Tag Archives: corn

[AUDIO] Cellulosic Biofuels, Food Security and Land Rights (Kelly Stone, ActionAid USA)

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Cellulosic Biofuels, Food Security and Land Rights 

On December 15 we spoke with Kelly Stone, Policy Analyst for ActionAid USA, who discusses a new cellulosic biofuels paper along with concerns related to food security and land rights.

 

[NEWS] The Standoff Between Big Oil and Big Corn

– by David Gelles, September 17, 2016, New York Times

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Cartoon: Minh Uong

A decade ago, lawmakers in Washington tried to address a trifecta of thorny challenges with one simple fix that has turned out to be anything but easy to assess.

The problems: an overreliance on foreign oil, rising greenhouse gas emissions and tepid economic growth.

The solution: the Renewable Fuel Standard, commonly known as the ethanol mandate. Enacted in 2005 and expanded two years later, the legislation required that refiners blend an increasing amount of biofuel into the gasoline that powers most American cars.

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[NEWS] Ethanol: Green Godsend or Political Ploy?

– by Jeff Zurschmeide, August 6, 2016, Yahoo Tech

ethanol_caranddriver

Photo: Car and Driver

Pull up to just about any gas station pump in America and you’ll see a sticker noting that the gas in that pump contains ethanol. It’s all around you, but most people don’t know much about ethanol.

What’s it doing to your car, and why’s it there in the first place. Aah, now that’s a good story.

What is fuel ethanol?

Ethanol is alcohol. It’s the same stuff that’s in vodka and every other alcoholic drink, and it’s made the same way – by fermenting corn or other biomass. But when it’s used for fuel purposes, the refineries put some extra chemicals in it to make it poisonous and unfit for human consumption, then they mix it with gasoline. In case it’s not obvious, you really don’t want to consider fuel ethanol as an alternative to your favorite cocktail. Heck, if you’re bringing cocktails to the gas station, you’ve got bigger issues. Drive responsibly and all that. but we digress.

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[NEWS] Missouri Weed the Next Big Thing in Biofuels?

– by Kelly Moffitt, May 12, 2016, St. Louis Public Radio

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Photo: co.stevens.wa.us

While the typical American may be considering how to use alternative fuel in the form of an electric car or investing in a “smart home” system, big industry is also looking for ways to reduce CO2 emissions through the use of alternative biofuels.

While the promise of ethanol-as-alternative-biofuel has waned due to its impact on food prices and lack of efficiency, groups of local researchers and businesses in St. Louis are looking for other biofuels that could meet the needs of big industries like aviation and aerospace.
Toni Kutchan, Vice President for Research at Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, said that sorghum, Camelina sativa and pennycress are non-agricultural crops that researchers are harvesting for oil and biomass to use for fuel.

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Biofuel Crops Could Be Used to Feed Millions

– by James Gilbert, March 31, 2016, Newsplex.com

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Photo: Greencarereports

Agriculture is being used more than ever to power cars and provide energy. Some University of Virginia professors are saying this is the wrong direction for a new source of energy.

Paolo D’Odorico is a professor of environmental sciences at UVA and says close to 700 million people today could be fed if the biofuel agriculture went toward edible food.

“We use sugar cane or wheat or corn,” said D’Odorico. “Wheat and corn are standard food crops.”

They looked at the percent of biodiesel produced worldwide, and a lot of it would go to cooking oil.

“We deal with vegetable oils that are used for cooking, but you can’t feed everybody by drinking a little bit of palm oil a day,” said D’Odorico.

Regardless, the resources used to grow the oils could be used toward feeding the malnourished.

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Study: Ethanol Harms Corn Counties

– by Ann Purvis, March 18, 2016, Heartland

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Photo: Heartland

Opponents of the federal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) mandate, which requires a certain amount of biofuels to be mixed with gasoline annually, often decry the requirement’s impact on prices and car engines, but a new study from researchers at Strata Policy (SP) and the Institute of Political Economy (IPE) at Utah State University suggests RFS also harms the very farmers the ethanol mandate was designed to help.

RFS was created by Congress as part of the Energy Policy Act of 2005. The ethanol mandate was touted by RFS supporters as a way to boost profits for farmers in corn-producing regions of the United States.

According to the study by SP and IPE, the result has been just the opposite. The researchers say American taxpayers have spent $58 billion for direct ethanol subsidies alone since 1980, in addition to the costs added to the economy by the mandate.

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High Plains Not Ideal for New Biomass Grasses

– by Jonathan Baker, February 22, High Plains Public Radio

miscanthusThe High Plains isn’t ideal for growing the new wave of biofuel crops, according to eurekalert.com. That’s because precipitation on the plains is less frequent and predictable than in other areas of the US, like the Midwest.

The research sought to identify the regions of the country where biofuel crops could be grown while minimizing effects on water quantity and quality. Corn is currently the dominant crop used in biofuel production. But bioenergy grasses, such as Miscanthus, have been found to be more ecofriendly than corn. These grasses lose less nitrogen due to rain and irrigation than corn. Nitrogen is an important nutrient for crops. But it often washes away into rivers, where it’s detrimental to aquatic ecosystems.

That means grasses may be the wave of the future for biomass crops. But biomass grasses grow best in areas like Kentucky and Tennessee, and the Northern Atlantic regions.