New USDA Lifecycle Assessment of Corn Ethanol Validates UAI’s Research 

Source: By Kim Trinchet, Urban Air Initiative • Posted: Saturday, December 9, 2017

The Urban Air Initiative (UAI) called a new report released this week by the U.S. Department of Agriculture further validation that corn ethanol can provide substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) and offer health and economic benefits to the public.
The report concluded that modern corn ethanol reduces GHG by 43% over gasoline and can easily reach a 50% reduction level based on constantly improving farming and production practices. Ultimately, with continued improvements, corn ethanol could reach a whopping 76% reduction.
“This report is significant in that it adds to the growing body of evidence that the models used by the U.S. EPA are woefully outdated and have led to regulations that are stopping ethanol from being able to expand and compete in the market place” said UAI President Dave VanderGriend.
Mr. VanderGriend also said this was some degree of vindication for efforts UAI has spearheaded for the past several years. Last year, UAI submitted a Request for Correction of Information to EPA and a report for the EPA Inspector General in an effort to get EPA to update its lifecycle assessment regarding corn ethanol. The agency had not conducted an update since 2010. In December of 2016, EPA refused the UAI-led request claiming it had built in improved efficiencies in the calculations. The Energy Future Coalition, the Governors’ Biofuel Coalition, the Clean Fuels Development Coalition, the Nebraska Ethanol Board, the 25x’25 Alliance, and the Nebraska Ethanol Industry Coalition all signed on to UAI’s comments and requests for correction.
“The GREET model used by the Department of Energy, models by other respected scientists and agronomists, and our own research clearly show corn ethanol as being far more effective than EPA recognizes. This new report by the USDA further puts EPA in the minority and should be the wake up call for officials there to open their eyes to the facts,” said VanderGriend.
The USDA report looked at real world data and found that farmers are producing corn more efficiently and using conservation practices that reduce GHG emissions through reduced tillage, cover crops, and improved nitrogen management. Combined with significant increase in corn yield per acre and better efficiencies at the ethanol plant, the carbon footprint is much more positive than many previous studies.
One of the keys, according to USDA, is the real world data showing the indirect land use change penalty was significantly overstated and that the increase in corn production is a result of better practices in existing acreage.
“Carbon reduction will remain an important parameter for our fuels” said VanderGriend.” Whether it is meeting the low carbon fuel standards in California, Canada, or China, we want to be able to compete in those markets and this new report should help in that regard. We can provide high octane, low carbon. and low cost fuels that give consumers healthier choices and protect public health and the environment.”