[If you cannot see the flash video below, you can click here for a high quality mp4 video.]
Interviewee: David Tillman, Ecologist
Corn Ethanol Climate and Health Costs
Producing biofuels from corn is at least as costly as gasoline in terms of harm to human health and contributions to climate change. But biofuels from non-food sources of biomass have even more health and environmental advantages than previously thought.
The researchers calculated and compared these costs for gasoline, ethanol from corn, and cellulosic ethanol from biomass like switchgrass over their entire life cycles, from oil extraction or crop cultivation to refining to transportation and combustion.
The main cost to human health that they looked at was fine particulates, a particularly deadly form of air pollution. Contributions to climate change were based on greenhouse gas emissions of each type of fuel.
They found that the total climate-change and health costs of corn-based ethanol range from $1.24 to $1.45 per gallon, compared to 71 cents per gallon for gasoline. But this cost burden for cellulosic ethonol only totaled from 19 cents to 25 cents per gallon.
Because of these cost differences, "A shift from gasoline to cellulosic ethanol has greater advantages than previously recognized," the authors write.
In 2006, the group showed that producing ethanol from food crops is not only less efficient than cellulosic ethanol, but also that there is not enough agricultural land to meet our needs for both food and fuel.
The main reasons that corn-based ethanol has so much higher environmental and human health impacts than cellulosic alternatives are its higher fertilizer requirements and lower biomass yields.Share Post: | Stumble | Share on Facebook | Tweet This |