The U.S. used 143 billion gallons of gasoline from 3/01/19 thru 2/29/20 (EIA-Monthly Energy Review 07/28/20, Table 3.5). Each gallon emits 24.5 lbs of net CO2 to the atmosphere.
This equates to 3.5 trillion lbs of CO2 per year, 30 lbs/day/person, far more than CO2 emissions from coal or NG to produce electricity, 2.01 and 1.3 trillion lbs respectively (MER EIA, 7/28/20 Table 11.6).
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. Alternatively, if we put all that gasoline into 30,000 gallon railroad tankcars, we would have 50,000 miles of tankcars, enough to go to SF from NY 17 times. This is truly insanity to keep using all this gasoline.
If we replaced the gasoline with ethanol, we would eliminate all these 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 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 the gasoline with ethanol would also create a 140 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, storms and excessive wild fires.
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 – 26.5 mpg (combined) 24.5 per gal .925
Chevy Volt – 42 mpg (combined) 24.5 per gal .583
Honda Civic CNG 3.16 per lb CNG .575
5.5 miles per lb CNG
Toyota Mirai Fuel Cell 11.09 per lb H2 .396
28 miles per lb H2**
Tesla S (P100) –
100 miles per .95 per kWHr(2) .333
35 KWHr (1)
Nissan Leaf -
100 miles per .95 per kWHr .304
Chevy Volt –
100 miles per .95 per kWHr .295
E100 – 26.5 mpg (combined)
on ethanol - corn (w LUC) 7.51 per gal .283
Chevy Bolt -
100 miles per .95 per kWHr .266
26.5 mpg (combined) 6.24 per gal ethanol .259
on ethanol - corn (w/o LUC)
26.5 mpg (combined) 1.22 per gal ethanol 0.046
on ethanol - corn stover
26.5 mpg (combined) 0.89 per gal ethanol 0.034
on ethanol - switchgrass
* From GREET v184.108.40.20620 (Argonne National Lab October 13, 2019)
** Estimated 312 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 0.259 lbs/mile of corn ethanol is due mainly 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.
Gasoline on left, ethanol on right. No unburned carbon with ethanol.
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Last Updated October 5, 2020