Chapter 12: The implications of corn-based ethanol production for non-metropolitan development in the North Central region of the US
Over the first decade of the twenty-first century, a wave of investment in new manufacturing capacity spread throughout the North Central region of the US as ethanol factories were constructed at a rapid pace. This was prompted by new energy policy initiatives of the federal government, spikes in gasoline prices, the need to reduce US dependency on foreign oil supplies, and the need to reduce the amount of environmental degradation resulting from the consumption of fossil fuels, among other concerns (Schnepf 2007). Based on information sources described below, we estimate there to have been 165 ethanol plants in operation within the region in 2010. Approximately 91 percent of these factories were constructed during or after the year 2000. Finally, 78.2 percent of these ethanol factories were located in non-metropolitan localities within the region (Ethanol Producer Magazine 2010; Renewable Fuels Association 2010). This wave of growth occurred within the context of a pattern of uneven development among non-metropolitan localities within the region. Many of these non-metropolitan localities have been subject to long-term population loss, economic stagnation and decline, while others have experienced population growth and economic development (see, for example, Rathge et al. 2001). One potentially important development implication of the growth of the ethanol industry is that it may change this pattern of development.
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