The Quest for Biofuels: Issues and Concerns
Biofuels have been billed as an important component in the United States bid to become less dependent on foreign energy. As the price of crude oil continues to increase, and as the country sets its sights on becoming less dependent on foreign oil the pressure is mounting to increase the production of biofuels. In addition, the global energy demand is continuing to increase and known petroleum supplies are decreasing (CAST II, 2007); the need for a sustainable substitute for current fossil fuels has become more evident than ever. The rise in costs of traditional energy sources has raised this issue to prominence in many American households as well. Several government agencies and working groups have set goals, targets, and timelines for reducing the use of fossil fuels and the substitution of biofuels to fill the energy demand. This push for the use of biofuels will have dramatic effects on many sectors of the American economy and many new problems and issues will arise that need to be considered.
Currently grain-based ethanol production is the primary means by which biofuels are produced in the United States. Corn is the grain of choice in this production system. The annual production capacity of ethanol has increased rapidly in recent years, from 1.7 billion gallons in 2000 to 4.3 billion gallons in 2006 (CAST, 2006). It is also projected that the annual production capacity will increase to 7 billion gallons by 2008 (CAST, 2006). This use of corn has necessitated cause for concern with many people in the agriculture industry. The primary concern is the impact of ethanol production on the price of corn and on the availability of corn for traditional uses, such as livestock feed. In the 2004/2005 marketing year 11.2% of the corn crop was used in the production of ethanol. This number is projected to increase to 27.6% in the 2010/2011 marketing year (CAST, 2006).
The discussion on the effect of this demand on...