Ethanol, for all its clear, yellow goodness, really is a cloudy thing. The ethanol situation in American is especially confusing. No one has a complete handle on the politics of biofuels, the price of oil, and all the ways to turn different types of biomass to ethanol. Thankfully, the confusing picture doesn't stop people from trying to figure it out. Why am I thankful about this? Because if they did, I wouldn't have much to write about, now, would I?
The latest to attempt to get an overview of the corn and soy landscape is Tom Philpott, who writes about "Ethanomics" over at Grist. His story's subhead says it all: "The shining promise of ethanol doesn't add up for farmers." The somewhat longer (but still short) version Philpott describes is that low corn prices help corn processors like ADM, not farmers. Even with ethanol demand pushing corn prices up, and farmers banding together to invest in their own ethanol plants, farmers may not be able to make any real profit in the ethanol biz because – thanks to everyone having the same idea at the same time – we're about to enter a time of excess ethanol. ADM, with deep pockets and the drive to buy up small ethanol producers, will weather the storm. For farmers, Philpott doesn't see the clouds breaking quite so nicely.

[Source: Grist/Tom Philpott]


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