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Oklahoma researchers look to refuel ethanol

The extended drought has reduced the country's corn supply and driven up corn costs, affecting the price of ethanol and gasoline. Oklahoma researchers are working to solve both problems.
by Adam Wilmoth Published: August 24, 2012

The extended drought affecting about two-thirds of the country has dried up crops throughout the region.

The result is higher costs to consumers, both at the grocery store and the gas pump.

Higher corn costs have cast renewed attention on the 5-year-old federal mandate that an increasing amount of ethanol must be produced and blended with gasoline each year. The standards call for 13 billion gallons of ethanol this year and almost 14 billion gallons next year.

The U.S. Agriculture Department earlier this month said the country's corn crop will be the worst in seven years. At the projected level the ethanol requirement is expected to translate into more than 40 percent of the country's corn production this year.

Not all the corn used by the ethanol industry ends up in your gas tank. About one-third of the corn is converted into livestock feed.

Still, the high percentage in the midst of such a devastating drought has gained the attention of ranchers, chicken farmers and the United Nations director-general for food and agriculture, all of whom have called for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to waive the ethanol mandate this year.

The mandate was designed in part to help increase domestic energy production and reduce the country's reliance on foreign oil.

Other sources

Today, ethanol is made in this country almost entirely from corn.

Researchers in Oklahoma are leading the effort to produce ethanol without tapping the country's food supplies.

“I don't believe corn is the viable way forward for biofuels,” said Stephen McKeever, Oklahoma State University's vice president for research and technology transfer. “It is an energy inefficient process and it is taking food out of the market. Corn will never be the solution.”

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by Adam Wilmoth
Energy Editor
Adam Wilmoth returned to The Oklahoman as energy editor in 2012 after working for four years in public relations. He previously spent seven years as a business reporter at The Oklahoman, including five years covering the state's energy sector....
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