Corn ethanol significantly reduces greenhouse gas emissions compared to oil, new study finds

LANSING – Corn ethanol has a significantly smaller carbon footprint than oil production and that gap will continue to widen, according to a new study released by the Renewable Fuels Association.


"It's no surprise that ethanol is the more environmentally friendly option," said Jim Zook, executive director of the Michigan Corn Growers Association. "Farmers have a vested interest in protecting the air, land and water in the communities where they live and raise their families. And because we produce ethanol right here in Michigan, it creates jobs, drives investment in our economy and helps reduce our dangerous dependence on foreign oil."

Researchers found that improvements in technology have steadily reduced greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from ethanol production. In addition, farms are using new technology and practices to produce higher yields on the same land and with less fertilizer per bushel of corn, further reducing environmental impacts.

In comparison, GHG emissions from oil production continue to grow as oil companies turn to more marginal oil sources such as fracking and tar sands. The report concluded that: "Recent trends in the carbon intensity of corn ethanol and crude oil are expected to continue well into the future, as the environmental performance of ethanol continues to improve and oil's footprint gets even larger."

Highlights from the report include:

In 2012, corn ethanol reduced GHG emissions by 32% compared to gasoline. This estimate includes prospective emissions from indirect land use.

Average corn ethanol reduces GHG emissions by 37-40% compared to oil from fracking and oil sands.

Average corn ethanol was already reducing GHG emissions by 21% compared to gasoline in 2005.

Estimates of emissions from land use for farming are 10 times lower than initially suggested.

"Using more ethanol is a win-win for consumers," said Jeff Sandborn, a farmer from Portland, Michigan. "Ethanol is a cleaner-burning choice that helps protect our environment for future generations. It also drives down the price of gas at the pump so Michigan's families can keep more of their hard-earned money."

The report comes in the wake of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's proposal to reduce the targets for corn ethanol under the Renewable Fuel Standard for ethanol. EPA is accepting public comments on the proposed rule until January 28, 2014. You can learn more, or find out how to submit your comments by visiting the Michigan Corn Growers Association website at http://www.micorn.org/mcga/legislative-work/epa-comments.

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