Remember those wild predictions that increased ethanol production would cause farmers to tear up grassland and forests in order to plant more corn.
It even coined a new term—“indirect land use change”.
Well, a new, in-depth USDA analysis of U.S. land use patterns shows total cropland in the U.S. actually decreased by 34 million acres from 2002 to 2007.
That’s the lowest level since USDA began collecting the data in 1945.
The USDA report also shows significant increases in forestland, grassland and rangeland during that five-year period.
The president of the Renewable Fuels Association, Bob Dinneen, is encouraging policymakers and regulators responsible for penalizing crop-based biofuels for indirect land use change to take a close look at the new USDA report.
In Dinneen’s words, “Our renewable energy policies and regulations should be based on what is actually happening on the ground—not on hypothetical results from black box economic models.”
Meanwhile, that USDA report shows a dramatic increase in urban sprawl. Land in urban areas was estimated at 61 million acres in 2007, up almost two percent since 2002 and 17 percent more than in 1990.
“It is ironic that the land use debate has fixated on biofuels, when the actual culprit of land conversion has been urban and suburban sprawl,” Dinneen says.