A Myth-Buster’s Job is Never Done

Despite a wealth of data and decades of science on the benefits of bioethanol, incessant detractors continue to attack the renewable fuel. Fortunately, the facts are on ethanol's side, and we’ll continue to bust the myths and educate elected leaders.
By Emily Skor | June 06, 2022

Despite a wealth of data and decades of science on the benefits of bioethanol, incessant detractors continue to attack renewable energy, circulating false claims based on erroneous assumptions. Of course, this is par for the course in the fossil fuel industry, which has long promoted dismissive and ill-informed attitudes about the farm community’s climate contributions.

That’s why Growth Energy works hard to arm our champions with the facts and showcase why plant-based biofuels remain one of America’s best tools to deliver immediate carbon reductions, cut smog, and even stabilize food prices.

That doesn’t stop opponents from periodically resurrecting the same old false claims, however. In the last year alone, with the fuel savings from bioethanol surging to new heights, our critics have only lashed out harder on other fronts to protect the status quo.

For example, a team led by Tyler Lark has been circulating unfounded claims about biofuels since at least 2015. A few months ago, they returned with the same argument, repackaged in a paper falsely arguing that biofuel production increases acres of farmland, negating the contributions of biofuels to our fight against climate change. In reality, U.S. Department of Agriculture data clearly show that U.S. cropland acreage has fallen—not risen—over the last century, and that trend has continued under the Renewable Fuel Standard.

According to a scathing review by the nation’s top modelers, including those at the Department of Energy’s Argonne National Lab, Lark’s latest study is once again guilty of making “questionable assumptions,” “double-counting” emissions and using "outdated and inaccurate projections” in order to discredit the vast contributions of low-carbon biofuels to our fight against climate change.

Fortunately, researchers at Argonne and the Environmental Protection Agency, and a host of other leaders in the field of emissions modeling, recognize the undeniable climate benefits of bioethanol—a nearly 50 percent carbon advantage when compared to gasoline.

Recently, we also saw the same anti-biofuel playbook used in attacks on E15, with clean energy critics slamming President Biden’s decision to remove restrictions on the sale of E15 this summer. Critics claimed that summer sales of E15 would threaten air quality—despite the indisputable fact that higher bioethanol blends have lower evaporative emissions than traditional blends, while reducing smog and offering cleaner, healthier air for all.

Myths about bioethanol aren’t limited to emissions. For example, critics have tried to present a false choice between affordable food and bioethanol. But steady demand for biofuels enables farmers to invest in making more efficient use of existing cropland, allowing them to supply more food and energy than ever before.

Even in today’s market, global harvests remain strong, and the U.S. is projected to end the year with a corn stockpile of 1.44 billion bushels. The true driver of food prices is the cost of crude oil—a correlation demonstrated by the World Bank and other experts. We saw during COVID what happens when bioethanol plants are shut down—our nation’s livestock sector loses access to critical animal feed. That’s because bioethanol production draws on the starch in each kernel, while the rest becomes distillers grains, high in fat and protein. Far from consuming nutrients, bioethanol plants concentrate them into America’s second-largest source of animal feed.

Again, attacks on bioethanol are nothing new, and we’re sure to see them pop up again. Fortunately, the facts are on our side, and we’ll continue to bust the myths and educate our elected leaders. As EPA Administrator Michael Regan noted recently, expanding the role of biofuels is “a critical strategy to secure a clean, zero-carbon energy future.”

Author: Emily Skor
CEO, Growth Energy
[email protected]