Corn as biofuel

In the last few years — especially right before the recession — there was an increased use of farmland used for growing corn as biofuel in the USA, Canada (to a lesser extent) and Europe. The use of corn as biofuel in the past 10 years or so also drove the price of corn up a bit — even though the varieties of corn used for fuel and for food tend to be different. I was happy about this trend when it started because the higher price of corn in general raised the prices of corn oil and corn starch, making them less popular choices in restaurants and in prepared food.

Unfortunately, it seems that corn is not a particularly great biofuel source from an environmental perspective because growing it intensively requires industrial fertilizers and depletes the soil of nutrients, as this European Environment Agency report explains. (“Maize” is the word for corn used in the report). Plus, monocultures in general are harmful to the environment. It remains to be seen what energy policies in Canada, the US and Europe will have on corn production in the future.