Governors from the coal fields of West Virginia to the corn fields of Iowa talked Sunday at their summer meeting about moving beyond ethanol produced just from food sources.
They sometimes have different priorities in reaching this conclusion – priorities that can be as simple as who grows corn and who feeds it to livestock.
And they're also not talking about replacement so much as supplementing: using switchgrass or wood waste products, for example, along with corn.
Still, the conversation – including an energy forum Sunday – has big implications. The nation has 134 ethanol plants in 26 states with 77 more under construction or expanding, according to the Renewable Fuels Association, an ethanol industry group.
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This year's corn crop, expected to be a record, is worth about $52 billion.
Meanwhile, the Agriculture Department says economic growth in developing countries, tight global grain supplies and demand for ethanol have pushed corn prices to record or near-record prices.
That in turn has led some to blame the push for ethanol on high food prices. Disagreeing sharply, the ethanol industry and corn growers point to record fuel prices driving up the cost of growing and shipping food.
“Corn-based and commodities-based ethanol for states like Minnesota has been a success story,” said the state's governor, Tim Pawlenty.