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Earth Biotech Politics

Biofuels From Corn Can Create More Greenhouse Gases Than Gasoline 159

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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  • It is brain-dead stupid!

    How much of the total plant bio-mass are you processing to start with when you are dealing with corn? 2%? 3%? (That is until you get to
    the actual fuel, which is much less than that.) When you do Biofuels from farming monoculture the proper way (if such a thing is possible at all), like from sugar-cane, where maybe 30-50% of the biomass is the part to be processed into biofuel, you may be getting some improvement over oil status-quo. With algae you maybe can achieve 100% of the biomass to start processing, sounds even nicer.

    But from Corn? It is so stupid, it does not even deserve a proper adjective. It is even stupid to waste time making "studies" on it.

    Trying to do it is only about corn super-production, hype, and abuse of government subsidies to plant corn, all mixed with a large, big
    dose of the reverse of common sense.

  • Re:100% distrust (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Nidi62 ( 1525137 ) on Sunday April 20, 2014 @07:32PM (#46802023)

    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.

    You hate the oil industry but you'll trust the corn lobby?

  • by reve_etrange ( 2377702 ) on Sunday April 20, 2014 @07:34PM (#46802033)

    Surely it's still carbon neutral[?]

    We use tons of petrochemicals to grow corn.

  • by Charliemopps ( 1157495 ) on Sunday April 20, 2014 @07:34PM (#46802039)

    It's taking a lot of the carbon from the soil instead of the air... so no. Also, consider all the gasoline used to plant/harvest/transport it. Ethanol is a corn-state boondoggle. It drives up corn prices and brings in massive revenue to the midwest. Ethanol support is critical for any politician that wants to win in states like Iowa. When you hear a 60yr old farmer start talking about "green energy" you know he grows corn.

  • Re:100% distrust (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 20, 2014 @07:37PM (#46802053)

    Both are fairly evil:

    1: HFCS. Enough said.
    2: I wish there were concrete figures if using for ethanol takes food out of hungry people's mouths. Food prices sure jumped when ethanol was mandated in the US in gasoline.
    3: Ethanol does a number on small engines.

    If ethanol wasn't jacking up food prices, engines were designed to handle it, and it didn't affect the shelf life of gasoline, it would be a useful fuel. I've found that my E85 vehicle gets more horsepower (useful when towing) than on plain gas... of course this at the expense of MPG.

    Were I to have a still (I wish), then things definitely would be different. Toss 10 gallons of premium into the truck's tank, fill the rest of the way with white lightning, call it done.

  • So what? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Kohath ( 38547 ) on Sunday April 20, 2014 @07:43PM (#46802083)

    Biofuels are about government subsidies and nothing more. All the talk about biofuels and the environment is just to trick the rubes.

  • Switch Grass (Score:5, Insightful)

    by David_Hart ( 1184661 ) on Sunday April 20, 2014 @07:51PM (#46802133)

    Anyone who knows anything about Ethanol knows that the two best sources are sugar cane and switch grass. Switch grass should be the choice for North America as it can grow just about anywhere. Corn, on the other hand, takes up valuable farm land, requires more water, and has higher production costs. Ethanol from corn is a nothing but a scam perpetrated by the corn industry. Believe this study or not, but there are much better options than corn...

    http://www.scientificamerican.... []

  • Stop using Corn. (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 20, 2014 @08:26PM (#46802253)

    Given the vastly superior alternatives to corn for this.

    Using Corn for this crap is about as smart as grinding up phone books for ink. Using corn for this is just asking for it to look bad.

  • by frovingslosh ( 582462 ) on Sunday April 20, 2014 @09:04PM (#46802405)
    They claim that ethanol has 3% less energy than gasoline. But I have measured that I get AT LEAST 10% less millage in my 2013 Mazda on gasoline diluted with alcohol than I do with pure gasoline. What that means for me is that I effectively get ZERO energy from the alcohol mixed with my gas. I would be better off just buying the 90% gas and letting them keep the 10% alcohol, at least that way I wouldn't have to haul around the useless alcohol and/or I would have more space for gas in the tank. When I can find it I sometimes buy pure gas at a premium price, but it isn't available close to my home, isn't easy to buy when on the road, and usually costs more that the difference in the mileage justifies.
  • Re:100% distrust (Score:5, Insightful)

    by budgenator ( 254554 ) on Sunday April 20, 2014 @09:38PM (#46802491) Journal

    The reason to push for ethanol is that corn ethanol could be a temporary bridge to cellulosic ethanol, which is much lower in GHGs. The science isn't there yet to do cellulosic at scale, but regs like the LCFS or EPA's Renewable Fuel Standard guarantee that there will be a long-term market, and make private industry more comfortable in investing in the technology.

    Some times you do actually have to read the article, the article is not about making Ethanol from the sugars and starches in the grain portion of the corn plant like everybody is assuming, it's about making ethanol from the stalks, leaves and cobs normally left on the fields.

    Corn stover -- the stalks, leaves and cobs in cornfields after harvest -- has been considered a ready resource for cellulosic ethanol production.

    This is a bad idea because it removes organic matter from the soil and making it less fertile, more easily compacted and more prone to errotion. Fields in that condition require more fertilizer and increased tillage to maintain productivity.

  • by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Sunday April 20, 2014 @10:09PM (#46802581)

    E-90 (10% ethanol blend) has the side effect of dropping the MPG of ANY vehicle by at least 20% ...

    Baloney. Depending on your engine's compression ratio, E-90 will reduce your MPG by about 3-5%. Ethanol does not have the energy density of gasoline, but it is not a net negative.

  • by currently_awake ( 1248758 ) on Sunday April 20, 2014 @10:13PM (#46802599)
    Governments are fully able to solve difficult problems, see universal medicare, roads, sewers, city water. However governments only do what they are told to do, and if the voters only care about pork (and not success) then that's what you get. P.S. people who complain about government incompetence seem blind to corporate evils. The telco's basically run the NSA spying program, but nobody is complaining about anything but the NSA.
  • by ShakaUVM ( 157947 ) on Sunday April 20, 2014 @10:19PM (#46802619) Homepage Journal

    >It is brain-dead stupid!

    Only from a science perspective.

    Supporting corn ethanol is how candidates win primaries, so it makes perfect sense for our presidents to support it.

    >But from Corn? It is so stupid, it does not even deserve a proper adjective. It is even stupid to waste time making "studies" on it.

    If we're going to eliminate corn ethanol (which we should), it will require putting pressure on politicians from non-corn belt states. And to do so will require studies like these.

    Corn ethanol isn't good for the environment, and it drives food prices through the roof, both domestically and abroad.

    I highly recommend reading The Economics of Food for anyone interested in the subject.

The unfacts, did we have them, are too imprecisely few to warrant our certitude.