Biofuels

Biofuel Mandate Destroys Grasslands

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Nice grasslands you got there. Wouldn't want anything bad to happen to them.

Congress mandates that gasoline contains 10 percent corn ethanol and the industry is pushing to boost this to 15 percent. The federal mandate contributes to higher grain prices as 40 percent of America's corn crop is poured into our gas tanks. Now the Washington Post is reporting a new study that finds that there is one other highly predictable consequence of the mandate: farmers are plowing up more land to grow corn thus reducing prairie grasslands inhabited and used by wild creatures. As the Post observes:

America's prairies are shrinking. Spurred on by the rush for biofuels, farmers are digging up grasslands in the northern Plains to plant crops at the quickest pace since the 1930s. While that's been a boon for farmers, the upheaval could create unexpected problems.

A new study by Christopher Wright and Michael Wimberly of South Dakota State University finds that U.S. farmers converted more than 1.3 million acres of grassland into corn and soybean fields between 2006 and 2011, driven by high crop prices and biofuel mandates (right). In states like Iowa and South Dakota, some 5 percent of pasture is turning into cropland each year.

It's a big transformation in the heart of the country: The authors conclude that the rates of grassland loss are "comparable to deforestation rates in Brazil, Malaysia, and Indonesia." And those changes are already having plenty of impacts.

As I pointed out last week in my column on President Obama's new energy initiatives outlined in his State of the Union speech:

Billions in federal subsidies have conjured the bioethanol industry into existence, but scientists still debate whether corn bioethanol actually reduces greenhouse gas emissions. A recent life-cycle analysis of corn ethanol production found that its greenhouse gas emissions could be "roughly 25 percent more than the entire lifecycle emissions of petrol."

Feds just please stop interfering in energy markets—no mandates, no subsidies, no nothing! You're doing more harm than good.

Go here [PDF] to read the new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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  1. That is what caused the dust bowl. The drought wasn’t particularly bad by historic standards. The plains are suffering from a worse drought now and did so in the 50s as well. What made it the dust bowl was farmers plowing every inch of the plains because of high wheat prices in the 1920. Lets create another dust bowl so monsanto can get rich on government subsidies and moron liberals can feel good about themselves.

    1. So they can blame it on failures of the free market?

      1. Of course – there is no other possibility, in their minds.

        1. Rationally responding to gubmint distortions in the market = TEH CAPITALISM.

          See? Math.

  2. “You’re doing more harm then good.”

    When is that not the case? THEY DON’T CARE! As John stated all that matters is that they feel all smug and superiour because their intentions are so much better than everyone elses. The road to hell…… Was there ever a quote more true than that.

    1. Good = buying votes

      Harm = what?

    2. That old adage assumes a dichotomy between the moral and the practical. Their intentions are not good, no matter what their protestations to the contrary.

  3. Fucking ethanol gas. I bet the small engine repair industry put them up to it.

    1. No kidding. I’ve been watching the carburetor ports on my 20-year-old generator corrode from ethanol. I can do the work myself. It’s not the $60 for the carb that bothers me either, it’s just the waste.

      1. Biofuels are the most corrosive of all petrobases, they destroy engines and rot metal like acid.

        It can’t be healthy. Why doesn’t some libertarian science institution just prove that biofuel emissions are far worse than smoking? It has to be true, these distortions always involve sacrificial animals, whether its FDR in the 1930’s or oblahblah today.

    2. I’m sure farmers have a much more powerful lobby than small engine repair shops.

    3. It’s like cash for clunkers only with the cash going to the ethanol industry.

  4. “South Dakota State University finds that U.S. farmers converted more than 1.3 million acres of grassland into corn and soybean fields between 2006 and 2011, driven by high crop prices and biofuel mandates”

    Why are soybeans added to this figure?

    1. Biodiesel perhaps

    2. To make the amount of acreage more alarming.

      1. You’re a fucking idiot.

    3. More acres of corn means fewer acres of soybeans.

    4. If you use corn to make biofuel, you need to use something else to feed livestock.

      1. Which is why meat is more expensive as well.

      2. It’s been noticeable here in Iowa. Fields that used to alternate between corn one year and beans the next are now corn every year. Fields that used to be grass/hay are now beans.

        So cattle/diary farmers see corn prices sky rocket and hay prices go up as well.

        1. HAY, they can’t do that!

        2. And they probably need tons more nitrogen fertilizer when they don’t alternate with the beans.

      3. If you use corn to make biofuel, you need to use something else to feed livestock humans.

        FIFY

        There was a story recently about how our ethanol subsidy was literally killing people in some 3rd world countries.

        Ah yes. Here is it.

    5. You can’t farm corn for more than a few years without rotating in soy or some other nitrating crop. That’s WHY we found uses for soy beans besides sauce and tofu.

      1. The field behind my house has been beans one year in the last eight (and that was more than 5 years ago).

        1. It may have become cheaper to dump huge amounts of AN on the field, but they used to have to rotate more often than once every 5-7 years.

          1. The subsidies really distort the economics of farming.

            1. You are telling me. My family farms back in Ohio, and they can’t calculate anything; thankfully the old man hasn’t bought any land since 2002.

