The Energy Policy Act of 2005 and the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) of 2007 were enacted to reduce the U.S. dependency on foreign oil by increasing the use of biofuels. The increased demand for biofuels from corn and soybeans could result in an increase of nitrogen flux if not managed properly. The objectives of this study are to estimate nitrogen flux from energy crop production and to identify the catchment areas with high nitrogen flux. The results show that biofuel production can result in an increase of nitrogen flux to the northern Gulf of Mexico from 270 to 1742 thousand metric tons. Using all cellulosic (hay) ethanol or biodiesel to meet the 2022 mandate is expected to reduce nitrogen flux; however, it requires approximately 25% more land when compared to other scenarios. Producing ethanol from switchgrass rather than hay results in three-times more nitrogen flux, but requires 43% less land. Using corn ethanol for 2022 mandates is expected to have double the nitrogen flux when compared to the EISA-specified 2022 scenario; however, it will require less land area. Shifting the U.S. energy supply from foreign oil to the Midwest cannot occur without economic and environmental impacts, which could potentially lead to more eutrophication and hypoxia.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited