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The corn ethanol industry is in the pits, with plants being idled and firms declaring bankruptcy. Not only that, but each month seems to bring a new study assailing corn ethanol because it doesn’t help the environment, or it doesn’t reduce dependence on foreign oil, or it drives up food prices, or it is harmful to health.
These assertions each have some basis, and they have gone far to undermine public policies in support of corn ethanol. So what then is the future for the industry? Can it survive without mandates and subsidies? To answer, we must first look at the cost structure.