In particular, its conclusion that corn-based ethanol contains more harmful pollutants than gasoline runs contrary to findings from the Argonne National Laboratory (which is a non-profit research laboratory operated by the University of Chicago for the U.S. Department of Energy), the U.S. EPA and the Energy Information Administration (EIA).
The authors of the report state that corn-based ethanol emits more ozone and particulate matter than gasoline. Ozone is created by chemical reactions between oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOC) while particulate matter is an air pollution term for a mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets in the air.
Both ozone and particulate matter can trigger health problems. While the U Of M’s report states that these two pollutants increase with ethanol usage, data from the EPA suggests otherwise.
According to the EPA, the amount of ozone in the air has decreased 18 percent from 2000 to 2013. In the Upper Midwest, ozone levels have fallen 11 percent during the same time period.
Similarly, particulate matter has decreased 34 percent nationwide from 2000 to 2013. It is important to note that the drop in ozone and particulate matter coincide with the increase in ethanol blended gasoline which took off on a large scale after the implementation of the Renewable Fuel Standard in 2005.
Moreover, the Argonne National Laboratory’s GREET (Greenhouse Gases, Regulated Emissions, and Energy Use in Transportation) model – which was also used by the authors of the report – shows total urban life cycle emissions of VOC, NOx and particulate matter in a vehicle using E10 (gasoline that contains 10 percent ethanol) is lower than in a vehicle using gasoline which contains no ethanol.
If compared with a vehicle running on E85 (gasoline that contains 85 percent ethanol), GREET shows that the urban emission reductions are even more significant at 5 percent (VOC), 7.8 percent (NOx) and 20 percent (particulate matter).
Interestingly, the report did not address CO2 emissions which dominates greenhouse gas emissions. According to the EIA, a gallon of gasoline that does not contain ethanol produces 19.64 lbs of CO2. A gallon of ethanol, on the other hand, emits 12.72 lbs of CO2.
As such, E10 produces 18.95 lbs of CO2 while E85 emits 13.75 lbs of CO2. Thus, it is quite clear that using ethanol reduces the level of CO2 in the air.
In 2012, some 2.45 billion gallons of gasoline was consumed in Minnesota. If we assumed that all 2.45 billion gallons were E10, it would mean 766,571 metric tons of CO2 was prevented from being released into the air thanks to ethanol.
That, according the EPA’s greenhouse gas equivalencies calculator, is the equivalent of removing 161,383 cars from the road for a year in Minnesota.
Considering the above, it is clear that ethanol is a much cleaner fuel than gasoline. Moreover, it is important to note that the authors of the study did not factor emissions from Canadian oil sands in their analysis of life cycle emissions from gasoline. This in itself casts more doubts on their findings as 70 percent of oil imported from Canada (which would include oil sands from Alberta) are brought into the Midwest. READ MORE and MORE (Ethanol Producer Magazine) and MORE / MORE / MORE (Renewable Fuels Association) and MORE (Growth Energy) and MORE (University of Minnesota) Abstract (PNAS)
Excerpt from Ethanol Producer Magazine: Growth Energy’s statement following the release of the report added to the critiques from another angle. “This report also fails to account for the numerous environmental benefits ethanol provides,” the Growth Energy statement said. “According to Argonne National Laboratory, ethanol reduces greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by an average of 34 percent compared to gasoline, even when the highly controversial and disputed theory on indirect land use change (ILUC) is factored into the modeling … Argonne has found that without ILUC included, ethanol reduces GHG emissions by 57 percent compared to gasoline.”
Growth Energy also pointed out the University of Minnesota report left out another important benefit ethanol brings to fuel. “Ethanol, with its high octane content, reduces the need to add toxic aromatics to gasoline to bolster octane and engine performance such as benzene and 1-3 butadiene that are known carcinogens. Additionally, ethanol plays a major role in reducing ultra-fine particulates in exhaust emissions that are linked to a large number of adverse health outcomes.” READ MORE
Excerpt from Renewable Fuels Association white paper: … The Minnesota study’s lifecycle emissions estimates for electric vehicles (EVs) do not include emissions associates with battery production, a glaring omission that creates an inconsistent framework for comparing various fuel/vehicle options. The authors admit that emissions associated with battery production account for “about half” of total EV lifecycle emissions—yet those emissions are excluded from the central scenario. READ MORE