Scientists from several universities and the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory are questioning the conclusions and assumptions of two reports that were published recently in the journal Science. The reports were narrowly constructed to demonstrate worst-case scenarios and did not examine all of the facts.
Dr. Michael Wang of Argonne’s Transportation Technology R&D Center and Zia Haq of the DOE’s Office of Biomass Program say that there has been no indication that U.S. corn ethanol production has so far caused indirect land use changes in other countries because U.S. corn exports have been maintained at about 2 billion bushels a year.
While scientific assessment of land use change is needed, Wang and Haq say conclusions about green house gas emissions and biofuels based on speculative, limited land use change modeling is misguiding.
Dr. Lou Honary, Director of the National Ag-Based Lubricants Center at the University of Northern Iowa says the reports are overly simplistic, don't take in many related factors, and cause misconceptions. Michigan State University's Dr. Bruce Dale agrees with Honary and says there are strong reasons to question the assumptions, data and comparisons made in these two papers.
David Morris of the Institute of Self-Reliance, a former member of the Advisory Committee for Biomass to the Departments of Energy and Agriculture, finds many contradictions in the reports.
"The report notes that the vast majority of today’s ethanol production comes from corn cultivated on land that has been in corn production for generations," Morris says. "Since little new land has come into production, either directly or indirectly, the current use of ethanol clearly reduces greenhouse gas emissions."