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Earth Biotech Politics

Biofuels From Corn Can Create More Greenhouse Gases Than Gasoline 159

Posted by timothy
from the as-long-as-it-looks-good dept.
New submitter Chipmunk100 (3619141) writes "Using corn crop residue to make ethanol and other biofuels reduces soil carbon and can generate more greenhouse gases than gasoline, according to a study published today in the journal Nature Climate Change. The findings by a University of Nebraska-Lincoln team of researchers cast doubt on whether corn residue can be used to meet federal mandates to ramp up ethanol production and reduce greenhouse gas emissions."
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Biofuels From Corn Can Create More Greenhouse Gases Than Gasoline

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  • 100% distrust (Score:0, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 20, 2014 @06:19PM (#46801949)

    If oil companies are willing to pay off scientists, start entire shill foundations, websites and TV shows... why would this carry any weight?

    As one sided as it might sound, I approach any article or discovery that would improve the oil industries' image or standing with the utmost distrust.

    Such as I would to anybody who is willing to give me a secret to riches, phrenology, any religion of any sort, etc.

  • Surely it's still carbon neutral, given it's from already-present carbon grown from air in the first place (like all plants)?

  • by HangingChad (677530) on Sunday April 20, 2014 @06:37PM (#46802059) Homepage

    If they're counting the carbon to harvest the stalks, then the comparison for gasoline should include the carbon from oil extraction, transportation and refinement. The article also doesn't state if the carbon reduction from plant uptake is offsetting the carbon emissions of burning biofuels. Sounds like they're saying, look at the carbon you get from burning ethanol, add in the diesel to run the tractor, worse than gasoline!

    I remember a study by the airline industry trying to claim air transportation was more efficient than high speed trains. This study reminds me of that kind of science.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 20, 2014 @08:17PM (#46802437)

    Contrary to what ignorant people believe, oil companies actually love the mandated 10% ethanol.

    E-90 (10% ethanol blend) has the side effect of dropping the MPG of ANY vehicle by at least 20% ... meaning that you have to buy more gas ... and pay more for it.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 20, 2014 @10:28PM (#46802891)

    I found the article confusing as well, but here is what I've come up with. I don't think they are talking about any indirect carbon emissions due to say, running the tractors or fertilizer. So the study doesn't address total life cycle carbon costs of ethanol or gas. (It does address it, but just uses standard previously compiled models). It's main focus is to study how much CO2 the soil will give off after the corn plant leftovers are removed from the field. Literally, the soil has carbon trapped in it and it releases it as CO2 over time after the corn is harvested. One could imagine various microbiological and chemical processes at work, but whatever, since the study just relied on direct CO2 measurements over farmland.

    And what was found was that just by removing the leftover bits of the corn plant from the farmland, there is an increase in CO2 emissions directly from the soil. And this affect is large enough that it makes corn ethanol worse than gas... if left unaddressed. And it stops there, there are no grandiose declarations that corn is dead, just that this is one problem that must be addressed.

    All this is just my armchair-expertise take on the article, so take it with a grain of salt.

  • by taiwanjohn (103839) on Monday April 21, 2014 @04:15AM (#46803689)

    Even so, growing corn to make ethanol is just dumb. Methanol would be a much better choice, since it can be made from any biomass, not just starch or sugar. The only reason we use ethanol is as an excuse to grow so much corn, which is heavily subsidized. Also, methanol is CHEAP... about $1.50/gal.

    An easy solution would be to enact a flex-fuel standard for automobiles, [openfuelstandard.org] which would require that all new cars be fully flex-fuel capable: able to run on any mixture of gasoline, ethanol, methanol, or butanol. (In most cases, the "flex-fuel" cars on the market today can only use ethanol, not methanol.) To convert an existing car costs 500 bucks, but if it's built that way at the factory, it only adds about $100 to the cost of the vehicle.

    Such a requirement would change the market. With millions of cars able to use it, gas station owners would start selling methanol on one or two pumps. This would effectively break the current monopoly that petroleum has on transportation fuel.

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