New Study Throws Doubt on the Benefits of Ethanol

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Ethanol production is on the rise. Last year the amount of U.S. corn that became ethanol was 14 percent, up three percent from four years ago. This year, the Department of Agriculture estimates one in five bushels of corn could become ethanol fuel. But according to a recent report from the University of Minnesota, ethanol may not be as green an option as its proponents make it out to be (See “Consider the Alternatives,”

“There’s a lot of green in the money that’s going into ethanol, but perhaps not so much green is coming out as far as the environment,” Jason Hill, the lead author of the report, told the Associated Press. Ethanol does emit 12 percent less greenhouse gas than gasoline, but Hill advocates biodiesel made from soybeans as environmentally friendlier.

According to his study, soy biodiesel creates 93 percent more energy than was required to make it, as opposed to ethanol’s calculated net gain of 25 percent. The production of biodiesel also deposits 99 percent less nitrogen, 93 percent less phosphorous, and 87 percent less pesticides into the ground. Biodiesel emits a third of ethanol’s greenhouse gases.

Hill’s paper suggests further research on other fuel sources, such as switchgrass and woody plants, which could have similar environmental benefits without depleting the world’s food supply.

Source; AP Press: Sun: