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Higher US crop prices trigger little area expansion so marginal land for biofuel crops is limited

  • Swinton, Scott M.
  • Babcock, Bruce A.
  • James, Laura K.
  • Bandaru, Varaprasad

By expanding energy biomass production on marginal lands that are not currently used for crops, food prices increase and indirect climate change effects can be mitigated. Studies of the availability of marginal lands for dedicated bioenergy crops have focused on biophysical land traits, ignoring the human role in decisions to convert marginal land to bioenergy crops. Recent history offers insights about farmer willingness to put non-crop land into crop production. The 2006-09 leap in field crop prices and the attendant 64% gain in typical profitability led to only a 2% increase in crop planted area, mostly in the prairie states. At this rate, a doubling of expected profitability from biomass crops would expand cropland supply by only 3.2%. Yet targets for cellulosic ethanol production in the US Energy Independence and Security Act imply boosting US planted area by 10% or more with perennial biomass crops. Given landowner reluctance to expand crop area with familiar crops in the short run, large scale expansion of the area in dedicated bioenergy crops will likely be difficult and costly to achieve.

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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Energy Policy.

Volume (Year): 39 (2011)
Issue (Month): 9 (September)
Pages: 5254-5258

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Handle: RePEc:eee:enepol:v:39:y:2011:i:9:p:5254-5258
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/enpol

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  1. Kanlaya J. Barr & Bruce A. Babcock & Miguel Carriquiry & Andre Nasser & Leila Harfuch, 2010. "Agricultural Land Elasticities in the United States and Brazil," Center for Agricultural and Rural Development (CARD) Publications 10-wp505, Center for Agricultural and Rural Development (CARD) at Iowa State University.
  2. Ricardo, David, 1821. "On the Principles of Political Economy and Taxation," History of Economic Thought Books, McMaster University Archive for the History of Economic Thought, edition 3, number ricardo1821.
  3. Ruben N. Lubowski & Andrew J. Plantinga & Robert N. Stavins, 2008. "What Drives Land-Use Change in the United States? A National Analysis of Landowner Decisions," Land Economics, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 84(4), pages 529-550.
  4. Feng Song & Jinhua Zhao & Scott M. Swinton, 2011. "Switching to Perennial Energy Crops Under Uncertainty and Costly Reversibility," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 93(3), pages 764-779.
  5. Searchinger, Timothy & Heimlich, Ralph & Houghton, R. A. & Dong, Fengxia & Elobeid, Amani & Fabiosa, Jacinto F. & Tokgoz, Simla & Hayes, Dermot J. & Yu, Hun-Hsiang, 2008. "Use of U.S. Croplands for Biofuels Increases Greenhouse Gases Through Emissions from Land-Use Change," Staff General Research Papers 12881, Iowa State University, Department of Economics.
  6. Ian W. Hardie & Peter J. Parks, 1997. "Land Use with Heterogeneous Land Quality: An Application of an Area Base Model," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 79(2), pages 299-310.
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