Luck, nature, and markets

Renewable energy advocates are learning this year what the oil and gas industry already knew—Luck is not always a lady, Mother Nature can be a witch, and commodity markets are unforgiving. Favorable conditions gave US farmers an early start toward an expected record corn crop this year. With a mandated market for ethanol in gasoline production, farmers increased corn planting by 5% to 96.4 million acres in 2012, the largest acreage in the last 75 years and the fourth consecutive year of expansion. Planting was virtually completed by late May. Before the end of June, however, crop conditions collapsed under the heat of the worst Midwest drought in 25 years. The US Department of Agriculture...

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