LINCOLN, Neb.— Sustainable and renewable. These trendy words have become major factors in consumers’ purchasing patterns including what they are filling up with at the pump.
Ethanol and biodiesel are two sustainable, renewable fuels that are produced right here in the Midwest from corn and soybeans grown right here in Nebraska. But just how sustainable and renewable are these biofuels, and where do they stack up to the petroleum they are displacing in terms of emissions testing?
Greenhouse gas (GHG) emission standards have been a hot topic over the last few years, which is good news for renewable fuels such as ethanol and biodiesel. The ethanol industry is producing fuel that is up to 59% lower is GHG emissions than regular gasoline. While biodiesel reduces lifecycle GHG emissions by up to 86% compared to regular diesel fuel.
Not only are the emissions drastically lowered, the energy balance ratios of both biofuels are leaps and bounds ahead of petroleum. Energy balance ratios deal with how much energy it takes to produce something compared to what is gained. For instance, for every one unit of energy it takes to produce petroleum oil, 0.88 units of energy are created, which creates a negative energy balance. Meanwhile, ethanol creates up to 2.3 units of energy for every unit of input and biodiesel’s energy balance is a whopping 5.5 to 1.
“It’s easy to see that locally produced corn and soybeans have a positive impact on our environment, especially when it comes to using them in your vehicles,” said Ron Pavelka, soybean farmer and district seven director for the Nebraska Soybean Board. “The EPA allows up to a five percent biodiesel blend (B5) to be labeled on the pump as #2 diesel fuel. So lots of consumers are experiencing the benefits without even knowing that they actually are helping our environment by using biodiesel.”
Flex fuel vehicles are abundant for the basic consumer, and can operate on any blend of ethanol and gasoline up to E85. Automotive manufacturers have also recognized the growth in demand for fuel efficient diesel vehicles in the U.S., bringing several new models of cars, SUVs and pickups to the market in recent years. Many of these vehicles are currently available and more will be introduced this fall, including the Chevy Cruze, Jeep Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel, Dodge Ram 1500 EcoDiesel, and a Mazda6 sedan.
Many people are now realizing the clear-cut benefits of using biofuels and are asking for them at the pump. These benefits, like the problems these biofuels help solve, are here, now. With so much uncertainty in today’s world, it’s nice to see that it appears that these renewable fuels have a very sustainable future.