Corn better used as food than biofuel, study finds

  • Posted by james rivard
  • June 23, 2017 2:08:46 AM PDT
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Civil and environmental engineering professor Praveen Kumar and graduate student Meredith Richardson published their findings in the journal Earth's Future.

As part of a National Science Foundation project that is studying the environmental impact of agriculture in the U.S., the Illinois group introduced a comprehensive view of the agricultural system, called critical zone services, to analyze crops' impacts on the environment in monetary terms.

"The critical zone is the permeable layer of the landscape near the surface that stretches from the top of the vegetation down to the groundwater," Kumar said. "The human energy and resource input involved in agriculture production alters the composition of the critical zone, which we are able to convert into a social cost."

To compare the energy efficiency and environmental impacts of corn production and processing for food and for biofuel, the researchers inventoried the resources required for corn production and processing, then determined the economic and environmental impact of using these resources -- all defined in terms of energy available and expended, and normalized to cost in U.S. dollars.

 

 

 

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