The greenhouse gas benefits of corn ethanol – assessing recent evidence

Jan Lewandrowski, Jeffrey Rosenfeld, Diana Pape, Tommy Hendrickson, Kirsten Jaglo & Katrin Moffroid (2019). “The greenhouse gas benefits of corn ethanol – assessing recent evidence.” Biofuels. DOI: 10.1080/17597269.2018.1546488

Abstract: In 2010, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a life-cycle analysis of the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with the production and combustion of corn ethanol. EPA projected that by 2022, the emissions profile of corn ethanol from a new refinery would be 21% lower than that of an energy equivalent quantity of gasoline. Since 2010, the 21% value has dominated policy discussions and federal regulations related to corn ethanol as a renewable fuel and a GHG mitigation option. It is now 2018 and new data, scientific studies, technical reports, and other information allow us to examine the emissions pathway corn-ethanol has actually followed since 2010. Using this information, we assess corn ethanol’s current GHG profile at 39–43% lower than gasoline. We also develop two projected emissions scenarios for corn ethanol in 2022. These scenarios highlight opportunities to produce ethanol with emissions that are 47.0–70.0% lower than gasoline. Many countries are now developing or revising renewable energy policies. Typically, biofuel substitutes for gasoline are required to reduce GHG emissions by more than 21%. Our results could help position U.S. corn ethanol to compete in these new and growing markets.

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