USDA study says corn-based ethanol reduces GHG emission 39%

April 2, 2019 |

In Washington, a new study released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) finds greenhouse gas emissions from corn-based ethanol are about 39 percent lower than gasoline. The study also states that when ethanol is refined at natural gas-powered refineries, the greenhouse gas emissions are even lower, around 43 percent below gasoline.

The study, led by Dr. Jan Lewandrowski of USDA’s Office of the Chief Economist, and published in the journal Biofuels, supports findings of other research that ethanol has a significantly better greenhouse gas profile than previously estimated.

The study, titled “The greenhouse gas benefits of corn ethanol—assessing recent evidence,” attributes much of these additional benefits to revised estimates of the impacts of land-use change as a result of demand for ethanol. Where previous estimates anticipated farmers bringing additional land into production as a result of increased corn prices, recent analysis finds only modest increases in crop acreage. Additional improvements at ethanol refineries, combined with on-farm conservation practices that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, such as reduced tillage and cover crops, have further decreased emissions associated with corn ethanol. The study projects that with added improvements in refineries and on farms, a reduction of over 70 percent in lifecycle emissions is possible by 2022.

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