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MSU study credits ethanol with reducing greenhouse gases

Nov 16, 2014

Michigan’s ethanol industry leaders are touting a new study that claims ethanol is reducing greenhouse gas emissions.   

About 1/4 of corn grown in Michigan goes to ethanol production
Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The study comes as a fight is brewing in Washington over federal Renewable Fuel Standards.

Michigan State University researchers Dr. Bruce Dale and Dr. Seungdo Kim reviewed the use of ethanol in gasoline between 2007 and 2012. They claim blended fuel using ethanol reduced carbon dioxide emissions by nearly 1.4 million metric tons, or the equivalent of 294,000 cars. 

Dale says the study looked at all phases of the ethanol industry, from the cultivation of corn to the gas tank. He says Michigan’s ethanol industry is more efficient now in all phases of the process. 

“Farmers are using less fertilizer, which is also less greenhouse gases, so the whole industry is improving,” says Dale.

Michigan corn growers paid for the MSU study. 

About a quarter of this year’s corn crop in Michigan is being turned into ethanol.

The ethanol industry is in a fight with oil companies and environmentalists.

Unlikely allies, the oil industry and environmentalists are both putting pressure on officials in Washington to reduce the amount of ethanol refiners are required to mix into gasoline before it is sent to gas stations around the country. 

Oil companies want to increase the amount of petroleum in the mix. Environmentalists complain ethanol production is leading to deforestation.

Jim Zook is the executive director of the Michigan Corn Growers Association.

He says ethanol is “a cleaner alternative to dirty oil.”  

Zook admits Michigan corn growers and ethanol producers want to know whether the current federal ethanol mandate will be cut.

“I think that’s the question we’ll all asking. We don’t know,” says Zook. 

It’s unclear at this point whether growing Republican control in Washington will affect the future of the Renewable Fuel Standard and Michigan’s ethanol industry.