WASHINGTON — Brooke Coleman, Executive Director of the Advanced Ethanol Council (AEC), released a statement today in response to a new study questioning the climate benefits of using corn stover to make ethanol. The study alleges that taking corn stover off the field to make ethanol could significantly reduce its climate change benefits. The Associated Press (AP) covered the article this weekend.
“What we have here is an article trying to package itself as saying something completely new; that removing corn stover from the field has newly quantified impacts that would change our perception of making advanced ethanol out of corn stover. In reality, the study confirms what we already know; that excessive agricultural residue removal is bad for the soil and has negative impacts on climate. The article says little about real world stover-to-ethanol fuel because it uses corn stover removal rates far exceeding those used in the field. The analysis also models a one-size-fits-all approach to managing soil carbon that, by definition, ignores how farmers manage their land. While it’s fair to model whatever scenario you want in the hypothetical, if it’s not happening in the real world then the modeling outcomes are something times zero. Our industry is more than willing to engage in important discussions about the climate impacts of using agricultural residues to make fuel, but the headline-chasing strategy of trying to sell extreme modeling assumptions as the norm does not facilitate that process. If you look at the full spectrum of peer-reviewed work, cellulosic biofuel is the lowest carbon fuel in the world.”