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Biofuels like ethanol could be worse for environment

EPA has not submitted any studies on biofuels impact on environment in 6 years

Policy Pulse
Publish Date: Aug 26 2016 3:05PM | Updated Date: Aug 26 2016 3:05PM

Biofuels like ethanol could be worse for environment

A new study released by the University of Michigan found that biofuels are also bad for the environment similar to gasoline. The new research shows that plant-based fuels might actually be worse polluters than traditional fuels.


According to a new study, the problem started with the apparently incorrect assumption that biofuels are carbon neutral. When comparing the carbon footprint of biofuels and traditional fuels, researchers looked at the overall lifecycle of the fuel.


Gasoline isn't only judged on the pollutants caused by cars running on petrol; the extraction, refining and transportation processes are taken into account. The same is true for biofuels, only emissions from the tailpipe were left out of the equation because the number was assumed to be zero.


That assumption, which the regulatory bodies of the US have been operating under for the last 11 years, is incorrect says University of Michigan Energy Institute research professor John DeCicco. Professor uncovered the problem four years ago and research was going on since then.


"To verify the extent to which that assumption is true, you really need to analyze what's going on in the farmland, where the biofuels are being grown," DeCicco said. "People haven't done that sort of the study in the past."


DeCicco used data from the Department of Agriculture to come up with what he calls the "harvest carbon" factor. He found that while corn and soybean production has tripled since 2005, when federal mandates for biofuels went into effect, carbon has only been offset by 37 percent.


"When it comes to the emissions that cause global warming, it turns out that biofuels are worse than gasoline," he said. DeCicco's findings come on the heels of a report that the Environmental Protection Agency has not submitted any studies on biofuels impact on the environment in nearly six years.