Converting crop residues into cellulosic ethanol sounds to many people like a good idea -- certainly better than using food crops themselves. Yet according to respected USDA soil scientist Ann Kennedy, the stems and leaves left over after crops are harvested may have more value if they are left on the ground, especially in areas receiving less than 25 inches of precipitation annually. That includes most of the United States (click on link to see map) west of the 100th meridian, which runs roughly from Bismark, S.D. through Laredo, Texas. To regular readers of Gristmill, this probably does not sound …
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Ron Steenblik is a policy analyst with 35 years experience working on trade, energy, agricultural, and fisheries policies. He has a particular interest in subsidies and their effects.