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February 19, 2019   |   Diesel Technology Forum

Policy Insider

Low Hanging Fruit on the Climate Change Tree: Renewable Fuels in Gas and Diesel Engines

As more governors look to California for leadership on climate change, they should look to what’s working in California…and it doesn’t have to do with electric cars, but with use of low-carbon renewable biofuels in internal combustion engines.

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According to @CalEnergy 10x as much C02 has been eliminated since 2011 from the use of biodiesel, renewable diesel fuel and ethanol than from the fleet of about 600,000 all-electric cars.



As more governors look to California for leadership on climate change, they should look to what’s working in California…and it doesn’t have to do with electric cars, but with use of low-carbon renewable biofuels in internal combustion engines.

Newly elected governors are turning to California for climate leadership, through the U.S. Climate Alliance and its growing list of governors that remain committed to abide by the spirit of the Paris Climate Accord. Almost half of all states are now members actively considering initiatives to reign in carbon emissions, mostly from stationary sources like power generation and building energy efficiency, but its transportation sources where California’s experience shows a way ahead.

California’s almost decade-long effort to promote zero-emissions cars and trucks gets all the headlines but the biggest contributor to progress in reducing California’s transportation-related greenhouse gas emission reductions has very little to do with a shift to electric cars and very much to do with internal combustion engines and the fuels they use.

Reducing the carbon content of transportation fuels - gasoline and diesel - has paid off handsomely. Policies California adopted almost a decade ago gradually reduce the carbon content of transportation fuels. This includes efforts to promote all-electric cars and buses but also efforts to use biofuels like biodiesel, renewable diesel fuel and ethanol. According to the California Energy Commission that keeps tabs on the progress of the Low Carbon Fuel Standard, greenhouse gas emission reductions from internal combustion engines, operating on blends of biofuels, have been exponentially more than the cumulative benefits all-electric cars and buses.

CO2 Reductions

According to the California Energy Commission, ten times as much C02 has been eliminated since 2011 from the use of biodiesel, renewable diesel fuel and ethanol than from the fleet of about 600,000 all-electric cars. The benefits of these biofuels show that an “all hands on deck” approach is one that is working for California and can work for other states. All-electric technologies can reduce emissions, and in California they have reduce almost 3 million tons since 2011. Biofuels are also having an enormous benefit as measured by emission reductions.  Policies that exclude benefits of biofuels are leaving millions of greenhouse gas emissions on the table. 

In California, the fastest growing eliminator of transportation sources of greenhouse gas emissions is the use of renewable diesel fuel and biodiesel fuel. Unlike all-electric options, the use of biodiesel and renewable diesel fuel require very little if any additional refueling infrastructure and no modification of engines or vehicles. These fuels can be used in the existing vehicle fleet in blends with petroleum fuel or, in the case of renewable diesel fuel, as a replacement to petroleum fuel. Unlike ethanol, biodiesel fuel and renewable diesel fuel are considered advanced biofuels by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, capable of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50 percent. Across the country there are over 10 million diesel-powered commercial vehicles and these are all prime candidates to operate on low carbon biodiesel and renewable diesel fuel.

In the near future, these benefits are likely to expand even further as more public fleets and private businesses incorporate more of these fuels. These are significant and immediate term benefits that are realized only through the most efficient internal combustion engine technology – the diesel platform.  States looking to demonstrate their sustainability credentials should look to California’s leadership and the millions of tons of carbon emissions that have been eliminated thanks to the use of low carbon liquid fuels like renewable diesel fuel and biodiesel fuel.

 



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Key Contact

Ezra Finkin
Director, Policy
efinkin@dieselforum.org
301-668-7230

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