Last week three studies were released that addressed corn-based ethanol's impact on the food supply and the efficiency of its production. Unsurprisingly, there was differing assessments and conclusions.
The Illinois Corn Growers Association issued two of the studies. Their conclusions included that corn-based ethanol production leaves a smaller carbon footprint than gasoline and has substantial room for growth without affecting the food and feed sectors' access to corn.
"The global warming impact of the modern ethanol plant is 40 percent lower than gasoline," said Steffen Mueller, principal research economist at the University of Illinois at Chicago's Energy Resources Center. He authored one of the studies for ICGA. Mueller pointed out that his data showed a greater reduction in global warming impact for ethanol than the numbers being used in the current public debate.
ICGA also sponsored a study by Ross Korves, economic policy analyst at ProExporter Network. It predicted that corn yields would increase to 289 bushels per acre over the next two decades from the current 155 bushels per acre. He argues that would provide sufficient corn to increase ethanol production to 33 billion gallons annually by 2030. Last year, 7.1 billion gallons were produced.
To view both studies, click here.
Dennis Avery, a senior fellow and director of the Center for Global Food Issues at the Hudson Institute for Competitive Enterprise Institute, conducted the third study. It indicated that ethanol has made the world use more corn than it can produce sustainably, creating massive food price hikes.
Avery said high food prices are here to stay for as long as food continues to be turned into fuel, which he said is benefiting corn farmers while hurting livestock farmers and not making a dent in oil prices.
"Were we to double corn yields, we still would not have enough room for corn ethanol, because global food and feed demand will double again by 2040," Avery wrote in his study, titled, "The Massive Food and Land Costs of U.S. Corn Ethanol."