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OSU study questions biofuel cost-effectiveness

January 30, 2007 Greg Bolt, Register Guard

A new analysis by a team of Oregon State University economists concludes that biofuels offer only marginal progress toward energy independence and reduction of greenhouse gases and do so at a much higher cost than other alternatives.

The study found that the “net energy” from biofuels — the amount of energy in the end product after subtracting the amount of energy used to produce and distribute it — is as low as 20 percent for corn-based ethanol. That compares to 75 percent for standard gasoline.

Also, although each of the three types of biofuels studied would help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the reduction would be as much as 200 times more expensive than other options, such as improving gas mileage and other forms of conservation.

Biofuel supporters don’t necessarily dispute the numbers but suggest that the math would change in alternative fuels’ favor by changes in existing production and distribution systems and future improvements in technology. They say the current biofuels market is a necessary first step and that rising consumer demand will help bring about advances that will improve cost effectiveness.

Read more on the story in Wednesday’s Register-Guard.

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