Bioenergy Crops as a Promising Alternative to Fossil Fuels in Louisiana: A Geographic Information System (GIS) Perspective
Rising greenhouse gas emissions are causing climate change, and the world’s focus has shifted to the need to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. There has been a rise in the published literature on the utilization of crops for bioenergy production in Louisiana. However, very few scholarly documents have used Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to map the distribution of potential bioenergy crops in Louisiana. This study seeks to fill the void by evaluating the potential of bioenergy crops in Louisiana for energy production using GIS. Given this objective, the agricultural census data for 1999, 2009, 2019, and 2020 obtained from the U.S. Department of Agriculture were used in the analysis. The quantities of various crops produced in the state were loaded into an attribute table and joined to a shapefile using ArcGIS software. The symbology tool’s graduated option was used to create five maps representing each of the bioenergy crops in Louisiana. The findings of the GIS analysis show that some of the parishes, such as Franklin produced the most bushels of corn (13,795,416), Iberia produced the most tons of sugarcane (1,697,980), East Carroll produced the most bushels of soybean (8,237,991), Tensas harvested the most bales of cotton (80,898) and Avoyelles produced the most bushels of sorghum (630,694). The abundance and availability of crops as raw materials for energy production will translate into lower prices in terms of energy use, making bioenergy crops a promising alternative to fossil fuels. In addition, gasoline price data from 1993-2022 was obtained from U.S. Energy Information Administration. A regression model for the average annual gasoline price over the years was constructed. The results show that the average annual gasoline price variation with respect to years is statistically significant (p < 0.05). This suggests that gasoline prices will generally rise despite a price drop over the years. The paper concludes by outlining policy recommendations in the form of assessing the availability and viability of other crop types, such as wheat, oats, and rice, for energy production in the state.