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Opinion

Ethanol outrage: Corny mandate

| Sunday, Aug. 19, 2012, 9:00 p.m.

A disastrous drought that has sent corn prices skyrocketing also brings into sharp focus the man-made disaster that is Washington's ethanol mandate.

More than 1,300 counties in 31 states have been designated drought disaster areas, writes Jason Hill, a professor in the department of byproducts and biosystems engineering at the University of Minnesota. And despite what was anticipated to be a bumper corn crop, yields this year are projected to be the lowest in the past 20 years.

Nevertheless, the federal Renewable Fuel Standard remains unchanged, mandating that 13.2 billion gallons of corn ethanol be produced in 2012 regardless of the corn harvest.

On average, about a third of the crop goes to the production of ethanol, an energy-wasting fuel that most people wouldn't buy if government didn't force it on them. This year, as livestock farmers face higher prices for corn-based feed, the ethanol mandate will consume almost half of the corn yield, Professor Hill writes.

So, every other row of harvested corn will end up in a gas tank, “enough fuel to supply less than 5 percent of our national demand for gasoline,” says Hill.

President Obama's solution is for the government to buy millions of dollars of meat, which livestock farmers say is of little help this year or next.

The crop-wasting ethanol mandate should be waived — permanently.

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