In 2018, 38% of the United State’s corn production has been used to produce ethanol, a biofuel blended with conventional gasoline to create a fuel that generates less pollution in our atmosphere. For many years, critics of using corn to produce ethanol have raised questions about its impact on our environment, suggesting using corn ethanol may have impacts worse than using straight fossil fuels.
In August 2019, Ramboll completed a research study on the impact of corn ethanol production at the request of Growth Energy, an association dedicated to advancing pro-biofuel policies and education. Ramboll is an international engineering, design, and consultancy organization with headquarters in Denmark focused on creating sustainable communities around the world.
Here are some key conclusions from Ramboll’s report:
- Is corn production for ethanol taking away land that could be used for non-agricultural purposes?
No. In the United States, the amount of acreage devoted to corn production has not changed significantly since 1930. However, farmers are now planting corn more efficiently and the amount of yield (how many bushels per acre is produced) has risen dramatically.
- Since water is already a precious commodity in many states, is corn production for ethanol using too much water?
No. No causal relationships were found between water shortages and corn production. In fact, a good portion of the corn used for ethanol production is grown on non-irrigated land. The USDA reported a decrease in irrigation for all crops, including corn, while acreage devoted to corn production has remained stable. More efficient irrigation and water management systems were attributed to this finding.
- Is runoff from corn production creating negative impacts such as lower oxygen levels in the Gulf of Mexico?
No. No relationship was found. In fact, since farmers are using more advanced water management systems and healthier fertilizer products, the negative impact on our environment is less.
- Does the actual production of ethanol have greater negative impact on surrounding communities that the air emissions from convention fossil fuel?
No. Ramboll reviewed sources cited in these claims and found the material skewed or simply unsubstantiated.
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