EWG says ethanol releases more greenhouse gases than fossil fuels; ethanol industry calls report conclusions “as real as Godzilla”

May 29, 2014 |


In Washington, the Environmental Working Group released a new report, Ethanol’s Broken promise, concluding that the EPA’s proposal to cut corn ethanol mandates would lower greenhouse gas emissions by 3 million metric tons. The report is here.

EWG’s Emily Cassidy noted: “Between 2008 and 2011, American farmers converted 23 million acres of wetlands and grasslands – an area the size of Indiana – to crop production.  EWG’s analysis estimates that this massive transformation in the way the land is being used has resulted in greenhouse gas emissions of between 85 million and 236 million metric tons a year more than previous years…Recent research by the EPA has estimated that ethanol production increases greenhouse gas emissions by 33 percent, compared to gasoline.”

“This study takes a couple of real things, connects them in an imaginary scenario, and then multiplies over time, to create a big, scary conclusion, said Ron Lamberty of the American Coalition for Ethanol. A couple of weeks ago, that same “study” process was featured in the release of the latest “Godzilla” movie”.

“This latest ethanol hit-piece says ‘more than eight million acres of grassland and wetlands were converted for corn alone,’ while the latest USDA Census of Agriculture shows farm acreage dropping by nearly eight million acres from 2007 to 2012, the first five years of the Renewable Fuel Standard. These people expect us to believe farmers were spending time and money to drain wetlands and plow marginal land while they quit farming productive cropland. That’s ridiculous.  Not only that, the law they want to overturn specifically outlaws that practice,” said Lamberty.

ACE noted that the Energy Independence and Security Act, which authorized the RFS, required that corn and other feedstocks used to produce renewable fuels may only be sourced from land that was actively engaged in agricultural production in 2007, the year of the bill’s enactment. Under the law, feedstocks grown on land converted to cropland after 2007 do not qualify as “renewable biomass,” and therefore biofuels produced from these feedstocks would not generate credits for the RFS.

Bob Dinneen, president and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association, added: “The Department of Energy’s GREET model clearly shows that corn ethanol reduces GHG emissions by 34 percent compared to gasoline, including hypothetical land use change emissions. Additionally, a Life Cycle Associates study found that corn ethanol reduces GHG emissions by 37–40 percent when compared to tight oil from fracking and tar sands.”

The report, Ethanol’s Broken Promise, is here.

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