By Emily Druckman, Renewable Fuels Association (RFA)
This Saturday marks the 48th celebration of Earth Day. Inspired by the vision of Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson in 1970, Earth Day continues to demonstrate our support for environmental protection and now is celebrated in over 193 countries. Representing producers of the cleanest source of fuel on the planet, every day is Earth Day for the Renewable Fuels Association.
Ethanol continues to be one of the most affordable and effective tools available for reducing harmful emissions from the transportation sector and cleaning the air. Indeed, ethanol blended gasoline reduces emissions of every criteria pollutant, carbon monoxide, exhaust hydrocarbons that form ozone, particulate emissions and toxics like benzene that cause cancer.
Moreover, fuel ethanol is the most effective weapon we have to address greenhouse gas emissions. According to a recent analysis conducted for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), corn ethanol from a typical dry mill reduces greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) by 43% compared to gasoline—even when hypothetical land use change emissions are included. Further, the study found that by 2022, corn ethanol could reduce GHG emissions by 76% compared to gasoline.
Additionally, an RFA analysis found that the ethanol in gasoline in 2016 reduced CO2-equivalent greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector by 43.5 million metric tons—the equivalent to removing 9.3 million cars from the road for an entire year.
These clean air benefits were made possible by the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), which promotes the use of low-carbon fuels like ethanol. Indeed, the RFS has been America’s most potent and proven policy to combat climate change. Progressive carbon-reducing policies like the RFS should continue, driving further innovation and even lower carbon technologies in the future.
The RFS has also helped to reduce foreign oil imports. In 2016, U.S. net petroleum dependence was 25%, but would have been 33% without the addition of 15.3 billion gallons of ethanol to the fuel supply. Looked at another way, 2016 ethanol production displaced an amount of gasoline refined from 540 million barrels of crude oil.
The facts are clear—ethanol helps to clean the air we breathe and reduce our reliance on petroleum, which isn’t clean, or renewable. I’d call that a win for Planet Earth.