Ethanol is worse for climate change than gasoline, new report says
The process to harvest and produce corn-based ethanol creates more harmful emissions than normal gasoline, according to a new report published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.
- The five-year study, partially funded by the National Wildlife Federation and U.S. Department of Energy, found that ethanol is at least 24% more carbon-intensive than gasoline, Reuters reports.
Why it matters: The findings run counter to goals set in the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), a federal program created in 2005 to reduce U.S. emissions and lower energy reliance on other countries.
- It requires oil refiners to blend billions of gallons of ethanol into the nation's gasoline supply.
- Plus: Iowa's ag economy relies heavily on ethanol sales. The state is the country's biggest corn producer and half of that crop goes to fuel.
State of play: Ethanol produces more carbon emissions than gasoline because of the amount of farmland that's required to grow the corn crops and the tillage associated with it, Reuters reports.
- Because of RFS, corn cultivation expanded in the U.S. into nearly 7 million additional acres of land between 2008-16 — 8.7% growth.
- But tilling the land releases carbon in the soil and fertilizers also produce emissions, according to Reuters.
The other side: The authors of the paper put together "a series of worse-case assumptions" and "cherry-picked data" for their report, Geoff Cooper, president of the Renewable Fuel Association, said in a statement.
- The association argues that even with the tillage, past studies have shown corn ethanol still produces fewer emissions than gasoline.
The big picture: Iowa continues to bet big on biofuels as the Legislature considers requiring E-15 at gas pumps.
- But its future in the country is in question as President Joe Biden shows a vested interest in electric vehicles instead.
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