August 07, 2007
Corn Ethanol Driving Up Prices Of Farm Lands

The idea that biomass energy can become a substantial source of new energy production is based on the assumption that plenty of land is available to shift into agricultural uses. Well, land prices seem like a good test of this idea. If the United States had a large amount of surplus land suitable for expansion of corn ethanol or soy biodiesel production then the prices of farm land wouldn't be going up so much.

In central Illinois, prime farmland is selling for about $5,000 an acre on average, up from just over $3,000 an acre five years ago, a study showed. In Nebraska, meanwhile, land values rose 17 percent in the first quarter of this year over the same time last year, the swiftest such gain in more than a quarter century, said Jason R. Henderson, an economist at the Federal Reserve Bank in Kansas City.

A federal-government analysis of farm real estate values released Friday showed record average-per-acre values across the country. The analysis said property prices averaged $2,160 an acre at the start of 2007, up 14 percent from a year earlier.

We aren't getting much useful energy out of biomass energy and the cost of farm lands is already going up a lot. That suggests we don't have enough farm lands to really scale up biomass energy production - at least not with corn ethanol. Now, maybe other types of land which can't grow corn could get used for biomass energy production using other types of plants. For example, cellulosic technologies applied to miscanthus or switchgrass plants might so expand the range of usable lands and yield per acre enough to make contribution from biomass energy substantial. Of course, if that comes to pass then less land will be available for wild plants and animals.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2007 August 07 09:41 PM  Energy Biomass

Jens said at August 9, 2007 6:50 AM:

Switch land used for CO2 intensive cattle production to cellulosic based ethanol production.

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