When you want oil, you ask a geologist. When you want ethanol, you ask a farmer. Helping Louisiana farmers balance their productive portfolios of crops for food and fuel is a good hedge for all of us. As in any industry, some incumbents will resist the development of a new emerging market on their embedded assets asÂ a matter of course. The issues raisedÂ by the Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association are not mean-spirited in my view but instead areÂ those that should be answered in the debate. They will be and if the bill is signed, I'm sureÂ the commissioner and industry will figure out how to make it work.
If the bill is not signed, the demand and supply of ethanol will continue to grow.Â We need all the liquid fuels we can get our hands on. The President of the United States has recognizedÂ it. Those in the state who had a bad experience when the nearly faddish fuel gasohol marketÂ in the '80s rose and fellÂ will cite a number of reasons why ethanol is not ready for prime time. In the 25 plus years since its introduction, with increasedÂ crop yields, market infrastructure, and industry efficiencies,Â acceptability has grown appreciably from a boutique fuel in the cornbelt Midwest to a real industry, spreading nationwide and supplying nearly 5 billion gallons this year. The oil industry has continually proved technological advances in the vertically integrated oil business; the renewableÂ ethanol business is doing the same.
"Odom's Bill" is helping toÂ educate our citizens aboutÂ growing bothÂ the carbon and carbohydrate industries in Louisiana. Brazil, confronted with 80 percent of its oil imports being cut off in the first Arab embargo in 1973, began its march to produce ethanol and persevered with it through the second Iranian embargo in 1979 and now has weathered $70-a-barrel oil prices. Their miracle crop? Sugar cane.
We may never accomplish complete energyÂ independence, but we can sure hedge our risks with all theÂ renewable resources we can muster. Farming and oil industryÂ men and women will figure it out. Our goal is to continue to do as Henry Ford once pondered ' how to now build the delivery structure so ethanol is readily available to the motoring public as seamlessly as gasoline.
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