Biodiesel beats Ethanol!
Researchers Assess Life-Cycle Impact of Soy Biodiesel and Corn Ethanol11 July 2006
According to a recent analysis by University of Minnesota researches, Biodiesel is significantly better than Ethanol in multiple ways:
"The researchers tracked all the energy used for growing corn and soybeans and converting the crops into biofuels. They also looked at how much fertilizer and pesticide corn and soybeans required and how much greenhouse gases and nitrogen, phosphorus, and pesticide pollutants each released into the environment.
The study showed that both corn grain ethanol and soybean biodiesel produce more energy than is needed to grow the crops and convert them into biofuels. This finding refutes other studies claiming that these biofuels require more energy to produce than they provide. The amount of energy each returns differs greatly, however. Soybean biodiesel returns 93% more energy than is used to produce it, while corn grain ethanol currently provides only 25% more energy.
Still, the researchers caution that neither biofuel can come close to meeting the growing demand for alternatives to petroleum. Dedicating all current US corn and soybean production to biofuels would meet only 12% of gasoline demand and 6% of diesel demand. Meanwhile, global population growth and increasingly affluent societies will increase demand for corn and soybeans for food.
The authors showed that the environmental impacts of the two biofuels also differ. Soybean biodiesel produces 41% less greenhouse gas emissions than diesel fuel whereas corn grain ethanol produces 12% less greenhouse gas emissions than gasoline.
Soybeans have another environmental advantage over corn because they require much less nitrogen fertilizer and pesticides, which get into groundwater, streams, rivers and oceans. These agricultural chemicals pollute drinking water, and nitrogen decreases biodiversity in global ecosystems. Nitrogen fertilizer, mainly from corn, causes the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico."
It's great to see feasibility projections for biofuels being done and hopefully taken seriously. We need to be able to predict how these models fit into our current and future energy use to see where we need to expand our possible solutions and learn where we need to focus our efforts.