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Podcast: Biofuels and the Future of Transportation | Episode 22

Business News/Analysis, Opinions, Other Conferences/Events, Podcasts, Policy, Presentations
March 23, 2021

by John Eichberger, Cassie Mullen and Troy Bredenkamp (Fuels Institute/Renewable Fuels Association) While there’s no doubt that electric vehicles will have a progressively larger role in the future of transportation and in reaching the goal of decarbonizing transportation, is it the only solution? Conventional corn and conventional corn-based ethanol production has 46% smaller carbon footprint than conventional gasoline and is able to use today’s infrastructure. What role will biofuels play going forward? We invited friends from the Renewable Fuels Association to provide an update on the biofuels market and to discuss the future role biofuels could play in the future of transportation. 

Troy Bredenkamp:
But we are starting to say the term we are the right fuel right now, because we truly are. We just had a study from researcher from Harvard and Tufts University that said, right now, conventional corn and conventional corn-based ethanol production has 46% smaller carbon footprint than conventional gasoline. That means we’re almost at 50% reduction today. Meaning that if we’re using more and more ethanol in today’s fuel market, using today’s infrastructure, using today’s cars, we could be doing a lot more for the environment.

Troy Bredenkamp:
If the issue truly is decarbonization, we think we’re going to be part of that future for years to come and we could be part of that future right now. That’s what we’re going to be pushing in Washington, DC.

John Eichberger:
That’s one of the things I’ve been saying, Cassie. I mean, even if the most aggressive forecast for electric vehicle adoption comes to fruition, which I think can’t be done without government mandates, and that’s a 60% sale of new light duty vehicles in 2040 would be plugin. That only equates to 27% fleet turnover by then. We’re going to be selling combustion engines and burning liquid fuels for 50 to 60 years to come. What is the best way we can leverage ethanol in the fuel supply to address the carbon intensity that Troy just mentioned?

Cassie Mullen:
… Most people don’t realize that since 2008, the largest majority of dispensers out there are compatible for E25. That’s a really big number, right? That’s from Gilbarco and Wayne.

Cassie Mullen:
That’s not us just happy they said it. That’s their words. Tanks and pipe and all that, yeah, there’s variance but over 30 years people have said this equipment is good to go. Now, I never rest on that. I tell retailers, the thing you need to do is individually assess your site and make all of the necessary changes, all of them. Right now we have a really, really strong infrastructure, and so I think just continue programs with funding and just getting the awareness out there that the compatibility is there right now in large part.

Cassie Mullen:
Well, you spoke to the LCFS and this is a real hot topic right now because we’ve seen just such success in California with it, right? If you look at the amount of stations that increased last year from E85 standpoint, California once again is the opposite of everybody else where they’re growing by leaps and bounds. The LCFS certainly helps that, right? This is a very important topic that we’re having. Our industry is really diving into what does a national LCFS program look like or a broader LCFS program rather.

Cassie Mullen:
They’re looking at other things like naphtha and just different ways that we can just get to a higher level than we are right now.

Troy Bredenkamp:
I think there’s a lot of takeaways from California that could be implemented, maybe not everything, but certainly there are some pluses to their program that could be implemented from a national low-carbon fuel standard perspective. We’re definitely going to see a bill. We’re expecting a bill probably from House Energy and Commerce Committee later this spring that is going to be some sort of a pretty macro climate change policy that will include, we hope, some kind of a national low-carbon fuel standard.

Troy Bredenkamp:
When it does, we want to make sure that ethanol plays a huge role in that, because again, we think we are a fuel that could be used right now to have a huge impact.

Troy Bredenkamp:
We’re looking at carbon sequestration at the ethanol plant itself. If that was to really take hold, now we’re talking about knocking another 25 to 30 points off of that carbon intensity score really quick.

John Eichberger:
Yeah. Cassie, I want to go back to something you mentioned. You discuss the success of E85 in California and it has me scratching my head a little bit because the CAFE credit for flex-fuel vehicles expired two years ago and I saw something come up a month or two ago. I pulled the data on sales last year. We only sold about 700,000 flex-fuel vehicles last year in the United States.

John Eichberger:
Is there anything happening to encourage the development and marketing of flex-fuel vehicles, or is that market starting to shrink and we got to think about a different way of going about mid-level or anything above E15 blends in the market? What’s the market strength of those blends, if we’re not producing vehicles in the volumes that we thought we would be at this time?

Cassie Mullen:
Yeah. That’s a great point. When we recently had a panelist from California, the largest E85 distributor out there, speak about this, this is a big concern of theirs ….

Troy Bredenkamp:

…  What if there was a tax credit, not as robust as there is for electric vehicles, but some kind of tax credit for flex-fuel vehicles again?

Troy Bredenkamp:
That’s going to be a push of ours, that if we’re going to give some tax credits for electric vehicles, let’s at least give a tax credit to flex-fuel vehicles so that we have the vehicles out there that can utilize the product that we can make that’s going to do lowering of that carbon from an atmospheric perspective. We’re also looking at ways to make sure that we’re comparing our carbon intensity to the carbon intensity it takes to create the electricity that is used in an electric vehicle, so that you are comparing apples to apples.

A life cycle analysis needs to be included in this policy discussion, because, again, we feel very comfortable that if that is done properly biofuels, and in particular ethanol, it could play a huge role down the road. With regard to these statements and with regard to car companies coming out and saying, “We’re going to make all electric vehicles by a time certain.” We saw a lot of people get excited about the Super Bowl ad and the General Motors ad in particular.

Troy Bredenkamp:
I think it’s important for us to remind people, we remember a Super Bowl ad in 2006, and I believe General Motors made a commitment that they would make all vehicles flex-fuel vehicles in the future.  READ MORE; includes VIDEO

California senators calling on Biden to set date for phasing out gasoline cars (The Hill)

A PLACE FOR BIOFUELS IN GREENER TRANSPORTATION FUTURE (Brownfield Ag News)

Fuels Institute Examines ICE Vehicle Bans — New report explores the impact on the fuels industry of outlawing sales of new conventional vehicles. (NACS)

Policy Considerations | Proposals to Ban the Sale of Combustion Engine Vehicles (Fuels Institute)

 

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tree Togo Tokyo toluene Tonga tool tools Toronto torrefaction Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) trade trade dispute/discrimination trade group trade organization Trade Policy trade secrets training trains transesterification transgenics transition Transportation Fuels Policy Transportation Fuels Policy--Municipal Transportation Fuels Policy--State Transportation Fuels Policy; carbon removal Transportation Policy travel policy Treasury Department trees Trinidad and Tobago triticale truck trucks tubers tung tunicate Tunisia Turkey UCOME (Used Cooking Oil Methyl Ester) Uganda UK (United Kingdom) Ukraine UL (Underwriters Laboratory) ULSD (ultra low sulfur diesel) Ultra Low Sulfur Fuel Oil (ULSFO) underground storage tanks (UST) UNESCO United Arab Emirates (UAE) United Nations' International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) United Nations (UN) United States Auto Club Unleaded 88/E15 uranium urbanization urban sprawl Uruguay USAC US 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