Regulators are being urged to re-think corn ethanol’s carbon value. In a news release from the American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE), the group’s President of its board of directors, Ron Alverson, reveals in a white paper how corn ethanol’s carbon footprint is decreasing, thanks to technology innovations by farmers and ethanol facilities to improve the accuracy of carbon intensity modeling for biofuels.
“ANL scientists have documented significant reductions in corn ethanol’s CI since 2008. Through updates to the Greenhouse gases Regulated Emissions and Energy use in Transportation (GREET version 2.0, 2013) model, ANL recently determined that average ethanol manufacturing energy use has decreased 25%, corn farming energy use decreased 24%, corn fertilizer and chemical use decreased by 3%, and that ethanol facilities are extracting 3% more ethanol from each bushel of corn. ANL has also updated their Land Use Change (LUC) calculations with recent data and now estimate LUC of just 7.6 grams of CI, a 75% reduction from the widely used and outdated estimate of 30 grams CI. A significant portion of this reduction resulted from soil carbon modeling which predicts soil carbon sequestration from corn,” Alverson notes in the White Paper.
“Unfortunately, low carbon fuel market regulators, such as the U.S. EPA and the California Air Resources Board, have yet to acknowledge these improvements and update their models with this new science,” continues Alverson. “Because fossil fuel CI is getting worse and corn ethanol CI is improving, failure to account for these trends unfairly penalizes biofuels in low carbon markets.”
Alverson, a farmer and founding board member of an ethanol facility in South Dakota cited new research and improved modeling by the Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory. He argues that “corn farmers have responded to market signals and rapidly adopted precision application technology to reduced fertilizer application rates,” new realities those regulators need to now consider.