Thursday, June 4, 2009

Supporters of Corn-Ethanol Reeling...

When it comes to the core of environmentalism, there are no sacred cows. After years of support for corn ethanol, many environmentalists have "turned tail" on the corn farmers over land-use impacts.

Supporters of corn-based ethanol are reeling in response to federal climate change legislation that will punish carbon emitters, including the agriculture industry. They worry that policies like cap and trade and low carbon fuel will destroy their tenuous, taxpayer-subsidized market and lead to the corn ethanol industry being permanently put out to pasture. Most scientific data suggest they are well justified in their concerns... There are many outstanding, credible, scientific studies of the benefits of cellulosic ethanol over corn ethanol.

Here are a few more high-quality scientific studies:

Originally published in Science Express on 7 February 2008 Science 29 February 2008: Vol. 319. no. 5867, pp. 1238 - 1240 DOI: 10.1126/science.1151861 Reports Use of U.S. Croplands for Biofuels Increases Greenhouse Gases Through Emissions from Land-Use Change Timothy Searchinger, 1* Ralph Heimlich, 2 R. A. Houghton, 3 Fengxia Dong, 4 Amani Elobeid, 4 Jacinto Fabiosa, 4 Simla Tokgoz, 4 Dermot Hayes, 4 Tun-Hsiang Yu 4

Most prior studies have found that substituting biofuels for gasoline will reduce greenhouse gases because biofuels sequester carbon through the growth of the feedstock. These analyses have failed to count the carbon emissions that occur as farmers worldwide respond to higher prices and convert forest and grassland to new cropland to replace the grain (or cropland) diverted to biofuels. By using a worldwide agricultural model to estimate emissions from land-use change, we found that corn-based ethanol, instead of producing a 20% savings, nearly doubles greenhouse emissions over 30 years and increases greenhouse gases for 167 years. Biofuels from switchgrass, if grown on U.S. corn lands, increase emissions by 50%. This result raises concerns about large biofuel mandates and highlights the value of using waste products.

1 Woodrow Wilson School, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08544, USA. German Marshall Fund of the United States, Washington, DC 20009, USA. Georgetown Environmental Law and Policy Institute, Washington, DC 20001, USA.2 Agricultural Conservation Economics, Laurel, MD 20723, USA.3 Woods Hole Research Center, Falmouth, MA 02540–1644, USA.4 Center for Agricultural and Rural Development, Iowa State University, Ames, IA 50011, USA.

Corn-Based Ethanol Flunks Key Test

Biofuel Researchers Prepare To Reap a New Harvest

Use of U.S. Croplands for Biofuels Increases Greenhouse Gases Through Emissions from Land-Use Change

On a macro level, the genesis of this government subsidy and preferential treatment program is but one of multi-thousands of examples of how government interference in the private market place has externalities rarely thought through at the time of group-euphoria and enactment. Regardless of what the lead California and Massachusetts politicians and their following say, cap and trade will have huge financial impacts on consumers and producers.

Your thoughtful, reasoned reactions are always welcome.

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