Home 5 Ag Stories How can ethanol fit into lofty 2050 emissions goals?

How can ethanol fit into lofty 2050 emissions goals?

Cellulosic ethanol plant in Nevada, Iowa. Photo courtesy of DuPont.

It has been no secret that since the Obama Administration, there have been more efforts to combat the question and effects of climate change. There have been pushes made to curb the amount of carbon emissions in our modes of transportation and commit to more electric and clear burning fuel sources. The incoming Biden Administration is committed to a plan to have us get to a net-zero carbon emission status by the year 2050. However, opponents and skeptics say that while the idea of electrical-based vehicles and equipment is noble, the fact is that we still rely very heavily on fossil fuels like coal and oil to drive the generation of electricity.

What if agriculture held the key to unlocking the answers to this conundrum? One group says that we do.

Iowa is the leader in Ethanol production in the United States. It is a heavy contributor to our economy in this state. After dismal years of markets, loss of production, and COVID-based dips in demand, the industry really reeled when more companies signed on to go to electric fleets over the next thirty years. Each plan varies as much as the individual company. However, with a loss in demand of petroleum-based fuels, the demand for the fuel product we grow in our fields would take another hit. Ethanol has been the largest support pillar in the grain markets for several years now. It is keeping our domestic demand high, while we see more countries importing ethanol from the U.S. or wanting our corn to produce their own.

Where does Ethanol fit into an electric future?

Renewable Fuels Association President & CEO Geoff Cooper is optimistic that clean-burning ethanol can still play a huge part in the green future that many companies are seeking to achieve. Cooper says that ethanol is that golden ticket to solving the problem of using cleaner-burning fuels to generate electricity.

This is not just a pipe dream by the industry to foster good feelings among producers and stakeholders. Cooper says there are companies already taking a serious look at this possibility. General Electric is just one of them.

Cooper says that at present we don’t have enough cobalt, lithium, or recharging stations to make Biden’s goal of halving the amount of gas-powered vehicles by 2025. However, ethanol and biodiesel can be integral in reducing carbon emissions in the interim. He says by investing heavily in the biofuels sector during this transition, we can make the 2050 goals easier to achieve by integrating more biofuels-based technology.

Cooper cites the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in cities where higher blends have been made more available and implemented into city-fleets. The more E-15 to E-85 we add to distribution, the lower we can make those emissions in the short-term.