Based on what they describe as a “‘bottom-up’, data-driven, statistical approach,” researchers at Michigan State University have concluded that biofuel production in the United States through 2007 “probably has not induced any indirect land use change.”

The research, conducted by MSU scientists Seungdo Kim and Bruce Dale, is discussed in a paper that will be published in the next issue of the journal Biomass and Bioenergy. The paper was made available online May 13 for a fee.

The researchers empirically tested whether indirect land use change (ILUC) occurred through 2007 as the result of U.S. biofuels expansion by using historical data on U.S. croplands, commodity grain exports to specific regions and land use trends in those geographical regions — a previously unused but commonsense approach to verify what, if any, scientific evidence supports the ILUC theory.

ILUC is the theory that any acre used in the production of feedstocks for biofuels in the U.S. necessarily results in new acres coming into food or feed production somewhere else in the world.

“Biofuel production in the United States up through the end of 2007 in all probability has not induced indirect land use change,” the authors wrote. “There are two feasible dependent conclusions that might be drawn from this interpretation: 1) crop intensification may have absorbed the effects of expanding U.S. biofuel production or 2) the effects of US biofuel production expansion may be simply negligible, and not resolvable within the accuracy of the data.”