Press Release

SRI Consulting Publishes Carbon Footprint of Biofuels & Petrofuels Report

Sometimes Farmers Should Plant Forests Rather Than Crops for Biofuels

MENLO PARK, CA. October 9, 2007 — Should motorists concerned about global warming fill their next tank with biodiesel, petrodiesel, gasoline, or ethanol? The best choice could be any of the four, concludes a comprehensive study just published by independent analysts at SRI Consulting (SRIC).  The new Carbon Footprint of Biofuels & Petrofuels report compares the carbon footprints of major biofuels, biodiesel and bioethanol, against those of 'petrofuels' diesel and gasoline.

Russell Heinen, Vice-President at SRIC, explains “Carbon footprints of biofuels depend to some extent on crop yields and cultivation emissions, but by far the most significant factor is land use. What could the land be used for and how much carbon would it store if it were not used to grow biofuel crops?”

Recent studies by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), California Energy Commission, and the journal Science have pointed out the importance of land use, but this study from SRIC is the first to calculate the specific impact of land use on specific fuel choices.

SRIC’s Carbon Footprint of Biofuels & Petrofuels report points out that land use is so critical that – at least from a global warming viewpoint – northern European farmers should plant trees and burn petrodiesel rather than plant rapeseed for biodiesel.  Greenhouse gas emissions are reduced more by converting a Malaysian rain forest into a palm oil plantation for biodiesel than by filling tanks with petrodiesel.  Yet, it is better to fuel with gasoline and to preserve the Brazilian rain forest than to knock it down to grow sugarcane for bioethanol.

Michael Arné, Assistant Director at SRIC’s Greenhouse Gases initiative commented “Generally speaking, where a crop is grown plays a more important role in the biofuel/petrofuel footprint than what type of crop is grown.  On northern European land, growing a forest and burning petrodiesel is clearly the better choice.  But if rapeseed were grown on former prairie land in the Midwest United States normally devoted to corn and soybeans, the ‘clear choice’ becomes a tie.  The footprint is about the same whether rapeseed biodiesel or petrodiesel is chosen for this area.”

This huge difference for the same crop, yet two alternative land uses, is due to the difference in land carbon capacity.  A forest can store tremendously more carbon than can a prairie.

Eric Johnson, author of the report commented “Energy, agricultural and automotive companies, as well as governments, need to know about this study.”  Mr. Johnson continues “It has major implications for policy and for business strategies where carbon footprints are becoming more important every day.”

The study compares the carbon footprints, measured in kg CO2 equivalent per 100 km driven, of petrodiesel versus biodiesel made from rapeseed, soybeans, tallow and used cooking oil (known as yellow grease).  It also compares gasoline against bioethanol made from sugarcane, corn (maize), and biomass stover (stalks, leaves and cobs) left over from corn harvesting.  The study also examines ‘hydrotreater’ biodiesel and natural gas−derived Fischer-Tropsch diesel.

For additional information about the Carbon Footprint of Biofuels & Petrofuels report, please contact Russell Heinen at or +1 281 203 6285, or visit the website at for SRIC’s reports on greenhouse gases.

About SRI Consulting (SRIC)

SRI Consulting is the world’s leading business research service for the global chemical industry. Publishing for almost 60 years, SRI Consulting is the preeminent source for in-depth business and process analysis.  This report was developed by the Greenhouse Gases Program group, providing comprehensive and current information on greenhouse gas emissions. SRI Consulting's headquarters are located in Menlo Park, California with offices in The Woodlands, Texas; Zürich, Switzerland; Tokyo, Japan; and Beijing, China.  SRI Consulting is a division of Access Intelligence, LLC. Additional information is available at

SRI Consulting (SRIC) is a trade name and a registered trademark of SRI International, used under license.


Susan Wright
Press Relations
SRI Consulting (SRIC)
Tel: +1 650 384 4348
Fax: +1 650 330 1190

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