March 2, 2009
Hauling ethanol nixes benefits
Ethanol's slogan should be keep it local,
or at least regional, if the biofuel is to serve as a truly green
alternative to gasoline.
A study of the economic and environmental costs of transporting
ethanol found that hauling the fuel long distances raises its cost
and increases greenhouse gas emissions associated with producing and
distributing the fuel. These increases wipe out the benefits of using
ethanol in place of gasoline.
The lifecycle study, which looked at E85 produced from a mix
of corn and cellulosic ethanol, found that ethanol costs range from
$1.30 to $2.80 per gallon depending on how far the fuel travels and
how it's transported. The study's estimates of emissions from transporting
ethanol are twice as high as estimates from previous lifecycle studies.
The study recommends that E85 be produced regionally to minimize
the effects of transporting the fuel.
Environmental Transportation Effects of Large-Scale Ethanol Production
and Distribution in the United States
Environmental Science & Technology, published online February
H. Scott Matthews
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