The Indirect Land Use Impacts of U.S. Biofuel Policies: The Importance of Acreage, Yield, and Bilateral Trade Responses
Recent work has highlighted agricultural land conversion as a significant debit in the greenhouse gas accounting of ethanol as an alternative fuel. This work has at the same time sparked considerable debate on the role of crop yield growth as a means of avoiding rapid land conversion. We examine the agricultural land use impacts of mandate driven ethanol demand increases in the United States in a formal economic equilibrium framework which allows us to examine the importance of yield price relationships. We find that the standard assumption of trend yield growth is likely restrictive for analysis of equilibrium response to significant demand increases for fuel feedstocks. Furthermore, we identify both the acreage response and bilateral trade specification of a multi-country model as important sources of variability (in terms of parametric uncertainty) in predicting global land use change from the biofuels boom.