Study: Some Biofuels Release More Greenhouse Gases Than Gasoline

By:  Thomas R. Eddlem
Study: Some Biofuels Release More Greenhouse Gases Than Gasoline

A new scientific study published by the peer-reviewed Nature Climate Change reveals that some federally subsidized ethanol biofuels produce more carbon dioxide than burning gasoline, when the entire production process is taken into consideration. 

The study considered the impact of the conversion of cellulosic corn stalks — not the corn itself — to biofuels through  the use of various methods, such as the introduction of enzymes to convert sugars in the stalks into ethanol. Published in Nature Climate Change April 20, the authors noted that use of corn stalks to make ethanol requires additional farm acreage and additional natural gas-produced fertilizers. Also, ethanol is produced in facilities that use electricity from gas or coal-fired plants. The study concluded: “Removal of corn residue for biofuels can decrease soil organic carbon and increase CO2 emissions because residue [carbon] in biofuels is oxidized to CO2 at a faster rate than when added to soil.”

The production of carbon dioxide is acknowledged by the scientific community as a greenhouse gas, and politicians worldwide have blamed it for modest (and perhaps dubious) “global warming” measured in most climate studies over the past few decades. 

Regardless of the science of climate change, the study calls into question the policy choice of creating taxpayer subsidies for biofuels as an aid in limiting carbon dioxide emissions. Indeed, biofuels have also been blamed for atmospheric introduction of nitrogen, according to a 2013 study by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The IPCC reported that they expect the growing mid-century global population to be “the potentially largest contributor to nitrogen use, as a result of large amounts of biofuels required and the fertiliser used to produce it.” And on April 10 of this year, the IPCC acknowledged, “Some biofuels are contested due to fear for food security and high lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions of some fuel types.” Much of this information was reported by The New American's Michael Tennant back in November 13, 2013.

The market for cellulose-based ethanol has been littered with failures even with massive taxpayer subsidies. The Washington Post acknowledged on September 8, 2013 that despite federal subsidies for cellulosic ethanol production, such as a $250 million loan guarantee to Coskata, “Today, most of the dozen contenders have gone out of business or shelved their plans.” In the case of Coskata, the Post reported, “Coskata never did make commercial volumes of ethanol made from raw cellulosic material such as corn stalks, switch grass, wood chips, municipal waste and other biomass. Last year, Coskata changed strategy — to use natural gas instead. In July this year, it backed out of a planned $100 million initial public offering.”

Federal policies of subsidies for ethanol subsidies will nevertheless likely continue for some time with support from the Obama administration and corn-belt state congressmen, and driven by global-warming alarmism based upon apocalyptic global flood maps drawn by amateur graphic designers.

(This article was originally published at on April 23, 2014, and is reposted here with permission.)

Related article:

Federal Ethanol Policy: Bad for the Planet, Good for Lobbyists

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