For over 800,000 years, longer than the recorded history of homo sapiens on the planet, CO2 levels cycled between roughly 180 ppm and 300 ppm with ice ages at the low levels and warming periods at the high levels. The point is that they never exceeded 300 ppm until around 1920 and have continued upward ever sense until now, June 2022, when they reached 420 ppm as seen in the following chart of just the last 200 years. (The right hand portion of the above chart expanded.)
Why is this important? The answer is pretty simple. If the level of CO2 is allowed to continue to increase in an unrestricted manner, our posterity is going to face:
1. Massive bankruptcy as rising oceans wipe out
the value of all coastal properties.
2. Massive starvation, millions of refugees
seeking food, and death as temperate
climates suffer drought and subsequent
drops in food production due to
The five largest emitters of net, new CO2 are:
(Data from DOE Monthly Energy Review, May 25, 2022)
1. Gasoline – 3.3 trillion lbs (140 B gallons @24.5#/gal)
2. Coal for electricity – 2.0 trillion lbs
3. NG for electricity – 1.4 trillion lbs
4. NG for industrial use – 1.2 trillion lbs
5. Diesel for large trucks – 1.1 trillion lbs (42 B gallons @
Coal is on its way out regardless of what the government does. NG CO2 emissions will go up as coal use drops but only 1/2 as much as coal drops due to it's higher efficiency in producing electricity.
Wind and solar where possible will also hold NG CO2 growth down. Gasoline, however, continues to dwarf all other sources of net CO2 and usage is almost back to the pre-COVID level of 143 B gallons/yr.
In terms of net CO2 emissions, making ethanol from any organic waste uses carbon that's already above ground. In other words, waste carbon ethanol is a true carbon neutral motor fuel. Even corn ethanol emits less CO2 than some electric vehicles such as 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.
The three most important things to note about this table:
1. EVs emit significant amounts of CO2 if you count the CO2 emitted in generating electricity,
2. Even corn ethanol is very competitive to EVs in terms of CO2 emissions, (Note: CO2 from corn is mainly due to the fertilizer used to grow it and huge strides are being made in lowering this CO2 to zero.)
3. ethanol made from waste carbon offers lower life-cycle CO2 emissions than any electric or fuel cell vehicle
Vehicle lbs of CO2* emitted to net lbs CO2
manufacture and use fuel emitted/ mile
Chevy Equinox – 28 mpg on gasoline(3) 25.27 per gal gasoline(1) 0.903
Honda Civic CNG – 5.5 miles per lb of CNG(3,6) 3.52 per lb CNG(2) 0.640
GMC Hummer EV – 100 miles per 64 KWHr(7) 0.92 per KWHr(4) 0.589
Ford F-150 Lightning – 100 miles per 51 KWHr(3) 0.92 per KWHr(4) 0.469
Toyota Miari Fuel Cell – 30 miles per lb of H2(5) 11.64 per lb H2 0.388
E100 – 28 mpg on ethanol – corn w LUC 9.58 per gal ethanol 0.343
Tesla Model X Plaid – 100 miles per 37 KWHrs(3) 0.92 per KWHr(4) 0.340
E100 – 28 mpg on ethanol – corn w/o LUC 8.30 per gal ethanol 0.296
Nissan Leaf - 100 miles per 32 KWHr(3) 0.92 per KWHr(4) 0.294
Tesla Model 3 or Y – 100 miles per 30 KWHr(3) 0.92 per KWHr(4) 0.276
Chevy Bolt EUV – 100 miles per 29 KWHr(3) 0.92 per KWHr(4) 0.266
E100 – 28 mpg on ethanol - corn stover w/o LUC 1.91 per gal ethanol 0.068
E100 – 28 mpg on ethanol – forest residue 1.85 per gal ethanol 0.066
E100 – 28 mpg on ethanol - switchgrass w/o LUC 1.38 per gal ethanol 0.049
* From GREET v18.104.22.16857 (Downloaded February 27, 2022)
Data are for GHG-100 which include CO2, CH4, N2O, VOC, and OC emissions.
LUC = Land Use Change
CO2 is the largest component of all of these, but all GHG included for completeness.
1 – 5.27 to refine + 20 when burned (6.3 * .87 = 5.5 lbs C per gal gasoline, 44/12 * 5.5 = 20)
2 - 0.77 to produce + 2.75 when burned = 3.52 per lb of NG (44/16 * 1 lb CNG = 2.75 lbs,
CH4 +2O2 = CO2 +2 H2) 1 gallon gasoline equivalent = 5.66 lbs of NG.
3.2 gasoline equivalents to go 100 miles or 18.112 lbs of NG or 5.5 miles per lb of NG.
3 – From window stickers or fueleconomy.gov
4 – From standard U.S. mix
5 - From Toyota website specifications (11 lbs H2 in tank, 330 miles range)
6 – Civic NG no longer sold. This included for historical comparison.
7—210 KWHr battery with 329 mile range.
Last, but not least, ethanol burns 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.
Gasoline on left, ethanol on right. No unburned carbon with ethanol.
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Last Updated June 26, 2022