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Biofuels: an effective and ready climate change fighter

pumping ethanol fuel into car

Electric vehicles are today’s darlings as our country works to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to fight climate change. The stock price of electric car maker Tesla is soaring. Mega automaker GM recently announced it will sell only electric vehicles (EVs) by 2035. And under President Joe Biden’s recent executive order, the federal government will push for electrics in its huge vehicle fleet.

Interesting trends. But there are some big problems with a strategy that relies solely on EVs to reduce GHG emissions from the transportation sector. First, there are very few electric car models on the market today and most of those are unaffordable to the average American. Second, the infrastructure of charging stations that’s required to power those electric vehicles is rudimentary, at best.

Those facts just about guarantee that it will require years, maybe decades, for electric cars to make much of a dent in GHG emissions.

But there’s a great solution out there already: using more renewable, clean-burning biofuels.

Ethanol, which is primarily made by grinding and processing corn, has long been a champ at reducing GHG emissions. New research shows the fuel blend is getting even better.

The latest study, conducted by scientists at Harvard and other universities and released in January, showed GHG emissions from corn ethanol are 46% lower than those from gasoline. In addition, the study found that some corn ethanol, depending on how it’s made, can achieve up to a 61% reduction in GHG emissions when compared to gasoline.

Those numbers are great and even better than those in a groundbreaking U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) study from a couple of years ago. That study showed that GHG emissions from ethanol were up to 43% lower than gasoline. Add all these numbers up and it’s clear that corn-based ethanol, and especially higher blends of biofuels, are the best way to immediately reduce GHG emissions in passenger cars.

For big trucks and other vehicles powered by diesel fuel, biodiesel is the clear answer. Made from soybean oil, used cooking oils and other sources, it can be added to regular diesel fuel to significantly reduce GHG emissions, while also cutting the output of pollutants such as particulates, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, hydrocarbons and air toxics.

The great thing: we don’t have to wait around to reap the environmental benefits of biofuels.

Clean-burning ethanol and biodiesel are already widely adopted all over the United States and around the world. The fuel blends can be used to power nearly every vehicle on the road. And, unlike electric vehicles, they don’t require a whole new fueling infrastructure. Fueling with biofuels only requires a quick trip to your neighborhood gas station or convenience store, not the 30 minutes or more needed to adequately charge an electric vehicle after searching to locate a charging station.

Yes, biofuels like E10 are available right now. They fit perfectly into our existing fueling infrastructure and they are reducing GHG emissions today and will be for decades into the future.

A pretty good deal all around, if you ask me.

By Dirck Steimel. Dirck is Iowa Farm Bureau’s News Service manager and editor of the Iowa Farm Bureau Spokesman.



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