April 13, 2008

Land Required For Ethanol Production

There is a quote in yesterday's news that caught my attention.

But at present, to supply grain-based ethanol, we are diverting a large percentage of American farm acreage away from food production

I always wonder if comments such as this are just misquotes due to lack of knowledge on the subject or an attempt to promote a misconception.

Last year we produced about 6.5 billion gallons of ethanol. At an industry average of 2.8 gallons of ethanol per bushel of corn, that equates to 2.4 billion bushels of corn. At last years average of 151 bushels of corn per acre, that equates to about 16 million acres needed to produce ethanol last year.

Last year, about 320 million acres were planted in the principal crops. According to the USDA, principal crops include...

Crops included are corn, sorghum, oats, barley, winter wheat, rye, durum wheat, other spring wheat, rice, soybeans, peanuts, sunflower, cotton, dry edible beans, potatoes, canola, proso millet, and sugarbeets. Harvested acreage is used for all hay, tobacco, and sugarcane in computing total area planted. Includes double cropped acres and unharvested small grains planted as cover crops.

You will notice that it includes all the big crops but certainly not all farm acreage. But even using this number, the amount of acreage devoted to ethanol production would only equal 5% of the amount of acres devoted to the principal crops.

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