Corn-based ethanol is actually worse for the environment than gasoline, study finds

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Contrary to previous belief, corn-based ethanol appears to have a more negative environmental impact than gasoline produced with fossil fuels.

New research from the University of Wisconsin-Madison Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment has suggested that ethanol produces more greenhouse gas emissions than gasoline. While previous research has indicated otherwise, the UW-Madison study found that ethanol is responsible for at least 24% more carbon emissions. The study was funded in part by the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Wildlife Federation as the Biden administration reviews the country’s existing biofuel policies.

This comes as a surprise to anyone who remembers the implementation of the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) in 2005. Based on research that previously showed ethanol to be better for the environment than gasoline, the RFS dictated that oil refineries had to blend about 15 billion gallons of gasoline. ethanol in the nation’s gasoline supply. As the UW-Madison study points out, the RFS now “drives almost half of all global biofuel production” – which, despite its good intentions, has far-reaching industrial implications that negatively impact the Earth.

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Because oil refineries required such large quantities of ethanol, corn prices soared 30%. The strong demand led to an 8.7% increase in corn cultivation in the United States, the by-product of which was an increase in the use of nitrogen-based fertilizers in the country. Tillage of cropland associated with maize production has released carbon trapped in the soil. (It should also be mentioned that the study indicates a negative impact on the country’s water supply, through an increase in water degrading agents.) Once these factors are considered alongside combustion emissions, concluded UW-Madison, ethanol is no longer so attractive. supplement to the US fuel supply as previously thought.

“The carbon intensity of corn ethanol produced under the RFS is not lower than that of gasoline and likely at least 24% higher,” the report read. studypublished earlier this year in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

While most of the negative effects of ethanol appear to be associated with growing corn rather than burning it, the effort to reduce carbon emissions needs to be holistic and consider the entire fuel chain. supply. The RFS is currently set to impose fuel mixture requirements until 2022, after which the US Environmental Protection Agency has the authority to propose changes to national policies.

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