Life Cycle Profile Shows U.S. Soy Delivers Environmental & Energy Benefits

Greenhouse Gases Reduction is Equivalent of Taking 21 Million Cars Off the Road

The United Soybean Board (USB) released a new peer-reviewed life cycle profile in 2010 that documents multiple energy and environmental benefits of U.S. soybean farming and processing. It confirms why manufacturers are increasingly using U.S. soy in green chemistry for a wide array of biobased products.

Renewable by nature, U.S. soy is used as an ingredient in a diverse group of biobased products. They range from biodiesel that fuels vehicles to the resins that go into the exterior panels of cars and farm machinery, to spray foam insulation for buildings, to lubricants for many uses.

Read the full news release.



Key Findings on Soybean Production and Processing

  • Significant greenhouse gas reductions are identified through soybean production. As soybeans grow, they remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. The 3.36 billion bushels of soybeans in the United States in 2009 removed the carbon equivalent to taking 21 million cars off the road when the figures are computed using the Environmental Protection Agency’s Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies Calculator.
  • Soybean yields are on the rise. The average soybean yield for 2004-2007 was 42.3 bushels per acre. This represents a 12 percent increase over the data (1998-2000 average) used in the current U.S. LCI database. This is consistent with other analysis that found plant breeders have succeeded in increasing the yield potential of soybeans by an average of 0.41 bushels/acre per year for the past 35 years. Meanwhile, plant breeding companies anticipate new soybean varieties will allow farmers to increase soybean yields by 40 percent in the next decade.
  • The calculated release of nitrous oxide (N2O), a greenhouse gas, is 85% less than the data contained in the current U.S. LCI Database due to a corrected emission factor issued by the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2006.
  • The updated data show approximately 20% less direct energy used in soybean farming due to reduced diesel and gasoline usage.
  • Soybean processing facilities reduced their energy consumption by 45% compared to 1998 data.

Also, as part of the study, a life cycle impact assessment (LCIA) was completed for each of the four soy-derived feedstocks using the updated LCI information. These LCIAs show the soybased feedstocks each significantly reduced greenhouse gas emissions compared to their petroleum-based counterparts. In addition, all four of the soy-derived feedstocks had lower fossil fuel depletion impacts than their petroleum based counterparts.

The study provides an important resource for companies to update life cycle assessments on their specific products made using U.S. soy. 

Read the full Soy Life Cycle Profile Report

Additional Resources:

Read the Soy Life Cycle White Paper.

Read the Soy Life Cycle Presentation.

Audio of February 2, 2010, LCA Webinar may be found here.  (mp3)  Play this audio file in conjunction with viewing the Soy Life Cycle Presentation file above.