If the goal is to reduce our carbon footprint, it’s a necessity to significantly increase the use of renewable fuels, especially ethanol, in the next five to ten years.
Taking Ontario as an example, the government of the province in Canada’s southeast proposed not too long ago that ethanol requirements in gasoline blends should be strengthened. The Clean Economy Alliance, a group of more than 100 organizations representing the people of Ontario that have united to address the crucial issues of climate change, supports the idea of new, increased renewable fuel standards. Above that, the alliance promotes the support of innovation in high-blend biofuel produced from waste.
But there are also voices of criticism that argue against the further development of renewable fuels and ethanol in particular. These antagonists claim that ethanol is not a sustainable energy source due to its “lack of effectiveness”. And there are other renewable fuel myths that keep coming up, that we would like to address today.
Renewable Fuel Myth 1: Ethanol Produced From Corn Causes An Increase Of Food Prices
Myth 1 says that if the amount of ethanol produced from corn increases, food prices will go up, since there’s not enough corn available for both ethanol production as well as the food industry and agriculture. This conclusion makes a lot of sense at first. However, it you take in the bigger picture, you will soon recognize that with advancing technologies, producers of renewable fuels including ethanol rely less and less on feedstock. In the next decade or so, the United States will be able to produce more than 500 million tons of biomass energy per year without running short of corn. Furthermore, the biggest contributors to higher food costs are high oil prices as well as transportation costs.
In addition to that, a wider variety of source materials for renewable fuels can already be harnessed today. This includes corn stalks, wood waste, algae and many others. These raw materials might not have been adopted in many different industries yet, nevertheless, their use continues to grow substantially. One of the reasons for this growth is that private and public investors have identified the enormous potential.
Renewable Fuel Myth 2: The Energy Balance Of Ethanol Is Negative
In the past years, many scientists claimed that the production of ethanol demands more energy than ethanol itself later provides. This really depends on each individual case. Generally speaking, ethanol has a positive energy balance, as studies have show. But we also have to take into account the improving efficiency of ethanol production, which increased by about 50% in the last decade or so. This mainly has to do with improved extraction mechanisms. On top of that, increased use of renewable fuels in general helps to reduce carbon emissions in the transport sector.
Renewable Fuel Myth 3: Gasoline Blended With Ethanol (E15) Results In Lower Fuel Economy For Automobiles
Fuel economy is a double-edged sword. Yes, many automobiles will see lower fuel economy with fuel blends, however, technological development could easily compensate the reduction effect, if enough resources were invested into the research that is much needed. Also, making the right modifications with commercial automobiles has shown that it’s possible to even increase fuel efficiency with relatively high ethanol blends.
In the case of E15 ethanol, it’s a fuel or rather gasoline blend that is currently being used in NASCAR Racing proving it’s efficiency. E15 is also the most-tested fuel of any other additive in history and burns a lot cleaner than gasoline.
Renewable Fuel Myth 4: Blending Ethanol With Commercial Fuels Is Not Cost Effective For Producers
The prices of carbon under current trade and tax programs in Canada are much too low, which is why fuel producers don’t want to blend it in. An increase in prices would accelerate the blending adoption and lead to a faster carbon reduction development in the industry. Ethanol blending itself is not the problem here. The real cause of the issue are the cap-and-trade programs. The only viable solution would be to introduce nationwide standards for renewable fuels.
Innovation Drives Change
It seems that necessity is not always the mother of change and innovation. Ethanol blended fuels, especially E15, are the most important tools that we possess, that will help us to reduce our carbon footprint in future. The adoption of renewable fuels, though, has turned out to be more complicated than anticipated. For this, it’s all the more important for us to continue the promotion of renewable fuels in the coming years.