Episode 172: Are biofuels good for the environment?

Fuels

Stephanie Seki, a recent PhD graduate of Carnegie Mellon University’s Engineering and Public Policy Department, discusses whether biofuels are good for the environment.

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Alternative Fuels Data Center by the Department of Energy

EPAct Transportation Regulation Activities by the Department of Energy

Automobile and truck fuel economy (CAFE) and greenhouse gas standards by R. Schnepf & B. D. Yacobucci

Transcript

HOST: Have you ever wondered if biofuels are better than gasoline for the environment? On this week’s Energy Bite, Stephanie Seki, a recent PhD graduate of Carnegie Mellon University, has some answers.

STEPH: Biofuels, ethanol blended with gasoline to be used as an automobile fuel, are made from corn. They typically have lower air pollution emissions than gasoline when used as a transportation fuel. In the future, we may have biofuels that come from sources other than corn like switchgrass, which may have even lower air pollution emissions.

HOST: Sounds good! What are the downsides?

STEPH: Some researchers are concerned that changing the use of land could release some of the carbon dioxide that is stored in plants.  Carbon dioxide is one of the greenhouse gases that causes climate change. Additionally, using land to grow corn for transportation fuel can have other environmental impacts, as it involves fertilizer use, energy and water resources. Finally, some fundamentally question whether or not it is appropriate at all to use corn for fuel when some people lack food.

HOST: Would you be willing to use a biofuel in your car? Take our poll, see the results, and ask your energy questions at Energy Bite dot org.

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