Iowa Public Television


Biofuel Studies Call for Changes in Agricultural Landscape

posted on November 24, 2006

Hello, I'm Mark Pearson.

Economies live and breathe in a very human way, so predicting their future health can be a tricky business. The White House took a stab at such a prediction this week and the diagnosis wasn't good.

The administration *lowered its forecast for economic growth all the way into 2008. *That forecast reflected the slump in the housing market. *In fact, the National Association of Realtors reports sales of existing homes fell in 38 states during the summer. That's down nearly 13 percent from a year earlier.

In farm country, it seems the economic future hinges on how many local biofuels plants you can secure. The rush to build facilities that can manufacture alternative fuels is on ... but debate still rages about the efficacy of biofuels and the ability to balance supply and demand.

Biofuel Studies Call for Changes in Agricultural Landscape Ethanol and biodiesel are two of the most common terms in farm country these days. A biofuels boon is igniting discussions among proponents, critics, and academics - some of whom are publishing a string of recent studies.

In Washington this week, The Biotechnology Industry Organization addressed concerns that American farmers can't fully supply food, feed, and raw material for biofuels.

In order to take that "next step," the BIO suggested a litany of measures for the 2007 farm bill:

- Incentives for regional railroad development and expansion.

- Funding to streamline the process for transporting and storing cellulosic crops

- And the development of a system to monetize greenhouse gas credits through the production of ethanol.

The BIO study follows a similar analysis by the University of Tennessee that paints a rosy economic picture for future agricultural groups.

The Tennessee study was funded by the "25 by 25" group – a collection of lawmakers and ethanol industry representatives that hope biofuels will represent 25% of the energy market by 2025. In order to reach that goal, 100 million acres would be needed for renewable energy crops.

According to the study, massive land use for biofuels could…

Create a $180 billion growth in net farm income.

Generate 5.1 million jobs to support renewable energy enterprises.

And save the federal government $15 billion in crop subsidies.

The conventional linchpin of the skyrocketing expansion is cellulosic ethanol. The study claims commercial technology to convert switchgrass to ethanol won't be available until 2012.

But this week, the South Dakota-based Broin company announced the construction of the nation's first commercial-sized cellulosic ethanol plant. The 125 billion gallon a year biorefinery will be located in Emmetsburg, Iowa.

Tags: agriculture biofuels corn crops ethanol news renewable fuels