Japan developing rice-to-ethanol

Ethanol is already made from a wide range of food crops - corn in the U.S., wheat and barley in Europe, sugarcane in Brazil, and even sorghum in Florida and cassava in Vietnam. Rice was the only major cereal crop not used for ethanol, but that may change soon if a new trial in Japan is successful.

Japanese farmers are looking for domestic destinations for an increasing rice surplus and would clearly be pleased if rice-to-ethanol reached commercial scale. Rice consumers (particularly those importing on the global market) may not be as happy, as linkage with energy via biofuels is one likely culprit for recent run-ups in world grain prices. But then again, even without a viable rice-to-biofuels pathway, rice spiked even more dramatically than maize and wheat during the last two years. Economic theory would hold that substitution, competition for land and trade restrictions boosted all food prices, not only those that could be directly converted to transportation fuels.

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