The latest report of the United States’ Department of Agriculture showed that the largest volume of corn produced this year is going to be used for ethanol production.
According to the World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates of the U.S.D.A, 5.05 billion bushels of corn from the 2010/2011 crop year will be used for ethanol and byproducts while 5 billion bushes will be used as animal feed to help produce food for people.
Corn is still the dominant feedstock for ethanol production in the United States. This will mark the first time ethanol usage will exceed feed usage.
The disparity is predicted to continue to grow next year as 5.05 billion bushels are predicted to be used for feed while 5.15 billion bushels will be used for ethanol.
Increase in renewable fuel use
There is an urgent demand for biofuels in the United States because of federal legislation increasing the amount of renewable fuels used in vehicles.
The Environmental Protection Agency, through the Renewable Fuel Standard program, establishes renewable fuel volume mandates to ensure that transportation fuel contains a minimum volume of renewable fuels.
The E.P.A. currently proposes mandate of 15.2 billion gallons of renewable fuel into the United States fuel supply for 2012.
Ethanol is considered by some as an essential part of the move to decrease the use of fossil fuels in vehicles.
It is one of the most established and common biofuels, usually used as a fuel additive. Most of the ethanol-blended fuel sold is E-10, a mixture of approximately 10 percent ethanol and 90 percent gasoline by volume. E-85 fuel, a mixture of approximately 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline by volume, is also gaining popularity for use in flexible-fuel vehicles. These mixtures allow a vehicle to operate with less emissions than it would with pure gasoline.
Negative effect on food supply
However, ethanol, especially ethanol from food crops such as corn is also controversial because of concerns that its production and use will negatively affect the food supply.
This is the concern raised by the National Chicken Council, a trade association representing the United States Chicken Industry upon hearing the W.A.S.D.E. findings.
"Raising poultry and livestock as food for people is taking second place to putting ethanol derived from corn into America's gasoline tanks," said Bill Roenigk, senior vice president and chief economist for N.C.C. "Because of an arbitrary federal mandate, larger and larger amounts of ethanol will be produced from the corn crop, and less will be used to feed the animals needed for America's dinner plates."
Not only can the use of corn to produce ethanol affect the food supply, it also affects the price. The high price of corn is caused by the mandated demand for ethanol, noted Mr. Roenigk in a statement released by his organization.
“Ethanol producers will always be able to outbid livestock and poultry producers because the fuel industry is required by law to buy ethanol,” said Mr. Roenigk.
Currently, the price of corn is already thrice its original price five years ago since ethanol incepted the market.
An alternative to corn ethanol would be what are known as second generation biofuels which are produced from sustainable feedstock. An example of this would be cellulosic ethanol which is basically ethanol created using non-food crops such as switch grass or even waste products such as corn stover.
By. Kristin Dian Mariano