USDA publishes report ‘The Ethanol Decade’ (2000-2009)

The USDA has looked at the responses in American agriculture 2000-2009 to the rapid expansion of corn ethanol production. They note that land-use decisions by farmers can be very complex. They find that both corn acreage and yield increased in that period, while soybean production was displaced by expanding corn, but in turn displaced other crops to maintain production levels. 

Find it In: Indirect land use change (ILUC), Fuels

World Bank ‘Food Price Watch’ paper on interaction between food prices and the the food crisis in the Horn of Africa

Over 12 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance in the Horn of Africa due largely to drought, displacement and conflict. However, the World Bank notes that increasing food prices are also compounding the situation, with world prices as of July 2011 approaching the levels seen in 2008 (but down slightly since February). They identify low maize stocks (stock-to-use ratio of about 13%, the lowest in over 30 years) as increasing potential price volatility, and note in passing that maize use for biofuels is also exerting upwards pressure on prices.

Find it In: Indirect land use change (ILUC), Fuels

PNAS paper on carbon debt from conversion of CRP grassland to bioenergy (Gelfand et al.)

Gelfand et al. investigate the emissions impacts of converting US Conservation Reserve Program land to corn, soy or perennial grasses for bioenergy.

Find it In: Indirect land use change (ILUC), Fuels

FAO expert panel calls for abolition of biofuel support to reduce food price volatility

The High Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition of the FAO’s Committee on World Food Security reports in detail on reasons for increased food price volatility. They suggest three linked problems: underlying agricultural price volatility, low agricultural investment and the start of a new era of relative food scarcity.

Find it In: Indirect land use change (ILUC), Fuels

Chris Knittel of MIT looks at the cost effectiveness of ethanol subsidies

Knittel argues that ethanol subsidies (for him the term includes performance based policies like RFS and LCFS) exist to support farmer wealth, reduce dependence on foreign oil and reduce GHG emissions.

Find it In: GHG emissions, Indirect land use change (ILUC), Fuels

Benefits of cellulosic ethanol feedstocks: Davis et al in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment

Using the DAYCENT model and assuming a regime of careful land use planning, Davis et al argue that replacing corn in the US with cellulosic biofuel feedstocks (switchgrass, miscanthus) could reduce nitrogen leeching and greenhouse gas emissions while improving ethanol yields and maintaining the non-biofuel-use grain supply.

Find it In: Biofuels, Indirect land use change (ILUC), Fuels