Type of Document Thesis Author Toliver, Tiffany Len URN etd-03212008-145051 Title Environmental Sustainability of Ethanol Production Using the Lifecycle Analysis Method Degree Master of Science Department Civil and Environmental Engineering, Department of Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title Amy Chan-Hilton Committee Member Gang Chen Committee Member Kamal Tawfiq Committee Member Tarek Abichou Committee Member Keywords
- Lifecycle Analysis Method
- Environmental Sustainability
Date of Defense 2008-01-11 Availability unrestricted AbstractEthanol is a controversial source of alternative fuel. In the United States ethanol is produced predominantly from corn and has made headlines as a popular green energy, driven both politically and geographically. Green energy is defined as an energy that has little or no negative environmental impacts. The purpose of this study is to determine if ethanol is really a green energy. This determination can be made by quantifying the greenhouse gas emissions produced by ethanol production using the LCA (Life Cycle Assessment) method of analysis.
Using equivalent units, carbon dioxide emissions can be quantified and compared to other sources of alternative energies. Carbon footprinting is mainly used to understand the impacts humans have individually and as a mass on the environment. It can be computed and expressed as a quantity towards the computation of greenhouse gas contribution. In the case of ethanol, a carbon footprint can be developed by looking at the physical life cycle of a kernel of corn, cane of sugar or bushel of switchgrass.
Comprehensively, the ethanol life cycle can be divided into four main parameters. The first parameter is feedstock, followed by technology, third is capital and the final parameter is off take. While each parameter is singularly important, this study focuses on greenhouse gas emissions.
It was determined that in comparison, corn ethanol greenhouse gas emissions far exceed the greenhouse gas emission of both sugarcane and switchgrass (cellulosic) ethanol for any case. In the case where LCA is carried through distribution and use of ethanol, sugarcane ethanol is the less greenhouse gas emissive. In the case where the LCA stops at ethanol production, switchgrass is the less greenhouse gas emissive.
It is important to note, however, that switchgrass (cellulosic) ethanol is in its infancy as of this writing and data provided is largely projected on the part of the respective researcher.
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