Knowledge for better food systems

Expansion of ethanol in the US

There is an interesting 5 page feature on the expansion of ethanol in the US in the USDA’s April 2006 issue of Amber Waves.
  • According to the USDA, ethanol use currently accounts for 12% of maize use in the US
  • New ethanol plants are being built across the corn belt which will increase ethanol production by around 50%
There is an interesting 5 page feature on the expansion of ethanol in the US in the USDA’s April 2006 issue of Amber Waves.
  • According to the USDA, ethanol use currently accounts for 12% of maize use in the US
  • New ethanol plants are being built across the corn belt which will increase ethanol production by around 50%
  • It is predicted that this expansion of ethanol will increase maize prices and divert maize from exports, expecially to Canada (which is a major producer and can increase domestic production) and the more price-sensitive countries of Egypt, Central America and Caribbean [ie. a real example of how biofuels would be reducing global food supplies]. The article suggests that South American countries might respond by producing more maize [probably on ex-rainforest land]
  • Maize will be the main feedstock for the near future, but in the longer-term the development of technologies to produce sugar from cellulose could mean that "cellulosic biomass" could become a significant feedstock, ie. crop residues and wood fibers. A report for the USA Government has estimated that this could displace 30% of current petrol consumption by the middle of the century. This feedstock would, however, reduce the amount of organic matter returned to the soil [promoting erosion and reducing soil carbon levels ...]
 

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