Sunday, February 28, 2010

A Breakdown of Life Cycle Analysis

Here is a more detailed portrait from the EPA of life cycle analysis, a concept that analyzes energy or product investment based on its total cradle-to-grave costs of production (including production of sub-products or materials), refinement, distribution, and consumption.

What is very telling about these charts is the degree to which highly-touted alternative fuels - corn-based ethanol, for example, have been promoted without much regard to whether they are significantly "greener" than conventional petroleum gasoline. This is a great example of how production itself becomes politicized in our society, with various interest groups lobbying federal and state legislatures on behalf of energy sources for which there may be little, if any, environmental benefit. Others argue that any displacement of petroleum gasoline itself is an environmental benefit, regardless of whether using the alternative fuels truly reduces overall greenhouse gas emissions.

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