Ethanol is Earth Kind
Today’s Farmers Produce More Corn on Less Land
Ethanol production is continually getting more efficient, creating more ethanol while using less farmland. Since 2005, when renewable fuel standards were adopted, agriculture land use for crops has fallen by over 5.7 million acres, according to the U.S. EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Inventory. During that same period, corn production improved by nearly 28 percent.
Innovative farming techniques allow farmers to grow about five times as much corn as they did in the 1930s on 20 percent less land. Moreover, federal targets for U.S. corn ethanol consumption peak at 15 billion gallons, near current levels. Future ethanol growth will depend heavily on advanced biofuels, like cellulosic ethanol, that utilize inedible feedstocks like stalks, cobs and other tough plant material often left over from production on existing cropland.
Innovations in Agriculture Have Led to Lower Use of Fertilizer
Some claim that nutrients from farming can accumulate in our waterways, but ongoing innovations in agriculture allow U.S. farmers to grow the same bushel of grain with less fertilizer year-after-year. In fact, the nutrients used to grow an average bushel of corn fell 27 percent from 2000 to 2014. There also is no evidence linking the production of biofuels to the size of the hypoxic zone (aka, the Dead Zone) in the Gulf of Mexico. In fact, the measurements from Louisiana State University show the zone has shrunk since 2007, when renewable fuel standards were last expanded. Ethanol is biodegradable and has never contributed to the kind of catastrophic oil spills that have devastated the Gulf of Mexico, the Santa Barbara Channel, or the Prince William Sound in Alaska.
Producing Ethanol is More Energy-Efficient Than Gas Production
Ethanol is more energy efficient to produce than gasoline. For every 1 BTU of energy used to make ethanol, ethanol provides a 2.6 BTU return.
Ethanol Reduces CO2 Emissions
Research by the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows that corn ethanol reduces CO2 emissions by 43 percent, and studies at the Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory demonstrate that advanced varieties can reduce emissions by 100 percent or more. These figures do account for alleged indirect changes in land use and the other energy inputs required to grow and process feedstocks.
Food versus Fuel
The cost of food is mostly driven by oil prices, according to the World Bank, because the main cost of food comes from transportation, processing, refrigeration, and packaging costs, which are predominately driven by oil. More importantly, the corn used for ethanol production is grain or feed corn – not the kind of corn we eat.
Ethanol production results in more feed for livestock, so it produces food and fuel.
A third of every bushel of grain used for ethanol is a coproduct heavy in protein and fat, and that co-product are America’s second largest source of animal feed.