Study: Ethanol use in Michigan reduces pollution by reducing GHGs

By Michigan Corn Growers Association | November 18, 2014

A new study released by Michigan State University researchers Bruce Dale and Seungdo Kim shows ethanol use by Michigan drivers and boaters reduces pollution by cutting down on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Use of clean-burning, Michigan-made ethanol has prevented nearly 1.4 million metric tons (MMT) of carbon dioxide (CO2) from entering our atmosphere annually – the equivalent of eliminating emissions from 294,000 cars every year in our state.

“The results of our study clearly show ethanol use in Michigan reduces pollution by reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” said Dale, lead researcher on the study and a university distinguished professor at Michigan State University AgBioResearch. “Our study quantifies the impact of ethanol use in transportation fuel, including for vehicles and boating use, and conclusively shows that ethanol use reduces GHG emissions in our state.”

Key findings of the study include:

- Ethanol use in Michigan has ramped up in recent years, both among drivers and boat users, from 276 million gallons of ethanol blended into fuels in 2007, to 452 million gallons blended in 2012.

- As ethanol use increased, so did the reduction in pollution. In 2007, ethanol use achieved 845,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions reduction. In 2012, ethanol use prevented more than 1.4 MMT of CO2 from entering our air.

In addition, according to the U.S. EPA’s greenhouse gas equivalencies calculator, 1.4 MMT of CO2 taken out of the atmosphere is equivalent to eliminating the emissions of 294,000 cars, or about 3.3 billion fewer car miles driven every year.

“Ethanol is a cleaner alternative to dirty oil, promoting a healthier environment for Michigan’s families and a stronger future for our state,” said Jim Zook, executive director of the Michigan Corn Growers Association. “In addition to protecting families’ health, Michigan-made ethanol is creating and maintaining good jobs across rural Michigan, and bringing down the price of fuel at the pump for Michigan families.”

The study comes as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency examines blending standards provided under the renewable fuel standard (RFS), a pro-ethanol federal policy that has helped expand clean-burning ethanol use in Michigan.

Industry representatives highlighted the study as one more reason why the Obama administration and policymakers in Washington should maintain a strong RFS into the future.

“We’re proud to be part of an industry that is helping reduce America’s risky reliance on foreign oil while providing economic opportunity and good jobs in rural Michigan,” said Vincent Brennan, vice president of Marysville Ethanol LLC. “We’re also proud that ethanol is helping to promote healthier air quality for Michigan families.”