A new study from the University of Michigan challenges policymakers’ assumption that biofuels are an environmentally friendly alternative.
“When it comes to the emissions that cause global warming, it turns out that biofuels are worse than gasoline,” said the study’s lead author, John DeCicco, who is a research professor at UM’s Energy Institute.
DeCicco’s research, funded by the American Petroleum Institute, examined the so-called “life cycle” emissions from biofuels, following it from the corn fields to the tailpipe.
“Carbon neutrality has really just been an assumption,” DeCicco said, adding that “a lot of interests have kind of congealed around this assumption” about biofuels.
MLive described the study’s findings in a bit more detail:
The U-M study, based on U.S. Department of Agriculture crop-production data, shows that during the period when U.S. biofuel production rapidly ramped up, the increased carbon dioxide uptake by the crops was only enough to offset 37 percent of the CO2 emissions due to biofuel combustion.
"This is the first study to carefully examine the carbon on farmland when biofuels are grown, instead of just making assumptions about it," DeCicco said. "When you look at what's actually happening on the land, you find that not enough carbon is being removed from the atmosphere to balance what's coming out of the tailpipe."
The UM study comes just a week after an inspector general report found that the Environmental Protection Agency has not lived up to its legal requirements, failing to inform Congress of the environmental impacts of its Renewable Fuel Standard.
The inspector general slammed the EPA for failing to evaluate the impact of biofuels on greenhouse gas emissions, saying that its tardiness “impedes the EPA’s ability to identify, consider, mitigate and make policymakers aware of any adverse impacts of renewable fuels.”