AP study: "Advanced" corn ethanol might actually be environmentally worse than gasoline

Last November, the Associated Press released their own study that confirmed more or less everything we already knew about the damaging unintended consequences created by the Renewable Fuel Standard: That the artificially jacked-up demand for corn incentivizes American farmers to bring marginal lands into agricultural production, effectively obliterating millions of acres of conservation land in favor of putting more strain on the water supply, pumping more fertilizer into the environment, and churning up more soil (subsequently releasing the carbon trapped within) than they otherwise would. The champions of the Big Ethanol lobby, shameless rent-seekers that they are, denounced the AP’s study as obviously biased hogwash, and demanded that the U.S. Environmental Protection ignore the abundant evidence against ethanol’s supposed environmental benefits by upholding the ever-increasing volumetric blending requirements of the RFS.

If Big Ethanol didn’t like what the AP reported last fall, however, I think they’re likely to have an even bigger tantrum over what the AP is reporting on today — this time, a study funded by the feds that undercuts ethanol’s counterfeit environmentalism even further:

Biofuels made from the leftovers of harvested corn plants are worse than gasoline for global warming in the short term, a study shows, challenging the Obama administration’s conclusions that they are a much cleaner oil alternative and will help combat climate change.

A $500,000 study paid for by the federal government and released Sunday in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Climate Change concludes that biofuels made with corn residue release 7 percent more greenhouse gases in the early years compared with conventional gasoline.

While biofuels are better in the long run, the study says they won’t meet a standard set in a 2007 energy law to qualify as renewable fuel.

The conclusions deal a blow to what are known as cellulosic biofuels, which have received more than a billion dollars in federal support but have struggled to meet volume targets mandated by law. About half of the initial market in cellulosics is expected to be derived from corn residue.

And seeing as how these “advanced” cellulosic biofuels derived from biomass other than corn starch (i.e., in this case, the stalks, cobs, leaves) are technically supposed to release 50 to 60 percent fewer carbon emissions on net evaluation than gasoline, that’s something of a problem. I might also add that “a billion dollars in federal support” is a vast understatement, what with that whole Renewable Fuel Standard injecting a bunch of fake signals into the market by forcing Americans to purchase a product that they obviously wouldn’t without the presence of a federal mandate (despite the repeated failure of the well-subsidized biofuels market to actually provide the requisite amount of biofuels in commercially available quantities, yeesh).

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John Sexton 1:00 PM on December 05, 2022