BLOOMINGTON, Ill.— Corn-based ethanol emits 43 percent fewer greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions than gasoline when measured on an energy equivalent basis, according to a new USDA report, “A Life-Cycle Analysis of the Greenhouse Gas Emissions of Corn-Based Ethanol.”
The new calculation accounts for more efficient farming methods and more conservation practices that reduce GHG emissions including reduced tillage, cover crops, and improved nitrogen management. Ethanol production technologies are also increasingly more efficient.
“The report provides a sound incorporation of the recent energy efficiency improvements achieved by corn ethanol plants, many of which were driven by the incentives provided by the RFS2,” says Steffen Mueller, PhD; Principal Research Economist University of Illinois at Chicago Energy Resources Center. “Corn ethanol today now mirrors the environmental benefits of advanced biofuels.”
Dr. Mueller has long researched corn-based ethanol and its emissions and carbon footprint, most recently traveling all over the world to share his research and help other countries understand the benefits corn-based ethanol has to offer.
“Several countries like the EU and Japan require a greenhouse gas reduction of fifty percent to qualify corn ethanol blends into their fuel supply – this is without considering international land use assessments in recognition of the uncertainties surrounding this science. Today’s USDA report shows that the average U.S. produced corn ethanol easily meets these international requirements, which documents the competitive advantage of this fuel in green markets abroad,” he said.
For corn farmers, the report simply allows for more market opportunity and increased potential corn demand, which is welcome news considering 2016’s carryout of 2,355 million bushels of corn. With an updated life-cycle analysis that properly credits corn ethanol for its improving technologies and efficiencies, corn ethanol can look forward to more market opportunities both domestically and internationally.
“Illinois boasts the largest dry grind ethanol plant in the world with Marquis Energy in Hennepin, IL. Marquis produces over 300 million gallons of corn ethanol annually, with about 80 percent of that leaving the U.S. for export. I think this report means that we will see that export number grow, offering opportunities for more Illinois ethanol plants to capitalize on the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers to move ethanol overseas,” said Paul Jeschke, Chair of the National Corn Growers Association Ethanol Action Team and Vice Chairman of the Illinois Corn Marketing Board.
Opportunities for corn farmers, for rural America, and for environmentally conscientious Americans abound.