By Linda Newman
University of Edinburgh
From Wednesday the 11th to Friday the 13th of July I got an opportunity that every intern would dream of. With another Monsanto intern, I had the chance to spend three days on an “ethanol trip” that included two days in vibrant, exciting Chicago. The reason for the trip was so Monsanto could talk with potential Argentine investors about the ethanol industry in America and explain the potential for an Argentinian market in ethanol.
Our first stop was the Patriot Ethanol Plant in Annawan, Illinois. I’ve spent the last five weeks of my internship researching ethanol for a project I am working on, mainly focused on the public perceptions and economic ramifications of ethanol as opposed to the way it is produced. So it was especially interesting for the science geek in me (I am a physics major back home at the University of Edinburgh) to see the process of making ethanol.
It was also interesting to see how they produce DDGS (Dried Distillers Grains with Solubles). DDGS are what is left over from corn when you make ethanol and are an extremely nutritious source of protein for livestock. A lot of people criticize ethanol because they don’t see it as very energy efficient. but when they use corn to make ethanol they also produce this feed for animals.
I even tried some of the DDGS. This is not something I would recommend.
The following morning we attended some ethanol meetings. They were all extremely interesting and I learned a lot that I can incorporate into the project I am working on. The most fascinating thing was that while the rest of America and the world suffered job losses due to the recession in the last couple of years, the Midwest didn’t get hit as hard or feel the job losses as badly. And the ethanol industry helped here. Even during the recession, farmers continued to produce corn and the corn continued to be converted into ethanol and people continued to drive cars. I also learned that ethanol also reduces greenhouse gas emissions.
We had a few hours on Thursday afternoon to explore the fantastic city of Chicago. We took a boat ride on Lake Michigan and saw a stunning view of the skyscrapers from the water. Coming from the Scotland, I especially enjoy the view of skyscrapers as they are virtually non-existent in Edinburgh. We then spent the rest of the afternoon enjoying the sun at Ohio Street Beach. That’s another thing I don’t get to experience very regularly in Scotland – beaches and warm weather. I have fallen in love with Chicago. It is without at doubt the most exciting city I’ve ever been to and I’d love to return there someday.
The final stop on our trip was a tour of the Chicago Board of Trade, where traders go to buy and sell corn, soybeans and wheat, among other things. Although most of the trade today is done electronically, there are still those few traders who every morning dress in brightly coloured vests (so they can be seen in the ‘pit’), head down to a pit and use an array of crazy hand signals and phrases to buy and sell corn to each other. It was such a cool thing to witness. I especially loved it because in a day and age where everything has become electronic it is nice to know that there are still people out there who enjoy doing their jobs the good old fashioned way!
I feel fortunate that Monsanto gave me the opportunity to join this trip, where I had the chance to have such unique experiences, get business advice from some extremely successful businessmen, and get invitations to come and stay in Argentina whenever I want.
Linda is interning this summer through a program sponsored by The Saltire Foundation.