flawed studies behind policies used to promote biofuels

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flawed studies behind policies used to promote biofuels

Postby Wilberforce » Sun Feb 08, 2015 5:42 pm

Closer look at flawed studies behind policies used to promote 'low-carbon' biofuels

Date:February 5, 2015
Source:University of Michigan

Nearly all of the studies used to promote biofuels as climate-friendly alternatives to petroleum fuels are flawed and need to be redone, according to a University of Michigan researcher who reviewed more than 100 papers published over more than two decades.

Once the erroneous methodology is corrected, the results will likely show that policies used to promote biofuels -- such as the U.S. Renewable Fuel Standard and California's Low-Carbon Fuel Standard -- actually make matters worse when it comes to limiting net emissions of climate-warming carbon dioxide gas.

The main problem with existing studies is that they fail to correctly account for the carbon dioxide absorbed from the atmosphere when corn, soybeans and sugarcane are grown to make biofuels, said John DeCicco, a research professor at U-M's Energy Institute.

"Almost all of the fields used to produce biofuels were already being used to produce crops for food, so there is no significant increase in the amount of carbon dioxide being removed from the atmosphere. Therefore, there's no climate benefit," said DeCicco, the author of an advanced review of the topic in the current issue of Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Energy and Environment.

"The real challenge is to develop ways of removing carbon dioxide at faster rates and larger scales than is accomplished by established agricultural and forestry activities. By focusing more on increasing net carbon dioxide uptake, we can shape more effective climate policies that counterbalance emissions from the combustion of gasoline and other liquid fuels."

In his article, DeCicco examines the four main approaches that have been used to evaluate the carbon dioxide impacts of liquid transportation fuels, both petroleum-based fuels and plant-based biofuels. His prime focus is "carbon footprinting," a type of lifecycle analysis proposed in the late 1980s as a way to evaluate the total emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases associated with the production and use of transportation fuels.

Numerous fuel-related carbon footprinting analyses have been published since that time and have led to widespread disagreement over the results.

Even so, these methods were advocated by environmental groups and were subsequently mandated by Congress as part of the 2007 federal energy bill's provisions to promote biofuels through the U.S. Renewable Fuel Standard. Shortly thereafter, parallel efforts in California led to that state's adoption of its Low-Carbon Fuel Standard based on the carbon footprinting model.

In his analysis, DeCicco shows that these carbon footprint comparisons fail to properly reflect the dynamics of the terrestrial carbon cycle, miscounting carbon dioxide uptake during plant growth. That process occurs on all productive lands, whether or not the land is harvested for biofuel, he said.

"These modeling errors help explain why the results of such studies have remained in dispute for so long," DeCicco said. "The disagreements have been especially sharp when comparing biofuels, such as ethanol and biodiesel, to conventional fuels such as gasoline and diesel derived from petroleum."

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Michigan. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Journal Reference:

John M. DeCicco. The liquid carbon challenge: evolving views on transportation fuels and climate. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Energy and Environment, 2015; 4 (1): 98 DOI: 10.1002/wene.133

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/20 ... 122737.htm

Time to Rethink Misguided Policies That Promote Biofuels to Protect Climate, Experts Say
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/20 ... 122455.htm

Understanding air pollution from biomass burners used for heating
Date:February 4, 2015
Source:American Chemical Society

As many places in the U.S. and Europe increasingly turn to biomass rather than fossil fuels for power and heat, scientists are focusing on what this trend might mean for air quality -- and people's health. One such study on wood-chip burners' particulate emissions, which can cause heart and lung problems, appears in the ACS journal Energy & Fuels. The scientists say the findings could help manufacturers reduce the negative impact of this fuel in the future.

Aki Kortelainen and colleagues note that in Europe, burning wood for heat is one of the biggest sources of fine particulate emissions, contributing about the same amount of these tiny bits of pollution to the air as vehicles on a busy street. All totaled, these emissions -- which have been linked to irregular heartbeats, breathing problems and nonfatal heart attacks -- are associated with 350,000 premature deaths every year across Europe. In the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that a 10 percent reduction in these particles of dust, soot and smoke could save at least 13,000 lives annually. With the rise in wood chip burners, Kortelainen's team wanted to better understand the technology's potential impacts on pollution and health.

The researchers measured fine particulate emissions from a wood-chip burner and found that emissions varied as the fuel went through different stages of combustion. They conclude that emissions can be reduced if burning efficiency can be maintained at a high level. The finding, they say, could help the industry design units that are less polluting and less harmful to people.

The authors acknowledge funding from the Academy of Finland Centre of Excellence program and ERA-NET Bioenergy BioHealth project.

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by American Chemical Society. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Journal Reference:

Aki Kortelainen, Jorma Joutsensaari, Liqing Hao, Jani Leskinen, Petri Tiitta, Antti Jaatinen, Pasi Miettinen, Olli Sippula, Tiina Torvela, Jarkko Tissari, Jorma Jokiniemi, Douglas R. Worsnop, James N. Smith, Ari Laaksonen, Annele Virtanen. Real-Time Chemical Composition Analysis of Particulate Emissions from Woodchip Combustion. Energy & Fuels, 2015; 150130092741005 DOI: 10.1021/ef5019548

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/20 ... 102645.htm
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