Study questions greenhouse gas benefits of corn ethanol and RFS

Focusing on emissions, “RFS significantly increased on-site GHG emissions from cropping systems. Greater use of nitrogen fertilizers increased nitrous oxide emissions by 8.3% or 4.1 Tg of CO2 equivalent.(This translates to 4.1 million metric tons of additional carbon dioxide.) This is because nitrous oxide as a greenhouse gas is 298 times more potent than carbon dioxide. of carbon per ton.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences:…


As expected, the report was not exactly well received by the Renewable Fuels Association. Geoff Cooper, president of RFA, issued a rebuttal.

“The claims in this report simply do not correspond to reality and facts on the ground, and the document is more like a fantasy novel than a genuine piece of academic literature. It should not be taken seriously,” Cooper wrote.

Cooper added: “In fact, when related research by some of the same authors was published several years ago, representatives from RFA and corn grower organizations met with the lead author of this study, Tyler Lark , at the University of Wisconsin, with the goal of starting a constructive conversation about today’s ethanol industry and the real-world impacts of biofuel policy.

“At that time, we shared data and information with Lark and his colleagues and asked how we could collaborate on research. We asked how we could work together to ensure that their faulty satellite analysis of climate changes “Land use was based on reality. We never heard of them.”

Cooper added, “RFA is always open to an honest, fact-based discussion of the environmental and economic impacts of ethanol and RFS. We have a great story to tell, and the data to back it up. Ethanol already reduced GHG emissions are down about half compared to gasoline, and we are on track to achieve a carbon footprint of net zero emissions for ethanol by 2050 or more Unfortunately, the authors seem more interested in slandering farmers and getting salacious headlines than examining the facts. “

In a seven-page response, RFA cited several studies over the past few years showing that corn ethanol reduces emissions between 41% and 50% compared to gasoline.

“Today’s corn ethanol already reduces GHG emissions by about half, on average, compared to gasoline. According to the Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory, ethanol typical corn yields 44% GHG savings over gasoline, including land-use change emissions.Similarly, Researchers affiliated with Harvard University, MIT and the University Tufts concluded that today’s corn ethanol offers an average GHG reduction of 46% over gasoline.Additionally, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) found that the ethanol used in the in 2020 reduced emissions by 41%, on average, compared to gasoline From 2011 to 2020, CARB data shows that the use of ethanol reduced GHG emissions from the transportation sector by California 27 million tons of CO2e, more than any other fuel used to meet low-carbon fuel of State. Standard requirements.

The RFA also contradicts data from the Wisconsin study on overall acreage and production, citing that acreage has been relatively constant since the RFS took effect in 2008, while average yield and production have increased. . Fertilizer applications per bushel also declined during this period, RFA quoted.

RFA: Setting the record straight on the environmental outcomes of the Renewable Fuels Standard…

Chris Clayton can be reached at [email protected]

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