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Posts tagged: OCE

Innovation is Driving Down Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Corn-based Ethanol

A flexible fuel pump with ethanol

This flexible fuel pump offers 30% and 85% ethanol fuel.

Ethanol, primarily derived from corn, supplies about 10 percent of US motor fuel needs.  A new study from ICF which was released today, titled “A Life-Cycle Analysis of the Greenhouse Gas Emissions of Corn-Based Ethanol,” finds that greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with corn-based ethanol in the United States are about 43 percent lower than gasoline when measured on an energy equivalent basis.  This is comparable to reducing GHG emissions in the U.S. transportation sector by as much as 35.5 million metric tons per year.

Ethanol production has changed significantly over the past ten years. U.S. production has ramped up from 3.9 to 14.8 billion gallons per year between 2005 and 2015. As demand for corn ethanol has increased, corn production in the US expanded from 11.8 billion bushels in 2004 to 13.6 billion bushels in 2015 (NASS).

Unlike earlier studies of ethanol’s GHG benefits, which had to rely on projections of future ethanol production systems and expected impacts on the farm sector, this study was able to review how the industry and farm sectors have performed over the past decade to assess the current GHG profile of corn-based ethanol.

Earlier studies of ethanol’s GHG balance projected the effects of allocating billions of bushels of corn to ethanol production on supplies of corn and other commodities going to domestic and world food and feed markets.  Those studies expected that farmers in the U.S. and other regions would respond to higher corn prices by bringing new lands into corn production. Bringing new land into commodity production typically results in increased GHG emissions—and those emissions can be large if the former land use was native grassland, wetland, or forest. However, what actually occurred in the US and around the world is more complex.

The Three Rivers Energy biorefinery in Ohio

The Three Rivers Energy biorefinery in Ohio produces corn-based ethanol.

Increased use of corn to produce ethanol in the US did have a positive price effect on corn.  As a result, within the US and abroad, idled croplands were brought into production; cropland already in production was managed more intensively; and by-products of corn ethanol production were used more efficiently as animal feed. Around the world, producers increased their use of double cropping.

The ICF report draws on those new data, including the analysis in Bruce Babcock and Zabid Iqbal’s publication “Using Recent Land Use Changes to Validate Land Use Change Models”.  Babcock and Iqbal’s study confirmed that the primary land-use change response by the world’s farmers to increased demand for corn during the period 2004-2012 was to increase double cropping, reduce un-harvested planted area, reduce fallow land, and reduce temporary pasture in order to expand production. Moreover, the use of distillers dried grains and solubles (or DDGS) became a preferred substitute for corn grain, thereby muting the increased demand.

Those types of production gains are emblematic of innovation in modern agriculture. In 1961, it took 3.38 billion acres of cropland to feed the world’s population of 3.5 billion people. Over the next fifty years, the world’s population doubled to seven billion people, while cultivated land increased by only 12 percent to 3.78 billion acres. Productivity gains driven by improvements in technology have allowed farmers to get more output from existing resources, and thereby to keep pace with the growing demands an increasing global population puts on agriculture for food, fiber, and energy products.

In addition to the gains from reduced levels of land conversion, the ICF report shows that the reductions in GHG emissions from corn ethanol are continually driven by a variety of improvements in efficiency, from the corn field to the ethanol refinery. On-farm conservation practices, such as reduced tillage and nitrogen management, improved the GHG balance of growing corn for ethanol. Production yields, measured in gallons of ethanol per bushel of corn, have increased by 3.4 percent between 2006 and 2014.

Ethanol plants have also improved process efficiencies and can now produce biofuels that generate double the lifecycle GHG reductions estimated earlier, and there are opportunities to improve performance even more. New enzymes and yeast strains have increased process efficiencies in starch conversion and fermentation. Those process upgrades have become drivers for a decreasing GHG-intensity of corn ethanol production. Improved technologies such as combined heat and power, and using landfill gas for energy offer continued areas for improved efficiencies.  New co-products, such as corn-oil biodiesel and DDGS have helped reduce GHG lifecycle emissions.

The report concludes that the GHG profile of corn ethanol is on track to be almost 50 percent lower than gasoline in 2022 if current trends in corn yields, process fuel switching, and improvements in trucking fuel efficiency continue.

One of the ICF report’s important findings is that there is a large potential for additional gains in ethanol’s GHG efficiency. The study examined the potential GHG benefits of additional on-farm conservation practices and efficiency improvements, such as the practices outlined in USDA’s Building Blocks for Climate Smart Agriculture and Forestry strategy. When these practices and plant efficiency improvements are universally adopted, the GHG benefits of corn ethanol are even more pronounced over gasoline—potentially rising to 76 percent gain in GHG benefits.

Continuing these trends is good news for the transportation sector—and the agriculture sector—when it comes to reducing GHG emissions.

A nearly 100 percent biodegradable kitty litter made from dried distiller’s grains, left over from corn-ethanol production

USDA scientists have developed a nearly 100 percent biodegradable kitty litter made from dried distiller’s grains, left over from corn-ethanol production.

