of the environmental effects of corn-based biofuels as well as next generation biofuels are uniquely local or regional—including potential changes in water availability or soil fertility. And many of the economic and social effects are also most pronounced at a local level.

In an effort to better understand these impacts, the steering committee decided to narrow the workshop scope and focus on three states in the Upper Midwest—Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. This region is undergoing an economic transition from a historical farming and manufacturing economy. Biofuels technology development and increased production have been touted as central to a stronger regional economy. The three states have supported aggressive policies to promote the development of the industry, focused on both the supply side as well as the demand side. In addition, each of these states has strong research universities and a number of academic researchers focused both on the technology aspects of biofuels and on the economic, environmental, and social impacts.

Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin have seen substantial increases in corn production since 2000, with total acreage expanding from 23,000 planted acres in 2000 to 26,650 in 2007, and then declining slightly in 2008.7 Each state also has a large number of ethanol refineries—39 in Iowa, 17 in Minnesota, and 9 in Wisconsin. These plants account for 35 percent of the total U.S. nameplate capacity.8 These states are also likely to be an important source of biomass feedstocks for next-generation biofuels. Data from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory suggest that approximately 75,000 tons of biomass resources could be available annually from these three states—almost one-quarter of total U.S. biomass resources.9

The workshop was designed to draw on the expertise of researchers and policy makers in the three-state region to better understand these local impacts and the challenges faced by state policy makers, while at the same time recognizing the need to also consider the broader national and global impacts, including impacts on world food supplies.


This report is limited in scope to the presentations, workshop discussions, and background documents produced in preparation for the workshop. Chapter 2 discusses the principal policy drivers behind the expansion of biofuel production and use. Chapter 3 focuses on the results of a recent National Academies report


National Corn Growers Association. See ncga.com/corn-production (accessed July 6, 2009).


See neo.neb.gov (accessed July 6, 2009). Name plate capacity is the maximum output of a plant based on conditions designated by the manufacturer. Actual production is likely to be less than this amount.


A. Milbrandt. A Geographic Perspective on the Current Biomass Resource Availability in the United States. NREL/TP 560-39181. December 2005. Available at http://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy06osti/39181.pdf.

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