I think that I handle differences of opinion as well or even better than most people. It is alright to disagree with me. What I have trouble with is when people who I disagree with use false facts in an irresponsible manner. Then I get agitated.
Such was the case when listening to Rick Santelli on CNBC trash ethanol in an interview with an anti-ethanol Senator. One of the inaccurate statements was that 40% of corn production goes to ethanol so that ethanol uses more corn than is left for feed. The 40 percent statistic comes from how USDA reports corn usage on the balance sheet. USDA doesn't differentiate between the co-products in the ethanol process relative to corn consumed.
The ethanol industry makes corn oil, distiller's grain and ethanol from the 40 percent of the corn use attributed to the industry. Distiller's grain is the second largest feedstuff produced in the US behind corn and ahead of soymeal. Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley did as good a job of explaining these facts as any. The bottom line is that when the other co-products are deducted from the corn used by the ethanol industry, and the enhanced feed value of the co-product is considered, only 20 percent of the corn supply is processed into the ethanol component. That is half what is repeatedly reported by the major media including FOX, the WSJ, Bloomberg, Time and most other major media that has done a superficial job of researching the facts.
By this time I am sure that they have been apprised of what the truth is so I can only assume that they distort it for convenience or irresponsibility. Grassley noted that with the distiller's grain contribution to the feed supply, 43 percent of the corn crop goes to feed with only 20 percent to ethanol. That doesn't sound the same as, "40 percent of the corn crop goes to ethanol!" in an alarmed voice.
It would be a good thing to improve transparency if the USDA would break down corn consumption between the components so it is not so easy to misrepresent. Distiller's grain will add the equivalent of 1.5 billion bushels to the feed supply boosting the amount of corn being fed from 4.075 billion to 5.575 billion. The anti-ethanol opponents don't want those facts reported and the major media skates over the information with a superficial glance really caring less about the accuracy.
What really sent me through the ceiling was when Rick Santelli exclaimed that the "mandate" was going from 10 percent to 15 percent next year. HUH!? What mandate is he talking about? I hope that the Tea Party darling has his facts better grounded on the other issues that he rants about but there is no mandate on the percentage of ethanol in gasoline that has to be blended. The standard ethanol blend is currently limited to 10 percent in non-flex-fuel vehicles. E-15 has been approved to come on the market for vehicles older than 2003 but it is not a mandate. There is no E-15 mandate. E-15 is voluntary.
Rick Santelli specifically said that there was an E-15 mandate coming and that is false. The corn based ethanol Renewable Fuels Standard calls for 13.2 billion gallons of ethanol to be blended next year.
The next misrepresentation is that the ethanol industry needs to make 13.2 billion gallons to meet it. It does not. There is significant flexibility built into the RFS to adjust for the drought reduced 2012 corn production.
First of all, there are 800 million gallons of ethanol in reserve in storage. There are also over 2.4 billion gallons of un-used RINS out that work like coupons that blenders can credit toward their obligation to the RFS. A RIN is a renewable identification number that is given to each gallon of ethanol produced. They have produced over 2.4 - 2.6 billion extra RINS over and above those needed to meet the RFS at this point that can be cashed in this year to satisfy the RFS obligation. Subtract the RINS and the ethanol in reserve and there is 3.2-3.4 billion gallons of flexibility in a 13.2 billion-gallon RFS. Ethanol stocks and excess RINS will provide the capacity to meet the RFS without unduly straining ethanol, corn or RIN markets. This is the equivalent of a 1.3 billion bushel cushion built into the RFS. There is enough flexibility built into the RFS to carry forward into 2013 when normal production is likely to end any shortage and even restore a glut of corn to end-users.
Livestock producers should thank the ethanol industry for keeping corn in this country. If ethanol corn consumption is reduced, so is the production of distiller's grain. They wouldn't get that 1.5 billion bushel equivalent of corn for feed in distiller's grain. As distiller's is high protein feed reducing the need for soymeal in rations, which is also in short supply because of the drought, it reduces soymeal prices.
If the ethanol industry was denied corn, exports would immediately surge. When a bushel of corn is exported it leaves entirely, nothing is saved for livestock producers. Modifying the RFS is a fool's answer to the drought and there are a lot of fools around to have to suffer.
David Kruse is president of CommStock Investments,Inc., author and producer of The CommStock Report, an ag commentary and market analysis available daily by radio and by subscription on DTN/FarmDayta and the Internet. CommStock Investments is a registered CTA, as well as an introducing brokerage.