USDA Market News – As Diverse as the Agricultural Landscape

Cage-free hen and eggs

Cage-free hen and eggs. As the agricultural landscape evolves to meet consumer demand, USDA Market News ensures that emerging sectors—like the cage-free egg market—have the data they need to succeed. Photo courtesy of the Oregon State Department of Agriculture.

As the agricultural landscape evolves to meet consumer demand, USDA Market News works to ensure that emerging sectors have the unbiased, reliable data they need to succeed in the marketplace.

USDA Market News – administered by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) – provides data that serves as the information lifeline for America’s agricultural economy.  Everyone in the ag supply chain is accustomed to visiting Market News for items like current wholesale and retail prices for beef cuts, but here at AMS we offer so much more. Read more »

Working with Livestock Industry to Provide Critical Market Intelligence

Cattle

Through LMR, more than a million livestock producers, hundreds of meat processors, some 37,000 retail food outlets, more than 1 million restaurants, as well as meat exporters, and many other stakeholders received critical data and market intelligence on a daily basis.

The Livestock Mandatory Price Reporting (LMR) Program was created to expand pricing information available to the livestock industry.  The data is collected and distributed by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) through its USDA Market News division to provide market information for cattle, swine, lamb, and livestock products.

LMR encourages competition in the marketplace by vastly improving price and supply data, bringing transparency, breadth and depth to market reporting.  Through LMR, livestock producers and processors, retail food outlets, restaurants, exporters, and many other stakeholders receive critical market intelligence on a daily basis.  Literally thousands of business transactions every day rest on the outcome of LMR data. Read more »

United States Drought Monitor: Innovative Data Solutions for the Future of Water

Eric Luebehusen explaining the US Drought Monitor to White House Water Summit attendee

Eric Luebehusen, agricultural meteorologist for USDA’s Office of Chief Economist and World Agricultural Outlook Board details the creation of the United States Drought Monitor to a White House Water Summit attendee.

Communities across the United States are facing water challenges, impacting millions of lives and costing billions of dollars in damages. Recent events, including record-breaking drought in the West and severe flooding in the Southeast have elevated a national dialogue on the state of our Nation’s water resources and infrastructure.

These challenges are why on March 22, the White House hosted a Water Summit to correspond with the United Nations World Water Day.  The meeting raised awareness of water issues and highlighted potential solutions to building a sustainable and secure water future. Following a slate of presentations outlining innovative solutions to water quality and quantity challenges, attendees were invited to review interactive demonstrations of projects including technologies that help communities and businesses manage the challenges of long term drought. Read more »

Growing and Building the Billion Ton Bioeconomy

Federal Activities Report on the Bioeconomy page cover

Federal Activities Report on the Bioeconomy page cover

5/4/2016 UPDATE:

Bioeconomy Webinar Information:
Thursday, May 5, 2 p.m.–4 p.m. Eastern Time
Session Link: https://thinktank.inl.gov/login.html?sessionID=59
Session Passkey: 123
Call in: +1 (562) 247-8422
Access Code: 287-084-886

The USDA and other federal agencies recently released the Federal Activities Report on the Bioeconomy (FARB) documenting federal agency activities aimed at helping to develop and support the “bioeconomy” – an emerging part of the overall U.S. economy.  Emphasis is specifically placed on the production and use of biofuels, bioproducts, and biopower.  USDA Chief Scientist and Under Secretary for Research, Education, and Economics (REE), Dr. Catherine Woteki, stresses these fuels, power, and products are produced using biomass–agricultural residues, grasses, energy crops, forestry trimmings, algae, and other sources–instead of fossil fuels.

The report also delves into the Billion Ton Bioeconomy Vision, an effort coordinated through the Biomass Research and Development (R&D) Board.  Comprised of industry experts from the Departments of Energy (DOE), Agriculture (USDA), Interior (DOI), Transportation (DOT), Defense (DoD), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), the Board is committed to collaboration among federal agencies on bioeconomy conceptions working to triple the size of today’s bioeconomy by 2030—to more than a billion tons of biomass. Read more »

Ready to have Market Data as Close as your Smartphone? Here We Go!

MARS logo

MARS allows for more data availability, better analysis, and improved information availability sooner for more agricultural markets in one easy-to-use tool.

Earlier this week, the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) hosted a webinar on an exciting new initiative to provide unbiased market data to users digitally. Called the Market Analysis & Reporting Services (MARS), this dynamic, innovative technology will assist USDA Market News in collecting and distributing information electronically from remote locations, by combining reporting from all commodity areas (Livestock, Cotton, Specialty Crops, and Dairy) into a single platform.

This modernization effort will improve the transparency, speed, accuracy, and flexibility of this vital service and allow Market News to continue to expand its services to agricultural market participants.  To ensure that our changes meet your needs, we are conducting focus groups and welcome you to participate.  Your input will enable Market News to speed data flow from the agricultural markets, to agency analysts, and to the public, allowing users to create unique content. Read more »