Tom Philpott has written a good Report over on Grist, connecting the recent study on biofuels published by the UK's Royal Society of Chemistry with a new one from the University of Minnesota. The killer quote from the University of Minnesota is,
[I]f one replaced a total of 5 percent of gasoline energy with ethanol energy, greenhouse gas emissions from driving cars would be a bit more than a half percent lower (5 percent times 12 percent).
Whoa. In 2006, U.S. ethanol producers burned through 18 percent of the corn harvest to offset 3 percent of gasoline use. What the Minnesota study is telling us is that we could increase corn ethanol production by two-thirds (to achieve a 5 percent offset) -- burning through 40 percent of the corn crop -- and still only reduce greenhouse gas emissions by just a bit more than a half percent.
picture by Cody Simms
Thirsty autos. The more I write about biofuels the more I am convinced that there is an elephant in the room that no one is acknowledging. The elephant is automotive fuel economy.
There is no point using expensive grain to make a gasoline extender if its just going to poured into inefficient autos and burnt. Robert Rapier said at the end of last year fuel ethanol is boondoggle.
That doesn't apply to all biofuels, but when you look at the potential gains in green house gas reduction, compared to the savings that could be made by making cars a little more efficient, you have to wonder where people's priorities are.