New Study Shows Greenhouse Gas Emissions From Foreign Oil are Double Previous Estimates

Washington – A new study shows that the greenhouse gas emissions of gasoline from foreign oil are at least twice what was previously thought when the indirect greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions related to military operations in the Middle East are taken into account. Published in the academic journal, “Biofuels, Bioproducts & Biorefining,” the study provides yet another compelling reason for the United States to embrace ethanol as the only alternative to foreign oil. To see the full study, click here.


The study comes as indirect GHG emissions has been made a major issue by the California Air Resources Board (ARB) as it prepares to approve regulations for its Low Carbon Fuel Standard. In a CARB staff report submitted to the board for adoption, biofuels are the only fuel that has indirect effects included in their carbon accounting. Despite this new study, no indirect effects are included for petroleum-based fuels. Critics of California’s regulations have argued that applying an indirect penalty to biofuels is unfair as it sets different standards for determining a fuel’s carbon intensity. California currently imports more than 45 percent of its oil from foreign sources.


“This research is the latest example of significant indirect sources of greenhouse gas emissions that the ARB has either overlooked or ignored. It is incomprehensible that ARB staff would suggest penalizing biofuels for indirect effects, when it is clear gasoline – ethanol’s primary competitor – has a whole host of indirect effects that have not been accounted for,” said Tom Buis, CEO of Growth Energy. “In light of this important research, ARB has to delay the adoption of an indirect penalty for biofuels until the indirect effects of all other fuel pathways have been determined so that the Low Carbon Fuel Standard is fair and equitable.”


In the report, the researchers Adam Liska and Richard Perrin of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln write, “If 10% of total U.S. GHG emissions were due to the military, and if only 26% of those operations were for protection of oil supplies (assuming no expenditures for the Iraq war), total indirect military emissions would equal 187 TgCO2e yr-1. These indirect military emissions would add 98 gCo2e MJ-1 to gasoline produced from Middle Eastern petroleum and raise the GHG intensity of gasoline from this source by roughly two-fold.”


As compelling as this research is, it covers only one source of indirect carbon emissions from the use of petroleum. Other indirect effects such as deforestation enabled by road building and the use of refinery co-products were not quantified and could increase gasoline’s carbon intensity even further.





About Growth Energy

Growth Energy is a group committed to the promise of agriculture and growing America’s economy through cleaner, greener energy. Growth Energy members recognize America needs a new ethanol approach. Through smart policy reform and a proactive grassroots campaign, Growth Energy promotes reducing greenhouse gas emissions, expanding the use of ethanol in gasoline, decreasing our dependence on foreign oil, and creating American jobs at home. More information can be found at