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OUR VIEW: Ethanol not perfect, but good for SD and world

We're at a crossroads in the debate about ethanol and oil.

Thursday, we published an op-ed piece from the Washington Post, in which the writer told of an oncoming crash related to ethanol. The piece said the combination of government mandates, the stress created by farmers growing more corn, and the increase in oil production in the United States could bring down the ethanol business.

We hope it doesn't.

Opinions on this issue -- like the ears of corn that bountifully grow right outside our city -- are limitless. Our opinion is that ethanol still is a driving force in the United States that has re-invigorated the ag industry, and we're behind it, even though we, too, have had concerns on its effects on the land, on automobiles, and on the world's food supply and prices.

Ethanol is just too valuable to our environment, economy and ag industry to push out the door.

It accounts for hundreds of thousands of jobs. According to the Clean Fuels Development Corp., U.S. ethanol production supported more than 490,000 jobs in 2008.

In this immediate area are several ethanol plants. The Clean Fuels Development Corp. claims that a 100 million-gallons-per-year plant creates $192 million in economic output, generates 113 jobs and increases local tax revenue by more than $1.5 million.

It's true that U.S. oil production has increased, and nowhere more than in North Dakota. But oil eventually runs out, and you can't grow more.

Corn? Well, that shoots from the ground each spring and fills the silos each fall.

Ethanol isn't perfect, but it's been good to South Dakota.

We still believe that in the short-term, all energy opportunities must be explored. We are in favor of the Keystone XL pipeline, and we have favored some further exploration in the remote -- yet preserved -- areas of Alaska.

In the long-term, as non-renewable energy sources like oil fade, renewable fuels like ethanol must be a ready part of our energy portfolio.