A new study by the University of Minnesota puts another dent in the already banged up corn based ethanol industry:
StarTribune: Scientists and economists looked at life-cycle emissions of growing, harvesting, producing and burning different fuels, and concluded that ethanol made from switchgrass and other plant materials is far better than either corn ethanol or gasoline…
The study concluded that the total environmental and health costs of making a gallon of gasoline was about 71 cents, compared with a range of 72 cents to $1.45 for corn-based ethanol, and 19 to 32 cents for cellulosic ethanol, depending upon the technology and type of plants used.
A major difference between corn-based and “cellulosic” ethanol is that biorefineries producing corn ethanol need to purchase electricity, while those producing cellulosic ethanol can burn the plant waste and generate their own power, the study said. That adds another source of air pollution to corn ethanol as well.
The study simulated the cost of a 1 billion gallon increase in each of the different types of fuel to arrive at these numbers. While cellulosic ethanol appears to be cheaper and better for the environment, it’s yet to be proven on a scalable basis.
Meanwhile, in other bad news for ethanol, in a conference call today Archer Daniels Midland said that ethanol production is down 21% from a year ago, as cheap oil, tight credit and weak demand take their toll.