Use of U.S. croplands for biofuels increases greenhouse gases through emissions from land-use change

Timothy Searchinger, Ralph Heimlich, R. A. Houghton, Fengxia Dong, Amani Elobeid, Jacinto Fabiosa, Simla Tokgoz, Dermot Hayes, Tun Hsiang Yu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3697 Scopus citations

Abstract

Most prior studies have found that substituting biofuels for gasoline will reduce greenhouse gases because biofuels sequester carbon through the growth of the feedstock. These analyses have failed to count the carbon emissions that occur as farmers worldwide respond to higher prices and convert forest and grassland to new cropland to replace the grain (or cropland) diverted to biofuels. By using a worldwide agricultural model to estimate emissions from land-use change, we found that corn-based ethanol, instead of producing a 20% savings, nearly doubles greenhouse emissions over 30 years and increases greenhouse gases for 167 years. Biofuels from switchgrass, if grown on U.S. corn lands, increase emissions by 50%. This result raises concerns about large biofuel mandates and highlights the value of using waste products.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1238-1240
Number of pages3
JournalScience
Volume319
Issue number5867
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 29 2008
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General

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