Letter: Corn ethanol is the solution we need

Spencer Collins

Editor’s note: This is in response to “Why are we still growing ethanol?” 

As Iowa State students with farm backgrounds who are pursuing degrees in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, we respectfully write in response to Jacob Mauren’s recent anti-ethanol op-ed to both correct the record and issue a friendly invitation.

Mauren’s op-ed questions whether our state’s continued focus on the growth of biofuels is worth it, and our answer is a definitive “yes.”

Contrary to the thrice debunked (2015, 2017 and 2022) “research” recently regurgitated by professors at the University of Wisconsin and cited by Mauren, corn ethanol currently reduces carbon emissions by nearly 50 percent compared to gasoline. That’s according to researchers at Harvard University, MIT and Tufts University (46 percent GHG savings for ethanol) as well as the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory (44-52 percent GHG savings for ethanol).

The electric vehicle market is slowly growing and will continue to grow, but if Iowa and the nation are serious about combating climate change, we can’t wait until 2035, 2040 or 2050 to see whether automakers will meet or miss their aspirational electric vehicle targets.

Corn ethanol significantly reduces GHG emissions today, and due to the innovation, technology advancements and sustainable practices of farmers and biofuel producers, corn ethanol is on a path to carbon neutrality and even carbon negativity in the decades ahead.

Bottom line: corn ethanol is the most immediate, most affordable carbon reduction solution available in the transportation sector today, and we need to embrace it to meet our nation’s climate goals.

Finally, we cordially invite Jacob Mauren to join us for an upcoming farm visit or ethanol plant tour this spring to gain firsthand experience with modern farming and biofuels production.  Not only will he learn that there are no federal tax credits for ethanol (the one he referenced in his op-ed expired in 2011 when he was in 4th grade) and that Iowa farmers produce more corn on less acres with fewer inputs than ever before (more than enough to meet every demand for food, feed, fiber, fat, industrial uses, exports AND fuel), but he will hopefully join us in realizing that corn ethanol is the climate solution we need now.

Submitted by the following Iowa State students: Spencer Collins, Abby Feldpausch, Adam Knoblock, Austin Miller, Brayden Beinhart, Daniel Beary, Megan Decker, Olivia Staudt and Sophie Bell.