New Stover Study is Deeply Flawed and Out of Step with Current Science

April 21, 2014

New Stover Study is Deeply Flawed and Out of Step with Current Science

(April 21, 2014) WASHINGTON — A new study published in Nature Climate Change that argues biofuels from corn residue (stover) may be worse for the climate than gasoline is deeply flawed and contradictory to current science. It shows a complete lack of understanding of current farming practices.

Commenting on the study, Bob Dinneen, President and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), said, “The study’s methodology is fundamentally flawed and its conclusions are highly suspect. The results are based on sweeping generalizations, questionable assumptions, and an opaque methodology. The authors offer no robust explanation for why their findings contradict other recent, highly regarded research. Ultimately, this paper should be seen for what it truly is – a modeling exercise of a hypothetical scenario that bears no resemblance to the real world.”

Dinneen goes on to highlight several key areas of contention with the Liska et al study. “Stover removal rates are currently in the 10-25% range, which well documented research demonstrates is sufficient to replenish soil. But this study assumes 60-70% stover removal, a level that nobody believes is sustainable.”

“This study lacks sophistication and contradicts without explanation a larger highly–regarded, credible body of science. Other recent studies have examined the carbon impacts of using corn residue for bioenergy. For instance, an analysis conducted by the University of Illinois and Argonne National Laboratory showed 30% residue removal resulted in no additional direct or indirect carbon emissions. Furthermore, it showed certain levels of corn stover can be removed without decreasing SOC. Initial results from research at South Dakota State University showed that SOC levels remained constant from 2008-2012 in a harvest system with relatively high residue removal rates.”

Dinneen concluded, “Last week there was a study suggesting the carbon impact of fracking may be 1,000 times greater than previously thought. Curiously, that report was largely ignored by the media. Folks need to stop manufacturing scenarios to make biofuels look bad, and begin focusing on the true carbon menace – oil.”

More detailed information on RFA’s points of contention with this study can be found here.