Peer-Reviewed Study: Biofuel Programs Destroying Grasslands

Peer-Reviewed Study: Biofuel Programs Destroying Grasslands
February 20, 2013

James M. Taylor

James M. Taylor is senior fellow for environment and energy policy at The Heartland Institute, and... (read full bio)

Government biofuel programs are causing the destruction of America’s grasslands, scientists report in a newly published study in the peer-reviewed Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Spurred on by biofuel programs, America’s grasslands are disappearing at a pace comparable to deforestation rates in Brazil, Malaysia, and Indonesia.

The scientists report that in states such as Iowa and South Dakota, 5 percent of pasture is being converted into cropland each year. In states such as Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota, biofuel programs are encouraging the destruction of ecologically crucial “prairie potholes” that provide key breeding grounds for migratory water birds.

Biofuel subsidies and mandates are a key factor in the development of more than 1.3 million acres of grasslands since 2006, the scientists report. Federally subsidized crop insurance also encourages the development of marginal croplands that are highly susceptible to drought.

Global warming activists have their own reasons for concern, the scientists report. Grasslands hold carbon in the soil better than crops, so the development of grasslands accelerates the increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations.

The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences study is available here, and the Washington Post published a good write-up of the study here.

James M. Taylor

James M. Taylor is senior fellow for environment and energy policy at The Heartland Institute, and... (read full bio)