A new study published in Environmental Science and Technology suggests that the use of carbon capture at ethanol plants actually results in more net CO2 emissions.
Furthermore, the study, which was authored by Marc Z. Jacobson, points towards other potential issues with the use of this climate technology, namely increased air pollution, land use and consumer costs.
The study addresses the matter of replacing gasoline vehicles with flex-fuel vehicles (FFVs) that run on ethanol-gasoline blends, which are produced with the help of carbon capture systems.
It compares the production of such fuel blends with the use of battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) powered by renewable energy sources (i.e., wind and solar) in a case study.
The study assesses the proposal of Summit Carbon Solutions to build a carbon capture pipeline connecting 34 ethanol refineries in 5 midwest states that is to transport their captured CO2 emissions to underground injection sites for permanent storage.
The findings show that Summit’s project would have a much larger land footprint, would avoid less CO2 emissions, and would likely damage air quality, when compared to building wind farms at the same cost for BEVs.
Furthermore, according to the study, equipping ethanol plants with carbon capture technology will also burden consumers with high fuel costs for years and years to come.
Meanwhile, this wouldn’t be the first stone hurled in the direction of carbon capture pipelines, particularly as it relates to the ethanol industry.
This year has seen major regulatory hurdles for two major pipeline projects, Summit’s included, to the point where one of them, proposed by Navigator CO2, was canceled altogether, and Summit’s was postponed for 2026.