Biofuels are no better for the environment than petroleum-based fuel, says Joe DeCicco, research professor at the University of Michigan Energy Institute. DeCicco authored a new study on the viability of ethanol-producing crops. There is carbon in ethanol, he says, which means that carbon dioxide will still be emitted from the car despite the fuel substitution. Coupled with the emissions from increased crop production to produce the fuel itself, biofuels actually make matters worse, says DeCicco.
“Biofuels are a false solution,” says DeCicco, ”but we need to reduce those emissions.”
There are other options, DeCicco says, such as growing more trees, which pull carbon out of the environment naturally, or electric cars, which do less environmental damage even when adjusted for the effect of power plants. Hydrogen fuel is being explored.
“There’s a lot of energy that goes into growing corn, but then the output that you get isn’t that great,” says Nick Schroeck, Director of the Transnational Environmental Law Clinic and Assistant Clinical Professor at Wayne State University.