February 4, 2009

Cellulose better than gasoline, corn worse

It turns out that cellulosic ethanol has a lower impact on health and the environment than gasoline. Corn ethanol, on the other hand, has a higher impact.

A study of the lifecycle effects of greenhouse gas and particulate emissions from gasoline, corn ethanol and cellulosic ethanol found that cellulosic ethanol's low particulate emissions result in lower health-related costs compared to gasoline. Corn ethanol, however, has higher particulate emissions than gasoline and therefore higher health costs.

For every billion gallons of fuel produced and burned, the combined climate change and health costs of gasoline are $469 million. Cellulosic ethanol's costs are $123 to 208 million depending on feedstock, and corn ethanol's costs are $472 to 952 million depending on the heat source used in production.

Research paper:
Climate Change and Health Costs of Air Emissions from Biofuels and Gasoline
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, published online February 2, 2009

Researchers' homepages:
Jason Hill
Stephen Polasky
David Tilman
Hong Huo
James Neumann

Related stories and briefs:
Feds release biofuels action plan -- related government policy
Wind powered electric vehicles top study -- related study
Net energy under fire -- related issue

Back to ERN February 9/16, 2009



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