Mary Tutwiler's "Pump it Up" (June 7) on the ethanol debate in Louisiana is the best I've seen in any publication so far. I testified on the bill in the Senate, and it was clear to me whether you like mandates or incentives, Agriculture Commissioner Bob Odom has done the state a service by forcing a debate on why ethanol is good for the Louisiana economy.

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 as a matter of course. The issues raised by the Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association are not mean-spirited in my view but instead are those that should be answered in the debate. They will be and if the bill is signed, I'm sure 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. We need all the liquid fuels we can get our hands on. The President of the United States has recognized it. Those in the state who had a bad experience when the nearly faddish fuel gasohol market in the '80s rose and fell will cite a number of reasons why ethanol is not ready for prime time. In the 25 plus years since its introduction, with increased crop yields, market infrastructure, and industry efficiencies, 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 renewable ethanol business is doing the same.

"Odom's Bill" is helping to educate our citizens about growing both 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 energy independence, but we can sure hedge our risks with all the renewable resources we can muster. Farming and oil industry 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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