By Aurelian Braun , August 22, 2012
This past year, the USDA produced a couple of lengthy research reports (here and here) concluding what others have also documented: The federal government’s drive to increase ethanol use has created an environmentally hazardous production cycle in the name of renewable energy that is neither affordable nor clean.
The Renewable Fuel Mandate inflates demand for corn, which also receives a variety of agriculture subsidies. The result is that farmers plant more corn on more acres. So why exactly is this a problem?
For one thing, rapidly rising commodity prices and crop subsidies encourage farming practices that may stress farm land and undermine the government’s own conservation efforts. For example, based on 2010 crop yield averages, one acre produced 152.8 bushels of corn. At an average $5.18 per bushel for 2010–2011, a farmer could earn around $790 per acre, compared to only $45 per acre for land enrolled in the federal Conservation Reserve Program, which pays farmers to not farm their land.