Biofuels made from leftover harvested corn plants are worse than gasoline for global warming in the short term, a study shows. While biofuels are better in the long run, the study says they won’t meet a standard set in a 2007 energy law to qualify as renewable fuel.
The $500,000 study, paid for by the federal government and released Sunday in the journal Nature Climate Change, challenges the Obama administration’s assertions that they are a much cleaner oil alternative and will help fight climate change. The study concludes that biofuels made with corn residue release 7% more greenhouse gases in the early years compared with conventional gasoline.
The biofuel industry and administration officials immediately combatted the research, calling the study “flawed”. They said it was too simplistic in its analysis of carbon loss from soil, which can vary over a single field, and vastly overestimated how much residue farmers actually would remove once the market gets underway.
“The core analysis depicts an extreme scenario that no responsible farmer or business would ever employ because it would ruin both the land and the long-term supply of feedstock. It makes no agronomic or business sense,” said Jan Koninckx, global business director for biorefineries at DuPont.
The study found that regardless of how much corn residue is taken off the field, the process contributes to global warming.