Measuring Unmeasurable Land-Use Changes from Biofuels

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2015-07-20
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Babcock, Bruce
Emeritus Professor
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Center for Agricultural and Rural Development

The Center for Agricultural and Rural Development (CARD) conducts innovative public policy and economic research on agricultural, environmental, and food issues. CARD uniquely combines academic excellence with engagement and anticipatory thinking to inform and benefit society.

CARD researchers develop and apply economic theory, quantitative methods, and interdisciplinary approaches to create relevant knowledge. Communication efforts target state and federal policymakers; the research community; agricultural, food, and environmental groups; individual decision-makers; and international audiences.

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The debate over whether biofuels are good for the environment used to hinge on the credibility of studies published by David Pimentel, professor of ecology at Cornell University, who concluded that it took much more energy or fossil fuel to grow, transport, and process corn into ethanol than the ethanol could ever hope to replace as transportation fuel. A preponderance of other studies on the issue found the data and methods used by Pimentel to be suspect, and most concluded that biofuels generally, and corn ethanol specifi cally, have a positive net energy balance, and their use as a replacement for gasoline leads to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

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