One month into Missouri’s new ethanol fuel standards, and what have we learned? The 2006 legislation that required all gasoline sold in Missouri to contain a 10-percent ethanol blend was heralded as a great step forward for Missouri’s environmental needs. As Governor Matt Blunt stated at the time:
“Missouri is a leader in the use of alternative fuels, and this change benefits Missouri’s consumers, economy, environment and farmers,” Gov. Blunt said. “Filling our gasoline tanks with E-10 will improve our air quality and reduce our dependency on foreign oil. Missouri corn fields have now become the oil fields of the 21st Century.”
Except that they haven’t. A new study in the journal Science (not known for taking up right-wing causes) finds that greenhouse-gas emissions from corn ethanol during the next 30 years will be twice as high as they would be from regular gasoline. The cost discrepancy comes from previous estimates that failed to account for the carbon dioxide emissions that have arisen from the clearing of forests and grassland for biofuel production. About 2.7 times more carbon is stored in terrestrial soils and plant material than in the atmosphere, and this carbon is released when land is cleared for ethanol production.
So, while ethanol may be a boon for corn farmers, it will be a huge detriment to everybody else (I’m not talking about the CO2 issue, but the impact on commodity prices).
So much for the government’s success at picking industry winners. The most recent estimates suggest it will take 167 years before the reduction in carbon emissions from ethanol “pays back” the carbon used by land-use change.
Good thing Missouri is one of only three states that have adopted such strict(ly stupid) industry standards.