I am struggling to find recent sources on the carbon intensity of corn ethanol. I find many sources from around 2007, but I want something a little more recent (preferably from this decade). This is a difficult topic; land changes, production, transportation, refining, and end use all affect the carbon intensity of ethanol.

What is the carbon intensity of corn ethanol in the United States?

  • I remember reading a Scientific American article some years ago, but I no longer have the magazine. Maybe you can search their site
    – user2451
    Nov 17, 2015 at 7:56

1 Answer 1


Source 1:

This 2014 research report from a company called Life Cycle Associates contains a nice table and graph showing

the volume weighted carbon intensities (g CO2 e/MJ) of U.S. petroleum gasoline and corn ethanol over time based on the historical crude oil and ethanol plant resource mixes and future projections.

Carbon intensity of US petroleum gasoline and corn ethanol

Advancements in corn ethanol in relation to petroleum gasoline GHG emissions

From: Boland. S. and Unnasch. S. (2014) Carbon Intensity of Marginal Petroleum and Corn Ethanol Fuels. Life Cycle Associates Report LCA.6075.83.2014, Prepared for Renewable Fuels Association. (link to PDF)

The researchers also say that

The CI for corn ethanol reflects the most recent estimates of land use conversion from the University of Illinois and Argonne National Laboratory.

However, there is no reference to these estimates, so I'm not sure from which year they are. Based on the table I suspect the most recent used data is from 2012.

Source 2:

I also found one other source, which is this webpage of the U.S. Energy Information Administration, published in March 2011. Their data is based on this document of the California Air Resources Board and on research done by Purdue University and Argonne National Laboratory

Carbon intensity of US petroleum gasoline and corn ethanol

Graph from: https://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.cfm?id=750

  • 2
    "This report was prepared by Life Cycle Associates, LLC for the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA)." The RFA is the nation's largest ethanol lobby. From what I have seen, it looks very well done and even includes land-use change, but people are usually skeptical of sources from the industry itself, no matter how well substantiated the report is. Do you know of any other recent reports?
    – user2433
    Nov 16, 2015 at 13:44
  • @zagadka314 I added a second source, but it is based on older data (2010)
    – THelper
    Nov 17, 2015 at 17:57
  • 1
    I do like this source, it is very well done. I find it to be very reasonable. I also found a 2010 report by the EPA (over 1000 pages): www3.epa.gov/otaq/renewablefuels/420r10006.pdf
    – user2433
    Nov 18, 2015 at 1:19

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.