CO2 Emissions/Ethanol Market

The US will use 140 billion gallons of gasoline in 2015 (EIA-STEO 12/15). Each gallon emits 24.7 lbs of net CO2 to the atmosphere.

This equates to ~3.458 trillion lbs of CO2 per year, basically equivalent to CO2 emissions from coal to produce electricity (3.442 trillion lbs (EIA-FAQs)

To see this more clearly, imagine a 10,000 gal tanktruck (TT) of gasoline going down the highway. Then imagine 1,500 TT's following it. Those 1,500 TT's represent the volume of CO2 emitted from that single TT of gasoline. That is over 6 miles of TT's.

If we replaced half the gasoline with ethanol, we would save 845 million tons/yr of CO2 emissions and eliminate all imported oil. This would obviate the need for a complicated and expensive cap and trade system or the Keystone XL pipeline.

Constructing ethanol plants to replace half our gasoline would create just as many, if not more, construction jobs as building the XL pipeline, and the ethanol plants would provide permanent, long term employment for thousands of people which the XL pipeline would not do.

Replacing half the gasoline with ethanol would also create a 70 billion gallon market for domestic ethanol producers. The arguments over the proper level of ethanol production under the Renewable Fuel Standards would become moot since the biofuels industry could grow basically without limit.

In terms of net CO2 emissions, making ethanol from any waste cellulose uses carbon that's already above ground. In other words, cellulosic ethanol is a true carbon neutral motor fuel. Even corn ethanol emits less CO2 than electric vehicles such as the Tesla S if you count CO2 emitted when producing electricity (See table below.)

The key to reducing global warming is to stop digging up new carbon and use carbon already above ground to make motor fuel.

Although there is some debate about the extent, there is no longer any doubt that CO2 emissions from burning gasoline contribute heavily to climate change and storms such as Sandy.

Manufacturing E100 engines is one way to lower CO2 emissions at a very small, if any, extra cost to the consumer as documented in later pages on this website.

IN summary, ethanol made from corn or cellulose offers lower life-cycle
CO2 emissions than any electric or fuel cell vehicle as can be seen in the following chart:
    
 

         Vehicle                    lbs of CO2 emitted  to               Net lbs  CO2                                                   manufacture and use fuel*            emitted/mile           

   
 Chevy Equinox –
  26 mpg (combined)       24.7 per gal of gasoline                .950
 on gasoline
                                       

Chevy Volt – 
37 mpg (combined)         24.7 per gal of gasoline               .667

on gasoline

Honda Civic CNG               3.25 per lb CNG                          .591
5.5 miles per lb CNG

Toyota Mirai Fuel Cell       12.2 per lb hydrogen                  .488
25 miles per lb H2**
   
Chevy Volt – 
 
100 miles per                      1.21 per kWHr2                         .424 
 35 KWHr1                                                         
 

Tesla S (85 KW) –
 100 miles per                     1.21 per kWHr2                         .411
  34 KWHr1                                     

Nissan Leaf -
 100 miles per                             1.21 per kWHr2                                .363
 30 KWHr1                                                                         

E100 –
 
26 mpg (combined)             8.33   per gal ethanol              .320
on ethanol - corn (w LUC) 

E100 – 
26 mpg (combined)             6.74   per gal ethanol              .259
on ethanol - corn (w/o LUC) 
 

E100-
26 mpg (combined)
           0.51 per gal ethanol                 0.019
on ethanol - corn stover    

E100 –
 26 mpg (combined)           0.31 per gal ethanol                0.012
 
on ethanol - switchgrass    

 

*   From GREET v1.2.0.11425 (Argonne National Lab June 22, 2015)
** Estimated 275 mile range for Mirai

1 – From window stickers

2 – From standard U.S. mix for making electricity

The cellulosic ethanol fuels produce 1/50th of the amount of CO2 emitted by burning gasoline. The 0.331 lbs/mile of corn ethanol is due to the natural gas necessary to make nitrogen fertilizer.

Last, but not least, ethanol burn much cleaner than gasoline. The following video shows E10 burning on the left vs E100 on the right. This is why so much money has to be spent by the car manufacturer to clean up the exhaust emissions from gasoline.