Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The conflict between ethanol and animal feed

The NY Times reports that at least one major livestock producing state is objecting to the use of corn for ethanol, because it diverts corn away from, and raise the price of, animal feed:

Gov. Rick Perry of Texas is asking the Environmental Protection Agency to temporarily waive regulations requiring the oil industry to blend ever-increasing amounts of ethanol into gasoline. A decision is expected in the next few weeks. Mr. Perry says the billions of bushels of corn being used to produce all that mandated ethanol would be better suited as livestock feed than as fuel.

This are exactly the type of conflict we wrote about in our study on corn-based ethanol production and the Gulf of Mexico "Dead Zone".

From the conclusion:

The land cover analysis in this study raises questions about the availability of land to radically increase ethanol or other biofuel production. Reaching the proposed biofuel production goals will lead to trade-offs between cropland demands for food, feed, and fuel, even when the use of ethanol coproducts as feed is considered. The mitigation scenario demonstrates that reducing the cultivation of animal feed, the majority domestic use of corn and soybeans (2), is one way of attaining the croplands necessary for biofuel production.
A sharp reduction in feed cultivation and animal production in the U.S. is purely hypothetical; it would require a substantial change in culture and the reduction of an industry that provides income and employment to a large number of Americans. However, given the probable ceilings on cropland area, grain yields and use of ethanol coproducts as animal feed, a gradual decrease in use of corn and soybeans for animal feed may be a necessary consequence of the projected increase in demand for biofuels.

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