Corn Saves America Podcast



Returning from the successful and award-winning “Escaping 1980,” the Presents podcast series returns with Seasons 2: Corn Saves America.

This season, hosts – Sarah Mock, Brent Gloy, and David Widmar – are thinking about the future of carbon markets through the lens of corn ethanol. Rather than picking a side of either debate, the team – joined by a host of additional experts – reviews the rise of biofuel for lessons that are applicable to the current enthusiasm about carbon offsets.

Season 2 can be found in the “ Presents” podcast, available everywhere you listen to podcasts.


Podcast Trailer – Corn Saves America

Carbon markets are officially The Next Big Thing in American Agriculture. This season, we searched for a past event that brought together technology, policy, and market forces in a way that echoes what carbon markets hope to achieve.  And we found one – the rise of corn ethanol.

In the coming episodes, we’ll unpack how corn-based fuel united farmers, energy companies, and environmentalists transformed markets and eventually became a political flashpoint to determine whether ag carbon markets could be on a similar trajectory.

Corn Saves America. Farming for the Environment, From Ethanol to Carbon Markets.

Episode 1 | Are Carbon Markets the New Ethanol?

Fifteen years ago, corn ethanol was a wunderkind, set to cure the U.S.’ addiction to foreign oil, reduce the pollution caused by driving, and revitalize American agriculture and rural economies. In the intervening years, the problems evolved while ethanol remained, and today many question what the future of the sector might look like. Today the U.S. is facing a different set of challenges, particularly around climate change, and the search for a solution – perhaps a silver bullet – remains. Ag carbon markets look promising, and advocates and entrepreneurs are flocking to them in the hopes that saving the planet might be a lucrative endeavor. Might the history of ethanol, ag’s past environmental policy, offer insight on what might be ahead for carbon markets?

Episode 2 | Origin Story

Corn alcohol has a long history as a fuel, going back well into the 19th century. Over time, it’s fallen in and out of favor, from being a pet project of Henry Ford’s to being outlawed during prohibition. By the 1970s, an oil crisis prompted farmers and lawmakers to take ethanol off the shelf, but it would languish until environmental concerns in the 1990s brought it back into the agricultural mainstream. Carbon markets are still very much experiencing their origin story, but by understanding how ethanol rose to prominence, we can gain a new understanding about what the next several years might look like for ag carbon markets.