Biofuels, including plant-based ethanol, are critical tools for decarbonizing America’s existing transportation fleet, replacing toxic pollutants in gasoline, and supporting family farms and job to strengthen economies in rural America. With many states and localities increasingly exploring public policy options to combat climate change, the use of biofuels can immediately lower greenhouse gas emissions, reduce harmful air toxics, and provide affordable solutions to consumers and lawmakers alike.  

Growth Energy continues to support:

  • Promote new uses for biofuels, including sustainable fuel for aviation, marine, and heavy-duty applications
  • Enact new and expand existing incentives to encourage ethanol producers to further reduce their carbon footprint through carbon capture, utilization, and storage, as well as innovation in biotechnology and sustainable agriculture
  • Break down trade barriers to low-carbon ethanol in markets like Brazil, India, and China
  • Utilize opportunities to decarbonize our nation’s transportation sector through the use of high octane, low-carbon fuels

Ethanol Improves the Environment 

Biofuels like ethanol significantly reduce GHGs today and will play a key role in achieving decarbonization in the transportation sector in the future. At the same time, biofuel producers are encouraging more sustainable farming practices to find further GHG reductions in the agriculture sector and meet growing demand for renewable products. 

  • Today, ethanol reduces GHG emissions by up to 46% compared to gasoline. Research by USDA found the reduction could reach 71% by 2022 with off-the-shelf technologies and best practices. 
  • Cutting-edge cellulosic ethanol technology is already in use today and being developed to a larger scale. Cellulosic technologies can reduce GHG emissions by 100% or more, providing options for negative-emission liquid fuels. 
  • Since 2010, biofuels like ethanol are responsible for cumulative carbon dioxide savings of nearly 600 million metric tons in the U.S., or the equivalent of removing 130 million cars from the road, roughly half our nation’s vehicle fleet.
  • Moving to E15 would reduce CO2 emissions by another 17.62 million tons, the equivalent of taking 3.85 million cars off the road. 

Ethanol Decarbonizes Transportation 

In 2018, the transportation sector accounted for 28% of U.S. emissions, the leading source of all emissions in the United States. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, light-duty vehicles compromise nearly 55% of total transportation emissions, meaning an increased level of low-carbon ethanol blends will immediately help reduce a major factor in U.S. emissions. 

Ethanol can play a major role in supplying the fledgling sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) industry, which reduces aviation carbon emissions. In order to meet this challenge, we need to have a strong a vibrant ethanol industry today, and we must ensure that the life cycle assessment (LCA) we use has the most up-to-date science available. Read more in our fact sheet here.

Ethanol Improves Air Quality 

In addition to reducing carbon pollution, biofuels like ethanol improve air quality by reducing other types of pollution caused by gasoline. Studies have found that, when added to gasoline, ethanol reduces emissions of ultra-fine particulates found in smog and toxic emissions at the tailpipe. Moreover, the higher the ethanol blend, the greater the health benefits. This fact is particularly important as we work to improve air quality in our cities and at-risk communities. 

  • According to the American Lung Association, ultra-fine particulates increase the risk of heart disease, lung cancer, and asthma attacks. They wreak havoc on our health and contribute to early deaths.
  • The University of California- Riverside demonstrates that ethanol blends reduce toxic emissions by up to 50%, including ultra-fine particulates. 
  • Harvard University illustrated air pollution’s impact on human health, including heightened risk from COVID-19 among vulnerable populations.
  • The University of Illinois at Chicago found in their study that substituting ethanol into gasoline fleets in five global cities presents significant savings in several different types of toxic emissions. E10 cut toxic emissions by 15.8% and E15 by 31.6%.

Ethanol Continues to Improve its Carbon Intensity Score 

Since 2011, California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) program has relied heavily on biofuels to achieve meaningful greenhouse gas reductions. We have ten years of hard data to analyze the continued improvements in ethanol’s environmental performance and efficiency. Data from the California Air Resources Board (CARB) shows that the carbon intensity (CI) for ethanol has dropped dramatically, even as the carbon intensity of gasoline has increased: 

While gasoline’s CI increased from 95.9 g CO2e/MJ (grams of carbon dioxide equivalent per megajoule) to 100.9, ethanol made significant CI improvements from 88.5 to 59.3. With proper incentives and carbon credit allotments, this metric continues to demonstrate ongoing progress by the nation’s farmers and ethanol producers. 

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