Student Report Ignores Facts of Farming

WASHINGTON, DC – Growth Energy described a paper issued by graduate students at the University of Michigan that overlooked this year’s record corn harvest as “well-intentioned but flawed in theory and fact.”

“I’m sure the authors of this report had the best intentions, but it’s hard to square their conclusions with the facts about the efficiencies of American agriculture today,” said Growth Energy spokesman Chris Thorne. “The U.S. experienced a record corn harvest in 2009, with a yield of more than 165 bushels an acre. Those bushels were grown on 86.4 million acres of corn, down considerably from the high of 93.5 million acres in 2007 – a difference of more than 6 million acres in total. It is hard to ascribe loss of wildlife habitat to ethanol production when corn acres are on a downward trend.”

Thorne noted that the Cassman report published by the Journal of Industrial Ecology had concluded that the production of corn ethanol produced 59 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) than gasoline in the Life Cycle Analysis, and that cellulosic ethanol could produce 86 percent fewer GHGs. The Cassman study is available here.

“We all want cleaner air and water, and ethanol can be part of solving our environmental crisis, while producing U.S. jobs – as many as 136,000 new jobs if we move to 15 percent ethanol blended into gasoline. I don’t think there’s a better way to help the environment right now than to get more ethanol produced from the surplus grain and biomass we have in this country – and replace gasoline refined from oil, which we all know is getting both dirtier to burn and deadlier to procure,” Thorne said.

The University of Michigan paper, written by students at the School of Natural Resources and Environment, is entitled: “Corn Ethanol and Wildlife: How increases in corn plantings are affecting habitat and wildlife in the Prairie Pothole Region.”

Sustainable ethanol production remains a top priority of the ethanol industry, and that means conserving America’s natural resources. Agricultural and technical innovations are constantly increasing crop yields – and that reduces the intensity of pesticide and fertilizer use, and improves water use. Between 1970 and 2005, corn yield increased by 90 percent, as the result of an increase in corn productivity through better seed variety, better farming practices, and innovations in farm technology.




About Growth Energy
Growth Energy is a new, proactive group committed to the promise of agriculture and growing America’s economy through cleaner, greener energy. Growth Energy members recognize America needs a new ethanol approach. Through smart policy reform and a proactive grassroots campaign, Growth Energy promotes reducing greenhouse gas emissions, expanding the use of ethanol in gasoline, decreasing our dependence on foreign oil, and creating American jobs at home