World Resources Institute WRI

Corn stover for ethanol production: Potential and pitfalls

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Courtesy of World Resources Institute WRI

This study uses a national agro-environmental production model to evaluate the environmental and economic impacts of introducing a market for corn stover to support a stover-based ethanol industry.

Prompted by volatility in oil markets, growing concerns about global warming, and an interest in supporting farms and rural communities through stronger agricultural markets, several groups in the United States have turned their attention to the potential for ethanol to alleviate our dependence on oil. The domestic ethanol industry has expanded rapidly in recent years, but in the United States, as in other countries, that development has relied heavily on government support. Until 2005, direct support was primarily in the form of tax incentives; the Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit (VEETC) provides blenders with a tax refund for blending ethanol with gasoline that has ranged between $.54 per gallon and $.45 per gallon. To further catalyze expansion of the renewable fuels market, Congress passed in the 2005 and 2007 energy bills a federal Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) that mandates increased blending of renewable fuels into our fuel supply.

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