The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

November 15, 2013

Industry takes aim at AP ethanol investigation

Critics cite out of context, incorrect statistics

WASHINGTON (AP) — A new Associated Press investigation, which found that ethanol hasn't lived up to some of the government's clean-energy promises, is drawing a fierce response from the ethanol industry.

In an unusual campaign, ethanol producers, corn growers and its lobbying and public relations firms have criticized and suggested changes to the story, which was released to some outlets earlier and was published online and in newspapers Tuesday.

The critics took issue with the context and accuracy of some of the statistics and the tone of the stories that suggested farmers were wiping out grasslands, destroying land to grow corn to profit from the ethanol mandates and industry.

The Agriculture secretary, Tom Vilsack, told the Des Moines Register that the AP project included "a number of inaccuracies and errors." Vilsack said farmers were engaged in other conservation practices, including wetland reserve programs, wildlife habitat incentive programs and EQIP, a program that helps farmers adopt conservation practices.

The industry's efforts, which began one week before the AP project was being published and broadcast, included distributing fill-in-the-blank letters to newspapers editors that call the AP's report "rife with errors." Industry officials emailed newspapers and other media, referring to AP's report as a "smear," ''hatchet job" and "more dumpster fire than journalism."

"We find it to be just flabbergasting. There is probably more truth in this week's National Enquirer than AP's story," said Geoff Cooper, vice president of research and analysis for the Renewable Fuels Association in a press call with reporters Monday criticizing the investigation.

The economic stakes for the industry are significant. Congress is working on legislation to do away with the corn-based portion of the mandate, which required oil companies to blend billions of gallons of ethanol into their gasoline. Big Oil is pumping big money into the effort.

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