DM Register's attack on biofuels
Upon returning home, I found a special insert called "How Biofuels Pollute". Ah yes, what a perfect title for a hatchet job.
It appears that the Register's lead ag writer, Perry Beeman, has written a series of articles attacking Iowa's burgeoning industry, including various journalism techniques, such as using alternative calculations to make data appear worse than it really is, buzz words to fan the flames of passion, and of course, forgetting about the other side of the debate, as if it didn't exist.
I'll start my critique with a graphic and text called "Environmental Impact of Biofuels".
1) "Distillers' Grains - A byproduct of the process, dried distillers's grains makes great feed for cattle, but is high in phosphorus, meaning more pollution from cow manure."
I regularly test the DDGS I sell, and it's phosphorus content is not any higher than soybean meal, which is commonly used as a protein source in hogs and cattle. While one can use more DDGS in a ration than soybean meal, the total addition of phosphorus to the environment is not THAT great. Overfeeding DDGS can be a problem, but not just to the environment, but to the cow as well. And don't we have manure management plans in place for most feedlots anyway?
2) "Less Habitat - Plowing trees and native grasses to plant more corn could reverse decades of work to protect rivers and lakes from crop-related pollution. This could increase soil erosion and chemical runoff, and reduce wildlife habitat."
This is kind of like saying "Eating uranium-laced brownies could kill you." Yes, but no one in their right mind would do this. Farmers are not "plowing trees and native grasses" to plant more corn - that would be too much work for small acreage gains, and besides, it would probably violate their conservation plans they have with the NRCS, resulting in big $$$ fines.
Notice how Beeman includes "native grasses", instead of saying something like "multi-flora rose" or "introduced species"; "native grasses" sounds more environmental and therefore needs to be protected against evil plows.
3) "Auto Emissions - Trucking crop material to ethanol plants and waste material away from the plants adds to vehicle emissions. Truck traffic can stir up roads, sending lung-harming dust into the air."
So, where is all this crop material going now? Just sitting on the farm, waiting to rot? It has to go somewhere. Wouldn't it be better to be taken to the local ethanol plant 20 miles down the road than to haul it 100 miles to the grain terminal on the river? As for "lung-harming" dust, I should be dead by now from all of the road dust I've enhaled. Big trucks or small cars, they both send up dust. At least I know I'm getting enough calcium in my system.
Later, Beeman includes an article titled "Drive to increase corn acres could damage soil". He throws in a quote from Duane Sand of the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation that for every gallon of ethanol produced, 20 pounds of soil is lost. Let's do the math - 2.8 gallons of ethanol produced per bushel of corn, assume 150 bushels per acre of yield. That's 4.2 tons per acre of soil loss. While it's not good to loose any soil, 4.2 tons is less than the 5 tons/acre that is created every year through growth and recycling of crop materials. So, one could say that topsoil is being created while producing crops for ethanol!
What's even better, continous corn on corn will produce more residue for trapping sediment and regenerating the soil. That's got to be a good thing, right? But no, the P-man conveniently leaves out this little factoid. That's a little example of spin, folks.
In the next few days, Perry Beeman will gain accolades from his fellow staff writers at the Register for attempting to slay the sacred cow that is Iowa's renewable fuel industry. And while his insert did include some issues that need to be addressed (water usage by ethanol plants, CO2 emissions, etc), he didn't attempt to compare the environmental issues of biofuels to the known problems of the petroleum industry that biofuels are attempting to surplant. He'd rather focus on various issues in this developing industry and thus paint the entire process as harmful and wrong.
The blatant spin and use of buzzwords in this special edition further illustrates the bias the Des Moines Register has. It no longer cares about objective reporting, but rather in creating a straw man stuffed with "environmental offenses", and then taking on the role of protector of the people. Sadly, if this is how the Register much operate to gain readership, then it is no better than the National Enquirer.