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Study: No plausible land use change from ethanol

By Staff | May 27, 2011

ST. LOUIS – After a thorough analysis of empirical evidence, new peer-reviewed research calls into question one of the chief claims of ethanol opponents, the negative impact of so-called “indirect land use change” as a result of corn production for ethanol.

To the National Corn Growers Association, this disproves yet another anti-ethanol myth that spread so easily in the mainstream media.

“It’s time for flat-earth ethanol opponents to back off on land use change,” said NCGA President Bart Schott.

“Unless they can present clear and compelling data, they need to realize that technology and science are not on their side.

“We’re growing much more corn per acre, and this – along with shifting demands – eliminates the need to significantly increase acreage to meet all needs.”

The new study, “Indirect Land Use Change for Biofuels: Testing Predictions and Improving Analytical Methodologies,” was prepared by Seungdo Kim and Bruce Dale of Michigan State University, and is to be published in an upcoming issue of Biomass and Bioenergy.

Prior studies on indirect land use change have failed to compare their predictions to past global historical data, Kim and Dale pointed out.

They use an empirical approach to detect evidence for indirect land use change that might be catalyzed by U.S. ethanol production through a data-driven statistical approach, and the results show that U.S. biofuel production, between 2002 and 2007, was not significantly correlated with changes in crop lands for corn and soybean in countries trading with the U.S.

This is not the first time a report has cast strong doubts on the idea of indirect land use change, Schott noted.

A 2010 study by Oak Ridge National Laboratory found “little support” for large land-use conversion or diversion of corn exports because of ethanol production in the U.S. during the past decade.

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