Ethanol ain’t all it’s cracked up to be, new study says
A new study casts serious doubt on ethanol’s status as a green wonder-fuel. In the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers lay out a series of grim findings about corn-based biofuel. Runoff from large-scale corn cultivation contaminates waterways with nitrogen, phosphorus, and pesticides. As a motor fuel, corn-based ethanol generates just 23 percent more energy than is required to make it. And finally, corny ethanol reduces greenhouse-gas emissions by a slim 12 percent over gasoline. The study found that soybean biodiesel outperforms the corny stuff, but that “neither can replace much petroleum without impacting food supplies.” The best biofuel bet would be still-in-the-lab cellulosic ethanol made from switchgrass or other woody plants, but most researchers agree that even widespread cellulosic ethanol production would have nowhere near the output to replace gasoline. Researchers also said that people are just going to have to get used to driving less, and quit bitching and moaning about it. No, wait, that was us.