Correcting the Facts in a Flawed Study

Yesterday, the University of Wisconsin-Madison released a study sponsored by biofuel critics that repackages the same false conclusions based on the same flawed data that serious scientists have rejected time and again. It flies in the face of clear federal data demonstrating dramatic carbon benefits from biofuels, which is why these pro-oil reports are great for grabbing headlines but don’t hold up to scrutiny.

The Wisconsin study asserts that carbon emission reductions from biofuels are offset by carbon emissions from clearing new farmland. However, this study misses the mark by disregarding the solid fact that America’s farmers are now producing more food and energy than ever before, and they are doing it on less cropland than was under cultivation in the 1930s. Innovation is accelerating as farmers and biofuel producers adopt increasingly efficient technologies to raise yields and reduce energy consumption. Land use has fallen, while production breaks records year after year. As a result, study after study has reached the same irrefutable conclusion. Biofuels like ethanol don’t just compare favorably to petroleum, they offer an immediate alternative that is ready to supplant a massive share of fossil fuels.

In fact, the U.S. Department of Agriculture issued a report this year demonstrating that corn-based ethanol is not only a low-carbon alternative to gasoline, its carbon intensity is falling fast as biofuel facilities adopt new technologies and farmers improve nitrogen management and make better use of cover crops. These conclusions reflect the broad consensus among academic and federal research at places like the University of Illinois at Chicago and the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory. Find more information in our fact sheet on ethanol and the environment.