Context Missing On This Vital Fuel

  • Wednesday, 04 October 2023 08:45

ED Column Web new 1 2

The Oct. 2 commentary discussing the climate impacts of Minnesota agriculture included several misleading statements and cherry-picked science to assert that ethanol is not a clean fuel ("Big Ag must be part of climate crisis solution").

If 4 out of 5 doctors agree that eating vegetables and regular exercise is good for your health, we wouldn't take seriously the outlier who recommends a Snickers bar and eight hours of television.

The National Academy of Sciences study cited as the basis to claim that ethanol emits more carbon than gasoline doesn't hold up to peer review. It uses "questionable assumptions" and an "overestimation of the [greenhouse gas] emissions of corn ethanol" according to research from the Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory.

Other research conducted by Argonne, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Environmental Protection Agency, the California Air Resources Board, and major universities including Harvard  have consistently demonstrated that ethanol is a low-carbon biofuel with 40 to 50% fewer emissions than petroleum on a life cycle basis, even when accounting for hypothetical land use change scenarios.

These hypothetical "land use changes" are used by the author to assert that ethanol has driven an increase in corn acreage even though EPA's annual estimates of cropland cleared or cultivated since 2007 has shown reductions from the original baseline of 402 million acres. Our farmers are using less land to produce higher yields through productivity gains.

If 4 out of 5 researchers say ethanol is good for the climate, we shouldn't take seriously the outlier who says it's worse than petroleum.