industry. In 2010 we contributed $53.6 billion to gross domestic product and more than $11 billion in tax revenues, far exceeding the cost of tax incentives.
* Ethanol production uses only the starch in corn, not protein or other feed components. One third of the corn entering an ethanol plant leaves as a feed product called distillers grain.
* Ethanol eliminated the $6 billion to $8 billion spent annually on corn subsidies and spurred advancements in production technology that have increased the corn produced per acre by more than 60 percent since 1980.
Corn has a very small impact on food prices; a box of corn flakes contains less than 10 cents of corn. Overall, energy prices have a much larger impact on food prices.
* Ethanol reduces smog-forming emissions by 25 percent and while some continue to question the energy balance of ethanol, study after study concludes that ethanol creates significantly more energy than it uses to produce. A USDA study concluded that up to 2.8 units of energy are created for every unit of energy consumed in production.
* Ethanol's 113 octane eliminates the need for toxic octane additives such as Benzene.
Ethanol is our largest renewable energy success and should be a point of pride. One does not need to look any further than Western New York to see the positive impact ethanol production has on our economy, our food supply and our environment.
John M. Sawyer is chief executive officer of Western New York Energy in Orleans County. Michael C. Sawyer is executive vice president of the company.