Researchers at Michigan State University used historical data on U.S. croplands, commodity grain exports and land use trends to see if there was a link between indirect land use change and biofuels expansion through 2007. They concluded that U.S. biofuel production has not provoked ILUC, saying crop intensification may have absorbed the effects of expanding biofuels production or the effects of production expansion may be negligible within the accuracy of the data. This conclusion is similar to that of a recent conclusion made by the U.S. Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory, which says ILUC as a result of corn ethanol expansion during the past 10 years has been minimal to zero.
The ILUC theory suggests any acre used to produce feedstocks for biofuels in the U.S. results in new acres entering food or feed production in other areas of the world. Previous ILUC studies have not compared predictions to past global historical data as the MSU study did. The researchers' report suggests cropland expansion in other countries isn't correlated to U.S. biofuels demand for certain feedstocks.
Renewable Fuels Association President Bob Dinneen says this research has demonstrated that ILUC as a matter of science and fact is wrong and has been deeply flawed since its beginning. He says biofuels like ethanol offer unparalleled environmental benefits as a renewable alternative to gasoline. The National Corn Growers Association agrees.
"It’s time for flat-earth ethanol opponents to back off on land use change," said NCGA President Bart Schott. "Unless they can present clear and compelling data, they need to realize that technology and science are not on their side. We’re growing much more corn per acre, and this along with shifting demands eliminates the need to significantly increase acreage to meet all needs."
The new study, "Indirect Land Use Change for Biofuels: Testing Predictions and Improving Analytical Methodologies," was prepared by Seungdo Kim and Bruce Dale of Michigan State University, and is to be published in an upcoming issue of Biomass and Bioenergy. To view the report, click HERE.