Federal Energy Initiative Supports ISU Research on Effects of Ethanol Expansion

Catherine Kling; ckling@iastate.edu
Silvia Secchi; ssecchi@iastate.edu
Sandy Clarke; sclarke@iastate.edu

November 1, 2006

Researchers at Iowa State University will evaluate the costs and benefits of ethanol expansion to rural communities in the Upper Mississippi River Basin as part of a $676,722 biofuels research grant.

The grant, awarded to research partner Southern Illinois University, recently was announced as part of the $17.5 million Biomass Research and Development Initiative, administered jointly through the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Energy.

The project is a collaborative effort between Southern Illinois University's Department of Agribusiness and ISU's Center for Agricultural and Rural Development, Department of Economics and Department of Statistics. Iowa State scientists will investigate how corn-based ethanol production can be designed and implemented efficiently to achieve both economic and environmental benefits in this major agricultural region.

The study is considered the first to attempt a simultaneous assessment of the impacts of corn-based ethanol expansion on crop prices, cropping patterns, water quality and regional economic indicators.

The study will capitalize on resources developed at Iowa State, including pricing models for corn, which will be applied to ethanol plants and markets; models that estimate the effects of changing land use and management practices on water quality and the environment; and methods for estimating economic benefits of ethanol production in terms of created jobs, increased household income, and tax revenue generated.

ISU economics professor Catherine Kling, one of the lead investigators, says it is important to have science-based information to guide decisions as demand continues to grow for alternative and sustainable energy sources.

"While the Midwest has some great opportunities when it comes to growing biomass for energy, we also need to understand more about the interplay between crops, energy and our environment," said Kling. "This project is meant to improve that understanding with some solid scientific measures."

The collaboration of experts in various disciplines and among different agencies is a hallmark of the research funded under this USDA-DOE initiative. The funding is intended to accelerate discovery and implementation of bio-based fuels and reduce U.S. dependence on fossil fuels.