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Local irrigation response to ethanol expansion in the High Plains Aquifer

Gabriel S. Sampson, Amer Al-Sudani and Jason Bergtold ()

Resource and Energy Economics, 2021, vol. 66, issue C

Abstract: Global ethanol production has grown rapidly due to national renewable fuel programs. Concern has grown over impacts that land conversion and crop displacement driven by ethanol feedstock production might have on water resources. In this paper, we examine irrigation decisions of agricultural producers in the Kansas portion of the High Plains Aquifer in response to local ethanol market expansion. To identify the effects of ethanol expansion on irrigation decisions, we examine field-level data on irrigation water use, irrigated acreage, and crop decisions for the years 2003–2017 for nearly 23,000 fields in Kansas. We measure the response of three irrigation decisions, (i) irrigated acreage, (ii) irrigation per acre, and (iii) total water use to the introduction and capacity expansion of an ethanol plant. We find that ethanol market expansion did lead to increases in irrigation water use. Specifically, a 10 % increase in ethanol capacity within 50KM increases annual water use by 0.22 % per field (4.8 acre-inches/field). We predict that ethanol markets accounted for about 4% of total irrigated water use in 2017.

Keywords: Bioenergy; Biofuels; Ethanol; Groundwater; High Plains Aquifer; Irrigation (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2021
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DOI: 10.1016/j.reseneeco.2021.101249

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