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Corn for Ethanol Carbon Releases May Offset Gains

26 April 2010

US - Carbon releases from soil after planting corn for ethanol may in some cases completely offset carbon gains attributed to biofuels for at least 50 years, a new study by Duke University finds.

In addition, the study found that carbon sequestered by setting aside former agricultural land through programs such as the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) was greater than the carbon credits generated by planting corn for ethanol on the same land for 40 years and had equal or greater economic net present value, according to a report by the American Meat Institute.

The study evaluated the effectiveness and economic value of corn and cellulosic ethanol production for reducing net GHG emissions when produced on lands with different land-use histories, comparing these strategies with reductions achieved by set-aside programs such as the CRP.

“Currently, converting set-asides to corn ethanol production is an inefficient and expensive GHG mitigation policy that should not be encouraged until ethanol production technologies improve,” the researchers conclude.

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