“Efforts to reduce carbon pollution using ethanol appear to have backfired.
For over a decade, the US has blended ethanol with gasoline in an
attempt to reduce the overall carbon pollution produced by fossil
fuel-powered cars and trucks. But a new study says that the practice may
not be achieving its goals. In fact, burning ethanol made from corn—the
major source in the US—may be worse for the climate than just burning
Corn drove demand for land and fertilizer far higher than previous
assessments had estimated. Together, the additional land and fertilizer
drove up ethanol’s carbon footprint to the point where the lifecycle
greenhouse gas emissions—from seed to tank—were higher than that of
gasoline. Some researchers predicted this might happen, but the new paper provides a comprehensive and retrospective look at the real-world results of the policy.
Proponents have long argued that corn-based ethanol bolsters farm
incomes while providing a domestic source of renewable liquid fuel,
while critics have said that its status as a carbon-reducing gasoline
additive relies on questionable accounting. Based on the new study, both
sides may be right.”