There’s a fascinating article in Biodiesel Magazine which summarizes a recently published study by researchers at St. Olaf College and the University of MN. The joint study, â€œThe Environmental, Economic and Energetic Costs and Benefits of Biodiesel and Ethanol Biofuelsâ€ has many interesting components, including addressing details of the net-energy argument I’ve mentioned in previous posts.
The thesis of the study: “To be a viable substitute for a fossil fuel, an alternative fuel should not only have superior environmental benefits over the fossil fuel it displaces, be economically competitive with it and be producible to make a meaningful impact on energy demands, but it should also provide a net energy gain over the energy sources used to produce it.”
The study concludes that biodiesel is superior to corn-based ethanol according to most criteria, stating that ethanol provides 25% more energy a gallon than is required for its production, while soybean based biodiesel generates 93% more energy. The production and consumption of biodiesel reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 41% compared to fossil fuels, while ethanol reduces emissions by 12%. The production of biodiesel is also much less likely to compromise food production.
The abstract of the study can be seen here.