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Study: Ethanol May Add to Global Warming

Friday, February 8, 2008

(American Meat Institute)

The widespread use of corn-based ethanol could generate nearly twice the greenhouse gas emissions as the gasoline it would replace because of expected land use changes, authors of a new study published in Science magazine have concluded.

The study, released Thursday by researchers affiliated with Princeton University and a number of other institutions, says that previous studies claiming the benefits of ethanol combating climate changes were “one-sided” and counted the carbon benefits of using land for biofuels, but not the carbon costs of diverting land from its existing uses.  “Using good cropland to expand biofuels will probably exacerbate global warming," they wrote.  

Following the release of the report, a group of 10 leading environmental groups sent a letter to the President and Speaker Pelosi asking the U.S. to rethink its biofuels policy.    
The researchers said that farmers under economic pressure to produce biofuels will increasingly plow up more forest or grasslands, releasing much of the carbon formerly stored in plants and soils through decomposition or fires. Globally, more grasslands and forests will be converted to growing the crops to replace the loss of grains when U.S. farmers convert land to biofuels, the study indicates.

The authors argue that after taking into account expected worldwide land-use changes, corn-based ethanol, greenhouse gases will increase by 93 percent compared to using gasoline over a 30-year period.

The study included co-authors affiliated with Iowa State University, the Woods Hole Research Center and the Agricultural Conservation Economics. It was supported by a grant from NASA’s Terrestrial Ecology Program and by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

To view an abstract of the study, click here: http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/1151861

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