Indiana’s corn ethanol industry is disputing a new study that says ethanol production releases more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than regular gasoline.
The study was funded by the U.S. Department of Energy and conducted by researchers at the University of Nebraska. It says corn stover, the residue used to create cellulosic ethanol, a biofuel, creates 7 percent more greenhouse gas emissions in the short term than the burning of regular gasoline.
The study also says the loss of carbon dioxide, which scientists believe contributes to climate change, means that ethanol does not meet the federal government‘s standard that biofuels should reduce carbon emissions by 60 percent.
Producers of ethanol have problems with the study’s methods.
“They assume that 75 percent of corn stover is going to be removed from a field. In the real world, that is not going to happen,” says Ken Parent, director of biofuels for the Indiana Corn Marketing Association. “Good crop management practices would dictate that not more than 25 to 30 percent of the residue would be removed.”
Even if more of the residue was removed, Parent says that doesn’t mean the soil would necessarily lose carbon.
The study was peer-reviewed and published in the journal Nature Climate Change.
Parent says he isn’t worried that the Energy Department will use the study to put pressure on ethanol producers.
“This is one study. We‘ll wait and see what other people doing similar research come up with,” Parent says. “I‘m sure there will be an effort to thoroughly examine the findings here and to disprove them.”