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Study criticizes ethanol

KEARNEY, Neb. -- Yet another study recently decried ethanol, this time because growing the corn that's used to brew the alternative fuel is displacing wildlife in four states of the Upper Midwest.

KEARNEY, Neb. -- Yet another study recently decried ethanol, this time because growing the corn that's used to brew the alternative fuel is displacing wildlife in four states of the Upper Midwest.

Students in the University of Michigan School of Natural Resources and the Environment say that increased production of ethanol is decreasing grassland bird populations throughout the Prairie Pothole Region of Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota.

The study was conducted for the National Wildlife Federation and is part of a body of anti-ethanol research that presents an inaccurate and incomplete picture of ethanol.

Noting that U.S. ethanol production has grown by almost 200 percent since 2005, when ethanol-blend fuel standards were adopted, the study says farmers are converting grassland into corn production at alarming rates.

Ethanol production is likely to continue expanding. The Renewable Fuel Standard passed in 2007 requires production to increase from 10.57 billion gallons in 2009 to 15 billion by 2015.

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Although more corn acres means less land for wildlife, a variety of reasons support continued development of ethanol. Topping the list is ethanol's positive effect on rural economies.

Environmentalists concerned about vanishing habitat have reasons to be optimistic. New corn genetics are helping farmers to dramatically increase yields, meaning more land could be available for wildlife because less is needed for corn.

Although many studies focus on ethanol's negative effects, we encourage an emphasis on the positive.

Blending ethanol with gasoline has helped cut foreign dependence from 60 percent to 50 percent. Our reliance will decrease even more as automotive technologies advance, but today, ethanol is playing a vital role as a domestically produced fuel.

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