Is Ethanol a Green Fuel?

by Marlo Lewis on May 6, 2015

in Blog

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It’s common knowledge that the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) is a textbook study in the law of unintended consequences. The program inflates food and fuel costs, exacerbates world hunger, contributes to political instability and violence in developing countries, expands aquatic dead zones, accelerates wetlands conversion and habitat loss, likely increases net greenhouse gas emissions, and ushers in a reign of regulatory uncertainty rather than the predictable marketplace its creators intended.

And this just in: NOAA and NASA scientists find that ethanol manufacturing releases five to 30 times more volatile organic compounds (VOCs) than estimated in EPA’s 2011 National Emissions Inventory. VOCs are pollutants that form ozone-smog when they react with nitrogen oxides (NOx) in the presence of sunlight.

From a news article by Amanda Peterka in today’s E&E PM ($):

Ethanol refineries may emit more air pollution than commonly thought, according to a new study led by researchers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The NOAA team, which also included scientists from NASA and academic institutions, measured the air downwind from an ethanol plant in Illinois and found emissions of total volatile organic compounds (VOC) to be five times higher than 2011 federal data.

Emissions of ethanol in the air — considered a type of VOC — were up to 30 times higher than previously thought downwind from the plant, the team said. . . .

The study has been accepted for publication in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres. NOAA and U.S. EPA provided funding for the measurements taken by the team.

Using a small NOAA airplane outfitted with special instruments, the team measured air quality at 9, 12 and 30 kilometers downwind from the Archer Daniels Midland ethanol plant in Decatur, Ill., in June and July 2013. . . .

According to the results, measured emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides compared well with the EPA data. But they found that the National Emissions Inventory underestimated emissions of volatile organic compounds — gases that are a main ingredient in ground-level ozone — generated by the refining process by factors of five to 30.


Don Budlong May 9, 2015 at 8:49 am

There are many myths concerning ethanol production. One is concerning habitat loss due to increased corn production. Fact: Less acres in corn production than 1940.
Myth: Ethanol production has increased food costs. Fact: Corn is now selling below cost of production (about $3.50 per bu) , down from $8 a few years ago. How much has your food costs gone down?
Ethanol has produced 10% of the energy for car travel for several years. Compare that to the energy produced by wind or solar. The profit from ethanol production is given to the American farmer, who spend it on American manufacturing, John Deere combines, tractors etc. Many windmills are produced in China. There are now no subsidies for ethanol production, compare that to wind or solar

siddartha May 30, 2015 at 6:40 am

Ethanol is not a greeen fuel the gas is polutting our surrounding more than other gases and responsible for global warming ..

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