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MichBio claims University of Michigan research study is flawed

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Hydrocarbon Engineering,

MichBio, the biosciences industry association in Michigan, has issued the following statement regarding the release of a University of Michigan research study that claims the rising use of biofuels in the US has led to a net increase in carbon dioxide emissions associated with global warming.

Professor DeCicco's most recent, and flawed, study funded by the oil industry gives an inappropriate unearned carbon storage credit to the petroleum industry. The oil industry may have paid for the study, but they do not pay for carbon storage or carbon recycling. The biofuels industry, by comparison, does create an economic incentive to recycle carbon.

Professor DeCicco's modelling gives fossil fuels a credit for carbon storage from existing forests and agriculture. This inclusion is wholly inappropriate in a lifecycle model because there is no economic relationship between the fossil fuel industry and agriculture or forestry. Farmers do not plant crops to soak up carbon emissions from oil use, nor do forest owners preserve forests to store carbon emissions from oil use. DeCicco inappropriately argues that all carbon in the atmosphere is the same, so biofuels are the same as or worse than petroleum fuels. However, biofuels provide a direct economic incentive to farmers and foresters to manage land and recycle carbon. The oil industry creates no such incentive.

Unfortunately, DeCicco simply built a model that gives him the answer he wants. No competent lifecycle assessment assumes that biofuels are carbon neutral, only that the actual carbon content of the fuels came from the atmosphere in the first place and returns to the atmosphere when it is combusted. That much is simple chemistry, and without argument. For the rest of the biofuel lifecycle, the question of carbon neutrality is very much a research question, not a decided issue as DeCicco would have one believe.

The independently funded Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory has demonstrated that conventional biofuels reduce greenhouse gas emissions by an average of 34% over their lifecycle, while advanced biofuels can reduce emissions by 100% or more over conventional gasoline.

“It's unfortunate when scientists conduct research predicated on assumptions that lead to biased results, rather than conducting a truly independent analysis,” said Stephen Rapundalo, PhD, President and CEO, MichBio. “Moreover, the Petroleum Institute’s direct funding of the research calls into question any impartiality on the part of the research team and hence the study’s conclusions.”

In sum, this study is an attempt by the oil industry to smear the biofuels industry and stifle competition in the fuels market. It ignores the benefits of Michigan’s homegrown biofuels industry and, if its conclusions were to be valid, stands to hinder a potential economic driver for Michigan and the US.

MichBio is the trade association committed to driving growth in Michigan's biosciences industry and its many sectors, including agri-biotech, food and nutrition, bio-based technologies and renewable chemicals, industrial and environmental biotech, medical devices and technologies, pharmaceuticals and consumer healthcare, diagnostics and research products, testing and research services, and clinical research. MichBio members include biosciences companies, academic and research institutions, biosciences service providers, and related organisations.

Adapted from press release by Francesca Brindle

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