Web exclusive posted Feb. 26, 2009, at 3:38 p.m. CST

The International Institute for Ecological Agriculture, a promoter of permaculture and alternative fuels, has launched a campaign opposing Texas-based oil refiner Valero Energy Corp.’s bid to acquire the assets of bankrupt ethanol producer VeraSun Energy Corp.

In February, VeraSun announced it had signed an agreement with Valero to sell some of its assets to the company for $280 million, in addition to the value of inventory and certain pre-paid expenses. (Read “Valero Energy offers bid to buy VeraSun assets.”)

David Blume, executive director of IIEA, said Valero’s offer demonstrates the end-game strategy for last year’s aggressive food versus fuel propaganda and price war manipulation campaign implemented by the International Oil cartel. “The campaign is systematically engineering the collapse of America’s fledgling independent renewable fuel and energy producers market,” he said.

Blume said oil companies have used the Commodities Futures Trading system to artificially drive the price of corn up by offering wildly inflated prices for corn, while depressing the price of ethanol, essentially gaming the futures market. “The impact of artificially high corn prices is that plants like VeraSun, that aren’t built and supported by farmer-owners, but rather by capital investors, had to pay high prices to compete with Big Oil to buy corn and make fuel,” he said. “Meanwhile, the futures price of alcohol was driven down by Big Oil’s fuel monopoly—easy since they buy over 99 percent of alcohol fuel produced.”

Blume said it’s very likely that 40 percent of the nearly 200 ethanol plants operating in the U.S. will now be victims of Big Oil’s “slash, burn and buy strategy” to collapse, consume and control the ethanol industry.

“With the federal court ruling in the VeraSun bankruptcy, a legal precedent has been set that now allows buyers of bankrupt plants to reneg on futures contract commitments for corn purchases,” Blume said. “For the first time ever for any company, there may be an escape from paying for the futures contracts. The problem with this is that farmers have of course already borrowed money—based on futures pricing—to pay for higher fertilizer/chemical costs in producing the supposedly higher-priced corn. Unlike the plant owners, they won't get to avoid their debts and there is a real chance that Big Oil will not only buy up the alcohol plants, but also reject the futures contracts, bankrupt the farmers, and then be able to buy their land. Oil companies will for the first time have control of food and fuel from seed through fuel pump.”

Blume said if oil companies gain control of even a quarter of the ethanol production infrastructure and land for crops, there will be no end to the disruption they can cause in markets, and they could even potentially bankrupt the rest of the industry. “If you think that it’s a nightmare that Big Oil controls our energy, think what life would be like if it controlled our land and food as well,” he said.

According to the IIEA, its campaign goals are:

  • To create awareness that Americans are on the verge of losing any mechanism to produce renewable ethanol on the local and regional level.
  • Stimulate interest in ethanol as a major resource in the war to revive the U.S. economy (and subsequently global economy).
  • Support the American Corn Growers Association initiative calling for farmer-owned strategic grain and biofuel reserves.
  • Help stimulate rural revitalization and job creation through the development of small and mid-scale ethanol facilities.
  • Engage the working farmer community in the process of building U.S. energy independence and simulating greater productivity through multi-crop production based on permaculture practice.
  • Develop additional byproduct industries, including fish and mushroom farms, as well as organic vegetable farming based on the permaculture methodology for ethanol production.
  • Support growing state initiatives such as Farm to School programs by growing and buying local and incorporating support for ethanol plants that build a sustainable, healthy, local community. For example, in the state of Illinois alone imported food is a $47 billion industry.

Blume and the IIEA are calling on citizens to contact Congressional representatives, the Department of Justice-Antitrust Division, and the Federal Trade Commission-Bureau of Competition to express concerns regarding the Valero acquisition of VeraSun.