Recent grassland losses are concentrated around U.S. ethanol refineries

Christopher K. Wright, Ben Larson, Tyler J. Lark, Holly K. Gibbs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

22 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Although the United States has pursued rapid development of corn ethanol as a matter of national biofuel policy, relatively little is known about this policy's widespread impacts on agricultural land conversion surrounding ethanol refineries. This knowledge gap impedes policy makers' ability to identify and mitigate potentially negative environmental impacts of ethanol production. We assessed changes to the landscape during initial implementation of the Renewable Fuel Standard v2 (RFS2) from 2008 to 2012 and found nearly 4.2 million acres of arable non-cropland converted to crops within 100 miles of refinery locations, including 3.6 million acres of converted grassland. Aggregated across all ethanol refineries, the rate of grassland conversion to cropland increased linearly with proximity to a refinery location. Despite this widespread conversion of the landscape, recent cropland expansion could have made only modest contributions to mandated increases in conventional biofuel capacity required by RFS2. Collectively, these findings demonstrate a shortcoming in the existing 'aggregate compliance' method for enforcing land protections in the RFS2 and suggest an alternative monitoring mechanism would be needed to appropriately capture the scale of observed land use changes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number044001
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
Volume12
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 21 2017

Fingerprint

ethanol
Ethanol
grassland
Biofuels
biofuel
Administrative Personnel
Land use
Compliance
Zea mays
Crops
land use change
compliance
Environmental impact
environmental impact
agricultural land
maize
crop
loss
refinery
Grassland

Keywords

  • biofuel
  • ethanol
  • grassland
  • land use change
  • renewable fuel standard

Cite this

Recent grassland losses are concentrated around U.S. ethanol refineries. / Wright, Christopher K.; Larson, Ben; Lark, Tyler J.; Gibbs, Holly K.

In: Environmental Research Letters, Vol. 12, No. 4, 044001, 21.03.2017.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Wright, Christopher K. ; Larson, Ben ; Lark, Tyler J. ; Gibbs, Holly K. / Recent grassland losses are concentrated around U.S. ethanol refineries. In: Environmental Research Letters. 2017 ; Vol. 12, No. 4.
@article{d1ec706fbc9446818d405ad2b89702d1,
title = "Recent grassland losses are concentrated around U.S. ethanol refineries",
abstract = "Although the United States has pursued rapid development of corn ethanol as a matter of national biofuel policy, relatively little is known about this policy's widespread impacts on agricultural land conversion surrounding ethanol refineries. This knowledge gap impedes policy makers' ability to identify and mitigate potentially negative environmental impacts of ethanol production. We assessed changes to the landscape during initial implementation of the Renewable Fuel Standard v2 (RFS2) from 2008 to 2012 and found nearly 4.2 million acres of arable non-cropland converted to crops within 100 miles of refinery locations, including 3.6 million acres of converted grassland. Aggregated across all ethanol refineries, the rate of grassland conversion to cropland increased linearly with proximity to a refinery location. Despite this widespread conversion of the landscape, recent cropland expansion could have made only modest contributions to mandated increases in conventional biofuel capacity required by RFS2. Collectively, these findings demonstrate a shortcoming in the existing 'aggregate compliance' method for enforcing land protections in the RFS2 and suggest an alternative monitoring mechanism would be needed to appropriately capture the scale of observed land use changes.",
keywords = "biofuel, ethanol, grassland, land use change, renewable fuel standard",
author = "Wright, {Christopher K.} and Ben Larson and Lark, {Tyler J.} and Gibbs, {Holly K.}",
year = "2017",
month = "3",
day = "21",
doi = "10.1088/1748-9326/aa6446",
language = "English (US)",
volume = "12",
journal = "Environmental Research Letters",
issn = "1748-9326",
publisher = "IOP Publishing Ltd.",
number = "4",

}

TY - JOUR

T1 - Recent grassland losses are concentrated around U.S. ethanol refineries

AU - Wright, Christopher K.

AU - Larson, Ben

AU - Lark, Tyler J.

AU - Gibbs, Holly K.

PY - 2017/3/21

Y1 - 2017/3/21

N2 - Although the United States has pursued rapid development of corn ethanol as a matter of national biofuel policy, relatively little is known about this policy's widespread impacts on agricultural land conversion surrounding ethanol refineries. This knowledge gap impedes policy makers' ability to identify and mitigate potentially negative environmental impacts of ethanol production. We assessed changes to the landscape during initial implementation of the Renewable Fuel Standard v2 (RFS2) from 2008 to 2012 and found nearly 4.2 million acres of arable non-cropland converted to crops within 100 miles of refinery locations, including 3.6 million acres of converted grassland. Aggregated across all ethanol refineries, the rate of grassland conversion to cropland increased linearly with proximity to a refinery location. Despite this widespread conversion of the landscape, recent cropland expansion could have made only modest contributions to mandated increases in conventional biofuel capacity required by RFS2. Collectively, these findings demonstrate a shortcoming in the existing 'aggregate compliance' method for enforcing land protections in the RFS2 and suggest an alternative monitoring mechanism would be needed to appropriately capture the scale of observed land use changes.

AB - Although the United States has pursued rapid development of corn ethanol as a matter of national biofuel policy, relatively little is known about this policy's widespread impacts on agricultural land conversion surrounding ethanol refineries. This knowledge gap impedes policy makers' ability to identify and mitigate potentially negative environmental impacts of ethanol production. We assessed changes to the landscape during initial implementation of the Renewable Fuel Standard v2 (RFS2) from 2008 to 2012 and found nearly 4.2 million acres of arable non-cropland converted to crops within 100 miles of refinery locations, including 3.6 million acres of converted grassland. Aggregated across all ethanol refineries, the rate of grassland conversion to cropland increased linearly with proximity to a refinery location. Despite this widespread conversion of the landscape, recent cropland expansion could have made only modest contributions to mandated increases in conventional biofuel capacity required by RFS2. Collectively, these findings demonstrate a shortcoming in the existing 'aggregate compliance' method for enforcing land protections in the RFS2 and suggest an alternative monitoring mechanism would be needed to appropriately capture the scale of observed land use changes.

KW - biofuel

KW - ethanol

KW - grassland

KW - land use change

KW - renewable fuel standard

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=85018492301&partnerID=8YFLogxK

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/citedby.url?scp=85018492301&partnerID=8YFLogxK

U2 - 10.1088/1748-9326/aa6446

DO - 10.1088/1748-9326/aa6446

M3 - Article

VL - 12

JO - Environmental Research Letters

JF - Environmental Research Letters

SN - 1748-9326

IS - 4

M1 - 044001

ER -