Issues Of The Environment: Michigan Corn Growers Tout Environmentally Improved Ethanol

Feb 8, 2017

Corn Field
Credit Wikipedia Media Commons / wikipedia.org

The value of biofuels has long been a subject of debate. Corn-based ethanol is in our gasoline and, along with biodiesel, is a part of the nation’s long-term energy plan. Last week, WEMU spoke with a University of Michigan researcher whose team has declared that biofuels are causing more environmental damage than gasoline.  On this week’s ‘Issues of the Environment,’ you’ll get an entirely different perspective.

 


Overview

Michigan Corn's Position on Ethanol 

   *   According to the USDA, federal public policy mandating the use of renewable fuels has more than tripled the share of the annual corn crop devoted to biofuels.  In January of 2017, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) reaffirmed their commitment to the “life-cycle analysis” approach, and they claim that “the GHG profile of corn ethanol will be 50 percent lower than gasoline in 2022 if current trends in corn yields, process fuel switching, and improvements in trucking fuel efficiency continue,” 76% if the USDA adds conservation strategies.

   * Jim Zook is the Executive Director of the Corn Marketing Program of Michigan and the Michigan Corn Growers Association.  Jim was born and raised on his family’s farm in central Illinois.  After earning a BS from Illinois State University, he worked in the farm supply business in Wisconsin before moving to Michigan in 1999 to accept a position as the Crops Agent for Michigan State University Extension.  He helped facilitate discussions for Michigan Corn Processors that eventually led to the state’s first ethanol facility in Caro, Michigan and then helped co-found and manage the ethanol facility in Woodbury. 

   *   John DeCicco, Research Professor, University of Michigan Energy Institute, says that an approach that accounts for net ecosystem production means that even “sustainable” biomass production is not a sufficient condition for removing enough CO2 to increase the net rate of removal. He says,"the name of the game is to speed up how much CO2 you remove from the air," he said.  "The best way to begin removing more CO2 from the air is to grow more trees, and leave them.  Prior to settlement, Michigan was heavily forested.  A state like Michigan could do much more to balance out the tailpipe emissions of CO2 by reforesting than by repurposing the corn and soybeans grown in the state into biofuels.  That is just a kind of shell game that's not working."

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— David Fair is the WEMU News Director and host of Morning Edition on WEMU.  You can contact David at 734.487.3363, on twitter @DavidFairWEMU, or email him at dfair@emich.edu