"If we're using ethanol for environmental benefits, for air quality and climate change, we're going down the wrong path, [Jason Hill, University of Minnesota Engineering Professor] said."
Using life-cycle assessment and valuation techniques, Matt Winden and I (along with a couple of engineering colleagues) came to a very similar conclusion:
This study monetizes the environmental damage and human health risk externalities associated with the life-cycle production and use of ethanol biofuels from corn-based and cellulosic feedstocks. An integrated economic-environmental assessment framework couples the measured emission impacts from the fuels with individuals' preferences regarding each fuel's externalities. This framework allows the welfare values associated with gasoline and ethanol's externalities to be derived and compared. The results of the study reveal that the production and consumption of corn starch ethanol produce declines in environmental and health outcomes of $1.23 per gallon relative to gasoline for an 85% blend.