              But the distortions are everywhere in farming, alot of them are shell-shocked. Five years ago we thought it was crazy when Ohio farmland started going for five grand an acre; today that’s cheap, and we recently heard of some land out west going for $17,000 an acre! Has the marginal productivity of farmland doubled in the last ten years? No. They’ve consolidated and gotten more efficient, but yields aren’t that much higher than they were a decade ago. The inflated and subsidized crop prices, on the other hand…

              And you should see it in farm machinery, I wish some Austrian would do a big paper on it. Farm machinery is growing geometrically; 4WD tractors and combines have gotten gigantic in the last ten years, and soon they won’t even be making a class 5 combine anymore. The small farmers are getting squeezed by this, they’re getting priced out of the combine market and they’d better not be buying land right now. We are living through the 70’s all over again, and the guys who bought land in the 70’s got burned when Volcker popped the bubble in the early 80’s.

              I’m buying gold now, hopefully to exchange for farmland someday.

              1. It is my understanding that Ohio farmland is becoming expensive because of NG fracking.

                1. What fracking there is in Ohio is all up in Clevelandia where there are no farms anyway (only a big, old democrat machine).

          2. which of course would mean they are burning through topsoil quickly.

            1. Yeah. Even with modern fertilizers, eventually you’re going to have nutrient depletion if you don’t use complementary crop rotation.

    6. Because corn and soybean fields are the same thing.

  5. OT: Cop kills grandmother in 100mph fatal crash, case dismissed when the officer who cited offending cop doesn’t show up to court. No charges, case dismissed. Cops shake hands together, even heard laughing on court recorders.

    http://www.sun-sentinel.com/fl…..0362.story

    1. On the plus side, the FHP had at least already fired the guy.

    2. At least he got fired.

      1. But now he does not have a criminal record so they will probably rehire him or some other cop shop will.

        1. Come on, some other cop shop would’ve hired him anyway.

        2. I eagerly await the civil trial that will ruin him.

  6. If these bio-fuels were so cheap and wonderful like the promoters say, you would think they would convert their system to run on the same bio-fuel since they could get it wholesale. But instead they run their system using oil based diesel and natural gas to power it.

    1. Probably can’t get the subsidy if they don’t sell it.

      1. Or they can ship it back and forth across the US/Canada border to get subsidies

        Story from Dec 19 2012

        http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/…..edits.html

  7. The whole point is to disincentivize driving cars and making choo choo’s more “attractive” to us proles.

    1. You’re giving these idiots too much credit. The whole point is to be able to sanctimoniously declare yourself “green,” thereby making anyone who disagrees with you a global warming denier.

    2. Dahhhh but Warren Buffett would never secretly buy gold scrapping companies and insider access to the Rand gold refinery in the heart of darkness South Africa, he sez the dollar is tops and we should ride around in subsidized railcars and eat some beanzzz lolzozlzolzozlz

      I seriously can’t believe that all these underground libertarian reporters are not running with the Buffett story. He really is buying secret access to large quantities of gold through affiliates of subsidiaries buried on the back pages of the Berkshire 10K.

  8. Since corn is a grass I don’t see how growing it destroys grassland. Ethanol subsidies are stupid regardless.

    1. Pedantry FTW.

      1. “plowing up more land to grow corn thus reducing prairie grasslands inhabited and used by wild creatures”

        Yeah, how can a wild creature survive with all that fucking corn growing where the grass used to be.

    2. Corn being a grass does not make cornfields grasslands. There is a reason why one is called “corn field” and the other “grassland”.

  9. The subsidies really distort the economics of farming.

    Those dumb hicks wouldn’t know what to plant if the government didn’t lead them to the trough and shove their noses underwater.

    1. You don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about, and those “dumb hicks” can write a check bigger than you and not miss it.

      In Ohio it’s gonna be corn, beans, hay or potatoes anyway; you don’t see much wheat in Ohio anymore, since it started getting a new blight every year. Still lots of dairy and small hog operations in Ohio, we sold our hog farm in 2000 when it wasn’t worth the trouble anymore. And you still see a good bit of feeder cattle, guess the thing that surprised me in Ohio has been the rise of the “big bird” farms, damn emus and ostriches and all kinds of bullshit running around. Hell alpacas too for that matter.

      1. I think the dumb hick comment was sarcasm

      2. I think that the Emus, Otritches, etc. are great. There is just not enough meat variety generally available.

      3. Alpacas are used oftentimes as guards for cattle and horses.

        An alpaca, llama, or donkey will protect cattle to the death from the likes of coyotes which have never had the very high numbers here in the east that we currently have. Fuckers are everywhere.

  10. “Billions in federal subsidies have conjured the bioethanol industry into existence, but scientists still debate whether corn bioethanol actually reduces greenhouse gas emissions. A recent life-cycle analysis of corn ethanol production found that its greenhouse gas emissions could be “roughly 25 percent more than the entire lifecycle emissions of petrol.”

    And yet I recall the Socialists and Climate Change Clerics all stating scientific ‘fact’ about the emissions benefit of ethanol. When do they lose credibility and become a little more humble? If I see one more time that that there is a scientific ‘consensus’ on climate change I’m going to need stronger meds.

    I said it on another blog with regards to aersol based flourocarbons. If you present data, do the hard science, and show environmental damage then you can get widespread and effectual support. To the Socialists surprise, you can even get voluntary action from corporations and individuals that preceed any act by government. But no, forget convincing people, let’s jump straight to the use of force.

  11. Pfft, conserving praires and wild animals’ habitats isn’t an important environmental issue. Nudging, or at least feeling like you’re nudging, the level of CO2 emissions down is important.

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