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Corn-based ethanol biofuel is less eco-friendly than petrol

A study from the US suggests mixing corn-based ethanol into petrol to make biofuel may not be as environmentally friendly as previously thought

Biofuel corn-based

The familiar practice of mixing corn-based ethanol biofuel into petrol may not be as environmentally friendly as using straight petrol, a new study in the US has suggested.

Research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences says that corn-based ethanol “is not a climate-friendly fuel”. In fact, the study suggests it’s 24 per cent more carbon-intensive than petrol as a result of the change in land use required to grow corn to make the ethanol, in addition to the processing and combustion involved.

The study contradicts previous research from the US Department of Agriculture. Geoff Cooper, president and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association in the US, branded the research “completely fictional and erroneous”, claiming it cited “worst-case assumptions” and “cherry-picked data”, Autoblog reported.

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American oil refiners have been required by law since 2005 to mix 15billion gallons (68billion litres) of corn-based ethanol into US petrol each year.

In the UK, E10 petrol - which contains 10 per cent ethanol - replaced E5 petrol (five per cent ethanol) as the standard form of unleaded in September 2021. This, the Government claimed, would reduce CO2 emissions by 750,000 tonnes per year - equivalent to taking 350,000 petrol-powered cars off the road.

Whereas in the US ethanol for petrol is derived from corn, in the UK it comes from materials such as low-grade grains, sugars and waste wood.

Now visit our sustainability hub page for more on environmentally friendly motoring... 

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