New Ethanol Study Finds RFS “Created More Problems Than Solutions”

By Derek Markham, CleanTechnica

A ten-year review of the US Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) by researchers at the University of Tennessee (UT) found that the RFS is "too reliant" on corn ethanol, and the production of this biofuel is resulting in additional water and soil problems, as well as "hampering advancements" in other biofuels.

Over the course of the last 10 years, corn ethanol has been lauded as being a bridge fuel solution that could reduce air pollution and increase national energy security in the US, and production of corn ethanol has gone from 4 billion gallons per year in 2005 to some 14.3 billion gallons per year in 2014. But corn ethanol hasn’t lived up to its promise as being a cleaner and more environmentally friendly fuel choice, even after an estimated $50 billion in subsidies, in part because of some of the ‘hidden’ costs of ethanol production, and this focus on corn ethanol has lead to a stagnated advanced biofuels industry, according to researchers.

One of the claims for increased corn ethanol production has been that it can help reduce the amount of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions through its wider adoption as a fuel, but that claim seems to have been refuted in this research, as academic studies have shown that it could actually contribute “to a sharp and overall increase of GHGs,” and that ethanol production and use “emits more particulate matter, ozone (as well as other smog precursors), and other air pollutants than gasoline."