Biofuel Mandates And Climate Change: Bad Blend?

Researchers say that mandates concerning the production of biofuel brought in by the federal government could intensify some of the associated problems of climate change.

The study by researchers from Purdue and Stanford universities looked at how future global warming could push up corn prices. The researchers found that the extra volatility that climate change could bring to the corn market would be further exacerbated by the biofuel mandates, which they claim could help to increase price volatility by about 50 percent.

biofuels

image via Cosan

The team of researchers looked particularly at how extreme heat or freak climactic events caused by global warming  would affect the yield in corn growing regions of the U.S.

The study found that even if temperatures only rose by 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit above pre-industrial levels (the current globally recognized climate change target), this would still be enough to make damaging heat waves a far more common event in the U.S. Corn Belt.

According to the model assembled by the researchers, a drop in corn yields caused by very hot weather would push up prices. This would mean that ethanol plants, forced to meet the federal mandates for production, would be left with no choice but to bid up corn prices. This would push the price up even higher. Apart from the ethanol plants themselves, this would also effect consumers and livestock producers, who currently take about a third of the byproduct made when crops are turned into ethanol, which they use as animal feed.

Under the current laws, the federal government mandates for an increasing amount of ethanol and other biofuels to be made each year. Right now, around 39 percent of the U.S corn crop goes to make ethanol.

Paul Willis has been journalist for a decade. Starting out in Northern England, from where he hails, he worked as a reporter on regional papers before graduating to the cut-throat world of London print media. On the way he spent a year as a correspondent in East Africa, writing about election fraud, drought and an Ethiopian version of American Idol. Since moving to America three years ago he has worked as a freelancer, working for CNN.com and major newspapers in Britain, Australia and North America. He writes on subjects as diverse as travel, media ethics and human evolution. He lives in New York where, in spite of the car fumes and the sometimes eccentric driving habits of the yellow cabs, he rides his bike everywhere.