The impact of U.S. biofuels production on indirect land use change (ILUC) is negligible or nonexistent, says a new study by Drs. Seungdo Kim and Bruce Dale, Michigan State University (MSU). The study was published in the July 2011 edition of Biomass and Bioenergy Journal.
The new study is the first evidence-based evaluation of ILUC using actual historic data and a data-driven approach based on individual world regions’ land use patterns and commodity grain imports, said Roger Conway, senior partner at Rosslyn Advisors, LLC, and former director of the USDA’s Office of Energy Policy and New Uses. Earlier studies have relied on global economic simulations. These models often did not account for new agricultural methods that allow for greater crop yields on U.S. land where corn for ethanol is produced.
“We searched for direct historical evidence for ILUC in relevant world areas rather than attempting to project or predict what course ILUC might take. Projecting forward can force scientists to make untestable assumptions,” said study author Dale.
PR Newswire reports that one interpretation of no ILUC effects is that U.S. crop intensification absorbed and exceeded new ethanol production demand.
The MSU study used 1990 as its baseline and measured crop changes as U.S. ethanol production grew over the last several years. The authors searched for actual land use change in 18 regions around the world where corn and/or soybeans are produced.