Long-run effects of falling cellulosic ethanol production costs on the US agricultural economy
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Renewable energy production has been expanding at a rapid pace. New advances in cellulosic ethanol technologies have the potential to displace the use of petroleum as a transportation fuel, and could have significant effects on both the agricultural economy and the environment. In this letter, the effects of falling cellulosic ethanol production costs on the mix of ethanol feedstocks employed and on the US agricultural economy are examined. Results indicate that, as expected, cellulosic ethanol production increases by a substantial amount as conversion technology improves. Corn production increases initially following the introduction of cellulosic technology, because producers enjoy new revenue from sales of corn stover. After cellulosic ethanol production becomes substantially cheaper, however, acres are shifted from corn production to all other agricultural commodities. Essentially, this new technology could facilitate the exploitation of a previously under-employed resource (corn stover), resulting in an improvement in overall welfare. In the most optimistic scenario considered, 68% of US ethanol is derived from cellulosic sources, coarse grain production is reduced by about 2%, and the prices of all food commodities are reduced modestly. 2010 IOP Publishing Ltd.