Do you know what’s the single largest source of US ‘oil’ production? If you said the Bakken fields in North Dakota, you’re wrong.
The largest source of US fuel production does lie in the heartlands. In fact, it’s the breadbasket. Yes, US ethanol production, which is now counted as ‘all liquids oil,’ is the greatest individual provider of US liquid fuels production. Currently at more than 800,000 barrels per day, ethanol is the largest single contributor to US fuels. And when combined with other biofuels produced in the US, that number reaches more than 1 million barrels per day.
But the current US drought is having a devastating impact on US farm production. Livestock farmers are so hard hit that they’re asking Congress and the EPA that the US ethanol mandate, put in place to aid US energy security, be relaxed for the drought. A third of all members of the House of Representatives have already signed a petition for an ethanol waiver.
Meanwhile, the EPA and the Obama Administration are pushing to keep the mandate, saying that stocks are still at adequate levels.
Livestock farmers have been outraged by spiking corn prices and an increase in prices to other feed such as hay. Many have been forced to sell their animals and a few have abandoned farming altogether. That said, the nation’s corn belt has dramatically benefited from the ethanol mandate, as has US energy security. The result is that there could be a clash between US livestock and US corn interest groups.
Currently, despite political pressure, it doesn’t appear likely that US ethanol mandates will be relaxed. However, if this happens, US ethanol production could fall, bringing down total US ‘oil’ production with it.
It is an ironic twist of fate that US biofuels production could be hampered by greenhouse gas emissions from an energy source it is intended to help replace. But this fact serves to underline how damaging continued expansion of fossil fuel use has become. Not only does it endanger US and world food security, it is also a threat to future US and world energy security as well.