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Sunday, February 6, 2011

Impacts of ethanol production.

The September-October Journal of Soil and Water Conservation contains an article on the impacts of ethanol production.  Respected researchers from around the United States wrote the article.  They found some positive impacts and some not so positive. 

The positive impacts are that as ethanol production has increased, farm income has also been affected positively.  The increased income has also reduced the amount paid in farm program benefits.  Ethanol has also had a positive impact on other commodity prices because of acreage shifts to corn production.  Substitution of ethanol for methyl tertiary butyl ether as an oxygenation additive is also seen as an overall positive for the environment.

The increase in corn production has increased the demand for nitrogen fertilizer.  A negative side of that could be increased demand on energy.  They project some increase in erosion because of land shifting out of  CRP.  The shift does further reduce government budgetary demands.  Non-fertilizer chemical usage has also increased.  (Editorial comment - this should not be a huge issue if chemicals are used properly) Bring new or CRP land into production will also increase carbon emissions both from energy use and oxidation of soil organic matter. Ethanol use also has lowered demand for petroleum. 

Researchers drew no conclusion as to whether ethanol production has an overall positive or negative impact.

My comments:  Given the overall economic conditions in the our country and the world right now and the huge demand for energy, I think we need to continue to use a portion of our corn crop for ethanol.  Research and development is also needed to continue to develop other alternatives to fossil fuels as well.   

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