John DeCicco's biofuels research sparks national conversation

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Energy Institute Research Professor John DeCicco’s newly published research in Climatic Change, “Carbon balance effects of U.S. biofuel production and use,” has been covered and discussed in media around the country during the past two weeks. Check out a selection of articles below. 

Biofuels worse for climate change than gasoline, U-M study says

Detroit Free Press

The multi-billion-dollar U.S. biofuels industry — promoted and expanded for more than a decade by the federal government — may be built on a false assumption, according to a University of Michigan study published Thursday that is sure to stir all sides in the contentious debate over the industry.

Despite their purported advantages, biofuels — created from crops such as corn or soybeans — cause more emissions of climate change-causing carbon dioxide than gasoline, according to the study from U-M Energy Institute research professor John DeCicco.

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Biofuels aren’t nearly as green as you thought

Co.Exist

Biofuels might not be as clean as you thought, and they certainly aren’t carbon-neutral. The common thinking goes that crops used to make ethanol and biodiesel suck CO2 out of the air and turn it into a gas substitute. Then, when you fill up your car and take it for a spin, all you’re doing is releasing that carbon back into the atmosphere, not generating new emissions.

But for many years, environmentalists and academics have said that biofuels, depending on how they are cultivated and processed, could still lead to plenty of emissions and other environmental impacts. Now new research out of the University of Michigan shows how bad it is: In fact, biofuels might actually be worse, carbon-wise, than fossil fuels, it says.

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Now is the right time to talk about ethanol. Really.

Chicago Tribune

A new study from the University of Michigan confirms what pretty much everyone knew all along. Researchers found that biofuels actually create more greenhouse gases than simply using petroleum, because plants only absorb a fraction of the carbon dioxide released by burning the fuels in the first place. Moreover, ethanol production and distribution is energy-intensive, throwing off even more greenhouse gases.

“When you look at what's actually happening on the land, you find that not enough carbon is being removed from the atmosphere to balance what's coming out of the tailpipe,” University of Michigan professor John DeCicco said. “When it comes to the emissions that cause global warming, it turns out that biofuels are worse than gasoline.”

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Study finds biofuels worse for climate than gasoline

Climate Central

Years of number crunching that had seemed to corroborate the climate benefits of American biofuels were starkly challenged in a science journal on Thursday, with a team of scientists using a new approach to conclude that the climate would be better off without them.

Based largely on comparisons of tailpipe pollution and crop growth linked to biofuels, University of Michigan Energy Institute scientists estimated that powering an American vehicle with ethanol made from corn would have caused more carbon pollution than using gasoline during the eight years studied.

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Do biofuels harm the planet more than gasoline?

Christian Science Monitor

Corn ethanol and biodiesel biofuels may be more environmentally damaging than petroleum gasoline, according to a new study from the University of Michigan Energy Institute (UMEI),

The surprising finding comes after the research team, led by UMEI researcher John DeCicco, analyzed the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) absorbed as the crops grow and then released when they are burned as biofuel. They calculated that the aggregate US crop yield can remove only 37 percent of the CO2 that burning biofuel releases into the air.

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Study: Ethanol worse for the environment than gasoline

Breitbart 

University of Michigan’s Energy Institute research professor John DeCicco, Ph.D., believes that rising carbon dioxide emissions cause global warming and, therefore, humans must find a way to reduce its levels in the atmosphere. But ethanol is the wrong solution.

According to his just-released study, political support for biofuels, particularly ethanol, exacerbates the problem instead of curing it.

DeCicco and his co-authors assert: “Contrary to popular belief, the heat-trapping carbon dioxide gas emitted when biofuels are burned is not fully balanced by the CO2 uptake that occurs as the plants grow.” The presumption that biofuels emit significantly fewer greenhouse gases (GHG) than gasoline does is, according to DeCicco: “misguided.”

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Referenced Faculty: 
Research Professor John DeCicco