A recent report released from researchers in the Netherlands shows that current models assessing the impact of crops grown for biofuel production on land use (indirect land use change /ILUC) do not accurately reflect current production and land use realities. Given the impact of these models on bioenergy policy, the paper, “Biomass Research,” makes a strong case for updating the way in which the true benefits of biofuels are assessed. This would help insure policy decisions and made with the understanding and consideration of the ethanol’s environmental benefits.
National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) Ethanol Committee Chair Chad Willis said, “Ethanol advocates have long understood the major impact that relying upon outdated data or inaccurate models can have on our nation’s biofuels policy and, at NCGA we work to correct the information and models. This study provides an academically rigorous examination of the specific areas in which ethanol modeling and data are currently lacking on a large scope.”
Farmers have made amazing strides to increase efficiency and sustainability in the past few decades,” continued Willis, and the models and information used to assess the impact of biofuel production should reflect these gains. American ethanol benefits our environment as well as our economy and our energy security. It only makes sense that our energy policy should take these incredible benefits into account thus maximizing them for the good of all Americans.”
Looking at land use and biomass production balances in 34 major biofuel-producing nations, the report concludes that increases in acreage devoted to biofuel feedstock production were more than offset by productivity gains on acreage devoted to food production between 2000 and 2010. These productivity gains were the result of the use of double cropping practices, yield gains and other increased efficiencies.
Additionally, the study also notes that during the same period, urbanization and other causes were responsible for the loss of much more agricultural land than biofuel feedstock production.
The study’s authors conclude the models need improvement – especially as public policy continues to evolve without taking into account the significant technological and cultural improvements. The authors also contend the use of historical data provides a more reliable tool for estimating ILUC and setting bioenergy policy than the current models.
“Increasingly, the data shows that farmers are producing a larger crop in a more sustainable manner,” Willis added. “If we fail to recognize these improvements, our policies will continue to undervalue ethanol’s potential to help us reach important environmental goals.”