New study refutes myths about biofuels' impact on land use

A new report released from researchers in the Netherlands shows that current models assessing the impact of crops grown for biofuel production on land use do not accurately reflect current production and land use realities. Given the impact of these models on bioenergy policy, "Biomass Research" makes a strong case for updating the way in which the true benefits of biofuels are assessed in order to insure policy decisions fully value the environmental benefits of ethanol.

"Ethanol advocates have long understood the major impact that relying upon outdated data or inaccurate models can have on our nation's biofuels policy and, at NCGA we work to correct the information and models," said National Corn Growers Association Ethanol Committee Chair Chad Willis.

"This study provides an academically rigorous examination of the specific areas in which ethanol modeling and data are currently lacking on a large scope. Farmers have made amazing strides to increase efficiency and sustainability in the past few decades, and the models and information used to assess the impact of biofuel production should reflect these gains.

American ethanol benefits our environment as well as our economy and our energy security. It only makes sense that our energy policy should take these incredible benefits into account thus maximizing them for the good of all Americans."

Looking at land use and biomass production balances in 34 major biofuel-producing nations, the report concludes that increases in acreage devoted to biofuel feedstock production were more than offset by productivity gains on acreage devoted to food production between 2000 and 2010.

These productivity gains came about primarily from the use of double cropping practices, yield gains and other increased efficiencies.

Additionally, the study also notes that, during the same period, urbanization and other causes were responsible for the loss of much more agricultural land than biofuel feedstock production.

As predictive models used to form public policy fail to account for these significant technological, cultural and policy trends impacting assessment of indirect land use change, the study's authors conclude the models need improvement. They also contend the use of historical data provides a more reliable tool for estimating indirect land use change and setting bioenergy policy than the current models.

For the full study, click here.

"Increasingly, the data shows that farmers are producing a larger crop in a more sustainable manner," Willis said. "If we fail to recognize these improvements, our policies will continue to undervalue ethanol's potential to help us reach important environmental goals."