In order to find the carbon footprint of ethanol, you need to trace its production and use from start to finish. This makes ethanol much harder to pinpoint in terms of carbon footprint than most fuels and materials. While ethanol may burn cleaner than gasoline, the problem of land use is where people get stuck in calculating the carbon footprint. On one hand, it’ll look great if land that was already slated for growing crop–but isn’t productive–is used to cultivate corn or sugar beets for ethanol. But if more trees are chopped down and non-farmland is cleared to grow ethanol and sugar beets; or if land that would be otherwise used to cultivate food for human consumption (thus increasing outsourcing of food production and carbon emissions) then the carbon footprint will be calculated as being much higher.
It’s a tricky question, one that we definitely don’t have an answer to yet.
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