Biofuels better for the environment

This is in response to the recent article that cites “Ethanol is worse than gasoline for climate change.”

The article may have had some merit more than a decade ago using old EPA and other outdated studies. However, these conclusions while highly questionable more than a decade ago are simply not true today. The most recent study released Jan. 11 by former secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Tom Vilsack cited that now “ethanol is 43 percent better for the environment than gasoline.” Basic research into the issue will also show many other credible studies that show similar benefits to the USDA study.

While modern ethanol production has always been better than gasoline, what led to the dramatic improvements we see today? Each year, ethanol and its main feedstock (corn) have increasingly become more efficiently produced as contrasted to gasoline, which has been increasingly more inefficient to produce. Ethanol now uses fewer environmental resources, such as less water, less natural gas, less electricity, and better enzymes to increase production efficiency. It is important to note that the primary feedstock for ethanol is corn. Over the past decade or so, more corn is produced on fewer acres. Corn yields have been significantly improved through no-till planting and various improvements in land conservation and planting technology.

This is in contest to oil, in which it is more difficult to find “clean” sources, drills deeper wells that are “fracked”, and has very large environmental spills.

These inputs as well as others should be used when determining whether ethanol or oil is better for the environment.

Bob Sather, Chippewa Falls

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