Vilsack: High Corn Prices Bad for Livestock, but Don’t Curb Ethanol

You might have to sit down for this one.

It’s mindboggling sometimes the lack of basic logic that eludes some (most?) members of this Administration. With his comments this week, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack is one of those members. He recently discussed the hardships that livestock producers are facing, including heat, drought and high corn prices as reasons they’re liquidating their herds.

So far he’s making sense.

To further illustrate how high corn prices are affecting livestock, and how volatile such prices can be, Secretary Vilsack said: “now producers have to decide if they want to take the risk of continuing to feed expensive corn to animals, when they can’t be sure what prices they’ll receive months down the road.”

Okay, got it. High corn prices equal high feed costs. We’re following you, Mr. Secretary.

But then Secretary Vilsack loses reality:

“This is not the time to take advantage of the drought to change the Renewable Fuel Standard.”

We agree with the Secretary the drought is contributing to corn prices that are absurdly high (nearly $8 a bushel, which are record levels), but it is not ALL because of the drought. It is also because Americans are using corn for fuel. Unfortunately, this bit of information does not phase the Secretary:

“The RFS is working. It helps reduce our dependence on foreign oil and provides jobs.”

Does it? Because it takes 1.3 gallons of oil to create just one gallon of ethanol. So if it takes more oil to produce ethanol then we’re not saving oil, we’re wasting it. That doesn’t reduce our dependence on foreign oil. It does create jobs, we’ll give him that, but at the expense of other jobs because we’re paying people to waste oil, essentially wasting money, so you tell me if that’s a worthwhile job.

Another comment worth noting, Secretary Vilsack also said that: “Our Navy now is dependent on foreign oil, which is something that we want to change, and biofuels are the way to do it.”

This is ludicrous in itself because thanks to the high cost of biofuels, the Navy is spending $27 a gallon for fuel. The Air Force is spending $59 per gallon for biofuels. That Canadian oil is looking pretty good right now, isn’t it?

And again, it takes more oil to create that biofuel than is produced in the process. So not only are they spending far more money, they’re wasting oil in order to spend that higher amount. Brilliant!

So here’s the Secretary’s logic: it’s too expensive to raise livestock because feed prices are so high. Feed prices are high, in part, because of biofuels, but we absolutely shouldn’t give up on biofuels. So in his eyes, it’s better to not have food or livestock than to not have a boondoggle of a fuel source. Our future is in good hands.

Please Share Your Thoughts
  • MedinaBill

    Ashe needs to fact check her most telling point. She references the claim that it takes “1.3 gallons of oil to create just one gallon of ethanol” to a Popular Mechanics article that is more than 31 months old (dated info?) and even in that article only a single skeptic of ethanol makes that claim. If we are to be taken seriously, we have to do better than that.

  • John Yoder

    I do not think that the ethanol production technology has changed significantly in 31 months. However, that being said. What is another source for the cost in oil in making a gallon of ethanol? I believe (but would like to get a more authorative source) that it still takes more than a gallon of gas to make a gallon of ethanol. That gallon of ethanol does not generate as much energy in an automobile as a gallon of gasoline.

    Signed: Former farmer

  • PaddikJ

    “The National Renewable Energy Laboratory states that, “Today, 1 Btu of fossil energy consumed in producing and delivering corn ethanol results in 1.3 Btu of usable energy in your fuel tank.” Even that modest payback may be overstated. Skeptics cite the research of Cornell University professor David Pimentel, who estimates that it takes approximately 1.3 gal. of oil to produce a single gallon of ethanol.”

    NREL is reasonbly reliable. I know a few physicists there and they are traditional, ultra-skeptical scientists (I mention this because James Hansen, who is neither skeptical nor reliable, is also a physicist). I would be skeptical of professor David Pimentel, as I would any other academic, until I knew more about him (PM fumbled badly in not doing this).

    • PaddikJ

      I neglected to mention that the quote was from the PM article.