Stealing More From The Mouths Of Babes

Originally posted on Agritate, which is no longer active.

This time, Environmental Science & Technology has an article chiming in on ethanol biofuel production, but in a less optimistic voice than the previous story I blogged about (which was along the tone of “Oh, look, a new source of biofuel that doesn’t steal food from Americans.”).

This ES&T article takes a look at what it would take with current technology to meet the goals set by the Energy Independence & Security Act of 2007 to increase ethanol biofuel production by a huge amount by 2022. The researchers looking at this determined that 80% of current farmland would need to be devoted to ethanol crop production using current technologies, or 60% of livestock rangeland—even a combination of the two would have an intense impact on the food production capability of US farmers.

Of course, the crops that would be planted still wouldn’t be the ones we would use to feed ourselves at the dinner table anyway (as is commonly intimated by so many, which gets me right irked)—but the competition for arable land will necessitate some rethinking of this ethanol biofuel production goal, perhaps, or alternative sources such as the algae mentioned in the Nature piece I blogged about before.

I can’t help but root for efforts like the bicycle-operated urban community supported agriculture getup in Portland, Oregon. It sounds a little backward, but city-dwellers are now generating a sizable haul of food to fill the gaps in inner-city food deserts and gain access to sustainably grown local produce, or just to proactively reconnect to the food system. Perhaps a more active approach to utilizing space inside cities to farm could help ease this conflict with farmland use to generate biofuels and food to feed the country.

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