Former CIA Director James Woolsey says agriculture has become a leading force in the U.S. fight against terrorism by embracing the concept of producing ethanol from corn as the first step in becoming self sufficient in energy.

Speaking at the recent annual meeting of the Virginia Soybean, Corn and Grain Association, Woolsey says the production of biodiesel from soybeans and other fuels from carbohydrates will most likely come from farmers.

“We must move from a hydrocarbon-based society to a carbohydrate-based society,” he says. Woolsey points out that gasoline is only a fraction of the dependence Americans have on foreign oil, pointing out that plastics, fertilizers and countless other products critical to our lives are based on oil.

“The next time you pull into a gas station to fill your car with gas, bend down a little and take a glance in the side-door mirror. What you will see is a contributor to terrorism against the United States,” Woolsey says.

He explains that the United States is by far the largest customer for Saudi Arabian oil. The Saudis take in over $160 billion annually for oil and at least $7 billion to $8 billion go to the Wahhabi movement. Wahhabi fundamentalists provide money to Hezbollah, Al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations who have as a goal in life to kill Americans.

“Not since the U.S. Civil War has the United States funded both sides of a war that we are fighting. The level of funding the Wahhabis provide for terrorists in Iraq, Iran and other Middle East countries is twice the amount of the largest budget ever for the KGB,” he said, explaining the scope of the problem.

In the U.S. we spend nearly $1 billion per day on foreign oil. Our trade deficit with China, the weak U.S. dollar and other economic woes pale in comparison to the trade deficit we are building up from our dependence on foreign oil. Clearly, we have to make a commitment to end this dependence, Woolsey stresses.

“American farmers, by making the commitment to grow more corn for ethanol, are at the tip of the spear on the war against terrorism,” Woolsey says. He points out that ethanol from corn is only the first step in becoming self sufficient in fuel. The next step will be to produce ethanol from other biomass sources.

Major advances in battery technology make the development of alternative fuels even more critical. If the U.S. can produce biofuels to serve as the liquid component of fuel systems featuring high-performance, long-lasting batteries, we will be well down the road to being free of dependence on foreign oil.

Freeing the U.S. from dependence on foreign oil will have a positive effect on the World, Woolsey says. “Freedom and oil move in different directions. When the oil barons in the Middle East, Venezuela and Russia see their biggest customer going way, the U.S. will begin making real in-roads to the freedom of people around the World,” he says.

Woolsey says the electric vehicles of the future, which are already being built in prototypes, are not your father’s battery powered golf cart. “I recently drove a prototype hybrid car that goes from 0 to 60 miles per hour in 4.5 seconds. And, this vehicle can travel over 250 miles on a single charge. The next step is to develop an alternative fuel to be the liquid fuel source to support cars like this. There is no reason why the fuel source cannot be ethanol,” the former CIA boss says.

Ethanol from corn can replace at best 10-12 percent of the U.S. consumption of gasoline for transportation. Americans currently use about 140 billion gallons of gasoline products annually. Worldwide, over 1,000 barrels of oil are used per second. In addition to producing ethanol from corn, we have to find other sources for cellulose-based fuel, Woolsey contends.

One option, the former CIA Director says, is to use the 30 million acres of land currently in the CRP program. Much of this land is already planted to switchgrass and other plants that produce high levels of cellulose that can be converted to fuel. By doing so, Woolsey says, combined with ethanol from corn, this could replace approximately 50 percent of our current use of foreign oil.

Farmers are currently paying record high prices for nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus fertilizers because these are so closely tied to the price of natural gas. Even trace minerals, like zinc, manganese and magnesium are tied to natural gas, and the price of these materials used on crops has doubled and tripled in the past two years.

Woolsey says American farmers have stepped up to insure increased corn production for ethanol. Now, U.S. car makers need to step up and produce cars with flexible systems that can use gas or ethanol with no decrease in performance. He points out that as late as 2003 Brazil, which uses more ethanol than gas for transportation, had only five percent of the cars coming into their country with flex fuel systems.

By demanding flex systems from car makers all over the world, by 2006 over 75 percent of the cars coming into Brazil have flex fuel systems. The cost of this conversion is roughly $100 per car.

In addition to the technological advances made in battery power is the development of carbon composite materials that are lightweight and much more durable than metals currently being used by automobile manufacturers. By simply converting to lighter building materials, the U.S. auto industry could make a significant contribution to reducing gasoline use.

Woolsey says it is very possible from a technology standpoint to manufacture a car that is made from carbon composites, fueled by lithium ion batteries, supplemented by a wallet-sized alternative battery plug-in to supply energy for one day at a time, and with ethanol for a liquid fuel part of the system. Such a vehicle could comfortably seat four people and would be the equivalent of getting 1,000 miles per gallon of gasoline.

He contends that America is based on big cars, and forcing people to use smaller cars is not the answer — simply make bigger cars and trucks more efficient. A full-size SUV, he contends, could run just as efficiently as a passenger car on the fuel system previously described, but would offset only the equivalent of 750 miles per gallon on gasoline.

While the euphoria over ethanol production has kept corn prices high, some have questioned whether this is good for our over-all food supply, pointing out that livestock prices are sure to go up as the price of feed escalates.

Speaking at the same meeting, Ken McCauley, president of the National Corn Growers Association says he is confident U.S. farmers can grow enough corn for ethanol and livestock feed, and for domestic use.

In the Southeast there is no question that corn acreage will go up, but a major question is how much. In the upper Southeast alone there is likely to be well over 100,000 acres more than in 2006. While patriotism provides a good moral high ground, profitability is more likely the reason for increased corn production in the U.S.

e-mail: rroberson@farmpress.com