Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Study: Switchgrass, Soybean Fuels Not Economically Viable for Okla

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Study: Switchgrass, Soybean Fuels Not Economically Viable for Okla

Article excerpt

It's highly unlikely that ethanol fuel from switchgrass and biodiesel from soybeans will be economically viable for Oklahoma producers, a recent study by Iowa State University has found.

Farmers Union spokesman Terry Detrick agrees with the study's findings that the nation's farmers will follow the money and plant more corn where possible as interest in ethanol increases. The study by the university's Center for Agriculture and Rural Development has a bleak outlook for food prices as competition for grain and land drives up livestock production costs, with the final effect appearing on store shelves for retail meat, egg and dairy.

The report concludes that crude oil prices could increase from $65 to $70 per barrel and U.S. corn prices could go as high as $4.42 per bushel, compared with $2 per bushel in August last year. That would translate to a 4-percent increase in beef, poultry and pork prices and an 8-percent increase in egg prices.

Detrick said the outcomes are mixed with several misperceptions. For example, "the myth that when we utilize grain crops for ethanol, the food is used up," he said. "That's not true. Only the plant's starch is used for fuel; all the other nutrients are preserved. It's the cheapest and most digestible form of protein a livestock producer can buy to help produce meat and milk for America's tables."

And as for the argument that food-producing acreage would necessarily decrease as farmers move to the ethanol market, Detrick said the United States could easily adjust its international trade balance and keep more resources at home - about 40 percent of the country's corn production is shipped elsewhere, he said.

And the study is ignoring the potential for sorghum-based ethanol, which is friendlier to Oklahoma's land use. Sorghum thrives in more arid climes and doesn't need much fertilizer, he said, but yields nearly the same yield in gallons of ethanol as corn.

So although Oklahoma is not part of the Corn Belt and might miss out on some of the expected economic benefit from biofuels development, ag producers can still benefit from similar sorghum- processed fuels, he said. …

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